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



  1. Thanks for this review. Let me clear some points about Red Bull BPM, because i'm part of the dev team.

    We designed this interface for 3 months, just to find the right workflow took 6 weeks. It's not (just) for home use, but must be perfect for club use in a pro DJ booth for a whole night. This is why we could not pack all controls into one screen. If you play for 1000 people (like on the launch event), you shouldn't search for a control, nor position slowly or hitting something else by mistake.

    The WiFi (and Bluetooth) audio feature is very unique, because while other apps contain similar networked audio, but none of them are having true 0ms latency, which is essential for a DJ. We had to develop this local audio streaming protocol from scratch, down to the lowest level, because no existing WiFi/Bluetooth audio streaming protocol can do 0ms for you.

    The "original", non-branded version is "DJ PLAYER" and "NetOut".

  2. Szantog, if you wouldn't mind dropping me an email I would like to talk to you off the blog about this. My email is in the upper right corner of the blog.

  3. Great blog Dan! I agree with a lot of your points lately on the way DJ apps translate to the iPad. Still some innovation to be done here.

    I gotta say you are spot on about the Red Bull player. I've never had any issue hitting the wrong button on apps like Sonorasaurus, Quixpin, or Touch DJ. Everything is laid out in a logical fashion. The Red Bull player makes you press a whole lot of buttons to do things. Really, the concept of "workflow" is not something that belongs in a DJ app - the app should just work, not the user.

    For example in the 3 apps I mentioned, if I want to load a track, I just go to the deck and hit an eject button, choose, and load. Easy and it's most equivalent to the real world. On Red Bull, I have to traverse menus, go to a screen, step, step, step, and then choose the deck I want to load the track into. This is a classic case of over-engineering a product.

    Cue.Play.DJ and DJ Mixer are similar in that respect but not as offending. Most of the time their additional screens provide additional functionality. On Red Bull, their additional screens provide core functionality, meaning the steps you have to take to accomplish a core task are multiplied.

    Finally the way DJ Mixer and Red Bull charge you extra to use your own music is pretty insulting. This is basic functionality - not a premium feature. I am fine with the networked audio feature being premium - there is actual technology engineering behind that and it isn't going to be required by a mass number of users. I believe Quixpin's implementation on this matter is superior - I select a track from my library in a standard browser and it loads it up. Touch DJ and Cue.Play.DJ require additional steps, and then pause what you are mixing in order to decode it.

    Making a great product doesn't mean cramming in all the features you can think of. Nor can you think you've succeeded, just because you've spent months on your "workflow". It's about fulfilling a purpose that is focused. This is what Apple products are all about, and they do it beautifully.

  4. I think you forget that in "mix mode" the mixer screen contains the most important player controls to beatmix, which puts most things "on one screen". Loading a track from the mixer screen is the most "tiresome", you need 4 taps (back to player, tracks, choose, load). Is that so bad? One more tap for a functionality which is not used very often compared to other controls? How do you mix with eq/bass cut in Touch DJ, which is essential in a club? How do you control 2 eq faders at once? How do you adjust pre listening master/pfl ratio? I could list many things which is missing... How closely you should watch other software screens in a club to not miss a control?

  5. Loading a track not used that often? You must be kidding.

    And with Touch DJ and Quixpin, it's easy to control the EQ and the crossfade at the same time. Same with 2 eq faders. They are multi-touch apps. One finger on the eq and one on the fader. Done. And then I customize how I want it to sound, just like I would with regular hardware.

    Sure, every app has something missing, but to my original point, it's not about how many features you can cram into an application that make it a product. It's about the overall experience.

  6. @dandercore I already sent an e-mail for you a few days before.


    You don't listen carefully. Loading a track is not used that often COMPARED TO OTHER CONTROLS, like pitch, eq, play, cue.

    On our app the interface is designed to have the less taps needed - workflow! I use the EQ more often than loading a track, so an extra tap for loading a track is better than having 2 extra taps to open the EQ control panes (Touch DJ).

    I definitely agree that it's about the overall experience, and now it's clear for me that you never used our app (longer than 2 minutes). I usually call this "trolling by the screenshots".

  7. SZantog, I've definitely used your app, and for much more than two minutes. As you can tell, my opinion is that your app is laid out and designed poorly. And even though I've provided specific opinions in a neutral tone, now that you want to label me a troll, I will be more specific:

    You can only see a small little wave form when the song is not playing, and then it is only about a beat long. Then it is covered by the song intensity graph, which is typically vague. Because of this, it is very hard to pin-point exactly where in a song you want to set a cue.

    Lack of visual representation of the audio wave forms together is the real killer here. Especially on a compact device, you need all the help you can get.

    The precision of the Hot Cue is lacking; the latency is quite awful. The cue will sometimes land on the beat, but most times be well after the beat. This will kill your mix from the very beginning, as you will never know for sure how much you have to compensate.

    My original point was that core functionality was hidden in menus. Take your example of the functions play/cue/bend up/down - core functions. Bend up/down especially. From the mixer, you must switch between "Adjust/Mix" mode(it's not the default) or go back to the track. Not something that you can do quickly when you are cross fading between two tracks and adjusting EQs.


