Algorridim’s djay Pro AI v4 for Mac, iOS and iPadOS is a unique proposition. It’s a single piece of software with cloud sync across all three platforms, all for a unified and relatively small subscription. It’s advanced, easy to use, and for Apple fans, has the polished look and feel of the best native Mac/iOS apps. With ever-increasing compatibility with popular DJ gear, real-time stems separation, the new DVS feature, and regular improvements, it’s an increasingly appealing DJ platform – again, assuming you’re in the Apple ecosystem, owning multiple devices.
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First Impressions / Setting up
As a Mac, iPhone or iPad user, you’ll download and install djay Pro AI v4 from your App Store. One subscription covers you for all three device types. (It is also available on Windows and Android, but those versions are not included in this update, and are not part of this review.)
You can use the software as-is, without needing additional hardware, but in reality you will want to use it with DJ hardware. There are a few “official” set-ups (mainly made by German company Reloop), such as the Buddy, Mixon 4 and Mixon 8 Pro controllers, but it works with many big-brand controllers, mixers and media players, including Pioneer DJ’s club-standard DJM-900NXS2 mixer and CDJ-3000 media players.
If you have a USB-C iPad or Apple laptop, you just plug in with a USB-C cable, or if you use an iPhone or older iPad, you’ll connect using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, which also allows you to power the iPhone/iPad via its second socket. Configuration is generally pretty simple.
Plus, the software also works with DVS (digital vinyl systems), not only on Mac, but also on iPad and iPhone! There is minimal set-up involved here as it auto detects and calibrates, and works with most DVS vinyl – although Algoriddim’s own has a trick up its sleeve (more on that later).
The software has various views available to you. The main ones are a “classic” view with turntables on screen, and a “pro” view which looks like most DJ software. But there’s also a one-deck view (for when you’re using it essentially as a digital turntable to add to an existing DJ system), an automix view, a four-deck view, and views for both “looper” mode (a bit like Ableton’s Session view) and a video mode for VDJs.
The software is designed to adjust what you see on the screen depending upon what DJ gear you plug in. This is a recent addition, and is very welcome, taking a leaf out of Serato’s book. The thinking is that you don’t need to see a set of mixing controls on the screen if you’ve got hardware controls in front of you, for instance.
As screen real estate is always at a premium on complex interfaces such as these, it’s a smart and welcome addition. After all, as you can now plug your phone in and DJ using a full pro club set-up from it, the designers had to think carefully about what would and wouldn’t be displayed to you in such circumstances, and all the others you may conjure up.
On an app designed to work cross-platform, the way music works with it is going to be important. For streaming music, it’s easy: You can interact with your streaming services from within the app – making, deleting and editing playlists. All this work then appears both in the streaming service itself and, by extension, in other instances of the app you have running on other devices. This is much better than on some DJ software, and works perfectly.
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djay Pro AI v4 syncs metadata across iCloud, too, so as long as you have iCloud enabled on your devices, your cues, loops and so on all come across. It’s not perfect, though (I couldn’t get beatgrid changes to sync, but maybe I was doing something wrong). This works with both streaming and local music. You can use streaming service offline lockers for caching files, too, where available.
When it comes to your own music files, things aren’t so good. djay Pro AI wants you to use iTunes/Music to do this, but those apps are so entwined with Apple’s own Apple Music streaming service that it all gets confusing quickly. I am personally loathe to let Apple near my local music files, as it famously replaces your files with its own versions and messes with your artwork, and as djay Pro AI cannot work with the Apple Music streaming service, it’s just needlessly odd and confusing.
The official solution is to plug your devices together and sync your library from Mac to iPhone/iPad, but hey, the cloud! Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox cloud solution for owned music is flawed in its own ways, but the way it works with Dropbox is good – I think djay Pro AI should examine their solution, and find a similar way to cleanly, simply and intuitively let DJs play with Dropbox across all instances of the software. However they do it, I think the handling of your own music files needs some work.
