Cross DJ Pro 3.1 is a great piece of DJ software, and is right up there with the best apps in the iOS DJ space. It could also make for a fun live performance set-up when paired with the Remixlive looping app synced through Ableton Link. Recommended.
First Impressions / Setting up
Let me begin by saying that the interface is the best it has ever been: I wasn’t a fan of the original Cross DJ look. It now looks more contemporary and a lot cleaner.
Cross DJ Pro is a two-channel DJ app, so you’ve got two decks on either side of the display for the main screen. There’s a waveform at the top that also acts as a “needle drop”, a record platter in the middle that shows the album art and that you can scratch or push for pitch bending while beatmatching, and a tempo fader beside it. The bottom has a three-band EQ with volume fader, cue and play controls, as well as the sync button and crossfader.
There are other parts to this main screen that can be toggled as we’ll see later, but I can imagine many casual DJs being able to mix at parties and get-togethers completely from this screen.
I connected a DJ splitter cable to my iPad, hooked up my headphones to it as well as a 1/8″ to RCA jack that’s connected to my speakers, and got to work.
You load a song by pressing the plus sign on either deck, which brings up the tracks that are stored on your iPad or iPhone. You get music to it by transferring through iTunes – I’d prefer if being able to download songs from the cloud was possible (eg Dropbox). It’s the only way at the moment, although you are able to stream songs straight from your SoundCloud account if you’ve got an internet connection.
Once you’ve got your tracks loaded on the decks, you can play them as you normally would, crossfading between the decks, tweaking EQ, and even manually beatmatching if you want to skip the sync button. You can nudge the track by swiping the record platter left to slow down, or right to speed up, and of course you can adjust the tempo using each deck’s tempo fader.
You can use Cross DJ Pro in landscape mode to see both decks on screen at all times, or in portrait mode where you’ll see only one deck in a larger format. Some DJs may prefer this, especially those with smaller iOS devices, or perhaps if you want to connect two iOS devices to a mixer and use each one as a dedicated deck.
What I like most about Cross DJ Pro is that it keeps the main screen uncluttered by just presenting you with the essentials – as I’ve said, many weekend warriors will be content to spin on it without being confused by extra buttons and pads. However, for the DJ who wants more (this is the “Pro” version, after all), Mixvibes makes it easy to toggle between advanced features through the use of buttons on the interface, much like djay Pro.
At the top of the screen there are two waveforms: one for either deck. If you’d like to see these “stacked”, ala Virtual DJ or Serato DJ, you can do so by pressing the waveform icon. You now see the waves of both decks on top of each other. While it tends to get choppy because the frame rate is a bit low, it’s effective enough for those who want to do manual beatmatching and need a visual reference.
The effects in Cross DJ Pro can be accessed through the FX button toggle. Two XY touchpads appear, and you can manipulate effects one by one on them. There are 14 effects here, including echo, flanger, delay, phaser, jet, and high / low-pass filters. You can’t chain these effects together, which effects-savvy DJs may find disappointing. I don’t use a ton of effects when I DJ, so this wasn’t a problem for me.
What I didn’t like so much here was the way the filters were implemented: you have separate high-pass and low-pass filters, which I think would be better implemented as a single fader in the mixer section. It saves you from having to toggle the FX menu just to do so, and it makes mixing with filters a more straightforward affair.
The hotcues aren’t on the main display, so you’ve got to press the Hotcue button to toggle them into view – doing this replaces the spinning platter / album art with eight pads, auto loop controls, and the slip button, which works like the Slip mode in Serato DJ and Flux mode in Traktor.
Cross DJ Pro has a separate Sampler section that comes with six pads and 12 built-in sound packs. You can record your own sounds using your iOS device’s microphone, and then mangle it using the performance pads (D-d-d-d-deejay Joey!) I don’t use samplers much during my DJ sets, but it’s an extra bit of fun for small parties and the like.
One of the big new features of Cross DJ Pro 3.1 is Ableton Link: it lets apps that are Link-enabled talk to each other, either through WiFi or if you’ve got them running on the same device. Mixvibes’ own Remixlive app is compatible with Ableton Link, and the two work seamlessly.
You can play loops and samples on Remixlive while playing a track in Cross DJ Pro, and they’re all in sync and in phrase with each other. Switching between two apps can be cumbersome on a smaller iOS device (I’m using it on my iPad Mini 4), so ideally you’ll want two separate devices running either app, or perhaps an iPad Pro 13″.
iOS DJing has matured into a platform where it’s entirely possible to DJ a set using just your iPad or iPhone, but there are still a few niggles that need to be ironed out in order to make it a truly viable alternative: I really think transferring songs from your laptop using iTunes is annoying because of all the library sync restrictions (eg you can only sync it using one laptop).
Further, despite all the “pro” advancements in the platform and power made available to the hardware, DJing on a tablet or phone still doesn’t solve any particular needs for gigging DJs: Why DJ with an iPad when you’ve got a laptop already? In other words, iOS DJing doesn’t appear to do anything significantly better than DJing with a laptop and a controller yet, and until someone develops an “edge” to DJing with smart devices, iOS DJing will remain a secondary option to more “conventional” choices like laptop software and USB sticks in CDJs.
Nonetheless, Cross DJ Pro 3.1 is a great piece of DJ software, and is right up there with the best DJ apps in the iOS space. It could also make for a fun live performance set-up when paired with the Remixlive looping app synced through Ableton Link. Recommended.