meta.DJ iPad Review

Amazing. AMAZING.

The iPad’s played host to all manner of DJ and music production tools since it came out, and the level of sophistication of the applications has only improved with time. The latest and greatest such app? Soundtrends’ meta.DJ.

I used to DJ. I’m used to vinyl and so Algoriddim’s dJay app was a real treat for me when it released a while back, but apart from letting you mix and blend records (which, to be fair, was the point) it was always a little bit limited.

meta.DJ (almost literally) has no limitations. Sure, you can still ‘DJ’, but the traditional ‘deck’ view is replaced with a more modern sideways graph of the track – it’s scrubbable, cue-able and starts instantly, but it’s a lot easier to jump where you want and it’s effortlessly smart.

Case in point: automatic, ridiculously fast beat matching, which breaks down the track into 4/4 blocks in a matter of a few seconds. I’m mostly into drum and bass and 90’s dance music, and didn’t spot a single problem with the fifty or so records I tried yesterday – even the cueing manages to just ‘work’ and always keeps your tracks perfectly in sync.

You’ll notice from the screens that there are four spaces on the screen – most DJ apps let you run two records simultaneously, but meta.DJ lets you use all four slots. Each has its own level, there are two crossfaders and you can drop records (complete with cue points) into a ‘dock’ at the bottom, and then save that ‘set’ for later use.

However, and here’s where meta.DJ really starts to kick arse – any of those four spaces can be a drum machine, sample player or looper. The drum machine comes with a load of samples and styles built in, and can be triggered manually or set to sync and loop along with the track. The sample player again is generously supported and can be used along with the drum machine to actually create full tracks.

The loop section is actually a fully fledged Looptastic (from the same devs) complete with cute little blocks of sound that can be dragged about and faded in and out – all of the above have additional sets available from the in-app store, and there’s some free goodies too along with the ability to import your own stuff.

But it’s the way everything gels together that impresses the most. Everything matches perfectly, the range of effects (three per block, all holdable and tweakable) work flawlessly and some, like the stutter and the inbuilt ability to loop, can transform a track or a mix completely.

The drag and drop interface takes an hour or so to get used to, but once you’re sorted, you’re sorted – it’s now second nature and I did a quick demo to the guys in the office today and they were blown away. The only issue I can find is that there’s no ‘nudge’ for the decks – it would have been handy just to tweak the speed on the fly – and there’s no option to change the pitch of tracks, even when the BPM is hugely outside the range of the track itself.

Finally, there’s no master level indicator, which could easy nestle away on the bottom right of the dock without causing much fuss.

Regardless, meta.DJ is hugely ambitious, but lives up to the challenge. It’s an outstanding achievement, and well worth the £15 or so it costs. The latest version includes headphone cueing too, so I wouldn’t hesitate to use this in a live set with a bit of practice.

Score: 9/10

12 Comments

  1. I can’t help but feel all screen and computer based DJ solutions completely remove the aspect of fun for me. It’s the feeling of having complete haptic control over the music that makes DJ’ing so fun.

    It took me a long time to move from vinyl to primarily CD usage, and I can’t help but feel it’s not the same even with that slight change.

    Personal perspectives aside, for the price it sounds like a brilliant piece of software and great for a pick up and play experience and intro to mixing. But my crippling fear of change leads me to still fire-up Ebay every once in a while to grab a replacement pair of 1210’s.

    • I’d agree, except that this particular tool does stuff that your decks will never let you. It’s a brilliant bit of tech.

      • I’ll have to see if I can get hold of a pad to give this a go and see first hand how good it is. My initial worry is that it has so many possibilities that I’ll be too caught up with them and forget to have fun. Still it needs trying first-hand!

        Oh, and whack some 180bpm goodness on there ;)

    • Agreed. Im trying to stay away from moving on to Djing from a laptop for as long as possible. Hate it, but guess I’ll have to convert sometime soon :(

    • My friends usually DJ with Traktor Scratch equipment. I’m no expert but it seems like a middle road between Vinyl and MP3 DJing. I guess it’s so much easier to get your tracks from Beatport than having to track down the actual Vinyl.

  2. Shame Android doesn’t get the DJ treatment… This looks like a great app. Great review.

  3. Sounds really good, but I don’t quite think the value for money is there if you don’t already own an iPad, shame really..

  4. Is this iPad only or is it coming to phones too? I have idj on my phone which I quite like. Is this much better?

    My favourite app has to be nano studio for iPhone. A truly awesome app, and also music studio which has caught up a fair bit since version 2.0

    • It’s iPad only, I don’t see how you’d be able to get all four screens on an iPhone.

      That said, you can get a version of Looptastic on iPhone to give that element a try at least. I think so, anyway.

  5. Do you need a splitter and mono/stereo converters to use the headphone cue? I use Cue Play DJ on my iPhone and its incredible. However that is one limitation of Headphone cue on said app as the iPhone only has one audio out, you have to split the signal (to output the other channel through some speakers). I am not sure if this is different on the iPad.

    • Yes, one of those little splitters does the trick. Same as dJay on iPhone/iPad.

  6. I’ve been looking for somthing like this. £15, it’s got to be worth a try.

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