This new version of Algoriddim’s djay software for iPhone / iPad incorporates Spotify’s 20 million tunes seamlessly with your own. It’s very smooth, plus it adds a powerful recommendation engine,. This last feature turns out to be the real deal-clincher.
First Impressions / Setting up
For those of you not familiar with djay (you can read our full djay 2 review here, by the way), it is a beautiful-looking DJ solution for iPad and iPhone, that despite appearing nice and simple (in the “traditional” view, nothing much more on first glance than two strikingly realistic turntables and a mixer), actually packs a lot of power.
The biggest recent addition a Serato Scratch Live-esque “vertical” waveform view, kind of like a power user’s version of the software, that you can use if you wish to ditch the lovely, but a little kitsch, original view – pictured above. Perch it atop the Reloop BeatPad (the current state-of-the-art djay control hardware – which also gives you two full stereo outputs, negating the need to use a mono splitter cable to add pre-fade listen headphones to the experience – and you’ve got a highly professional, highly portable two-deck set-up.
Setting up djay 2, as always, simply involves installing the software via the App Store and opening it up. It automatically finds your iTunes music (you just have to sync with iTunes on a “big” computer – or at least, that’s how most people get music onto their iPads/iPhones), and you’re off. If you want to use headphones for cueing, as I say you can use a mono splitter cable and flick a switch in the software config to tell it so, or use it with associated hardware (the Numark iDJ Pro is another option). And that’s it… up until now, that is. Because now, we’ve the not-so-small addition of Spotify.
We’ll concentrate on the new stuff here – as I say, check the djay 2 review if you want a fuller picture. To use Spotify within the app you need to be a Spotify Premium subscriber. I thoroughly recommend any DJ subscribe to a music service like Spotify anyway, as it’s the single best way to have the world’s music on tap. (I actually feel you should then additionally buy the tunes you want, but that’s a philosophy to relay another time.) There’s a free seven-day trial to all djay users for you to try it out.
Once you’re in, when you open your music library you see two simple choices, where you can choose to browse the music in your local library, or in Spotify. Brilliantly, all of your Spotify playlists are there so you can prep stuff on Spotify first, and just play from djay. Also, you can star music in djay and it’ll star in Spotify too, although you can’t save playlists from djay to Spotify.
First thing you’ll probably want to do is search for a tune, and you do that with a simple search, just like locally. Indeed, one of the strengths of the way this works is that it all seamlessly integrates, local and remote. Of course you need to be online, but in our tests, Spotify integration worked just fine on both Wifi and 3G.
Once you’ve found a tune, you drag it onto the deck, and you’re off. It is scary how quickly this works – just like Spotify itself, you can get going with a chosen tune practically instantly, and the software then builds the waveform, also very quickly. It is one of those things that has to be experienced to be believed; the artwork loads to the decks, the waveform is there, the BPM and key are there, and it all happens nearly as fast, if not as fast, as your local music. The integration is superb.
How other software does it
This is all well and good, but actually, djay not the first software to have this inside it. On a desktop, Virtual DJ has had “Content Unlimited” for eons (it’s a rebadge of GrooveShark that does much the same thing); on iOS, first DJ Player integrated Deezer, then Pacemaker added Spotify too. The big thing about the implementation here, and the thing that really marks this app out from anyone else, is the recommendation engine, called Match.
Now, last year we reviewed Traktor DJ for iPad, and I wrote about how much fun it was relaxing on the terrace, iPad in hand, lazily constructing a DJ set using Traktor DJ’s pared-down interface and the recommendation engine, that suggests compatible tracks from your collection taking into account energy level, key and BPM.
While it may seem like cheating, and it’s certainly often a lazy option (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that…), you don’t actually have to act on the suggestions – but most of the time I found I did, and we had some great soundtracks to some long, hot summer nights that way. It was one of the best parts about the software for me.
How djay takes a it a stage further
djay take that idea to a whole new level. Here you get exactly the same “recommendation” thing going on… but with Spotify’s tens of millions of songs. Now, when you’re playing a tune, it’ll recommend straight from Spotify if you so wish – usually about 20ish tunes. Tunes you know, tunes you maybe don’t – no matter, there they are. As long as you have some kind of pre-cueing set up, you can audition them and choose something you might never have played.
