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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.

I am an Ableton Live user. From the first time I used Live I was hooked. Live 9 was released not too long ago and I spent the better part of two weeks as a hermit, endlessly digging into all of the new instruments, effects, and samples that came with the thirty-plus gigabytes of Live 9 Suite. However, I think I may have gone a bit overboard because I feel (for the moment) quite burnt out. This Live hiatus has given me time to explore a somewhat different aspect of music production and performance; iPad apps.

Fortunately, there is no lack of apps (and FREE apps at that) for those wishing to make music on their mobile. I downloaded and tried around 25 apps before I narrowed it down to the list below, but there are still quite a few that I would like to try. Everything that I tried was completely free and most had either premium paid versions with more features or the ability to make in-app purchases to boost your experience. Lets take a quick look at what each of these apps does…

Launchpad
Recently released by Novation, the Launchpad app mirrors the look of it’s hardware counterpart and is setup much like you would set up a loop-based set in Ableton Live. It comes with eight sessions in different genres with audio content from Loopmasters. Each session has an array of buttons containing different audio loops and one-shots that you can combine as you please. Coupled with an easy FX an mixer section this is a great app for both beginners and veterans.

 

Launchkey
Also from Novation, Launchkey is a synthesizer that includes 60 preset sounds. With a keyboard and beautiful multi-function X-Y interface it is easy to play and morph your sounds. The big selling point, however, is the app’s full integration with the Launchkey hardware. Novation has released 25, 29, and 61 key hardware that allows you to connect and control every part of the synth.

 

Clap Box
Purmagnetik’s Clap Box is an iOS recreation of the iconic 80’s ‘Clap Trap’ synthesizer. All it really does is create clapping sounds, but with features like audio triggering and full MIDI integration you could have some real fun with this app. Nothing spectacular on it’s own, but when combined with other instruments, hardware, or other musicians, you have a definite winner.

Clap Box for iOS

 

Figure
From Propellerhead Software (the makers of Reason) comes an addictive little music making app that it extremely easy to use. You get to make a drum beat, bass line, and a lead synth all with very unique tactile interfaces. The sound quality from this app is great and it looks stunning. The learning curve is very minimal, but you still dig quite deep if you want to. Automatic iTunes export along with instant SoundCloud sharing make this a great app for creating beats.

Tabletop
By far, my favorite app that I downloaded was Tabletop. This modular studio workstation allows you to create your own setups by dropping various instruments and effects into the session. Everything you add gets connected through a virtual mixer and you have complete control over everything. This app works almost as a DAW, with the ability to use multiple instruments and effects, sequence them using MIDI, and have a complete mixing section. It comes with several built in instruments and effect, but you can also buy more in-app as well as use other third-party premium apps like iMPC from Akai inside of the interface. You can also import and play songs or samples from your library, which makes this the most versatile music making app I have seen yet.

All of these apps have a different niche, but they all serve the same purpose; making music. There are quite a few bad music apps out there, but I was pleasantly surprised at the amount and diversity of quality music apps. Whether you use them as your primary musical tool, a backup for DJing, busking on the street, or an impromptu dance parties, you should definitely incorporate some music apps into your life!

 

Special Note on DJing apps!

The new Traktor app is world-class and looks to be the one for two-deck mobile DJs. It isn’t free, but a full-service DJ app for $19.99 seems like a good deal to me.

I mentioned earlier that I am an Ableton Live user. Well, there are a number of apps available for Live that work as controllers, but I have been using touchAble in my live setup for a while now. Out of all of the apps that I tried, touchAble is the easiest, most intuitive, and best looking app that $24.99 can buy. If you are a Live user I highly recommend getting it.

 

 

 

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

About Spin Academy

Spin Academy is an online DJ and music producing school. At Spin Academy our goal is to give you the necessary skills to unleash your true musical creativity, and carrier potential. We have a huge library of high quality up to date video tutorials featuring some of the most successful DJ’s and music producers in the world.

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