The Touchscreen DJ?

June 30, 2010 by Dan Walsh

APPLE’S IPAD MAY SIGNIFY A NEW ERA IN DIGITAL MOBILE DJING

By Frederik Seiffert

On any given night, a club is packed to the brim with revelers dancing to the beats of a modern-day mixmaster, scratching on a set of classic 12” vinyl and making music move in ways never thought possible. Like Bonnie and Clyde, a DJ and his vinyl seem like the ultimate pair, a duo that is nothing without the other. However, products like the Apple iPad (and its inevitable imitators) continue to make it possible for alternative means of production to enter the fray.

The new iPad tablet computer will further change the way DJs produce music, thanks to greater mobility and the numerous features that make Apple’s latest product so revolutionary. With it, however, also come new challenges for integrating additional components that are critical for the professional DJ to have in his arsenal.

BREAKING IT DOWN

The most impressive features of the iPad for the mobile DJ are its versatility and portability, which make it possible for DJs to use a single device for multiple scenarios and move freely, unbound from the DJ booth. While it’s been casually referred to as an iPhone on steroids, that description is not too far from reality. With a weight of only 1.5 pounds it can easily be transported to and from events, and no longer does a DJ have to stay chained to a booth all night to keep the beats flowing. As a wi-fi enabled device, DJs could even use it to download new tracks to fulfill song requests.

One of the best features of the iPhone and iPod Touch that has been exploited on the larger iPad device is the touch screen. Apple has done its homework to make the 9.7- inch multi-touch-enabled screen very user-friendly, and for DJ applications, this means crisp graphics and controls that make it possible to move while mixing. And since the touch screen eliminates the need for an intermediate input device like a mouse, direct manipulation of the user interface is a breeze. The iPad also makes greater customization possible, as developers have the flexibility to create adaptable user interfaces, where, unlike a physical controller, layout of the controls can be tailored to the needs of the DJ.

Portability and connectivity are two conveniences most DJs would say they could use more of, given that their gear is often cumbersome to transport, and having an internet feed to pull in new media as their audience demands can keep the party moving without a hitch. The iPad possesses these and many other capabilities, and will likely become an increasingly popular tool for DJs to use.

IPAD CAVEATS

Though the iPad does have more than its share of positive features for the DJ, it has limitations as well. Given that the device is in its infancy, future versions or upgrades will likely need to address some of these issues for seasoned DJs looking to migrate to the iPad.

First, the iPad (like the iPhone) doesn’t allow file-level access to the iTunes library for third-party apps, which means that users can’t mix their existing songs out of the box. Some existing apps try to work around that limitation by allowing users to transfer songs onto the iPad using web interfacesone song at a time. Also, though certainly not slow for everyday use, the iPad’s CPU doesn’t always feel up to the task of advanced audio processing, such as time-stretching or complex chains of audio effects.

The construction of the iPad is refreshingly simple, but it also misses out on some important details for DJs. With just one stereo output and no support for external audio interfaces, fairly standard DJ exercises suddenly become complicated. For example, without a straight-forward way to pre-cue through headphones, it becomes necessary to use a stereo-to-mono channel splitter adapter cable. And though not absolutely critical, DJs accustomed to using physical controllers may find it hard to ignore the lack of tactile feedback.

GOING MORE AND MORE MOBILE

The iPad is nothing short of a revolution, and its impact will be felt for quite some time. While the standard tools of the DJ trade won’t be easy to leave behind, the iPad offers a big helping of food for thought about what form they could take in the years to come.

Over the past several years, the DJ industry has become increasingly mobile, thanks in large part to the availability of digital music. It has become possible to travel with your entire music collection locked up in a notebook computer. Though traditionalists may feel that it occupies a lower tier of music production and manipulation, the popularity of the iPad points to an ongoing movement of affordable PC and Mac-based applications making it easier to create music and interact with your audience.

Frederik Seiffert is head of product development at algoriddim, a Germany-based software company that specializes in developing Mac audio and multimedia applications for the next generation. Since its inception, algoriddim has pursued sophisticated, yet intuitive and user-friendly software applications. Learn more by visiting www.djay-software.com.

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Dan Walsh Dan Walsh (89 Posts)


Filed Under: Digital DJ, Exclusive Online News and Content, Issues from 2010