What’s more, they are sympathetically matched in energy level, key and BPM, within some kind of parameters, albeit loose ones (the key can differ a fees semitones, but there’s the facility in the software to correct that by moving the pitch up or down; I did feel the suggestions were sometimes a bit too wide apart BPM-wise, though). Make no mistake, this is big news.
Algoriddim and Spotify have included kind-of “best of” genre playlists and a “Top DJs” section, although it’s strictly EDM’s obvious names (Guetta, Harris, Aoki, etc). Us seasoned DJs might scoff, but frankly, those who want to mess around with a DJ app and literally don’t know where to start with the music can try their hand at mixing the big songs in their chosen genre and from a big Dj of their choice, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. (By the way, there’s also “Automix Radio”; it picks songs that go well together from Spotify based on your “seed” song and mixes them for you as well. Again, for dabblers: Why not?)
Another great thing you can do is add songs to a playing queue. It doesn’t matter where they’re from (local or Spotify); just swipe them and they drop into the queue for you to play from. You can audition straight to headphones from the queue too.
Apart from this, djay 2.x continues to deliver the goods. For “real” DJing, the biggest limitation of the software is the fact that it only has two decks; apart from that, it is fully featured as any of them, with a sampler, lots of FX including macro FX, X/Y pad FX and indeed a new FX engine in this version. Additionally, there are now over 30 new desktop-class audio FX which sounded great to my ears (not that I ever really use anything other than filter, echo and reverb); these are via in-app purchase or a one-off payment to get the lot.
Let’s be clear: This release is all about Spotify and Match. Spotify is so obvious an addition to an iPad iOS app I’m amazed nobody managed to pull this one off in an iOS app earlier than recently; Pacemaker and now djay have changed that, but djay’s software overall and its implementation of Spotify in particular is way ahead of Pacemaker (DJ Player – despite being first to the post last year with with Deezer iteration – is only every going to be a specialised option in this mainstream market due to its purist agenda and arguably its lack of marketing clout too.)
But it’s Match that really seals the deal. You see, the problem with suddenly offering all the world’s music is that 99% of people just don’t know what to do with it. By suggesting what to play next, Spotify has with one sleight of hand removed one of the biggest barriers to having fun with DJing (and indeed with all the world’s music even if you just want “something to listen to next”) for most people, most of the time. And that doesn’t mean “real” DJs have anything to fear from it, either; I have spoken to DJs already who also beta tested this saying that the software has literally changed the way they DJ, so good is the Match suggestion engine at picking out stuff they didn’t know about.
(For the techies, it’s powered by The Echo Nest, and I believe it’s the first implementation of The Echo Nest in a Spotify-enabled app since the company was actually bought by Spotify. The Echo Next collects data from what people are listening to and uses it to inform online radio and so on, and while many companies jumped ship when Spotify bought it, here we see a fruit of the merger.)
The Match service is basically crowd-sourced music discovery, and while I would’t rely on it to pick all my tunes for me (Algoriddim has apparently applied its own filter over the top of the automated Match results to ensure the results are more DJ friendly, but still, I don’t in truth want someone always making that choice for me…), what djay 2.5 and Match do is make sense of Spotify, making it manageable for DJs in a creative way – and all inside a DJ app. I think when you try it you’ll agree that it’s an awesome thing.
Not just for request-playing DJs
Indeed, while one obvious use of Spotify within DJ software is to play requests you didn’t have with you (great for mobile and wedding DJs, for instance), Match can actually help you to build a collection of music you might not otherwise have; while I’d actually advise personally buying stuff you really like and not relying on Spotify once you find it, this makes it a great DJ-friendly discovery tool too to use away from your public DJ sets and when practising, too
There are niggles – I’d like the key display to be in Camelot notation, not standard key notation; the recommendations tend to not always be close enough in either key or BPM for my liking; I would like to understand more how those recommendations are being decided upon on my behalf; and you can’t construct a killer playlist then save it back to Spotify easily – but these are niggles.
Algoriddim may not have been the first DJ software on iOS to incorporate a streaming music service, but it’s the first to do it properly, and with the popularity of the software, having Spotify clearly “in on it” as a partner, and the reputation and marketing power of Algoriddim to drive this into the public consciousness, the company may just – as it boldly stated in its early teaser – have ushered in a revolution.