Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DJ Mixer 3 Review

In the neverending quest for the perfect iPad DJ app (basically iTraktor) I have recently stumbled upon the literally named DJ Mixer 3. It has a lot of features we haven’t seen on the iPad and is packaged in an interface that is, well… interesting. So do the functions excuse the graphics??? Let’s find out.

Never judge an app
by its icon
Free Trial: DJ Mixer 3 is a free download so you really have no excuse not to check it out after reading this. The devs let you download and try it and then give you two options for upgrading the package to make it actually useful. More devs could learn a lesson from this approach, it is very effective as I couldn’t resist one of the in app downloads and probably wouldn’t have bought this thing outright for $20. What you get for your download is an almost fully functional DJ app with some free music downloads that are useful for demo purposes. The music selection also sort of gives you an idea where the devs are coming from; the tracks are not really my cup of tea and have a strong connotation of something… I will let you interpret that on your own after you download the app and look at the free song choices.

In App Purchases: The in app purchases unlock one critical feature and one amazingly innovative feature. The first and critical one is “mix your own music” ($9.99) which allows you to access your own music library in addition to the free music you get when you download the app. The second, “DJ with headphones” ($9.99), is a really cool feature that allows you to stream your cue over wifi to another iOS device effectively giving you two stereo channels to work with. There is also a sound effects pack available for $4.99 that probably gives you some airhorns and fake scratch sounds. I am not into that stuff so I didn’t download it.

Autopilot: The app also serves as a stand-alone music player with built in mixing including beatmatching if the songs are near each other in tempo. Sort of like the cruise function on Traktor but with its own interface. This addition is great for someone who wants to DJ parties but doesn’t want to be stuck behind the mixer all night. I use the cruise all the time early in the night at my Saturday night party. I put it on autopilot and hang out with my friends until people show up. The designers also gave the app a “shake to mix” function that is kind of gimmicky but probably could be useful to someone.

Wicky wicky, wha???
The Interface: I have to admit, I am torn over this one. It has some very unique features like the headphones over wifi that are totally innovative and cool. However the whole aesthetic of it is kind of cheesy as the interface design almost seems to center around two fake turntables on the screen. In the initial version they appear to be onscreen for no apparent reason other than allowing you to scroll through the waveform. This can be done on the actual waveform anyway. After talking to the devs it turns out they will be implementing scratch capability into these decks with the next update so at least functionality is on the way. The turntables can be graphically turned into DJ CD players too (?). Like I said, kind of cheesy. This is really the major complaint I have about the interface and the app in general, but it is sort of a doozie.

The Good: The best thing about this app is it is a full-on universal app. It uses all the real estate on the big iPad screen and scales down nicely on the iPhone. The interface has some great ideas built in like letting you see the waveform vertically and horizontally. It even has a unique block readout next to the waveforms that can be used to beatmatch when the tempos are locked. Like Quixpin and Touch DJ, it couples the waveforms on each deck so you can beatmatch. It also has an auto-beatmatch function (sync) that works well and uses timestretch instead of pitch-shift. Speaking of tempo, you can actually pitch-shift AND timestretch on this one. It also has this really interesting “mix” button that when pressed spins back the current track and goes right into the track on the other deck. Sort of a panic button if a song kills the floor. I could probably have used this a time or two when dropping the wrong song for the room (come on, we all do it).

It gets worse. CD players???
The Questionable: This is why I am torn; it has some of the best functionality I have seen in an iPad DJ app, but it is packaged in a kind of ugly and awkward package that is trying to emulate CD players and/or turntables. Why anyone wants to stick to the old system when the hardware has clearly moved on is sort of confusing to me. It might have made sense to use the real estate they plopped the platters on for larger waveforms or hotcues or something else a little more modern and utilitarian. The system is also lacking any effects, which would be a nice addition but not a deal breaker for me.

The Verdict: At $20 (which is the real cost of the app), you get one of the most functional iPad DJ apps out there. It does a lot of stuff in one package that up until now no one else can deliver. The fact it pitch shifts and timestretches is a real standout feature. However, despite the awesome features, I still don’t know if I will use it because of the awkward looking interface. People are going see this thing and it just looks kind of like it was designed for a PC in the late 90s. The functionality however is anything but 90s…

DJMixer 3 FREE!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nanostudio 1.1 Update!!!

A New Nanostudio Update has just been released and I couldn't be happier! I know I have my head up Blip Interactive's proverbial arse but anyone who uses it knows that Nanostudio is amazing. With this 1.1 update it just got even better. I had been talking with devs about some features I was hoping for and they were almost ALL included in this update.

It's Splitsville for these channels.
The most significant for me are pan controls in the mixer (now I can split one channel off into my vocoder!!!), 8meg sample import (backing tracks in the other channel?) and the most exciting -  MIDI Mobilizer support (I just ordered mine). With this update I will hopefully officially be able to use Nanostudio on my iPad as the centerpiece of my live setup!

