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There may be a revolution against skeuomorphism in our virtual calendars and notepads, but it hasn't reached the world of music production. Apps all across our digital lives are eschewing any and all resemblance to their real-world counterparts, but in the music realm, developers are mimicking their physical doppelgängers more than ever, with apps like Logic X and GarageBand executing nearly flawless representations. It's not mere window dressing. Even if we're not proficient at whatever instrument is on our screens, seeing a fretboard or a drum pad gives us enough familiarity to quickly start making music.
That's why when you launch Algoriddim's djay 2 (reviewed on iPad; also available separately for iPhone/iPod touch), you'll be met with the same virtualized turntables that you remember from the first go-round. Whether you've ever scratched a record – or used the prior version, for that matter – your fingers will immediately know what to do. And it's even more fun this time around. The new dual-turntable interface turns up the volume on the realism, polishing the rougher edges and adding grooves to the digital vinyl that correspond with the rhythm of each song. Your stack of wax is even easier to browse with a fresh music library that keeps track of your history and lets you quickly queue songs as you spin.
But the killer new feature is the color-coded waveform layer, Algoriddim's answer to Traktor DJ's touchable grooves. It's here where djay breaks convention and takes advantage of the iPad's infinite interface possibilities. With a tap, the turntables slide out of view and a pair of sound waves appears, scrolling up to the music. Swipes and pinches manipulate the music as if you were still scratching, but the rainbows that fly by aren't a trippy visualizer; each color corresponds to a different instrument so you can literally see where each verse begins.
Djay's interface of sliders, faders, and buttons has always been about multitasking, but a new built-in sampler adds even more personalization to your mix. An array of beats and blasts are spread out over 12 mini-drum pads that respond to every touch, but if you don't find the sound you're looking for, you can create your own. The custom sampler lets you quickly capture a portion of what's playing and save it to one of the banks for later.
And that's only scratching the surface (pun intended). There are a slew of professional features we may never fully understand as touch-centric turntablists, but we still had a blast playing with all of the new toys. Our only really notable complaint is djay 2's inability to load tracks stored in iCloud, though we also wish there was a better way to export our songs than using the clunky iTunes Sharing tab.
The bottom line. No matter how serious you are about spinning, Djay 2 will get you in the groove.
iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
Exquisite interface. Excellent library of samples. Awesome waveform layer. Good browser.
No iTunes Match support. Clunky, outdated method for sharing.