Review: djay

djay 3.1 bundles versatility and power in an impressive package. (March 31st, 2010)

djay3.1 is a Mac only program, simple enough to extend the power of iTunes, but complex enough to compete with industry standard professional DJ software.

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Product Manufacturer: Algoriddim GmbH

Price: $49.95 US

The Good

  • Full-featured software for the price.
    Integrates seamlessly with iTunes for organization and quick search.
    Support for third party hardware USB controllers.
    Works in PPC or Intel Macs, 10.4 or later.

The Bad

  • Cue points may be difficult to set.
    Lack of visual waveforms for track Info and cue points.

Apple's iTunes has progressed significantly since it was first launched in 2001 adding many features like gapless playback, smart playlist and the latest feature, Genius, which selects songs in your library that go well together. Despite all that technology and advancement, nothing beats having a real interactive disc jockey.

djay3.1 is a Mac only program that is simple enough to extend the power of iTunes, but complex enough to compete with industry standard professional DJ software costing hundreds of dollars more. Instead of reinventing the wheel, djay taps into your existing iTunes library and gives you access to all your perfectly organized MP3's, AAC, DRM-protected files, and playlists. djay allows you to play, program, and manipulate your songs directly in the software, almost like using physical CDs or real vinyl rRecords.

The Interface

The djay main window is built around a simple interface of two turntables and a virtual mixer with cross fader plus 3 band EQ and gains for each deck. The revamped interface makes djay 3.1 easier to navigate. Each deck offers a slider Pitch Control to vary the speed, Play, and Sync buttons. Other minor buttons, such as Reverse, Key Lock, and Pitch Blend enhance or control your mix. The uncluttered layout is intuitive and logically laid out, with track and name info and time elapsed/Remaining above each deck and BPM info closer to the Pitch Controls and Sync buttons.

Main Window

Main Window


djay taps directly into your iTunes library and pulls in your playlists and organizational hierarchy. You can view your music by Albums, Artists, Genres, Composers, and Playlists by default. The software uses iTunes powerful and fast search engine, so finding songs is fast, easy, and effective. Another cool feature is that album artwork, if available, loads on the virtual platter of the turntable and rotates like an old school picture disc.

 Appearance Preference

Appearance Preference with Album Artwork Checkbox


Some of djay's more advanced features like Looping, Cue Points, Transition Time, Skipping, and Audio FX appear as small button on the bottom of the main window, but are a click away when needed.

 Appearance Preference

Advanced Features Buttons with Tool Tips


The handy Automix Cue feature resides under your music library track lists. You can drag on the fly requests into that area for play at the appropriate time or you can turn on Automix and have them play in order.

Automix

Automix Enabled

In The Mix

You load tracks on the Virtual Decks by click and dragging or by using standard keyboard strokes. I used the software primarily by navigating with a keyboard and mouse, which makes it slightly more difficult. The first time a track is loaded, the software builds an overview, which calculates the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of the track and sets Auto Gain.

Automix

Auto Gain Preferences


Although the track plays while the overview builds, the Auto Sync or Automix features can't be used for that track until it is complete, so you should have djay scan your whole library before you play out at a gig.

Automix

Analyze Library Dialog


The Track scanning is almost dead on as far as BPM, but it did miscalculate some tracks. For example, one 180 BPM track was tagged as 90 BPM, which makes it unusable for Automix. You can correct the problem with the BPM menu command under the Table-1 or Table-2 menus.

If you are beat mixing or using Automix, it is easy to set up Cue Points to define intro points for the software to start mixing. I found it a little more difficult to use compared to other DJ applications because it gives you audio cues or a virtual record instead of a waveform. Luckily, the cue points are embedded in the track, so it only needs to be done once.

Cue Points

Cue Points


The Automix feature works as advertised with a click of the Sync button, but it is tricky to start the track at the proper point for a good sounding mix. Practice and knowing your music still holds true. The Key Lock also worked pretty well to avoid that chipmunk sound you hear when a track plays faster than its original BPM.

Automix Prefs

Automix Preferences


If you want to be a turntablist and add scratching to enhance your set, djay on a 2-finger scroll enabled laptop allows you to do the scratching sounds with decent results. You can also use a mouse, with somewhat mixed results. Algoriddim GmbH recommends a fast computer to achieve a more natural sounding realistic effect, which means an Intel Mac 1.8 GHz processor or better. djay allows you to record your sets with audio recording built right into the app. Three settings are available, Good (AAC m4a), High, and Best (both AIF), great for critique or saving fantastic sets for replay.

A built-in Sampler is another cool hidden feature that allows you to create a sample library of drum loops, sound clips, or even record your voice that can be triggered during your sets. This is a great place to store DJ Drops, jingles, and sound effects..

Sampler

Sampler

Hardware and Third Party Support

If you wish to preview the track before mixing (Cue), you need an external sound card or a USB headphone set. The djay website recommends several solutions.

Algoriddim offers the Vestax Spin USB Controller ($249 US) as a way to unlock the features of djay 3. It offers full control over the decks, buttons for Cue Points, physical headphone, and microphone inputs, plus all the buttons are mapped to select functions in the software. djay also offers native support for some of the more popular professional USB DJ Controllers including the Numark Control Series, Hercules Controllers, and the Vestax VCI-100. Just plug, play, and rock. I plugged in my unsupported Vestax VCI-300 and the software recognized it, but some features were unavailable or didn't work as expected.

djay Remote for iPhone and iPod touch

The new djay Remote iPhone App allows you to remotely control the software from your iPhone, if you have a wireless connection. It lets you select your songs via your iTunes Library and add songs to the Automix cue. It also supports play, mix, loop, and even scratch tunes directly in the djay software remotely controlled from the iPhone. We hope to test this program and report on its utility later.

Conclusion

As a DJ for over 25 years, I was skeptical at first that a $49 App could be useful as a professional DJ tool, but djay exceeded my expectations in some areas. I grew up spinning vinyl on turntables. While I currently use Serato Scratch Live for my weekly club gigs, I would feel very comfortable using djay for weddings or other mobile DJ events. The Automix and Auto Play feature would come in handy for wedding dinner music, while the effects, loops, and cues offer enough ear candy to hold its own. If you pair djay with the new djay Remote and a wireless mic, a skilled wedding DJ could work the floor without being chained to gear all night. Would be club DJs could combine djay with one of the supported USB Controllers and give Native Instruments' Traktor Pro a run for the money.

With the popularity of the DJ Hero game, for the home user or casual entertainer that likes to throw parties, djay gives up a real DJ scenario, which means hours of fun and entertainment for guests. The only improvement I would like to see would be the addition of a visual track waveform, in addition to the virtual turntable, which would make setting the Cue points easier. It would also reveal more information about the song, such as drum breaks or string passages. The final result is that djay bundles versatility, stability, and power in an inexpensive and impressive package.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Art Payne


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