DJing on the iPhone – A Great BackUp?


You’re in the middle of a set and the CDJ breaks down or the laptop crashes, what do you do?  Usually the backup we have is a premixed CD, an iPod or other mp3 player. But what if you had a backup device that would only cost you around $200, was totally self contained, fit in your pocket and enable you to stay in the mix for several hours if needed? Well, with Ipod touches running dirt cheep and the new ability to directly mix Itunes music right on the Ipod surface- they are starting to look like a fantastic emergency backup plan.

THE QUEST


Ean gave me the challenging task of looking for DJ apps available right now for the iPod and iPhone that provide the basic features you need to mix tracks in a very basic way from a single iPod. There are many developers claiming to have the ultimate solution that will replace your regular DJ equipment or that you don’t need to buy any in the first place but can that really be true? Is it even possible? Read on for the full breakdown between crap apps and actual productive tools.

DJ Mixer 3 – The Pointless


The first one i looked at was DJ Mixer 3. The best thing about it is that it’s free to download with the bundled music that comes with it. If you want to play your own music, you have to buy that function for $10. Considering that most DJ apps cost around $10-20 it’s not very expensive but if you’re anything like me you have a certain level of expectation when you pay for something. When you slowly discover that you’ve just paid 10 bucks for a media player with no EQ, effects, cue points or even pitch/tempo bend… you start to wonder what’s going on.

If that gets you frustrated and unsatisfied enough to fork out another $5 for the “Pro effects” only to realize that they are referring to sound effects like sirens, backspins, breaking glass, horns and 80s DJ vocals (like: “This one’s for the sexy ladies”) you’ll be boiling.

DJ Mixer 3 has two great features though, tempo faders instead of pitch faders and the ability to connect a second iDevice through Wi-Fi to use for pre listening. But without cue points, pitch/tempo bend or EQ I can’t call this a proper DJ application even for emergency use.

Songs can be imported through the iPod library but it’s a time consuming procedure of individual track imports and it takes a long time to calculate BPM and waveform. Needless to say, you have to have all your imports done before you start DJing.

Cue Play DJ – The Pretty

Cue Play DJ is similar to Touch DJ but looks more professional, or conventional. Some might even call it boring. Traditional knobs and lights makes it easy for a DJ to know what is what, but due to the small screen of an iPhone you have to use swipes or double taps to control things like EQ and effects (flanger, delay and filter). It makes it a lot less intuitive than Touch DJ because you lose sight of the waveform and the control of pitch bend and play/cue buttons.

Importing songs in Cue Play DJ is by far the easiest and fastest I’ve seen on any DJ app so far. There is a program on their website which you download and install for both PC and Mac. You load your mp3’s into it, let it do all the BPM and waveform reading, then you just drag and drop them in iTunes and a few seconds later you have them in your DJ set.

What makes Cue Play DJ really unique is the hot cues, which will tickle the fancy of trigger happy controllerists. You can assign up to 5 hot cues on a track for a more performance-oriented type of DJing. Unfortunately, right now the buttons are not very fast and responsive but I’ve been told they are under development with several improvements coming in the next month.

I hope one of the improvements will be in the audio engine because every time you restart, loop or cue/play there is a slight jitter/click which is tiny but very annoying and unfortunately makes it sound and feel cheap compared to the smooth cue/play of Touch DJ. The hot cues in Cue Play DJ lose their function a bit if they are not played back in a snappy, clean and precise way.

Personally, when I DJ, my hands are all over the place. I jump from EQ to cue points to effects and cross fader. So for me it’s very important to have everything quickly accessible and easy to control. That´s why Touch DJ is a winner for me. As much as I like the professional look and diversity of functions in Cue Play DJ, the functions aren’t of any use to me if I can’t reach them quickly and easily. Having to rotate the device to get into the hot cue menu is too much of a hassle and swiping back and forth rather than having dedicated buttons makes mistakes more frequent.

Touch DJ 2- The Good

Out of the three apps i tried I have to say that Touch DJ is the most intuitive and easy to learn app. The combination of layered, transparent EQ, volume and filter panels helps you keep the focus on the waveform which is essential since you most likely wouldn’t be using headphones (because that would split the audio signal into 2 mono signals rather than 1 stereo).