I will have a full review with pictures of my live setup when my Mobilizer gets here.
Here is what's new:

* Audio copy/paste - both Intua and Sonoma standards
* MIDI file import/export
* Support for the Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer
* Project import/export (self contained projects complete with samples packaged in a single file)
* Direct SoundCloud export from phone
* More mixdown options - individual track split, song regions, render tail option
* Pan controls in mixer
* Note preview in piano roll view when selecting and dragging
* Complete backup/restore of unsaved Eden presets when the app is closed or a call is taken
* Eden preset numbers now begin from zero, not one (this is to match preset changes made via MIDI)
* New (empty) global bank C for Eden
* Increased sample size limit to 8MB
* 'Loop on selection' feature in song editor - sets song loop points to the current selection
* Samples above 8MB can now be previewed in file dialogue (the first 20 seconds)
* MIDI input on Windows version
* NanoSync - Support for 24 bit wavs, copying folders and older PowerPC machines
* Snap to centre zero on pan knobs

* When an Eden controller is mapped to oscillator pan, it now takes it over the full L/R range
* Glide notes not recorded correctly (they don't overlap slightly as they should so they need lengthening afterwards in the editor)
* Drawing lots of notes in the pattern editor can result in a synth not responding until the project is reloaded
* Infrequently there is a hanging note (possibly when deleting a part which is being played), resolved by reloading the project.
* Chorus delay modulation destination doesn't work
* Using '&' in sample file or folder names causes the message 'The project file could not be loaded'. It may be possible to load your project's .bak file and then change any samples using a '&' in the file or folder name before resaving.
* Samples with a rate other than 44.1kHz do not play back at the correct speed.
* Vertical scrollbar doesn't behave properly when drawing in the pattern editor.
* Fix for first metronome beep not being played during count in at certain tempos
* Improved sequencer timing drift - now stays perfectly in time even when rendering a wav of any length
* Changed TRG-16 minimum release time so it doesn't sound different during resample/mixdown

I recommend buying or upgrading immediately!

Friday, October 1, 2010

More DJ Apps - Red Bull BPM HD and Cue.Play.DJ

I noticed that there was some mention of a couple other DJ apps in the comments on here. I thought I would briefly take a look at them. One was pretty cool, one was really not...

UPDATE: The Red Bull App is now called DJ Player and it is awesome. The most comprehensive DJ app on the app store but I STILL WISH YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO CHANGE SCREENS ALL THE TIME ESPECIALLY ON iPAD!!!

It appears Red Bull BPM HD is just a rebrand of a previously released app. I can't remember what it was called, but I remember thinking it was kind of a let down upon its initial iPhone release. Now with a Red Bull brand and a $30.99 price tag, I am almost offended. To add insult, they are asking for another $9.99 to add wifi cue out, a feature that is also $9.99 on the recently released DJ Mixer 3 that is free to try and only $9.99 unlocked and has a much more useful interface (review coming soon). So the total package here is going to cost you $40.98. Seriously? There is a lite version so if you really have to see it for yourself, go check it out.

There are so many things wrong with this app for real use. It has no way to look at both tracks at the same time. Kind of crazy, right? I mean they have all that space on the iPad screen and they just blew up the iPhone version which requires 3 screens to mix. For real, Deck A, Deck B and the Mixer all have their own screens? They could have easily coupled the decks on the same page to at least give you an idea of what is going on. Seriously Red Bull, WTF? You are lucky I like RB and Vodka so much!

I will say the effects were always cool on this thing. Even in the non-red bull version. They use the accelerometer to control an XY pad. Very gimmicky, but kind of fun to mess around with for about 5 minutes. Other than that this thing is just shocking. I probably wouldn't use it for free, so there is no way I am paying to unlock the $30.99 access to my music collection.

Looking online I found all this stuff about the launch party Red Bull had for this thing. I guess they were  so stoked they had to party over it or maybe they have to charge $30.99 to pay for the party? Either way this is a combination of lame marketing and an attempt to create perceived value that have added up to blah. Kudos to the dev that sold this thing to Red Bull though. It is based on an early effort in the app store that at the time really wasn't all that bad. I just wish I could remember what it was originally called. Anyone who remembers please leave a comment.

Cue.Play - A breath of fresh
air after that last one.
Cue.Play.DJ seems to have a lot more going for it. While not exactly the best DJ app out there, at least they put together a good package with a usable interface. Again, this is an iPhone app that you have to scale up on the iPad so it isn't really designed for the whole screen, but it does get some things really right.

This app uses stacked or side by side waveforms depending upon the orientation of your device. When I really think about it, Quixpin's  and DJ Mixer 3's waveform coupling are probably the best as they are right next to each other. Really the best way to do it. But Cue.Play works it out pretty well too as it is orientation sensitive. This is a great feature for use on the iPhone and certainly an innovation in the space.

This one gets 2 pics thanks to
orientation sensitvity
The mixer is really cool if you are on an iPhone as you double tap to open and close it which comes in handy on the small screen. I would assume a proper iPad version would just make it big on the main screen, but it doesn't really hurt on the iPad as is.  It also uses orientation to change functionality. The mixer and pitch adjustment seem to only be accessable in vertical orientation while horizontal orientation gives you more control over play location and beatmatching. Again, cool on iPhone but not necessary for iPad. As far as beatmatching goes, this one syncs by pitching so it kind of loses me there. Timestretching is an absolute requirement as I hate pitched songs unless they are keymatched to other tracks. Even that can annoy me as I like to hear songs in the state intended by the band. Again due to processing restrictions it makes sense that a lot of these iPhone aimed apps use pitch instead of a complicated, processor intensive timestretching algorithm.

With that said, Cue.Play is certainly is a useful iOS DJ app. At $9.99 the price is a lot better than some. Now that I have seen the lower end of the spectrum (read above) I have a lot more respect for the apps that at least try to get it right.

Red Bull BPM HD

Red Bull BPM Master Out