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.