The music player built into the iPad is perfectly fine. It does everything you need it to do, and it’s easy to use. However, it could be argued that what is missing is an element of fun. And that is where the Beat Blaster app steps in. It’s designed to have that retro Hi-Fi look and feel, and pulls it off rather nicely.
It isn’t just about looks though. Beat Blaster has a nice array of features that allow for music playback in the style of a Hi-Fi from the late Eighties. But it does let you get on with choosing some songs from your library and playing them just like you would from the Apple music player. The main difference being, Beat Blaster does it with style. Does it work for the long term though? Could it really be used as a replacement for the default music player? Lets take a look.
First, a Potential Flaw
I feel I should mention this straight away. Beat Blaster reads from your iPod library, meaning the main music library on your iPad. That means that if you use iTunes Match:
The songs/albums you have stored will not appear in Beat Blaster unless you have downloaded them to the device.
Some might see that as a flaw, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The app can only work with songs that are actually present on the device.
Anyway, I thought I’d better mention it.
The Main Interface
It really does have that retro feel, but the controls that you can use are intuitive too. You control volume by turning the volume dial with your finger, and you can scroll through tracks with the search buttons with a swipe of your finger – just like you would on a real Hi-Fi stack system.
The player is the main interface where you control everything. You can load a virtual CD, play the radio from one of the built-in pre-sets. You can follow the lyrics from the lyrics display, or just be mesmerised by the pulsating equaliser bands.
That equaliser is for visual display only. You can’t choose different presets or anything like that.
Beat Blaster uses the LyricFind service to display lyrics for the song you have playing. It doesn’t always find the lyrics; it depends on how popular the song/album is, but it’s a nice touch when it does work.
Yes, There Really Is a Turntable
If you really want a retro look, you can activate the turntable:
There is basic functionality too, with a volume control and the ability to skip through tracks. One nice feature is that you can lift the arm with your finger at move it to a different spot in the song that is playing. There is even an audible crackle when you put the needle down again. You could argue that there isn’t much point to this view otherwise – it just looks great, and provides a blast of nostalgia for those old enough to remember what vinyl looked like!
Again, this is just an interface. But it does pulse in time with the music in a clever animation.
Bearing in mind the situation regarding iTunes Match above, once you have added albums/songs to your library you see them like a shelf of cds:
Tapping on an album you want to play displays a cd case:
Tapping the play button results in a lovely animation of the cd being inserted into the player in the main interface and music playback will start.
Listening to the Radio
Beat Blaster also features more than 3000 free online radio stations for you to listen to:
You can search through the stations and once you’ve found one you want to try, playback will begin immediately. This is a great way of finding new music to listen to, and there is a handy link to iTunes to buy the track if you like it.
AppConcept also provide a free app for your iPhone that enables it to become a remote for your iPad with the Beat Blaster app installed. This is particularly useful if you use a dock with your iPad because you can get comfy on the couch and still control playback.
The iPhone app ONLY acts as a remote for Beat Blaster. It will not work for other apps.
The remote works via bluetooth, so obviously it must be switched on and available on your iPad and iPhone. The remote has all the usual controls for music playback and works really well.
This could easily be one of the most redeeming features of Beat Blaster, and it adds another “cool” feel to the retro Hi-Fi experience.
As I said at the beginning, there is nothing wrong with the default music player on the iPad. However, Beat Blaster does add that element of fun, while being functional too. There might be limited appeal in watching the turntable spin, or re-playing that CD loading animation, but it is still nice to see the attention to detail.
Seeing all your music arranged in CD cases is a clever touch too, and it makes it easier to find the album you are looking for. The default player doesn’t work quite as well in that regard. The downside is lack of support for iTunes Match, or is it? As soon as you download an album to your library it becomes available to Beat Blaster. The only problem is: you have to use the default player to download the album/songs first.
If you like the retro look, like the idea of built-in radio stations, and like the music selection process, Beat Blaster could easily become one of your most frequently used apps. I have been using it for all my music playback for over a week now, and haven’t found myself wanting to return to the default player (apart from to download new songs from iTunes Match).