One good thing is that you can build playlists that contain music from multiple streaming services plus your own music, but (and again, maybe I was doing something wrong) I couldn’t get those playlists built on one device to show on another.
Also we spotted that you can import Serato crates on the desktop version – nice! Cues and loops come across, but you’ll need to re-analyse your tracks, as that info doesn’t.
As djay Pro AI is not owned by a hardware company, how it works with existing DJ hardware is also important. As mentioned, Reloop makes some dedicated hardware for it, but the Algoriddim engineers are adding new “official” hardware implementations regularly, and have always made a point of the fact that it works fine with Pioneer DJ “club standard” separates.
DVS works with lots of mixers like the Rane Seventy, Pioneer DJ DJM-S11 and Reloop Elite, and you can also map your own with relative ease. “Class compliant” is the important thing here. It also works with the Phase wireless system insofar as it can “read” the Phase timecode signal, but we’d like to see it plug and play with Phase in the same way that Serato is.
As far as controllers go, again it works with a wide variety, and they’re all listed on the Algoriddim website – and again, you can map most devices to it. Mapping is actually a lot easier in djay Pro AI than in most DJ software.
Anyway, once you’ve got your apps installed on the devices you want to use, figured out a way to work with your music files or streaming services, and got your hardware up and running, it’s time to start DJing…
If you’re coming to this platform from others, you will have a bit of a learning curve. Despite being nice to look at, it is feature-packed software, with lots lurking under the hood, and you’ll need to decide which features you’re going to happily ignore while you get to grips with the basics.
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The software runs very smoothly on all platforms, with clean scrolling and sharp graphics – something you don’t always get with other DJ software. There has clearly been a lot of attention paid to design, with fonts, spacing, colours and graphics all beautifully realised. It feels like an Apple-developed app, even though it isn’t.
One of the big features in djay Pro AI is Neural Mix, or real-time stems separation – the ability to separate vocals, bass, melodies and drums in real time while DJing. This can sound great but can also sound ropey, however, it is a fantastic tool for the creative DJ, and the quality is not hugely important when “in the mix”, when compared to the possibilities it brings you.
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Of course you’re going to have to control Neural Mix, and that’s where the Reloop controllers come in, as they have mappings designed to give you controls to do this – although again, you can map it yourself if you’re feeling adventurous (or just use the touchscreen).
DVS works fine, is generally easy to set up (we tested it with both Serato and Algoriddim’s own DVS vinyl), and has one big trick up its sleeve.
Algoriddim’s own control vinyl has a special “B” side that contains three “tracks”. Drop the needle on track 1, and you’ll play the full track. Drop it on track 2, and you’ll get the instrumental. Drop it on track 3, and you get the acapella. In effect, it is switching the Neural Mix modes for you via the control vinyl. It’s intuitive and fun, and we can see performance DJs loving this.
I just want to underline something: Being able to plug your phone or iPad into a modern mixer, prop it up behind that mixer on a stand, and then use your timecode vinyl on the turntables, with your waveforms and so on appearing on your phone screen, is crazy. I am honestly not sure how many people will use this, but it has to be tried as the feeling is unique.
Algoriddim has added a couple of features we wanted to point out that are unusual and in one instance, unique. I’ve already told you about the playlists that can consist of music from all subscribed services, but I also want to point out a feature suggested to Algoriddim by our very own tutor, DJ ANGELO, that we think is a bit of a game-changer.
You know those “clusters” of tracks that you always seem to play together? Now, you can group them together without needing to put them into a formal playlist, using a new “related tracks” feature, which has been added to the track info right-hand sidebar (which is also, by the way, where track preview and preview waveforms reside).
You simply drag tracks into the window from the main library that you want to associate with the current track, and whenever you click on any of those tracks in the library, the related tracks are available to you. Simple, but brilliant. How long till others implement this? Not long, we feel.
Of course there is also auto track suggestion too. It seems to tap related key/BPM/genre info to give suggestions for tracks to play next. We still think Rekordbox’s Filter button and user-selectable parameters is the system to beat here, but it’s useful to have nonetheless.
