Console games like DJ Hero 2 might be great fun at parties, but they’re not anything like real DJ’ing. In fact, Activision have gone to great lengths to ensure that that’s exactly the case: they’re meant to be rhythm action games and in that respect they’re excellent fun. However, some of us yearn to get back behind the decks and although Djay for iPad isn’t a game, it’s as close as you can get without the feel of vinyl.
As you’ll see from the screens below, the iPad (and Mac) application presents two turntables and the simplest of mixing devices: a crossfader. Various pop-up functions dotted around the virtual decks include speed control, a three-band equiliser and a file browser; now that the iPad’s on 4.2 Djay can simply access your onboard iTunes library so any track you’ve got on your device is fair game for the software, a nice touch that means you don’t have to worry about uploading music over wifi beforehand.
The tactile nature of real records is translated as closely as possible, by using one finger you can scratch and cue the record (and there are CD-style cueing tools marked as Set and Play too) and as you do so the sound scubs in realtime, creating as realistic a sound as you’d expect. Likewise, the waveform at the top of the screen zooms in and out as you do so – lining up your mix is easy as pie.
Once a track is loaded in the iPad takes a few seconds to analyse the song, grab the waveform and pick out the BPM, so whilst you can start cueing, scratching and manually beat matching straight away if you want to make use of the app’s automatic BPM sync it’ll take a little while first – it’s no great delay though and previously loaded tracks are analysed instantly, Djay presumably saves the data it needs as it goes.
Additional tools include a clever two-fingered scratch (which crabs and flares for you, matching the noises to the rhythm of the currently playing track) and some automatic mixing tools like rewinds and brakes which help to break up your mix, which – yes – can be recorded as you go making the app suitable for studio recordings just as much as it is for live use.
Finally, a special device (which can be picked up on eBay for about a tenner) means that you can split the cueing and master audio into two distinct mono outputs, so you can make sure you’ve precisely lined up the next record before pushing it out to your party – I’ve actually managed to make one of these myself out of old bits of wire and sockets but you might want to grab one that won’t fall to bits under pressure.
In short, I’m in awe. For twelve quid you’ve got something that can power a party, transmit directly to an Airport Express or just keep you occupied on the train. It even multitasks, playing away in the background, whilst you check TSA. Wonderful.