In this review, I’m going to take a look at Digital DJ 2, a new computer program on the market aimed at both novice and professional computer-based DJs. The main aim of Digital DJ 2 is to utilize the built-in features to perform seamless mixing between audio files. The use for this could be anything from playing live in a club to creating beat-matched audio for TV or radio adverts, think Ministry of Sound compilation CDs where the tracks are blended in quick succession.
There are many alternative products like this on the market across a broad price range. Magix Digital DJ 2 retails at £39.99, which is relatively inexpensive. In can be used in combination with a variety of MIDI controllers to adjust parameters more natural and more comfortable for performing live. However, there are only a certain number of devices that currently work with this version of the software, so it’s worth checking the website before purchasing. Some upgrades enable specific extra features available from Magix (Deckadance House & Club edition) for increased compatibility and functionality but cost an extra wad of cash.
I’ve installed the program on my MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz dual-core,
Intel Core i5 processor and 4gb of RAM. The installation process was quick, clean and straightforward as with most Mac-based programs.
On opening the software, the interface pops up. It represents the two “decks” to drag and drop files onto. Digital DJ 2 supports a vast array of formats so don’t worry if you’ve got Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, MP4a, Mp3 files, etc. Different sizes will be different quality (especially Kbps in Mp3s) so have a look online if you’re confused. It also features a mixer, loop machines, samplers, FX, playlists, all sorts of analysis scopes and more.
I started off with two tech house tunes both in the same key. I have no MIDI controller compatible with the software so used the mouse. On dropping the tracks in, the software instantly began analyzing the records and popped up with the results in a few seconds. You can immediately see the virtual tape head in position over each track, and even a notice will know where the kicks in the tracks create ‘peaks.’
It’s worth mentioning at this point that another essential piece of kit you will need is a secondary sound card. This is required to monitor or preview the next tune on your headphones before you start mixing it in over the speakers. The easiest way to do this is to get hold of a USB external sound card. These vary in price, but more expensive models are higher quality resulting in lower latency monitoring. Alternatively, for DJs with an existing set-up, you can include your DJ mixer in the set-up with a soundcard output for each deck. Then you can just monitor in the same way you usually would. Either way, you will need two separate audio outputs from your computer. Thankfully, setting this up in the software is easy as the virtual wiring is laid out in a simple flow diagram.
The first thing I noticed when playing my track out was the sound quality. Sometimes tracks on programs of this nature can sound glitchy and weird, but the road looked full with smooth volume fading and crossfading to the next record. Changing the tempo didn’t affect the quality either, and the critical lock keeps the tracks harmonically sound. Beat matching was straightforward a simple click of the sync button matched the track tempos in an instant.
I did notice that the groove in the first track was confusing the auto-match system and the roads were ‘phasing’ slightly. At this point, a lot of DJ software would lack the depth to adjust this, but impressively Digital DJ 2 goes further, allowing the user to manually fine tune these errors with a visual grid representation of the beats. The design of the software feels as though close time and effort has been taken to make the DJ feel like he is manipulating the tracks without the engine interfering too much. Nothing is more frustrating with digital DJing than experiencing the computers beat matching algorithm forcing mixes out of time, and Digital DJ 2 seems to overcome this very well.
Utilising cue points to make the track drop at the right end is similar to vinyl or CD turntables, and this can be done quickly and intuitively. Similarly, the loop function is automatic so you can just choose the size of your loop and fire away and the computer will take care of the rest until you release it although this can lead to confusion quite quickly if not used carefully. There is a large toolbox of decent FX that you can adjust and combine for unique mixes from the word go.
These can be changed and customised to your heart’s desire and a sampler can also be added to the mix for adding an extra dimension. The actual sound of the mixing is very transparent, and the integration with iTunes is handy for creating track lists. Digital DJ 2 can even select similar tracks for you, defeating the whole purpose of having a DJ but maybe suitable for a helping hand!
All of this said, with the program being impressive and functional it’s tough to use with just a mouse. Trying to get around to press each button in time and adjust volume and crossfaders is just too much. This is where I would suggest any first-time users of this type of software might want to think twice about purchasing Digital DJ 2. To use it properly you need some remote control at your fingertips, and the major downfall in this particular instance is the lack of a MIDI learn feature for unsupported control surfaces.
As I mentioned before, Digital DJ 2 comes pre-mapped to be used in conjunction with some existing USB MIDI control surfaces on the market, so if you already own one of them, then this is the program for you. It is very natural and expressive with a deep sound and a big arsenal of sonic weaponry. You don’t have to use the auto-BPM engine, it’s not required to pull off sweet mixes, and that is a breath of fresh air for software like this. I can genuinely imagine it being used in a professional club environment. The depth of the options available makes it an exciting program that could be useful to anyone willing to invest the money and time into it.
For anyone looking for the real DJ experience I would always advise investing in a pair of turntables and a traditional DJ mixer but as programs like this continually improve and bridge the gap between the analogue and digital world, it’s hard not to understand why someone wouldn’t want to purchase this kind of system as a more functional and cheaper alternative.