In addition to writing about Apple and mobile technology I love DJing. Playing music combines two of my carnal needs (thumping bass lines and electronic gadgets) into one tidy hobby.
That being said, I usually spin a few parties around the holidays for friends and this year I'm going to attempt my first all iPhone/iPod DJ set. (More on that soon).
What a year it's been for DJ apps. Last year DJing a complete set via iPhone would have been possible, but it would have mostly consisted of playing tracks from the bundled iPod application.
The iPod app is severely limited when playing live, lacking even basic features like the automatic crossfader built into the desktop version of iTunes. So while you could grab a mixer and do your thing with two iPods, it would be, well, boring.
This holiday season I'm rocking an iPhone and iPod touch setup with an inexpensive 2-channel mixer. One will be running Touch DJ (which I reviewed in November 2009) and the other will be running my new favorite iPhone app: Async's killer Flare Scratch ($8, App Store).
At its most basic level Flare is a turntable simulator that allows you scratch virtual vinyl records to your hearts content -- all without trashing your needles. Flare has the best vinyl sound of any DJ apps and is extremely easy to use. It can make just about anyone from novice to pro sound good and you can easily get started without reading any documentation.
To get started launch Flare, put the needle on the record and drag the platter back and forth with a finger. Once you've mastered the basics of scratching you can choose between three records that you can scratch over five beat loops. If that gets boring you can upload your own MP3/AAC/WAV files via WiFi.
It's still very much a first generation app that needs a few features. For starters, I'd love to skin the app with a Technics SL-12010M5G (my turntable of choice) as opposed to the included skin which seems to be inspired by Arthur C. Clarke. It also needs
One omission, that's no fault of the developer, is the inability to scratch music from your iPod music library. As I posted in my Touch DJ review, Apple doesn't allow apps to access the iTunes music stored on the device, presumably as a concession to the music industry. The labels are deathly afraid that users will share their iTunes libraries with each other – as they've been doing for a while now.
Flare also could use pitch shift, cues, mic input and recording, but the developer has all of them on his radar and I'm looking forward to many of the updates to come. For inspiration check out the video tutorials on the baby and tear scratches on the Async Web site.
It's fun to practice scratching the included records while a favorite track is playing from another source. You could even scratch over songs on the radio with the iPhone sitting on your pants leg – but keep in mind that this is illegal in most states while driving.