I recently found out that I had been volunteered to be the DJ at an outdoor family event.  A ‘dance’ that was setup during a family reunion of sorts that would be attended by infants, teenagers, seniors, and everything in between.  This is not a typical scenario for me and I didn’t think that my usual DJ rig consisting of a laptop running Ableton Live, audio interface, and multiple controllers was appropriate.  The remote location of the event also meant that the P.A. and power supply would be limited, so having a low maintenance, plug-and-play rig would be essential.

I have been playing around with various iPad music apps and thought that this would be a good opportunity to do a full test on one of the DJ apps.  Initially, I was going to use the new Traktor app, but soon found out that my Gen 1 iPad wasn’t enough to run it.  Since Traktor was no longer an option, I went to plan B; DJ Rig.  IK Multimedia makes a wide range of music apps and I already had quite a few of their free demos (including DJ rig).  With a $1.99 price tag for the full standard version, it was an easy sell.

Features
Customizable deck display with Vinyl, Waveform or Digital Deck interface featuring accurate scratching engine with CloneDeck™ technology
Waveform display mode for ultra-precise visual cueing
Fast BPM detection and beat-map analysis with Tempo Sync and Beat Match
X-Sync mode detects the BPM from external audio sources and automatically syncs the audio/tempo of the internal decks (when used with iRig MIX)
Advanced looping section with continuous loop surface; create loops with tempo divisions always to the beat; manual and slip mode
12 effects: Delay, Flanger, Crush, High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter, Band Pass Filter, Comp, Auto-Wah, Phazer, Fuzz, Reverb, Stutter, all with X/Y touch interface control (all 12 effects are included in full version of DJ Rig for iPad, and are available as in-app purchase in DJ Rig for iPad FREE)
6 new “creative” effects (available via in-app purchase): Noise, Tail, Brake, Spin, Twist UP and Twist DOWN
On-the-fly expandable sampler with 9 pads and multiple sound banks (expandable via in-app purchase)
Live sampling functionality with volume and pitch control
5 visual cue points per song (1 built-in plus 4 available as in app purchase) and Auto Cue for automatic first-beat positioning
3 crossfader curves for customizing fades and crossfade filter
Direct access to iPod Music library and playlists
AutoMix Feature for automatic mixing of playlists or entire library
Live recorder allows recording of full mixing gigs
Supports/plays all major digital audio formats including MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF
Multiple output configurations for virtually any audio setup

The Good
The basic mechanics of a 2 deck setup work well in DJ Rig and the option to use a vinyl, CD, or waveform interface make it an easy transition for DJs of all styles.  There is quite a bit going on in the visual layout, but for the most part, it has been laid out in an intuitive manner.  A couple minutes of playing around and you’ll know your way around the app.

The waveform analysis worked surprisingly well for a mobile app and accurately put a beat grid to most of the songs.  The range of loop features also worked quite well including the slide gesture function to build a loop roll from 1/16 – ?.

The X-Y grid for effects works fairly well, although you can only use 1 effect at a time.  The 6 effects that they provide are basic staples that most DJs use in some capacity, so while you can‘t go completely crazy destroying your tracks, they offer a basic toolkit

The Bad
I was not a fan of the volume and gain pots (are they still called pots if they’re digital?).  It’s difficult to control with the same level of precision as a physical knob.  This was also true for the tempo slider.  In addition, the lack of key locking makes the finicky tempo slider even more awkward.

While I like the idea of the sample pads, the default samples and configuration are not ideal.  There are additional sample packs that you can buy and you can also import your own samples.    If you spent a bit of time configuring everything to fit your exact style, the sample pads might be an effective tool.  However, my goal with DJ Rig was to have a ready-to-go easy alternative to my Ableton Sets that I put hours of prep work into, so I thought this feature was somewhat lacking.

The lack of cueing ability is also a major downfall, but this is true for all apps that run straight from the iPad.  However, IK Multimedia has a solution for this; they have created a small external mixer that works exclusively for DJ Rig.  While I didn’t get a chance to try it out, it seems that this small piece of equipment would fix most of DJ Rig’s pitfalls.

The Verdict
I needed a cheap and easy alternative to my full Ableton Live setup and I think DJ Rig provided  well.  The low price point, intuitive interface, and stripped-down cable needs make this a great backup plan for any DJ.  That being said, this could also be useful for the young DJ-in-training who wants to learn some of the basics.

I wouldn’t recommend using this for any paying gigs, but for a backup plan at random events, DJ Rig is definitely useful.  There are 1/8” mini jacks available in many places (including cars!) so setting up on-the-fly is a very real possibility.  If you have $1.99 to spare and like to play on your iPad, I say download it!

Check the DJ Rig website…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School here at Spin-Academy.

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