Numark iDJ for iPad review
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  1. #1
    Tech Mentor Lundmark's Avatar
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    Default Numark iDJ for iPad review

    I bought the app when I read the DJ TechTools article. It seemed like fun and there haven't been anything like it in the App Store before. I started to write my first impressions and it turned out to a full review.



    It definitely feels like beta. Right off the bat on a freshly rebooted iPad with iOS 4.2 GM and no other apps running, iDJ is really slow. The UI is stuttery and scrolling is sometimes worse than on an Android phone. That said, the design is intuitive and very iPad-esque and the concept great so that was enough for me to spend a few hours (well, days) with the app despite the lukewarm welcoming.

    It is very straightforward to load up tracks from the iPod library (though it takes time) and get started. I fired up my favorite house playlist with 235 songs and that was probably a bad idea. I had to cancel because it took ages. The software even warns you about this, though iDJ resumes the process from where it was left off should you ever quit the application. During import, tracks are analyzed for tempo and key and the BPM detection has yet to fail me with a single song. It's been spot on all the time, even with tracks that I've had to tap out manually in Traktor Pro! A minor issue is the ability to mass delete tracks, or rather the lack of. It seems iDJ converts tracks and stores them somewhere else so it's a good idea to only have select songs in the library if storage is scarce. It's worth mentioning that you need iOS 4.2 to be able to use your iPod library - older versions will need tracks to be added manually through iTunes' documents tab.

    I don't know exactly why iDJ is distributed by Numark - it's more or less a light version of the excellent desktop DJ DAW MixMeister Fusion, with the same MixMeister technology underpinnings. This is in contrast to the newly release djay app from Algoriddim, which is a traditional two deck and mixer setup. iDJ instead lets you mix music in a digital audio workstation environment. Great for making promos.

    The learning curve is almost non existent. To begin mixing, tap on the song you want and tap the plus button to add it to the playlist. Do it once more and iDJ will automatically add an 8 beat match transition between the two. There's also a Mix Now button that will make a transition on-the-fly. Let the track play and wait for the exact moment you want to bring in the next track and hit Mix Now. Voila, iDJ will beat match and cut out the unneeded parts of the songs. That's the idea anyway, but since the UI is so slow, the song rarely drops where you hit the button which obviously renders the feature quite useless. Of course, you can always make adjustments later or assign your own transitions. More on that later.

    Playback controls control, well, playback, and the skip buttons are very useful for jumping between transitions to make sure every mix sound right. Re-ordering songs and adding new ones in the middle of a mix is a no-brainer and iDJ won't ever mess up the upcoming transitions in your set should you change a track somewhere in the mix. You can have up to four songs playing at the same time but I don't see much use for this feature given how busy the already petite timeline will get. It only gives room for two stacked tracks - the other two will overlap the first ones and make things very hard, nay impossible, to manage.

    I put together a mix tape with 9 tracks in an hour right after purchase, but unfortunately the app crashed after the 5th track and I had to do it all over again. That was quickly done since I remembered all my transitions and had become familiar with the software, but it's worrying to see that the app doesn't autosave continuously like iMovie for example. Again, very beta. The second time I made sure to quit the app a few times to save my progress. It crashed multiple times the day after when I randomly tapped the mix library button. I also experienced a few sporadic sound issues with music that kept playing even though the player was stopped and warped sound. Irratic and bothersome to say the least.

    Put simply: the transitions sound great. The BPM detection is indeed remarkable and does a great job of beat matching. There's no need to adjust tempo - iDJ does it for you in a very elegant manner. Select a 130 BPM track and a 127 BPM one and tempo will automatically slow down during the transition until it reaches 127. Very simple and I couldn't hear the change. Impressive. There's a bunch of different transitions to choose from, ranging from simple cuts, crossfades, 8, 16, 32 or 64 beat matches, a bass cutter that will cut the bass on the first track and a cool one called ping pong that'll apply a gater-like effect for 8 counts. Interestingly, the 8 beat match is actually 32 counts, the 16 beat match is 64 counts and so on. To shorten a track, simply drag its ends toward the middle. I did not discover this feature at first - there are no markers indicating it's possible - but I'm glad I'd did since it's essential. It works very much like in GarageBand on the Mac.

    On a less positive note, there is no way to control EQ or gain manually. It would be awesome if iDJ would let you zoom in on a part of the timeline were the transition is and adjust differently colored lines representing volume for his, mids, lows and master, like you can do in MixMeister Fusion on the Mac. I've had issues with distortion when two bass lines play together, but it's nice to see that the software is smart enough to alleviate the problem most of the time. Still, an EQ for expressive mixing is high on the wish list. Dare I ask for a filter, too?

