Completely rewritten from the ground up. the all-new djay 2 looks at first like its predecessor, but a quick dig under the cover reveals all-new waveform views, a powerful sampler, much-improved library and real grooves on the virtual vinyl, plus lots more. Some current owners may baulk at paying again, but the rewrite makes full use of the look and power of modern iOS, to appeal to amateurs and pros alike.
First Impressions / Setting up
Algoriddim had a careful balancing act to perform here. It didn’t want to scare the horses by taking away everything that made the original djay such an intuitive and easy to use app; however at the same time, it needed to refresh the look and feel to bring it up to date.
When you first load the app you’ll notice that the set-up is the familiar twin-deck approach. Only a few minor tweaks have been made here, mainly the relocation of a few buttons (sync, pitch bend and keylock) around the pitch control to tie the interface more closely to common hardware configuration of the same controls. There are a couple of new buttons (which we’ll get to in a moment) and the help functionality has been moved into the top bar – so no excuse for not understanding something now!
If you tilt your iPad into portrait mode you’ll notice that you get a single-deck view (similar to what was already present in the iPhone/iPod Touch version of the original app). This is the first noticeable user request which has been incorporated. So all looks reasonably familiar so far. Let’s dig deeper to take a proper look at what’s changed…
Loading a track is a much smoother process now, as the library screen can be expanded/contracted in situ as you wish (rather than diving back into the settings page). The library functionality has the most number of useful changes for me.
The addition of a “Queue” page is the biggest bonus, meaning you can start to trawl through the library during the gig and dig out tracks (add them to the queue) which you might consider playing later on. This acts like a temporary playlist; once you close the app completely the queue is cleared out. You can quickly add tracks to the queue by swiping along the track to the right (a quick swipe to the left will remove the track from the queue).
Once a track is in the queue, a small blue bar is displayed alongside it. By pressing and holding a track, you can now quickly preview it via your headphone cue signal without loading it into the deck: valuable to those with several different mixes of the same song (or perhaps those with a number of tracks badly named and tagged…)
You can switch between day/night view in the library screen (so that it is easier to read in dark environments), and you can showing tracks in the Cloud and access a link to the iTunes store (this pops up a small window adhering to the same day/night choice as the main library).
Another great addition to the screen is the History tab. As you load tracks into the decks, their information gets stored in the History tab for the current session. You can rename sessions and clear out old unwanted sessions as well as load tracks directly from your History list. This could be handy if you’re practising at home before a party; you can easily load the same tracks in the same order without jumping all over your library. It’s also useful when it comes to uploading your mixes to somewhere like Mixcloud when you want to enter the tracklisting.
The final major improvement on the library page is the ability to perform batch analysis on your library. This will go through each track calculating the BPM, beatgrid, waveform and auto gain so that when you come to play your tracks they load almost instantly. This is a great addition for your preparation before a gig. My only concern is how much cache space this uses on your iOS device, and if there’s a neat way of clearing out those temporary files once analysis has been done.
Once the track is loaded into a deck, the overall waveform at the top of the screen is now coloured helping you to easily identify verses, choruses and breakdowns. (If you look carefully, the vinyl view also shows breakdowns in the track where the virtual grooves are more spread out – a truly crowd-pleasing addition for anyone who’s ever used vinyl.)
Of course, the vinyl view is not to everyone’s taste; while it’s true that new starters may prefer the old school look of turntables, DJs with a more modern outlook may well want to see a detailed waveform. So it’s good news that one of the new buttons is a waveform button in the centre section. Pressing this will slide away the turntables to reveal a completely new view: A beautiful and colourful detailed waveform or waveforms.
The waveforms scroll away from you and has the current point marked with a red line. The EQ/FX/Loop button has moved on this screen to under the pitch slider, and the pitch bend controls can be triggered by pressing the +/- either side of the red line on the waveform. This view in djay 2 is much more in keeping with the expected flattened interface design principles in iOS7 (due imminently). A quick look at the EQ sliders is a clear indication that Algoriddim has been keeping up to date with the latest design trends on iOS.
On the waveform view you also see the beatgrid which is calculated by djay 2 as the track loads. You do get the opportunity to edit the beatgrid by placing the (yellow) line on the first beat. There’s not as much beatgrid editing available as on other apps, but it is certainly a welcome addition. As always, setting your beatgrid is important as it is used when the Sync button is pressed (Sync will try to align the first beat on the beatgrids), when FX are used (echo uses the beatgrid) and loops.
Another new waveform-based feature is the ability to play slices using the “Slice” button (it looks like a little ladder on the waveform). This will shade the beatgrid allowing you to play each beat of a four beat bar; this also works if the track is stopped. It’s similar to Freeze in Traktor JD. Yet another additional flourish to the waveform view is the “Slip” mode button. When activated it means that you can push the waveform back or forward and when your finger lifts from the screen the track will continue from where it would have been under normal playback.
