App of the day: Traktor DJ review (iPhone)
DJing has gone from a pursuit that cost thousands to one that can cost as little as £3 if you buy Traktor DJ for the iPhone or iPod touch. That's not to say that if you buy this app your phone will immediately ring with an offer from a superclub in Ibiza, but if nothing else, you can have some fun on the flight over to the party island to listen to someone else work the decks.
Traktor DJ is a simple enough idea, but the reason it's so good comes down to well-designed this app is: like all of Native Instruments software, it merges the ease of use with the power of the fully-blown DJ apps.
- iPod Touch (5th gen) iPhone (4s and 5)
As with any mixing app, you'll see the standard twin decks. Here they're on top of one another. You load a track by swiping in from the bottom, and you can send music to either deck A or deck B from the file manager. It's really very straightforward and allows you to easily, and continuously choose music to mix.
Traktor can also beatmatch for you, something at which the PC software has been getting better and better for years. It's cheating in pure DJ terms, but it's also quite handy when you have a slightly less than perfect cueing system. Here, all you really need to do is press play, and the app will try to line up the tracks. You still need to know what sort of stuff goes together, but it's nice to use this automatic feature when you're on the bus and you want something a bit more appealing than a plain cut.
Through sheer cleverness, Native Instruments has managed to give you a cue system too. For this to work, you basically lose stereo, and the playing track will come from one earpiece and the preview track you're mixing will come through the other. This means that to play live for other people using the app you'll have to plug the iPhone in to something and pan the audio, but it does at least mean you're not mixing "blind" or, to be more accurate, via a waveform. You can record mixes too, which is great, and offers a way for you to critique your own work, or share what you've done online with friends.
There are stacks of effects too. You get all the usual flange and delay type stuff you'd expect along with high and low pass filters. There are actually a riot to use, and you can have some fun fiddling with tracks while you listen. Again, the serious EDM crowd will frown, but for a bit of light fun these are terrific. When you're using a filter, moving your finger over the middle part of the screen will affect the sound you get out.
You can also use something called "freeze" mode, which will allow you to do a bit of light remixing to tracks as they play. Push the button, and the display will hold on the area currently playing, in the background the track carries on, but you can tap the waveform and play from that section. This gives you the chance to repeat sections and remix with vocal loops. It's nice, and it feels musical.
The only real problem we had with the app is that space can be a bit tight on the iPod or iPhone. It's well-designed, but there were still times we wanted a bit more space. The good news is, if you have an iPad you can buy a larger-scale version for £16 or so. It's quite a price jump, but if you want to actually mix for other people, it might be a better bet.
If you have even a passing interest in electronic music, and the DJing thereof, you should grab a copy of either this app, or the bigger iPad version. It really is the ideal way to waste some time, while practicing DJ skills and even recording sets to play later. Worth every last penny of its tiny asking price.