The added blinking of the waveform as it plays through gives you a good visual compensation for what you lack in pre-listening, making it easier to pitch bend your tracks into a perfect  sync.

The design and layout is quite original and looks like something worthy a DJ straight out of Tron. At first glance it looks a bit messy but having tried a bunch of different apps this was by far the easiest one to get used to and definitely the one that made me feel like I could actually pull off a DJ set on my iPod Touch 4.

The track import of Touch DJ is similar to DJ Mixer 3 and probably all other dj apps. It opens up the iPod library and allows you one import at a time, which takes about 30-60 seconds depending on the length of the song and the speed of your device. Again, this is something you need to do before you start your set.

Growing up with vinyl’s I must admit I smiled when I saw that you could organize your mp3’s into three different “crates”. It’s a great idea, but speaking for myself as a multi music style playing DJ it would be great to have a few more crates just to get things a bit more organized. A cute homage to the era of vinyl’s none the less. The BPM reader in Touch DJ works really great and nailed every song I gave it. Setting and storing cue points is very easy as well, you just swipe and drag to line up the smooth waveform and hit the cue button to store the position.

The verdict

It’s a close call between Touch DJ and Cue Play DJ. They are both great apps but for me a machine or software is only as good as it is functional and with that in mind Touch DJ has a well working application. However, if Cue Play DJ manages to sort out the audio start jitter/click and make the different segments more accessible, it would be tough to beat. I was glad to hear from the developers of Touch DJ 2 that the pitch faders will be replaced by tempo faders soon, like in DJ Mixer 3.

Unfortunately for DJ Mixer 3, WiFi enabled prelistening and the tempo fader are pretty much the only things they got going for them and it’s great that you can try it out for free (with the bundled mp3s) but without having the fundamental functions of a DJ application such as EQ, cue points and pitch/tempo bend I can’t even take it into consideration. Not for playing around with songs on the go and certainly not as a backup device when I’m out DJing.

An iPhone app won’t replace my VCI 100 and laptop anytime soon but as a backup it works great, or if you’re on the road and want to try out some new mixes, or showing up at a friend’s gig or party. You just take it out of your pocket, plug it in and start mixing away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Win a free copy of Touch DJ 2 or Cue Play DJ!

We all know that reading is rewarding and djtechtools is no exception. That’s why, if you’re still reading,  you have the chance to win a free copy of Touch DJ 2 or Cue Play DJ! All you have to do is be one of the first 20 to comment on this article with your email address, a photo of yourself and your iDevice as well as post the djtechtools.com link on your Facebook. Winners will be announced via email.

Touch DJ 2. $19.99.

Pros:

  • Original and intuitive design and layout.
  • Easy and quick access to all panels.
  • Smooth audio engine, no jitter.
  • EQ, filter effect.
  • Comfortable and accurate pitch bend.

Cons:

  • Pitch fader instead of tempo fader (Tempo fader coming soon)
  • Can get messy with all panels open.
  • No quick and easy way to import mp3.

Cue Play DJ. $9.99

Pros:

  • Traditional layout and look with knobs and buttons.
  • Hot Cue x 5.
  • Very good effects (flanger, delay, filter).
  • Very fast mp3 import through simple PC/Mac software.

Cons:

  • Audio engine jitter/click on play/loop/cue.
  • Pitch fader instead of tempo fader. (Temp fader in future update)
  • Hot cue buttons wont perform on fast tapping.
  • Holding down pitch bend too long will fast forward track.


DJ Mixer 3.
Free with bundled mp3, $9.99 to unlock iPod library.

Pros:

  • Tempo fader.
  • Free (ONLY with bundled mp3).
  • Prelistening on second iDevice via Wi-Fi. $9.99 to unlock feature.

Cons:

  • No tempo bend.
  • No EQ, effects or filters.
  • No cue points.
  • Pingback: Djing On The Iphone | Computer DJ Equipment()

  • DjayRage: Yeah, I saw that one but it’s so far away from DJing that I didn’t even consider it as an option. It’s like a predefined mixtape 🙂

  • I’ve used all of these, and the review was spot on.
    There’s a newer one missing from Numark called iDJ. It’s similar to Mixmeister on a PC so it’s more like creating mixes ahead of time & playing them whenever you want (although you can still click “mix now” to transition to the next song).
    It’s $2 and although it’s also lacking a few things like the other apps listed, but for that price it does make a good way to play some music while your driving.