Effects & audio quality
Algoriddim has improved the audio engine with much better key shift/sync and time-stretching, which is clearly audible. But it has also added a whole host of new effects to the wide variety of existing pad and LFO effects, which were already powerful (we’ve always loved the X-Y grid effects that use iPhone/iPad touchscreens).
Like in most DJ software, you get three effects engines per “side”, which can be daisy-chained, and you have dozens and dozens of effects to choose from, including many new so-called “AI” effects. They do sound good, and there is enough here to keep even the most effect-hungry DJ happy.
DJing with it
Now it comes down to it – how is it to use? Generally, all DJ software should (by the time you’re playing) just get out of your way and let you do the creative stuff, and djay Pro does. It has all the usual features you’d look for, and thoughtful touches like colour-coded/named cues and various ways of adjusting the screen to fit your workflow mean that you should find a way to work with it that is right for you.
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There are still little quirks. Algoriddim is persisting with the “reversed” pitch fader (pushing it up increases the pitch), for instance, which consistently confuses DJs coming to the platform from any other DJ gear or software ever made – but there’s a button in the preferences to put this back to usual behaviour. Having Shazam, automix, gesture control and a “DJ school” built in is fine, but pros may turn their noses up at such things.
To the positives, we loved the fact that you can add a “main out effect”, putting an EQ, for instance, over your complete output to help compensate for the PA system you may be playing through, or adding a more complex limiter than the simple on/off one that’s also offered – this is smart thinking. Other pro features like Ableton Link mean that even for pros looking to build a whole performance set-up around djay Pro AI, it is likely to rise to the task.
The fact that you can add “tape markers” to the decks for scratching, opt in or out of bar and minute markers on the waveforms, choose what is shown inside the onscreen decks, and configure pretty much anything else you can think of, means that I’ve no doubt you could adapt the software to very much suit the way you like to play.
There is more than ever to love about this platform. It is good looking, works well, is advanced, and by and large, the versions on Mac, iPhone and iPad talk nicely to each other, with potential to make your DJ workflow easier and more exciting.
We love Neural Mix, DVS is a good addition, and the new library features (especially related tracks of your choice) rock! Plus, the software adapting the view you see depending upon what you’re plugged into is a necessary step towards being a truly professional platform.
DJ software, and hardware, sometimes can feel like a strange game though. Ultimately, DJs want it to get out of their way and let them do the job. Reliability, familiarity and durability become the most important things, trumping features, flashiness and at times, even innovation. People figure out elaborate workarounds to get what they want to do done using platforms that aren’t keeping up with them, just to preserve these things, which can be a big barrier to trying something new.
However, if you want to make a leap, or you want to experiment with a new platform “on the side”, this is now definitely one to get involved in. It’s a cheap subscription, it’s being constantly developed, and – at least some of the time – the new features are compelling and impressive.
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Algoriddim, in our view, needs to double down on hardware compatibility, an area where VirtualDJ holds the crown – people need to just “know” it will work with whatever they plug it into.
We’d also like to see Algoriddim not being scared to shamelessly adopt some of the features of other platforms that just “work”, too – the new way Rekordbox/CDJ-3000 hardware handles key sync and auto track suggestion is superior to the way djay Pro AI does, for instance, and Algoriddim’s beatgridding is still basic compared to just about everyone else.
Finally, we’d also really like to see thought going into how DJs can handle their libraries across the platforms, with regards to both syncing all analysis info, and the thorny problem of local music (where Apple does no favours to Algoriddim with its strange way of handling local files).
You do sometimes get the feeling that Algoriddim likes to pile on the features, just to see what people take to, which runs the risk sometimes of detracting from the main aim of a DJ app. But this update does bring squarely “pro” features, which we approve of.
Overall, djay Pro AI v4 is a fantastic piece of DJ software, is more powerful than ever, and has made huge strides towards being noticed and accepted by pro DJs who maybe wouldn’t have even looked at it twice even a couple of years ago. It’s not quite perfect, but it definitely deserves the attention of any DJ who uses multiple Apple devices.
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