  8. (continued)

    There are several buttons that perform related tasks (Cue, Cue Rec, Hot Cue, REW and FF) but they are not visually close to each other. The same is true for the speed fader and the button that lets you choose the fader range. The same is true for the cross fader and the cross-fader setting button. And BTW: the cross-fader setting button doesn't seem to be as frequently used as Sync and Tracks, yet it is on the top of the screen next to them? On a related note, the FX button is so large that you could actually fit the whole word "Effects" in it.

    When you are on a particular deck screen (the only place you can see a track's intensity level) it's not obvious that you must hit the deck button again to return to the mixer. The same is true when you are on the effects screen. When you have an effect enabled, it is not obvious that you have to press the deck button again to see the rest of the effects. If one is on the mixer and wants to adjust a track (say for example, play or pause) if the user taps an already highlighted deck button, they will be brought back to the deck. These make for a very confusing experience.

    The slider controls animation is very choppy.

    Finally, the iPad versions of the Red Bull BPM player. MAYBE here I'm trolling the screenshots, because I would not buy it based on what I see. All the extra space and it's just higher resolution graphics scaled to the screen size. You could have fit almost everything on the same screen. Could you please say what is the difference between that and the original?

    You want compliments? The effects sound good and I like the XY/accelerometer controller. Sorting by artist/track name/BPM is very helpful. Storing the cue point is helpful. The wifi/bluetooth output seems great (but I've already mentioned that in my previous replies), though I haven't had the need to use it.

    So why do I spend soooo much time writing this drivel? Because your app was so expensive and when it's that much, it deserves a really close inspection. And when the author wants to label you a troll when you voice your opinion, you might as well give it a REALLY good look. Yes, you have a free version thanks to Red Bull and without it I wouldn't have had the chance to explore it as deep as I wanted to. But with that exploration comes criticism.

  9. With the "Vinyl Vision" we created an algorithm which displays close to what you'd see on a vinyl. We find this more useful than a full-track wave display, because many tracks are so heavily mastered that the information get lost.

    We come from the analog/hardware world, not the digital/Traktor waveform age. I feel a strong difference between the two worlds and it's not easy to create a "bridge". "In our world" we usually don't deal with visual representations, but use our ears to find the right cue point. That means we stop around the right moment, then adjust the position using that small wave display or stuttering (CD player method).

    This is the reason why adjust mode on mixer is the default. We took the workflow from "old" DJ booths, where you first find the CUE point, then adjust the track's sound to the another tracks' (using gain and EQ), then beat-match and finally mix. This is how most DJs are working in a big club (of course i know many DJs are using laptops and software).

    The pitch fader range button is on the top-left of the fader, should it be on the top instead?

    We are currently redesigning the method how you switch/navigate between screens, this is where we receive the most criticism.

    The difference between the iPad and iPhone version is the presence of pitch faders on the mixer screen, plus much larger controls, so it's better to use in a club. We wouldn't like to see the DJ closely watching his iPad in the DJ booth, which would be the case if we'd put everything on one screen. Many club DJs are telling us that big controls are good and they wish if the iPad would be even bigger!

    Creating a discussion around these apps is very good, we'd like to collect as many feedback as we can. Btw, what's your preferred app in the DJ booth in live (not practicing, etc.)?

  10. @SzantoG. Thank you for your reply. I really am interested in your background and how that shaped the philosophy behind the app. That is something I fell is very important. It would be really nice if you included that on your web site.

    It would also be nice when you upgrade your site if you had a forum. You've been so responsive over the course of this blog. Even if we've disagreed over some points, I've really appreciated that you do actually take the time to respond with the intention of correcting misunderstandings. That type of professionalism on display through a forum for your products would really shine.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your new improvements in the product. Really, I don't ever delete anything, and when there's an update, I always check it out.

    As for my favorite app in the booth, Djing on the iPhone / iPad is still a little gimmicky at the moment, so I don't use it consistently or for entire sets. Actually, I mostly use Virtual DJ on my laptop. On the iPhone I mostly use it to play with songs that I've recently purchased through BeatPort and what to jam around while I'm on the bus or on an exercise bike. I'd have to say that Touch DJ is the flashiest (like, literally it flashes all the time), so it gets peoples attention which is cool. I like Quixpin as a one-off track player because of its audio out options (I just hook it to the mixer and go). I've been playing around with Cue.Play.DJ and it has some promise, but the interface has a lot going on (to your point about big buttons and a streamlined interface).

    Again, thanks for being so responsive. -Craig

  11. Thank you.

    Unfortunately having a forum with low traffic has negative impact, it's a common web experience, this is why we don't have it and use just the contact form.

  12. This is a best app for djs. Professional. Cool

  13. I think the Redbull app has come a ways since the writing of this article and deserves another look. This review came at the top of my google search, so it may be worth updating. They have made UI tweaks, and it has all the features i require in order to take iPad DJing seriously - particularly the "zero latency" wireless cue monitoring; allowing for stereo output to the master - this ability is an absolute must for serious DJing, and one i don't think other app makers take very seriously. Other key features are traktor metadata reading, beatgrid editor, track search, and the ability to sort on various columns.