  • Ezmyrelda: Thanks a lot for the tip, I will have a look at it and hopefully will be able to review it soon.

  • Sonasaurus is also another option. http://sonorasaurus.com/ It has effects and some other pretty nice features and the iPad version has visual matching beat waveform.

  • Minotronic: Hi, thanks, I’m glad you liked the review. I have to be honest, it didn’t even look tempting to consider that app. 🙂

  • Minotronic

    Well, in fct iDJ seem to just seamlessly mix tracks together with no real input from the user. U create a playlist and it’s mixed.

  • Minotronic

    Hi Emil, great review!!
    Have u had any chance to test freshly released Numark’s iDJ ?
    Thanx

  • bigbarcelona23: I dare you to show me one single Android app worth reviewing and I will eat my iPod case 😉

    Truth is Android is still a baby and iOS is still the big daddy of success for developers. There is not one single DJ app for Android that I know of that can even be mentioned at this point in time.

    Once they catch up, I promise I’ll be the first to drop a review, being the Apple basher that I am. But right now (to my knowledge), iOS is the place to be for DJ apps.

  • bigbarcelona23

    when are you guys going to do any stories on good Android apps for Dj’s??? I get it, Apple is the shit, but some of us like the other alternatives that are out and Android is just as awesome as Ipad/Iphone apps.

  • Thanks Beatsnatcher. Just a little glimpse into some new tech I have been working on.

  • L Kama, nice idevice pic 😛

  • Thanks for the coverage. Looking forward to phones and tablets working together as well.

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1502692062

    idevice pic: http://www.unify-me.com/

    Touch DJ 2 – thanks

  • snake
  • dj grial

    Any good app for andoid?

  • Mylestec

    I wonder how long its gonna be before I see some bloke trying to get down with one of these apps in a club>>???!!! @#$%!.. I’d rather resort to CDJ’s if all else fails instead of messin’ about with these toys… That said, I do like the idea of a Lemur type ipad control app for Traktor though!

  • davendiva

    numark have just released and app for ipad, iphone and touch called IDJ, it is based on the mixmeister software for your computer.

  • [quote comment=”41760″]I like Touch DJ 2 😉

    Heres my Facebook Page:
    http://www.facebook.com/jzoeck

    And a Pic with my iPhone 4:
    http://www.zoeck.de/iphone_dj_tech_tools.jpg%5B/quote%5D

    Forgot my Mail Adress… Sorry: jay-mod@gmx.de

  • I like Touch DJ 2 😉

    Heres my Facebook Page:
    http://www.facebook.com/jzoeck

    And a Pic with my iPhone 4:
    http://www.zoeck.de/iphone_dj_tech_tools.jpg

  • snake

    will grab a pic later if i can 😛

  • snake

    nice article, would love to see more on the other DJing apps that are out or upcoming stuff.

    if there’s still a code I would take one at snakeandbake@hotmail.com

  • EmilBrikha

    You guys do realize there are still codes to be won right? 😀

  • Måns Peterson

    En svensk skribent, inte illa!

  • EmilBrikha

    Grinser: I was looking at it right now and it does look interesting at first glance. I just never looked twice while researching when I stumbled upon such an app name “Red bull”. It sounded like a gimmick like most other apps with similar sponsored names. Maybe we can do a round 2 of the iPhone apps later on 🙂

  • Catalyst: There is already iPod access, it’s just not very effective. You have to import songs one by one and whatever app you use, doing bpm calculation and waveform in the phone is useless, it takes too much time. If Touch DJ manages to squeeze out an import program such as Cue Play, it would be aaaawesome.
  • Måns: Det kommer 🙂

  • Måns Peterson

    Has anyone received your promo code yet?
    Thanks for a great review!

  • CATALYST

    Great Review! I was contemplating on which to get for so long now. I was hesitant but I can see that Touch DJ 2 really functions very smoothly. I prefer smooth controls over lots of options. Hopefully Touch DJ 2 will update and allow for iPod access for 4.0 users.

