There are a stack of DJ software options out there that stubbornly try to replicated the “real thing” as closely as possible…
There are also others that take a completely different tack. Scratch DJ Academy MIX! from Stanton somehow sits between those two extremes, it resembles the likes of Traktor and Serato to some degree, but where it differs, is that it’s largely hands off. At least in the way you are probably thinking.
MIX! Is more of a — as the name might suggest — mix creation program, rather than a performance tool. In its most basic form, you drop and drag tracks from the library onto the timeline, and MIX! does the rest. This is, of course, a somewhat simplistic overview, but you get the idea.
The first step is adding tunes to the library in the first place. This is a simple drag and drop affair, and the software gets to work analyzing them right away. This is a task it seems to do particularly well, working through the list of tracks impressively quickly. Not only is the software checking for that all important BPM, but also musical Key, which is a nice added functionality if you don’t have something like Mixed In Key already.
Once your library is in place, you’re set. Simply drop tracks over into the playlist panel on the right, and they’ll appear in the timeline in the order you specified, already beat-matched and joined together in a short mix. This is where you come in.
If you’re just wanting to make a simple mix tape for sharing, or listening to, effectively you can just keep dropping tracks in, and let MIX! do the rest. If, as we suspect, you want a bit more control, then there are some options to help you do that.
Once the software creates the “mix” you can control its length, either by dragging a selection box out to cover the parts of the track you want to mix, or by choosing the length in bars from a drop down. Likewise, you can choose where to mix from, also measured in bars, from the end of the track that is mixing out. So, if you want the tracks to mix for 32 bars, but to begin doing so 64 bars before the end of the outgoing track, this you can do.
Frustratingly, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to choose the point where the incoming track mixes in from, it seems to be “beginning or nothing”, a pretty big pain in the ass if we’re honest.
You can also determine, to some degree, how the mix fades over: linear, hard drop, consistent gain, consistent power etc, which seems to work well enough. There is also some automation-style control over individual track bass / mid / treble for those smoother, more authentic crossovers.
Another novelty is the addition of scratch effects that you can have drop in to introduce each new mix. These kinds of things tend to be horrendous gimmicks, and rarely sound any good. In this case, we’ll be fair and say they weren’t terrible, or too intrusive, but you still might want to limit your use of them over all.
If you have ever used Ableton live to DJ with, or warp tunes, then you will be familiar with the process here. You can open up the track details and readjust the beat-grid if the software didn’t get it right — which happened a few times, although it was never terribly far off.
Likewise, if MIX! thinks your track is 70 BPM, and you know it’s actually 140 (hello Dubstep), you can tell it this also — if you don’t it’ll mix the next track in at half speed, so definitely worth doing! The same is true for the musical key it has determined, if you know better you can change it.
One neat little feature we also liked was how, when you click on a track in your play list, it highlights all the tracks in the library that are either the same BPM, or complimentary musical key. This makes cooking up harmonic mixes a cinch. We didn’t know if it was actually guessing the key right all of the time, but the mixes sounded good enough, and it’s definitely handy for helping you with your playlists — even if you use another DJ software for performance.
MIX! Is definitely more for creating a party sound track, mixtapes, or possibly for working out a set in advance, but then it never really claims to be anything else. It does it’s basic tasks fairly well. You may find yourself touching up the beat-grids, and manually readjusting the mixes along the way, but it’s a task you soon get the nack of, and one that the software doesn’t make difficult.
The speed at which it scans tracks, including musical key is impressive, and the key-matching suggestion is a great tool all on its own. Perhaps not as advanced as some of the other programs that it shares functionality with, but it does touch a few bases, and only commands a $49 price tag.
If you’re looking for a simple app that helps you create basic mixes and keep your library in check, then this is definitely a good option. If you have any ambition beyond passive mix creation, however, you might want to look to something more fully featured.