We’ve covered a few DJ apps here on GeekDad since the arrival of the iPad, including Algoriddim’s DJay and IK Multimedia’s DJ Rig. Both are excellent apps, and perform their required functions perfectly well, but now there’s a new kid on the block – and he dresses a little differently. Both DJay and DJ Rig rely heavily on the past for their interface designs, featuring skeuomorphic representations of the turntables, crossfaders, buttons and knobs that an ‘old skool’ DJ will recognise right away. Traktor DJ, from renowned professional music software and hardware company Native Instruments, throws all that out of the window and starts afresh for the digital age.
Traktor DJ might be late to this particular party, but it arrives with style. Native Instruments have brought the DJ app properly into the touchscreen era by dispensing with the fake wheels of steel and letting get you fingers on what really matters: the waveforms of the music itself. They take up the majority of the screen space with various buttons arranged around them, together with the one remaining skeuomorph, the all important crossfader. Each ‘deck’ has four main buttons: play/stop, loop, EQ and FX. These last two sliding-out panels over the waveform with a low/mid/hi equaliser/filter and eight FX x/y pads respectively. The x/y pads are super simple to use and feature a lock button to hold the effects while you mess around with some other parameter. The tempo control is beautiful implemented version of the click wheel of a regular iPod. You tap to open it out, then circle your finger around to speed up or slow down the music, and the faster you circle, the faster it changes.
The large displays are multi-touch capable, so you can grab the waveforms to move to another point in the track, or pinch out a section to automatically create a loop and then drag to resize and reposition it, then cancel it by dragging off the waveform. You can set up to eight cue-points for each track to jump around between various sections and there’s also an innovative ‘Freeze Mode’ which stops the waveform scrolling, slices it up and allows you to play each beat of the track individually to create your own remix on the fly. And the really clever part of this is that the syncing technology Native Instruments have brought over from their Pro desktop software means that the music always comes back in time, never missing a beat.
This is obviously a big bone of contention in the world of the DJ — does all this automatic syncing take all the skill out of the art form? While I agree it certainly does make it easier to get your two songs running at the same tempo and in time with each other, I still think most of game is picking the right tunes and doing something different with them. I like to think I have a great collection of music, but I still need a lot of hand-holding when it comes to deciding what to play next (maybe because there’s so much of it?). Traktor DJ has a great recommendation engine built right into to help worth that. It analyzes your music library and suggests tunes that are in a similar key and tempo. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen brings up your library and on the right side you’ll see all the tunes it thinks will mix nicely with the currently selected one. On the left side are all your playlists and the standard song/artist/album and search options, all sortable by name, key, tempo etc.
All of these features make Traktor DJ great for the beginner and novice alike, but Native Instruments hasn’t forgotten about their Pro user base either. You can use the iPad app to test out new tunes and mixes, set the cue-points and create playlists and then have all of that info synced via Dropbox back to the Traktor Pro software on their desktop/laptop. A promo video on YouTube shows DJ Richie Hawtin doing just that. In a typically superstar DJ way, he’s shown at the beach learning the app and sorting out his set on his iPad in the back of a taxi before showing up at a festival and rocking the crowd. You can use the iPad camera connection kit to hook up the app to their professional audio hardware or use a splitter cable (like Griffin’s DJ Cable) to enable pre-listening and cueing of your tracks, and all of your masterful mixes can be recorded into the iPad as high quality .WAV files. The recorded file can be copied out through iTunes and can also be played back in the app itself, meaning that you could use your mix as part of another mix!
At $19.99/£13.99 from iTunes it’s not a cheap app, but it is incredibly well designed in both looks and functionality, and it’s packed with great features, which although very powerful are simple to pick up and intuitive to use. Check out the series of videos on the Native Instruments site to see for yourself.
GeekDad was provided with a review copy of the software