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Macworld 2010: Hands-on with Algoriddim's djay 3

DJ software tends to be hit or miss -- the ability to make a music player match beats on songs, even with different tempos, has been around for a while. For most software designed to allow you to mix and play music, the interface is the important part. What you want is a nice clean interface that's simple enough for almost anyone to pick up and use, but complex enough that DJs who know their stuff can take advantage of deeper features and functionality. Fortunately, that's exactly what Algoriddim has put together in the newest version of their app, djay 3. The app offers an excellent interface with quite a few nice touches of flash, and also offers up solid functionality for those who know their way around the ones and twos.

The app opens on the standard two-turntable view, with an iTunes interface sitting right on the side of the window. That's important, the Algoriddim rep told us, because many DJ apps require you to import your songs, or put them in certain formats that might not be compatible with the most popular music player on the Mac. But djay 3 actually uses your iTunes music and playlists right in the app, so right at startup, you can just drag and drop songs onto the turntables, and start mixing right away. Of course, everything can be adjusted manually, but there are also buttons that allow you to automatically match the speed (beats per minute) and gain of the two songs, and a fader at the bottom allows you to switch back and forth between them just as a DJ would in the club. Everything else works as expected as well: you can drag the needles on the records to travel within a song, twist the records themselves to move around, or set EQ or balance as you'd expect.

That's the basic functionality of the app, and it works well -- I asked the rep to mix two random songs, and while Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" didn't exactly sound good together, they did beat match and gain match perfectly. Which makes sense: we were also told that the point of the app is to turn DJing into something that doesn't require hours of practice with turntables in a bedroom, but rather that the point of playing music is music choices, not just how fast you can flip the fader or spin the record back.

Of course, for DJs who have spent those hours of practice, Algoriddim has built in plenty of advanced features. There's a very impressive looping system, that allows you to create loops of any length, lined up right to the beat of a given song, and then adjust or cut those loops on the fly. There's also a full-fledged cue point system, so you can instantly jump to a cue point in any song, and all of your cue points are saved as metadata, so the next time you want to play that killer breakdown right in the middle of one of your favorite songs, it'll be there when you want it. And perhaps most awesome, the djay 3 software works with the multitouch trackpad on your MacBook Pro, so you can move the fader, turn the records, switch tracks, and do almost everything else just with gestures on the trackpad. And djay 3 doesn't require extra soundcards for more technical ouput -- with the in-app settings, you can plug in any USB headphones, and send the pre-cue sound out to a separate sound source.

And if you're not an experienced DJ, djay 3 goes the other way, too -- you can turn on the Automix feature, and the app will actually beatmix your songs for you, like an enhanced version of iTunes DJ. You can even program it to run certain transitions, like a full stop, a hip hop-style reverse twist, or a number of different options, all that run automatically. Obviously it won't be perfect, but even if you're just looking for a little more smooth party mix than the standard iTunes DJ, Algoriddim will help out with that, too. And the company is working on an iPhone app that will let you remotely control the mix via Wi-Fi -- while we didn't get to see it in action on the crowded floor, they're hoping to release it later this year.

The app is available now for $50 on the website and in stores. It's an excellent DJ app, and one of the best you will find on the Mac. It won't turn you into an amazing DJ right away, but if you're an experienced DJ looking for a way to mix music straight from your Mac, it's a great solution. And even if you're a music fan who wants to experience music in a different way, it's more than worth a look.

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