DJ Rig Is a House Party in Your iPhone

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DJ Rig screen shotDJ Rig screen shot

The term DJ can be applied to practitioners of any number of disciplines. From those who spin at clubs and hip-hop shows to mash-up artists hacking together tracks to (at least in a classical sense) radio talent, “disc jockey” serves as an apt descriptor. Yet while those within these disparate groups certainly have strong feelings about who should and should not self-identify as a DJ, those of us on the outside are often more flexible.

For me, whether you’re an old school crate-digger or a laptop DJ, the commonality is an understanding of both the intricate structure of music and the tools of your respective trade. In the past it was the latter requirement that proved the biggest barrier to entry for newbies, but thanks to the ubiquity of smartphone apps you can now carry a virtual rig with you everywhere you go.

A new player in this ultra-portable DJ space is that fine purveyor of music applications IK Multimedia. With their previous tools for things like guitar processing and beat-making, IK has a considerable legacy of solid products for the musician on the go, and DJ Rig is no exception.

Its core experience should be quite familiar to anyone who’s ever experimented with the classic dual deck and crossfader setup. DJ Rig allows users to easily import songs from the iPhone music library, scratch the platters in real-time and effortlessly match the beats-per-minute of turntable A to turntable B (or vice versa) using the prominent sync button.

The touch interface for scratching and fading is finely tuned and responsive, and the in-app equalizer can help you smooth out your mix. DJ Rig supports cue points, so creating loops and setting up precise drops become second nature with a little practice. You can even record and export your mixes via wifi, email or iTunes’ own file sharing, so the app has value far beyond the live mixing aspect.

The basic functionality of the app is more than enough to warrant investigation by curious music makers, but DJ Rig‘s real strength is found in its advanced features. The four 9-button effect pads are easily programmable using a huge bank of existing samples or your own sounds, and they really provide some added flair. Similarly, a dozen effects boasting everything from high and low pass filters to phazer, flanger and auto wah are available and come complete with their own customizable parameters. They offer perfect response via an XY axis touch interface, and each is automatically synced to the current song’s BPM. The only caveat is that half of these effects can only be accessed after an in-app purchase of the “Full Effects Suite.”

If this seems like a lot of breadth for a phone app, it’s only because it is. DJ Rig‘s biggest flaw is that it offers so much. More specifically, it offers too much in too small a footprint. The iPhone UI is cluttered at best and a veritable hedge maze of menus, buttons and scrolling waveforms at worst. An auto-rotate option — which can be toggled off if you like — shifts to a single deck view as your phone flips from landscape to portrait orientation, but even on my 4S this transition is a bit slower than expected. Running the app on an iPad helps a bit, of course, but as there’s not yet a proper iPad version of the software its grainy 2x mode is far from a perfect solution.

The issue of having to pay a second price for the full product suite is also a little annoying, but the IAP does offer other notable amenities. Being able to switch between a traditional turntable deck design and digital jog wheels, for example, may not seem like much, but there’s something to be said for owning your workspace. But even putting aside cosmetic issues and doubling the number of deck effects, the purchase raises the ceiling from a single visual cue point to four, which truly adds to the experience.

On its own merits DJ Rig is a solid purchase at the current $1.99 price point, but to get the full effect — no pun intended — you’ll want to invest an additional $4.99 in the Full Effects Suite. Functionality can be further extended by the addition of IK’s own hardware solution, the iRig MIX audio mixer, which has been specially designed to interface with DJ Rig across multiple devices. This enables X-Sync, synchronization with any external audio interface, not simply limited to iOS platforms, but obviously entails yet another (and more sizable) purchase.

DJ Rig is modular, scalable and, above all else, functional. From noodling on your daily commute to live digital DJ performance, the app and its related accessories provide a number of intriguing solutions. As with their other music apps IK Multimedia goes to great lengths to provide the proper tools, but it’s up to you to provide the talent.

WIRED: responsive touch interface, excellent iTunes integration, easy recording/sharing options, tons of effects and sample pads

TIRED: requires in-app purchase to unlock its full potential, noticeably cramped interface

Review materials provided by: IK Multimedia

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