Mixvibes aren’t alone in their attempts to tackle the titans of a vibrant DJ software industry, but by expanding into hardware and mobile apps so early in the venture, they do have something of a unique approach. Hot on the heals of the 1.6 release of their flagship Cross DJ software, they release U-Mix Remote, an iPad controller app designed to leverage Cross’s tight, if token, feature set.
Installation and setup is as easy as I’ve seen for any controller. No virtual MIDI networks, just make an adhoc network, tell Cross to get ready and hit go on the iPad. If only it were always so simple. And stable.
Inside the app, we’re treated to a neat, well-defined GUI. Following Cross’s styling, deck A is highlighted in yellow and deck B in red, so it’s easy to find information at a glance. The mixer is wide enough that the overall screen space is easy and uncluttered, and finding your way around takes no time. There is one landscape mode – decks A and B astride the mixer – and another two modes in portrait: one a cut-down version of the landscape mode; the other a detailed single-deck view that puts all of a deck’s controls, otherwise abbreviated, on-screen at once.
Each deck has a small platter with vinyl mode so you can nudge, spool and (try to) scratch. A two-bank set of three hotcues sits above the platter, the effects occupying the upper corner. I was bummed until I found the loop controls – but they are there, thankfully, on a hidden pane that slides out over the platter. This is also where you’ll find range and backup nudge controls, in case the platter isn’t working for you.
The mixer, with a lovingly classic steel faceplate, is clean and simple, and offers a handful of features that I think should be standard for apps like this, but aren’t: double-tap value resetting, for instance, and EQ kills (if on needlessly small buttons). The dials magnify when touched, making it easy to see adjustments without your finger obscuring the view.
Finally, we get a small browser section, but this is where it starts to come undone. Media management is spruiked as Cross’s claim to distinction, but the browser here struggles to accomplish even simple tasks, preferring instead to cause flickering glitches and making baffling decisions on your behalf. I was never much of a fan of Cross’s browser in the first place, but I had hoped for at least basic functionality here, especially given the app’s habit of nailing the basics. If there’s a silver lining, though, it’s the hope that Mixvibes will address it soon. They seem proactive.
A proprietary controller app is half of a symbiosis, an extension of the platform’s brain. Most of U-Mix Remote’s ostensible shortcomings – vanilla effects; mercurial grid syncing – really reflect on Cross, while U-Mix itself is a good app, lucid and enthusiastic. A shabby browser and slim feature set are its biggest flaws, and for me they’re balanced by some sensible features that I’d always wished I could have at the same time. These are not risky designs for a sensitive new format, and it’s an overdue pleasure to see them included.
DJ controller apps are heating up and – in my humble opinion – it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out a ReWirian way of distributing DSP on iOS. On that day, U-Mix Remote may be well placed to capitalise as one of the sturdiest, cleanest DJ interfaces out there.