Article written by Alex C.
Published on 03/05/2012 at 11:00 AM.
As regular readers will know, I’m very interested in iPad DJ’ing and music production software, having previously covered MetaDJ, djay and Figure for the site, alongside plenty of others. The ease of use of firing up the iPad at home for some quick beats is a powerful factor and great selling point, but I’ve used MetaDJ and djay in real situations and they’re both brilliant tools, easily replacing the more tactile alternatives after just an hour or so of practise.
The newest contender is MixVibes’ CrossDJ, a version of their popular desktop software designed specifically for the iPad platform (and comes with Retina visuals). It’s due out next week, but I’ve had a sneaky spin with it over the last day or so and am happy to say that it has enough neat features to make it worthy of a look, even if there’s a few minor tech-based shortcomings that the likes of MetaDJ have taught me needn’t have made it through the gap.
The difference with CrossDJ as opposed to the likes of the above is that it’s designed to actually resemble real decks, and how they’re used. By that I mean anyone used to manual beatmatching (which I assume is an increasingly rare thing these days) will feel right at home with the proper pitch control and nudging tools, which makes finding the exact BPM much less of an issue than it is with the other iPad applications.
Not that you’ll need to be an expert to use CrossDJ, though – it will attempt to calculate the BPM when you first load a track and it does overlay a ‘beat grid’ on top of the track’s waveform display which you can use to blindly (or, rather, deafly) line up the beats and – failing that – there’s a ‘sync’ button which quickly snaps the beat lines together. It’ll only cue you to the nearest four beat loop, but it works well enough.
The initial loading of a record isn’t particularly quick, it takes a while for CrossDJ to scan the waveform (much longer than djay, at least) but it does seem to more accurately grab the tempo and structure, which is useful once you’ve gone through your library or setlist and pre-loaded the music so it’s ready. The grid lines can be manually adjusted (moved, stretched or shrunk) but it’s not particularly smooth, and possibly better to do the beatmatching manually if required.
The layout’s a little bit of an oddity too – the tiny waveform above each deck gives you an idea of how long is left on the track and where the breakdowns are (for example) but it doesn’t scale as you cue, meaning it’s hard to accurately place the ‘needle’ unless you’re also watching the larger beat-based waveform at the top. Thankfully, like most DJ applications, CrossDJ supports the dual output system where the iPad pushes out two mono signals which you can split between cueing for headphones and the external mixer.
Of particular benefit though, and something that no other DJ application has managed to master, is the gain control. There are levels for bass, mid and high above the crossfader but a tap of a button brings up a master gain (independent of the iPad’s volume control) and a gain for each record deck, which is invaluable when you’ve got two tracks of different volume. The meters and levels are brilliant, and really help, and it’s odd that nobody else has picked up on this.
Each deck, once the track is playing, can also be flipped to provide a simple FX grid, which works like a Kaoss Pad in that you have an X/Y grid from which you can trigger one from a list of various effects. Some are a little bit throwaway but the looping ‘roll’ effect is really neat and the various flanges and delays can add a lot when used sparingly. You can only have one effect at once, though, although you can ‘hold’ one with a button.
Elsewhere, there are tools for looping (and sliding) the track, but these aren’t (for some reason) tied to the beat grid, so unless you’re super accurate (or lucky) these triggers will result in a messy effect, especially if there are two tracks running simultaneously because they’ll end up out of sync. MetaDJ does this much better, but hopefully CrossDJ can at least have the option of snapping effects and loops to the beat. Likewise, the six cue points aren’t quantized, so triggering cue points will also leave the music off-sync.
That said, this is (presumably) intended to replicate the traditional DJ’ing experience, and perhaps that’s the point – CrossDJ’s scrubbing and scratching is solid (and the cross-fader crabbing works nicely) and the level controls negate the need for any additional mixing hardware. The sound quality is great, it’s lag-free and the beatmatching, if required, is almost flawless. With a few updates to bring the software alongside other applications, this could be amazing.
CrossDJ is out soon for iPad.
We don’t know the price of this application yet, but will update once we do.