Anyone can plug a music player into speakers and queue up songs. Those people are not DJs.
Even at the most basic level, a DJ must maintain a flow between songs, which is not just about choosing the perfect tracks for a time, place and group, but also fading smoothly from one song to the next. This often entails the use of cue points, which are places where the DJ decides a song should start, and pitch controls to match the speed of one song to that of another — and that involves being able to preview the upcoming track on headphones.
Some have taken Griffin to task for the way this cable outputs in mono rather than stereo. But if you think about the context of a club — speakers everywhere, with people closer to one than to the other — mono is not the handicap it might appear to be. The DJs we canvassed agreed that mono output is not an issue; one even suggested that mono is preferable to stereo for DJing.
The iPad has great potential as a DJ tool. Unlike the laptops prized by the latest generation of DJs, it’s tactile, somewhat like vinyl records. After testing the one-two punch of Algoriddim Djay for iPad and this Griffin DJ Cable, we’re convinced that the iPad is a viable DJ deck.
As advertised, we were able to queue up and then cue up songs in Algoriddim with ease using headphones, while the other “turntable” played over the stereo. You can even mix the output with the headphone signal, allowing you to keep better tabs on what everyone else is hearing as you cue up the next track.
You don’t get any fancy sound effects, other than per-channel equalizers, as with a real DJ deck. Crucially, the controls responded super-quickly; we could create stutter effects by repeatedly starting a song from its cue point, which is a pretty good test of how fast the app can respond to a DJ’s wishes.
You choose music for each deck from your iPad’s music library, with album art displayed on the decks. A sync button matches the BPM of the upcoming track to that of the currently-playing track, or you can do it manually. You can also scratch the record back and forth as the waveform view at the top expands to show you more detail, which is also helpful for setting those cue points.
When it’s time for a bathroom break — or if you’re just incredibly lazy — you can set the whole deal to Automix any playlist — no human intervention required. Regardless of how you’re mixing, you can set transitions to last any amount of time, as well as incorporating backspin, reverse, brake and other custom transitions to affect how one song shifts to the next.
This app also supports the Numark iDJ Live MIDI controller, if you prefer to use that as a hardware controller and the iPad as a display. And if you like, you can use Apple AirPlay as an output, allowing wireless playback on systems that support it.
Finally, the djay app lets you record any mix as an uncompressed stereo AIFF file, which iTunes can copy back to your Mac or PC and convert into an MP3 — perfect for uploading your DJ sets to MixCloud.
(Photo: Eliot Van Buskirk)