Version Reviewed: 1.0
Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound [rating:4/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:4.5/5]
User Interface [rating:4.5/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4.5/5]
To date, there have been many attempts to bring the true Dj'ing experience to the iPhone. From QuickDecay's DJ Virtual Deck, to VectorForm's Surface DJ and Savy Soda's DJ. While some of these apps did (and still do) look visually great, not one has managed to introduce the essentials needed by a professional DJ - That is, until now.
Touch DJ is a world first, bringing the power of true multi-deck DJ'ing to the iPhone and iPod touch. What makes Touch DJ special, I hear you ask? Well, it's the first application to hit Apple's App Store which allows the user to simultaneously mix two full separate .MP3 tracks, in real time, alongside each other. It's also the first application to use what the company coins 'Visual Mixing'. Visual mixing is a technology which is used in most desktop based applications we hear of and see, today. Garageband for example. It allows you, the user, to see a timeline view of both high and low parts of the track, and you can then start mixing accordingly.
The app comes bundled with 25 licensed dance tracks, courtesy of DanceMusicHub. By default, not all of these tracks are available. Instead, completing a range of social network based shout-outs, from the app itself, will unlock the tracks in blocks of 3. For example, I had to send out two tweets spread out over a over a few days, advertising the app, in order to unlock 6 tracks. Considering the app costs as much as it does ($19), I didn't expect any strings attached, let alone being forced into giving out free advertising for the app, or the developers.
When you open Touch DJ, or when you see screens of this app, you may be put off by how many objects are on the screen - and yes, the UI can take a little bit of getting used to, but once you've got the grasp, you'll be mixing like a pro in no time! What I liked the most about the UI is that the buttons and placement seem natural. It's like they're meant to be where they are. Probably the first overriding element you'll notice is of course the two-track deck. Located in the center of the screen, these are decks which will visually show you the profile of each .MP3 loaded. Touch DJ is split up into two sides, and each deck has it's own independent music controls. These controls include: Start, End and Play. Taping and dragging a track will cause a 'scratching effect', just like vinyl. On the left and right of the screen, moving from bottom to top you'll find; track volume, track eject/load, equalizer and pitch. In both bottom corners of the screen you'll find each individual track's remaining running time. Need to load a new track? Simply hit the small 'Eject' button (located right above VOL) on the corresponding track. From here, you can choose to load a preset, or select your own track. I know what you're thinking - Select your own track? As in my iPod library? Well, don't get too excited. Due to the iPhone SDK, Amidio explains that this is a technical limitation.
"Currently it is impossible to get the music from the iTunes music library. This is a technical restriction which cannot be resolved. Touch DJ uses its own MP3 library."
Don't despair, though! You can still use your own music with Touch DJ. Using their free desktop counterpart, Amidio Sync (available for download here for Mac, and here for Windows users), you can wirelessly sync over additional tracks, the only catch being they have to be encoded in either .MP3 or .M4A. This is an excellent feature in my opinion, and in my personal experience and use of the software, I was able to sync seven 4 minute tracks to Touch DJ iPhone, in minutes. It really is fast.
But how about talking about what you can physically do with all these tracks? Well, the app offers a multitude of options. The app's equalizer is split up into 3 sections, including: Low, Med and High. These effects operate off sliders, and sliding each one will give you a different effect. There's also a slider at the top of the screen. See it? tapping and dragging that either left or right will witch from one deck to the other. If you want two tracks to be audible, the slider should be in the center. But if you want to create a mix effect, moving the slider in either direction will make one track more prominent, than the other. In the center of the two decks you have even further options. These include: the ability to cue and loop a certain section of your chosen track, as well as repeat. Tapping the green 'elevator-like' button about a third down will overlay what look like fast forward and rewind buttons. These control the tempo of each track, again in real time.
Here's where it gets clever. Say your Dj'ing a party and need to find a certain place in the song, but you don't want to actually stop the song or it's playback. The last two buttons towards the bottom of the screen are for 'Search' and 'Freeze'. Search visually speeds up the track but keeps playback the same. Tapping the search button again, will return the track to normal speed, allowing you to quickly search for a spot in the current playing track. Freeze does just as it implies and freezes the track, without affecting the playback of the track.
Finally, tapping the round button between the two 'Cue' buttons will bring up the main menu. From here you have options to play one of three voice samples. By default, these are preset, but what's really cool is the app also allows you to record your own, straight from within the app! From here, you can also change the global pitch levels, spin the track, scratch it, and cut the track completely. Tapping setup (top right) will give you further options, including: the ability to turn Split L/R mixing on and off (requires a separate L/R splitting adapter - sold separately), change the main volume, normalize the volume of your tracks on load (recommended), change the pitch step from 0.1%, 0.05% and 0.02%, change zoom action, correct 'Dip,' choose 1 of 3 crossfader curves,
Overall, Touch DJ has everything to make a Saturday night worth while. While it will be deemed expensive, and it's interface might seem cluttered to the on-looker, the company claims what the application can do virtually replaces the need for highly expensive professional equipment. Throughout my use of the app, it was clear the developers have thought about the user. Suitable for the amateur and professional DJ alike, in my opinion Touch DJ finally offers the true Dj'ing experience on the touch platform. My only caveat so far is, you don't seem to be able to queue or create a playlist of tracks. Meaning, you have to manually load the next track if you want the party to continue. Hopefully we'll see that in an update, though!