I know what you want me to say. You want me to tell you that you can FINALLY write off that iPad you bought yourself last Christmas as a business expense. You want me to tell you that this wildly radical new app has hit the market, that it’s going to be the best $15 you’ve spent in the App Store yet, and that you might even use it more than you play Angry Birds, which up to now seemed like the only reason you got the damn thing.
I’m sorry. Wireless DJ is not going to be your ticket to justification.
Let me break it down before you break out your password.
The fact that Evgen Bodunov (and Ilya Birman) spent the time to develop this application makes sense. Whether you’re into babes and cars or books and coding, the idea of transmitting MIDI data over a wireless network is undeniably cool. Once you’ve installed the app on your iPad, you’ll need to make sure you’re connected to the same WiFi network that your computer’s connected to. Of course, if you’re not on a Mac, you’ll need to head back to the Apple Store to pick one up before you’re up and running Wireless DJ, because it doesn’t work on Windows machines without drivers and some maneuvering. That said, once you’ve got your Apple arsenal plugged in, you’re ready to go. Oh but wait, you’re not running Traktor? Wireless DJ offers but one pre-made mapping configuration file and it’s for Traktor. That said, the thing works. Almost perfectly.
Look, if you follow the directions and download the Traktor mapping file, it’s easy to set up and easy to use. As you can tell by the screenshot, the interface is overly simplified. Crossfader, two volume sliders, two tempo sliders, plus EQ, play/pause, and sync for two tracks. All worked just right. The seek buttons are debatably the most useful aspect of the app. Ideally, they would eliminate the need to stay hunched over when making moves using your touchpad. And they did not work for me without being mapped. Lame. Additionally, there is a tiny level visualizer for each channel, along with a battery-level indicator. Cute, right?
It lacks a visualization of your waveforms and your crates and file banks, so unless you’re Cam Jansen with photographic memory, you’re not getting farther away than your eyesight allows using Wireless DJ. So why is it wireless? If it’s to save me from having to bring an extra cable, well, fair enough. i can’t argue with that. But it still feels like it lacks features that would really make it a useful tool. Given the lack of usability, I’ve taken it upon myself to try and figure out why anyone in their right mind would find this useful IRL. You’re welcome, Bodunov.
I admit to having a difficult time reviewing something outside the context of how it would be useful in my particular setup. When I first started playing with Wireless DJ I thought, hm, this might totally give me an unfair advantage over other DJs in that suddenly I can drink as much as I want during my set without fear of the daunting mid-set potty break?!! Super! I was half-joking and I would probably only feel slightly more comfortable and in control hitting the head with my iPad in hand, given the fear of contamination, backsplash, Jersey dudes, etc.
For me to even be able to pull that off, though, I would still need a reliable WiFi connection. I don’t know if the bars or clubs you spin in are anything like the ones I do, but few of them double as Internet cafes. I’m sure in the near future the sun will never set on WiFi, but for now I’m just not sure I’d want to rely on it as a major factor in pulling off a banging set. That said, if I absolutely had to, I would definitely want to be plugged in to the router, wherever it is, to ensure the connection wouldn’t be easily disrupted. You see where I’m going with this: Wireless DJ? What about the 100 ft Cat-5 cable I have to lug around for comfort? It’s not ideal.
Now, I’ve saved mentioning the price tag up to now in this article for a reason. I have to acknowledge that there is a glimmer of practicality in this app. It took a little while but it eventually caught my eye.
Wireless DJ might be great for your kid! First of all, the little mini-nugget future-DJs born today will more than likely get an iPad before they get 1200s. (It’d be cool if it were the other way around, I know. It’s not.) And there’s something to be said for that. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have the hardware and don’t want to drop the coin, maybe Wireless DJ is the perfect solution. Hey, it’s $15. And it works. Hard to argue against that.
At the same time, it’s pretty hard to argue for spending the $15 if you’ve got your own hardware and you’re comfortable in your set up. Now, for me, if I used Traktor more consistently, and this app gave me more of a wireless interface for setting and triggering cue points, or selecting and configuring effects or samples, we might have something to talk about. But it doesn’t. It’s as basic as it gets. It’s painful how little control the interface offers considering how powerful it could be. It’s already sending MIDI data wirelessly!
I think it’s time to make some improvements: try some new skins on for size, get pre-set maps for all the other programs, give me the ability to control effects and parameters, baby!
Part of me does look forward to the day when all of us DJs and controllerists and buttoneers debate over whether touch faders are more comfortable than sliders, that multi-touch screens are easier than arcade buttons, but we’re not there yet. I see it happening and it’s going to be fun to watch. As for now, save the $15. Spend it on somethin’ real nice for your Ma + siblings. (THREE copies of TouchOSC?!) Or buy a gift card to the App Store and save it to give to your kid the day he’s born! Future congrats!