All of these features are likely to attract more than just casual and new-starter DJs to djay 2; when you remove the vinyl representation, there’s more scope for such advanced additions.
Samples thrown into a mix may not be to everyone’s taste, as over-use will have you end up sounding like an excitable Tim Westwood behind the decks (UK hip-hop DJ, for those who aren’t aware of his legendary Radio 1 show). In the past, only Numark iDJ Pro or Vestax Spin users had sample pads in the original version of djay. However, Algoriddim has listened to user requests and now all users can access sample pads from within the app.
One press of the sample pad button (it looks like a small grid between the two tracks) will slide both decks/waveforms to the side and show the sample pads underneath (12 on iPad, eight on the iPod Touch/iPhone and iDJ Pro). You can press and slide the button to one side to reveal just half the sample pads if you want, even on the playing deck, and still trigger the pads underneath. The sample pads look gorgeous, similar in colour scheme to some hardware controllers (I wonder if Numark has been lending Algoriddim colour-charts).
A clever feature is that djay 2 comes pre-loaded with a bunch of samples split into three sample presets. You can create your own presets by using those samples and rearranging them, sampling from either deck, or using Audio Copy and Paste (ACP) from other apps into djay 2. I easily created some cheesy vocoder-style DJ stings using the Nave synth on iOS and dropped these into my sample pads.
You can adjust the volume for the sample playback and amend the colour scheme, so that samples of a similar type can easily be recognised. You can save any samples using iTunes filesharing when your iOS device is connected to a host machine, however I don’t think you can download the sample preset bundle… maybe no great loss, but at least you could share your samples with fellow djay 2 users if you wanted to.
Most of the remaining features are much the same as the original djay, however there is a new X-Y pad option available in the Loop window, giving you control over a rapid auto loop with an HP/LP filter applied at the same time, for a Fatboy Slim-style effect. As with the slice feature, this works even if the track has been stopped.
Use with external controllers
From looking at the Midi files in djay 2, it is supported for the same set of hardware controllers that the original djay app worked with. That is: iON Audio: iDJ2Go; Numark: iDJ Flex, iDJ Live, iDJ Live II, iDJ Pro, Mixdeck Quad; Pioneer: DDJ-ERGO, DDJ-WeGO; Vestax: Spin2, Spin, V-Midi.
From playing with djay 2 with an iDJ Pro, the new look waveforms make much better use of the screen than the spinning vinyl view – although you can still opt to use those if you wanted to. On the iDJ Pro you have an additional section for the Loop X-Y pad at the bottom of the screen, alongside the FX X-Y pad and Instant FX buttons.
The only gripe here is that due to space on the screen, if you’re using an iDJ Pro the sample pads are limited to eight in display. After using the iDJ Pro for a while, I’m now wondering if perhaps the bottom section of the screen can be hidden to display a longer scrolling waveform?
The landscape has changed greatly since djay’s first launch, not only for iOS DJ apps but also for digital DJing in general, regardless of hardware and software being used. DJs want more out of the tools available. Cues, loops and effects are all important features, and many DJs favour detailed scrolling waveforms to aid them visually during the mix. Conversely, audio beatmatching as a skill is gradually being pushed to one side, in favour of Sync buttons, carefully locked beatgrids and keylock functionality.
As such, djay 2 has moved neatly to provide the simplicity and familiarity of a turntable view along with meeting the demands of the more modern DJ through the numerous new features. (After all, like it or not, a twin turntable set-up is still how most of the world perceives how a DJ works.)
There’s a chance that Algoriddim will face complaints from users who are reluctant to pay for a new app or who are running an older iOS device and cannot move to djay 2. But in order to move the app towards something more relevant to today’s maturing digital DJ market, the app had to be completely re-written, to take advantage of the latest iOS code and hardware. This means that older devices not running iOS 6 or greater cannot use djay 2. (Also, I’d imagine the paradigm of single purchase and a lifetime of free upgrades is unsustainable for most app developers, regardless of size.)
Djay 2 is the only app which provides the user with either a vinyl view or detailed scrolling waveforms in the same app, and this should help distance djay 2 from the copycat apps which have grown in number over the years.
As a long-time user of iOS DJ apps (djay was one of the first I installed on my iPad), it’s always great to see user change requests being considered carefully and designed into the app. This shows that Algoriddim is listening to requests from its forums and the like, and that those that make sense may indeed end up making it into the next iteration of their app.
djay 2 has managed to respond to such requests for more sophistication while still maintaining that underlying ease of use that made the original djay so successful. As such djay 2 is still likely to be an iOS DJ’s first port of call on their learning path, but with the new stack of features and refreshed interface it now provides a much richer experience and may keep those users from going elsewhere once they’ve mastered the basics.