DJ iPad apps have been around for years, and on whole they’ve always been a bit hit and miss, generally falling into two categories: a midi controller or a virtual deck setup – neither of which particularly works well on a small tablet touchscreen.
Well, those days are behind us as the company behind Traktor, Native Instruments, has released its first attempt at a DJ app. Their vision for Traktor DJ is all about using the iPad’s best feature: touch. They’ve come up with a system that uses pinches, swipes and taps to manipulate the music – a system that is a lot of fun to begin with, but has the necessary depth to keep you coming back for months to truly master it.
“We’ve taken our time to come to market,” says product designer Scott Hobbs. “We wanted to stop and think about this: how could we break down the digital DJing interface? We didn’t want to emulate the vinyl interface. There’s been too much skeuomorphism to date, so we really broke the interface apart and rebuilt everything from the ground up.”
When you fire up the app you’re greeted with a layout that is strikingly similar to their previous software, perfect for anyone who has used their DJ software before. Basically, you’ve got a 2-channel mixer and two virtual decks. Select one of the decks and you’re taken to your library of tracks, they are then arranged by song, album, tempo or key. Once you chosen a track you’re asked whether you want to load the mp3 into channel 1 or 2 – with either channel flashing if a track is already playing, a simple reminder so you don’t load the mp3 into the wrong channel and cut the music.
To mix two tracks of a similar tempo and key requires very little work, as the app relies on Native Instruments auto tempo detection whilst the iTunes integration turns your iPad into a virtual crate to dig through.
On top of the standard mixing functionality you’ve got full channel EQs, filters, and 8 effects to combine into your mixes. And this is where Traktor comes into its own, mixing two tracks together in the 21st century isn’t that hard or exciting, but where it become exciting is layering loops over tracks, adding your own effects and generally trying to combine as many of those at once. Obviously this doesn’t work out all the time, but give the app to some who is a dab hand at mixing and they’ll be able to do mixes that a DJ with CDJs and an expensive mixer wouldn’t be able replicate.
At the heart of the app is Traktor’s acclaimed sync engine that keeps tracks locked together so mixes hit hard and on time. Traktor DJ app also syncs up to Traktor Pro 2, allowing users to share track data, beat grids, BPM counts, and set cue points – making the app both a companion app for Pro users and all-in-one DJ solution for iPad owners who want to DJ at parties or at home.
One feature that’s exclusive to Traktor’s DJ App is a “freeze and slice” a feature that allows you manipulate waveforms with gestures like swipes and pinches, allowing you to slice a track into playable parts and remix it on the fly. If you grab the waveform with two fingers you can set a loop, widen your fingers and the loop with increase in size, and you can punch out with a quick two-finger tap.
Another clever addition is the notification centre, this allows you read up on the all functionality of the app, but it also suggests techniques and features you haven’t used yet – giving the app the ability to actually teach you.
Elsewhere, you can add up to eight cue points to any track, allowing you jump to the breakdown or main drive from anywhere within the track without it ever stopping or going out time.
Another feature that we were really impressed with is the ability to record mixes from within the app that can then be downloaded and shared to friends or fans.
If you’re a bedroom DJ looking to have a bit fun on long journeys, or a professional DJ who want to prepare their sets before the getting to the club – Traktor DJ is a must. It strikes that perfect balance between a professional tool and a fun app that lets anyone have a go at DJing. This desire for mainstream and professional appeal is reflected in Traktor DJ’s price: £13.99 –matching Djay, which is probably the most high-profile iPad DJing app to date. But quite frankly DJay pales in comparison to Native Instruments’ first attempt at an all-in-one DJ app in both scope and functionality.