    Would love to get my hands on the Touch DJ 2 🙂
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/170077/JL_iPhone.jpg

  • GRiNSER

    You missed the Red Bull BPM app!

  • Email and facebook address are filled in the form. Here is the pic >

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/33115002@N06/5278870278/

  • Razehell

    I have had TouchDJ for a long time and keep telling everyone its not that bad. Definitely the most expensive app I bought on my iphone, but I say its worth it.

  • My favorite iPad app for DJ’ing by faaaaaaaar is TraxPad…

    http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/traxpad/id375259644?mt=8

    The guy is building the next update as we speak which is going to be THE CDJ killer :]

  • Jes.C

    1st! yay!

  • Guess I’m late 🙁

  • Padi_04

    [quote comment=”41718″]This is the sequencer I was mentioning earlier, that my brother uses for some production and playing:

    http://itunes.apple.com/mt/app/korg-ielectribe/id363714043?mt=8%5B/quote%5D

    best synth app in the app store

  • EmilBrikha

    This is the sequencer I was mentioning earlier, that my brother uses for some production and playing:

    http://itunes.apple.com/mt/app/korg-ielectribe/id363714043?mt=8

  • It’s amazing how far technology has come. Somewhere I read that musicians like Amon Tobin compose their music on their iphones, I wonder if that’s true. Pretty interesting what you can do now with one of those things.

  • zeba

    looks like great but its unfortunately not so great to mix with these Ipad softwares!

  • Bucky

    Great article.

  • Oops forgot my facebook link
    http://www.facebook.com/DariusLiptrap

  • DJLogike

    Hi, Thanks for the review. It saved us time and money. I feel the interface of Touch DJ 2 app is nice and look forward to try it myself.
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496336315488&set=a.114233710488.88149.783510488

  • Trying to post….Awesome Article!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/darius4x4/5277205926/

  • DJLogike

    Hi, Thanks for the review. It saved us time and money. I feel the interface of Touch DJ 2 app is nice and look forward to try it myself.

  • DJK

    I think that as a back up all if them are good. Of course nothing is going to replace the real setup but for emergency they can help you out. Itouch Dj is something I would like to try out more.

  • Hey guys I’d love a copy of Touch DJ 2 😀

  • http://tinypic.com/r/2cgzs48/7
    I already have Cue Play DJ but I didn’t know Touch DJ and I would definitely love to try it.

  • Stephen Elias
  • DjLp
  • Yeeey it would be sweet to have Touch DJ especially it’s pretty expensive for average Polish student here 🙂

    Meh with my military styled iPhone 3: http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1365.snc4/163795_1249395613035_1773810938_467521_7751545_n.jpg

  • DjLp

    Thanks for letting us know what each program has to offer. The contest made it that much sweeter of article!

  • Stephen Elias
  • kilbot
  • EmilBrikha

    My bad, I’m sorry. My first article here, I can see your email address now, thanks for pointing it out.

  • Emil- I put my email in the “Mail” field of the comment form (“will not be published.”) Is that enough or did you need something in the actual comment? Thanks again for the review!

  • EmilBrikha

    Kenneth: Yes indeed, I saw it. I’ll leave it up to Ean to decide if we need a sequencer review but there are some really amazing applications for that. I’ve seen the David Guetta one and for people interested in making music in that genre it seems to be pretty good but I prefer a more versatile and configurable app. My brother (Aril Brikha of Transmat records) has been using one really cool with his iPad but I haven’t seen so many good ones for iPhone yet.

    Everyone, please don’t forget your email addresses. I need it to send out the codes.

  • At long last, functional DJ’ing apps for the iPhone/Touch. I keep an iPod touch with me as a back up- I look forward to adding Touch DJ 2 to the device if I win!

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5046/5276872764_3cde650f9b.jpg

  • Great reviews!
    Please can I get a copy of Touch DJ. Thanks

    http://www.alanball.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/101105.jpg

  • wooOO!

    There’s also some cool sequencer apps on the iPhone / iPad. Also, did you see the david guetta producing app? Looks pretty full-featured.

    PS: So I can get myself some free Touch DJ, here’s my face & iPhone (featuring TTR4—get it now!).
    http://akhun.com/seo/skitch/djtt-20101220-000229.png