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djay for Mac and iPad review, video hands-on and giveaway

We've covered djay and the djay Remote app's release, but I think the video (on the next page) shows you how awesome the two are together. I'm not a professional DJ, however. I understand many of the basic concepts and tools, as I've seen some former roommates practicing their skills -- and skills beyond merely loading up the Electric Slide, too. But djay is accessible to anyone who wants to make a mix for a party on up to real, pro DJs who are looking for an electronic alternative to lugging around a box of records and a couple of turntables. I'm not sure djay can completely replace a full rig for a pro, however, but it comes very close.

Be sure to read through to the end as two lucky readers will win a copy of djay the Mac application and the iPhone remote app.

Interface

The UI for djay is meant to simulate having two turntables and a simple EQ/mixer in front of you. Added to the right is an iTunes-like playlist manager and some buttons to enable audio input/output (more on this later) and samples. Overall it's a simple, yet powerful interface that puts everything at your fingertips. Plus, there are ample keyboard shortcuts available for almost every necessary function in the application.

The iPhone interface (which I preferred to use on an iPad -- the app scales up nicely but is not universal) is a subset of the Mac app, focusing on one turntable at a time and giving you a larger, more tactile surface to spin the record back and forth. My biggest complaint here is simply that if you are a professional DJ who is used to having minute control over the platter as it spins, you'll find djay, when you release the surface, will only spin back up in the direction it was going -- in other words, it is not 100% accurate as a turntable simulator. However, for most applications (simply providing a quick break or scratch) it does OK.

I've included a video on the next page of how you can interface a MIDI controller with djay for even more "real world" controls.


Automix

iTunes has the ability to make a party mix fairly easily, but aside from a simple crossfade there's not much you can do with it. djay, while providing a crossfade capability, adds the ability to alter EQ, add sampled loops, set markers within a song for looping, add effects, and of course, scratch the record at opportune moments. Plus, there's the ability to add your own mic to the mix for those all-important party announcements.


However, a pro DJ needs one thing more: a preview of what's coming up next. You can do this in djay but (as with any application in this case) you'll either need another sound card or a USB headset. Why? The Mac can only output to one source physically with the audio output jack, so you'll have to provide another form of hardware so you can preview audio before it goes live to the primary audio output. This allows you to queue up a song to a specific point, and bring it in at just the right moment for a smooth transition. If you've ever heard a great DJ do this live, you probably haven't even noticed it -- because the transition should be seamless.


On the iPhone you can add/remove songs in a playlist, but you are stuck with the iPod-style method of generating playlists. That is to say, you will prefer setting up your playlists on the Mac and doing minor alterations on the iPad.

Sampling, Looping

djay provides a simple recorded sample bank for you to use during a live show. Record a bunch of samples, bring up a floating dialog, and click on what you want to make the appropriate sample trigger. You can bring audio samples in as .aif files or record them yourself.


Further, you can set multiple cue points within a single song, and either jump to those points or have them repeat as many times as you want. This allows you to reconstruct/remix/mashup songs and is a powerful composition tool for serious DJs. If you've ever seen a DJ with tape stuck to his records indicating where a particular piece of audio is, this digital cue point is supposed to replace that and provide a simple method for repeating that cue in a loop. Three cue points can be set or triggered on the iPhone app.


Effects

There is a simple lo, mid, hi EQ for each turntable, plus a bank of basic effects like chorus and reverb. Nothing too fancy, but the purpose of this application is not to be a digital audio workstation. It is merely to aid in shaping the sound, potentially matching the "feel" of another song or provide a little depth to the audio as you mix things together.


One of the more powerful effects is the ability to match beats with another song. Load up a song in one turntable and djay will analyze the audio and approximate the BPM, or beats per minute. If you don't like the reading you can tap on the BPM reading and set it yourself. Lastly, you can "sync" the BPM of one song to another. Mashups are commonly beat-matched, that is, sped up or slowed down to match up with another song. That's how you might hear "A Fifth of Beethoven" mashed up with Kanye West.


You can use a slider to speed up or slow down an album as well, and djay has a button for reducing the pitch alteration that occurs. There's a reverse button for listening to those hidden messages we were warned about in the 70s and 80s, plus the requisite gain controls for the amplitude of the sound on each turntable.

On the iPhone, the speed is controlled by holding down the plus or minus sign, but the effects are all there. You can also affect EQ and volume levels using the iPad app.

Conclusion

The full version of djay is $49.95. It is not a perfect simulation of having a "real world" turntable setup, but combined with the $4.99 iPhone/iPad app, it is as close as I've seen to a simulator on the Mac and it adds several functions that are a chore to accomplish with a turntable rig. Beat-matching, cue points, effects and sampling are all done within djay, and if you are a professional DJ at parties you will find this may very well suit 95% of your needs. Even if you aren't a professional the Mac application is a lot of fun to play around with, and could be just the thing you were looking for when hosting that next dance party. Or you could wile away the hours making funky mashups using completely oddball song choices.

I think for the money djay is a lot of fun and packs a rich feature set into an attractive, streamlined package. Give the 30-day trial a whirl and see what you think.

Videos:

Interface

With iPhone app running on an iPad

MIDI controller


And a look at the menus

Now for the giveaway! Algoriddim is giving away two copies of the "suite" here, one is the Mac application and the other is the iPhone remote app. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. Full rules linked below:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter leave a comment .
  • The comment must be left before Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Two winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: One copy of the Mac app djay and one promo code for the iPhone app djay Remote (Value: US$49.95 for Mac app, $4.99 for iPhone app )
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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