    Speaking of zooming, this is done in a typical iOS way by pinching the timeline. Even though the app does a great job of taking care of the tempo, you'd probably want to keep the flow in the mix by respecting the 32 beat sections of most tracks and a larger view of the timeline helps significantly with this task. A maddening behavior is that the zoom level keeps reverting back to default when any changes are made. It's not even possible to zoom in and skip to another part of the track without iDJ zooming back out. It makes the zoom feature essentially useless - you can look but you can't touch anything. In addition, the zoom is far too sensitive to be easy to use. Another problem is that the playhead is always in focus, making the view panel follow it relentlessly, which is especially annoying on high zoom levels and makes a fine tuning an unnecessary chore. A way to mute everything but the highlighted track would also be a welcome addition as things easily get noisy trying to find the sweetspot in a new song when the previous track's constantly banging in the background, but it's not a deal breaker.

    Then again, iDJ is not meant to be a professional DJ programming tool. Numark pitches this as a tool to create seamless playlists. However, I see enormous potential in iDJ so I really wish it had these features.

    Below is mix that I made during my review of the app.

    Currently there's no way to export a mix from the software, so I had to record it from the line out. This could very well be a limitation of iOS' lacking file system, so I won't blame iDJ, but it's still a much needed feature for the app to be truly useful. Mixes are saved in the mix library and you can keep as many as you like and make copies, encouraging experiments without the risk of getting screwed.

    Notably, the app was released this month and is already at v1.1. In its current state, iDJ doesn't have the polish or stability that we've come to expect from iPad apps, but I really hope that the developer has grand plans for iDJ and that the iPad hardware is up to the task, because with some effort this app could be a real winner among bedroom DJs like myself, music lovers and even pro DJs. It's never going to replace Traktor for live performances, but that's really not the point. The point is to make great sounding mix tapes easily and anywhere. I definitely think it's worth the asking price for anyone interested in DJing, despite the flaws. The potential is just crazy. Did I mention it's extremely addictive?

    iDJ in the App Store.

    Here's the progressive house mix. ~30MB AAC file.

    Track list:
    1. Amazing (Play & Win Club Version) - Inna
    2. Seek Bromance (Avicii's Vocal Extended) - Tim Berg
    3. My Feelings For You (Original Mix) - Avicii
    4. Freedom (Andy Harding Remix) - Alex Lamb feat. Christina Skaar
    5. Trouble In The Redlight District (Original Mix) - Tomcraft & Jerome Isma-Ae
    6. Ready To Go (Leventina Remix) - EDX, Chris Reece & Jerome Isma-Ae
    7. Arrival - Gareth Emery feat. Brute Force
    8. East Air (Original Mix) - Johan Wedel
    9. Luvstruck 2010 (Filthy Rich Remix) - Southside Spinners
    Last edited by Lundmark; 12-05-2010 at 05:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Tech Mentor Lundmark's Avatar
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    Coincidentally, the app is on sale right now.

  3. #3
    Tech Guru Coldfuzion's Avatar
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    Damn, that doesn't sound bad at all. Wish I had an iPad right now. :P

  4. #4
    Tech Mentor Lundmark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coldfuzion View Post
    Damn, that doesn't sound bad at all. Wish I had an iPad right now. :P
    Thank you. Given that the bugs are fixed, it'll be a breeze doing these kinds of mixes. :-)

  5. #5

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    Nice review, appreciated.
    I blog at: Digital DJ Tips and I'm on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook

  6. #6
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    just got the app... how can i save my mixes to my PC... ???? any help would be appreciated...

  7. #7
    Tech Mentor Lundmark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbaninexile View Post
    just got the app... how can i save my mixes to my PC... ???? any help would be appreciated...
    Currently you can't export easily from iDJ. What I did was connect my iPad to the Mac's line in with a 3,5mm to 3,5mm cable and used QuickTime to record the playback.

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    Default recording for PC

    would you have any idea how to record on PC... ???

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbaninexile View Post
    would you have any idea how to record on PC... ???
    Speakers out from your iPad to your microphone port on your PC and record with Audacity? Exact same thing, platform doesn't matter

  10. #10
    Tech Mentor Lundmark's Avatar
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    Apparently, you can load the iDJ mixes into the desktop version of MixMeister. They should appear in iTunes 10 and allow for drag n drop to the computer.

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