Ever since the introduction off third-party apps for smartphones was popularized by Apple in mid-2008, developers have been scrambling to create quality DJ apps. Naturally, some are better than others, and there are obviously certain limitations to mobile mixing. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for using mobile DJing apps.
Pros: Value, Portability, Results
Undoubtedly, one of this biggest draws for budding DJs is the price. Not only are they typically very cheap in contrast to something like the Traktor Kontrol, but they also can pack a bit of a punch by making use of the raw computational power that your smartphone can provide. In fact, some apps are even free, with many offering in-app purchases to make the most of the software.
One such app that we can recommend is Touch DJ Evolution. Once you get comfortable with the interface’s visual mixing, you can get comfortable with mixing tracks. You can automatically sync the tempos, but it’s up to you to make sure you align the beat, which can be accomplished by moving your finger up and down to keep your tracks in sync. You can also do this manually with a splitter, which will allow you to manually alter the tempo of the track.
Despite the fact that the ‘sync’ button has dirty connotations within the DJing profession, it’s a good way to learn the ropes when it comes to understanding the mechanics of DJing. It also makes for a great emergency backup if your primary decks or laptop encounters a malfunction of some kind. You can upgrade to the premium mode for $8, which will allow you to use custom tracks as well as allow you to engage a party mode that automatically mixes your tracks, among other interesting features.
Although it has some great effects and filters and is definitely worth the money if you’re looking into the ultra-portable market, there are, of course, many things that you won’t get with a tactile set of jog wheels and comprehensive mixing knobs.
Cons: Technical Limitations and Perceived Cheapness/Unprofessionalism
Personally, we don’t see an app such as Touch DJ Evolution to be a bad thing for DJing; in fact, on the contrary, mobile DJing apps can add another dimension to your DJ set, especially if you use mobile devices as samplers or sequencers. However, such an app is limited in a number of ways…
First and foremost is simply the technical limitations. Using a splitter to monitor in one ear and play through the monitors on another channel means your audience will (and you) will only be listening to mono sound, which was made obsolete more than 50 years ago. Granted, it’s a cheap and effective way to learn manual beat-matching techniques, but it comes at the cost of reduced quality.
Furthermore, most smartphones currently peak at about 128 GB, which means that, for many DJs, even if they were to have a phone dedicated solely to DJing, it is still possible that they may not have access to all their music at once. (A counterpoint to this, however, is that a crate of CDs and vinyl records don’t even come close to matching 128 GB of music.) Still, it is nice to always have access to your entire music library, and if you have hundreds of gigs of music (if not more), then considering hardware such as the Traktor Kontrol might be a good idea.
The limitations don’t stop there, however, as there are many filters, effects, and other precise controls that are lost by not using a tactile DJ controller. At the end of the day, mobile DJ apps can help you avoid catastrophe in a pinch, but you shouldn’t rely on them for paid gigs.