Francis Preve's iPhone DJ Toys Mini-Roundup

February 25, 2010

In the last installment, we covered the latest iPhone beatboxes. This time around, the focus is on loop-based and DJ tools for everyone’s favorite smartphone. From Sound Trends’ Looptastic to BT’s Sonifi, there’s a bunch of interesting tools out there for musicians and fans who want to dig a bit more deeply into their tracks than their iPod app allows. Here’s a smattering of the best and brightest we’ve seen so far.

0210 Ik Groovemaker screenGroovemaker by Ik Multimedia

$7.99, free edition also available, groovemaker.com

Click here for iTunes App Store link

IK Multimedia's Groovemaker has some nifty amenities that give it a slick professional feel. Sporting a hardware-style interface that gets pretty deep pretty fast, you can layer up to eight loops - each with its own volume and pan (no effects, sorry) - and create pattern mixes that can be strung together into custom songs. Once you get a song you like, you can export it over wifi if you're up for a touch of configuration fiddling.

The loops included with the free version are pretty solid and the loop browser is remarkably well integrated, so you can quickly audition and set loops without interrupting your flow. After spending a a fair amount of time with Groovemaker, we were pleased overall. The only real caveats is that the UI can get so deep and complex that arranging your own songs can be a trifle time-consuming. We were also a little bummed by the fact that there are no effects - not even filtering - so without careful loop selection your final mixes might sound a trifle static.

That said, Groovemaker is a ton of fun, if you're used to more traditional interfaces. What's more, Club, Hip-Hop, House, Reggaeton, Trance, Electro, D&B and Techno versions are all available so you can zoom in on a genre you dig without having to trudge through samples that don't twirl your glowsticks.


0210 Looptastic Producer Looptastic Producer by SoundTrends LLC

$14,99,  soundtrends.com

Click here for iTunes App Store link.

Looptastic producer has one of the nicest, most intuitive interfaces we’ve seen in a product of this type. A row of loop clips at the bottom of the screen can be dragged into one of three “boxes,” each containing three virtual channels. The vertical position determines its volume. At the bottom of the screen is what appears to be a pan slider, but instead allows users to control the relative volume of the channels in a group-like fashion for switching up the overall mix as you play. Tapping a button to the right of the interface toggles on filtering for Korg KAOSS pad-style French house filter builds and breakdowns.

With a solid user interface, the ability to import your own loops (in the full version), and intuitive performance options, this is a fun little app. We had a blast playing with Looptastic producer, and a few of our producer buddies did, too.

If you can stomach some product-demo electro, check out the free Looptastic Electro Edition Lite version. This app is definitely worth a closer look for both pros and newbies alike.


0210 I Am T-painI Am T-Pain by Smule

$2.99, smule.com

Click here for iTunes App Store link

What happens when you take the most played-out vocal effect in modern pop and combine it with a bunch of hip-hop/R&B tracks that were popular a year ago? I AM T-Pain.

For sheer drunken party madness, the attraction here is that the latest update lets you integrate the built-in AutoTune feature with your iTunes library, which is really cool regardless of your musical taste. So depending on your intelligence, inebriation, and threshold for withstanding the cheese factor, this app can be great fun with the right group of friends.

What completely blows us away, though, is the fact that AutoTune actually runs in real time on the iPhone OS. That alone makes us exceedingly tight in the trousers over the possibilities lurking within the iPad. So disregard my carping, then go blow that three bucks and get a taste of the future of portable music making.


0210 Touch MixTouch Mix by Touch Mix

 $4.99, touch-mix.com

iTunes App Store links: Toolroom Edition     Get Physical Edition     deadmau5 Edition

Touch Mix first hit the scene last year with an app that delivered the ability to DJ a collection of deadmau5 tracks (look for him on the cover of our April 2010 issue) with processing amenities like filter, flange and delay. Since then, they’ve expanded their range of options greatly, with new releases from Toolroom, Get Physical, Rekids, Cocoon, RJD2, and a second volume of deadmau5 tracks.

While Touch Mix is obviously geared toward the DJ crowd, it’s a great way for keyboardists to start getting a feel for DJ-style performance. What I’m about to say may seem like heresy to some electronic music producers, but the fact of the matter is that my own productions and remixes improved exponentially once I started to DJ myself. The full explanation is worthy of an article of its own, but take my word for it — once you start to play DJ sets, you’ll immediately understand where your own tracks and arrangements need improvement.

The user interface really does a great job of translating the DJ experience to the iPhone. All tracks are synchronized with fairly transparent time-stretching, and you can jump ahead or back from section to section in a mix without missing a beat. Adding effects is a simple matter of selecting an effect and choosing its amount with a slider. All in all, I had a blast playing with the Toolroom edition, as pretty much every track is a favorite of mine.

So, if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to DJ — with world class material from the coolest underground labels in the biz, no less — then Touch Mix is a great way to get your feet wet.


0210 SonifiSonifi by Sonik Architects

$4.99, sonikarchitects.com

Click here for iTunes App Store link

Do you love BT? Do you love his latest track, “The Rose of Jericho”? If so, whip out five bucks and you can tinker with the four remixes of that track. Sonifi is another really cool technology demo of the future of interactive music. You've got four channels to mix: drums, bass, synths/effects, and leads — each with four versions to select.

Real-time processing like filters and bit-crushing can be controlled via a Kaoss-style X/Y pad, and there’s a nifty way to shake your iPhone for BT’s classic stuttering effects.

But you gotta be a “Rose of Jericho” fan to dig this app, since you can't import your own material or even choose other BT tracks — at least for the time being — which is a bit of a shame, as there’s a lot of promise here once the app opens up.

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