djay: True Power at Your Fingertips

When people I know first get their hands on an iPad, or an iPhone for that matter, the first thing they ask me is: “What good free apps should I download?”

I happily suggest a few, and then venture a number of powerful apps that cost a couple of dollars. I’m regularly met with some kind of shock, as if it would be outlandish to spend even a dollar on an app!

I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by this sentiment. While there are undoubtedly a huge number of great free apps out there, the fact that someone who has just spent $500+ dollars on a new piece of technology somehow can’t see the value in paying even a few extra dollars for quality software is beyond me.

I am perfectly happy to spend a little money on something that will greatly increase my productivity or significantly improve the functionality of my iPad – I’m even coming round to the value of quality games!

This review is for people who value quality applications, even if they happen to come at a price. djay is a beautiful example of professional quality software that appeals to music lovers of any persuasion. Read on to discover the great musical power you can have at your fingertips!

The Elephant in the Room

Lets get this out of the way. The normal (see below) price tag of djay is a hefty $19.99. That’s considerably more than many people would be even vaguely willing to consider paying for an app, let alone one that doesn’t directly increase your productivity.

The interesting thing here is that for a professional piece of DJing software, $19.99 is incredible value for money. The problem is that $19.99 is a lot to pay for an entertainment app, even one as polished as djay. This is why the timing of this review is perfect…

djay is currently on sale for only $9.99! A simply awesome price for an app as powerful, and fun, as this.

That djay is on sale is good news, but why it’s on sale is even better news (for the developers at least) – it won the 2011 Apple Design Award. Even better than that, it allows me to segue effortlessly onto the interface design of the app.

Design & Interface

djay

Simply put, the interface of djay is a delight to behold. The detail is stunning, as is the overall look and style of the app. I’m a particular fan of the gorgeous use of textures and the inclusion of the dots around the edge of the turntables themselves (used for adjusting the pitch setting on physical turntables, but simply a nice example of attention to detail here).

The Main Interface

In addition to being stunning to look at, the design of the interface is almost without flaw. It’s relatively easy for a complete beginner to figure out the important details within a minute or so, yet packs a surprising amount of power onto a single screen.

I really rather like the symmetrical setup. Beyond being the most intuitive way to lay out two turntables on an iPad, it appeals to my sense of design.

Becoming a DJ Hero

First things first, head to your Library and grab a record to get going. Simply tap the icon to the top left of the turntables to bring up the Library menu, use the standard tabs to sift through and find the perfect track.

If you have a huge Library it may be worth going into the settings and switching to using a full screen Library. This will obscure your view of the turntables but allow for an easier selection process.

Full Screen Library

After selection djay will throw your record on immediately, and (on the iPad 2 at least) take a mere few seconds to completely analyse the entirety of a normal track. This powerful analysis is at the heart of the power that djay possesses – it allows for drastic manipulation of the track in a split second.

Once you’re up and running you can take control in a number of ways:

  • Adjust the individual turntable volume using the controls in the top left and top right.
  • Record the session using the red recording icon.
  • Skip through the track to any spot on the waveform with a quick touch.
  • Stop and start records with a tap to the button in the bottom left or right.
  • Use the bars on the very left and right to synchronise the BPM and pitch of different tracks. Move the slider to adjust the tempo or hit the ‘SYNC’ button to match the BPM with the other turntable. Hit the note button to get djay to maintain the pitch of the record while adjusting its tempo.
  • Hit the small faders button above that to use EQ, loops, and set cue points.
  • Use the main ‘Set’ buttons in the footer to set quick cue points. Jump back to them using the button to the right.
  • Slide the central slider in the footer to mix the level between the two tracks.
  • Manipulate the turntables with your finger to scratch the records and adjust their position. You can even move the needle to skip through the song, although it’s a little clumsy to get right.

With tracks loaded up.

The pitch matching feature is a recent addition and needs to be highlighted as an incredible addition to this app. It’s stunning just how easy it make the process of matching the tempos of two songs, that it can maintain their pitch at the same time is a truly professional feature.

Adjust EQ, loops, and set cue points.

It’s important to note that djay does come with some features of particular importance to actual amateur and professional DJs. The settings menu (accessed via the cog) allows you to engage in Pre-Cueing, by enabling split output for an audio adapter.

The Bottom Line

It’s rare that I come to the end of a review and have nothing negative to say whatsoever, no suggestions for improvement or even little niggles. djay is an astonishingly powerful and polished app that is a delight for anyone interested even slightly in the world of the DJ.

It’s time-sappingly fun for the novice, and could be of incredible use to the amateur and professional alike. The interface and attention to design is exceptional, while the use of the iPad’s touch screen is perfect – you can’t help but become engrossed by the responsiveness and world of sound created by manipulating the records on the turntables!

Even the simple touches, such as the use of album artwork on the records help to make the whole experience immersive and engaging. It’s not hard to see why the app won the 2011 Apple Design Award.

It is expensive and not for absolutely everyone, I understand that. But the quality of the design and power of the functionality is fully justified in the cost. I don’t believe a high (relatively) price point should hinder an app as excellent in quality as this, particularly when it merits it. And anyway, it is on sale for the moment…


Summary

djay is an astonishingly powerful and polished app that sets an impressive standard for all other music apps to follow.

10
  • http://www.hammyhavoc.com Hammy Havoc

    djay is pretty fun to use. The pricing of applications is a funny one. I spend a lot of money on iOS applications (TomTom for example) yet people don’t seem to put the same price tag of software that they would for something like a portable games console or a Mac. Pretty unusual because the apps are cheap either way.

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  • pat

    quote:
    “The pitch matching feature is a recent addition and needs to be highlighted as an incredible addition to this app. It’s stunning just how easy it make the process of matching the tempos of two songs, that it can maintain their pitch at the same time is a truly professional feature.”

    mmm…as far as i could work out, this feature is NOT on the ipad/iphone version of the app…unless you know different?

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