Virtual DJ LE
Firstly though, a quick look at the free software, Virtual DJ LE. Essentially, this is a stripped down version of the full (Pro 7) version by the developers. For ‘stripped down’ though, don’t worry too much, for this is a software solution that I could easily run a full night on – whether in techy-house mode to a club crowd or in main room, commercial venue mode.
Choose Your Weapon
The layout of all functions is graphically excellent with a central, 3 option choice of visuals. ‘Mixer’ places a representation of Mixtrack Pro’s mixing environment on screen, including crossfader and individual track gain indication (this is the only place you can actually increase or decrease track level for, as mentioned yesterday, there is no dedicated dial to achieve this on the hardware – unfortunately).
”Video’ puts the software into a basic video mixing mode which, though beyond the scope of this review, will have uses to some who have the odd video file they’d wish to play back. ‘Scratch’ view is very useful for those liking the Serato style of vertical waveform flow and has a quite handy ‘clone deck’ feature, sending an exact and playing copy of the prior track into the second track slot. Visually, the left deck is coloured red, the right, blue, which makes the whole interface easy on the eye and clear to visualise in-place content.
Paired with the Mixtrack Pro, Virtual DJ LE has a basic array of just five effects for DJ’s to play with, but what fun they are though – Brake and Backspin (which do exactly that), Flanger (which, erm, flanges) and the more interesting beat chopping, icing on the cake from, BeatGrid and the gloriously named, FlippinDouble. These effects can have usually two sets of specific parameters controlled via Mixtrack Pro and used sparingly, can add a fab bit of ‘check me, I’m awesome’ to a DJ’s set.
Two types of looping are provided, again, controlled excellently by Mixtrack, leaving a DJ to choose between auto or manual loop modes. In auto mode, an in point is selected, then an out, and that’s the job done. I’d say 95% of times, I achieved a perfectly acceptable and accurate loop, leaving me to assume that the software algorithm is leaning to the quantised side of the fence to allow for any DJ entry point errors? On the fly flicking to manual loop mode provides the cumulative half and double time loop effect that we all now love to use – again, in moderation y’all
Hot cues are also becoming a great tool for DJ’s to add dynamism and excitement to his/her sets.Mixtrack Pro has three hot-cue assign buttons, which really do work well with the Virtual DJ LE software. Once engaged, the entry point is accurate (and I think quantised again to assist the DJ) and subsequent re-triggering can accommodate even a ’16ths’ note finger attack from the jock – just make sure the Mixtrack hardware is on a solid enough foundation!
An alternative choice of view mode(s) for the bottom half of the Virtual DJ LE software opens up some more useful DJ tools and gives us a peek into the capability of this software’s full Pro 7 features (available as a time limited, trial download should the DJ wish to check it). A 12 strong rack of ‘sampler’ tracks allow pre-recorded or live content to be sampled by the DJ and spun back into the mix. Up next, a visual representation of the software’s effects (which seem to form a type of ‘plug-in’ format) opens up more graphic oriented FX editing possibilities too (including video fx and transitions). In addition, a one button ‘record’ function sends the entire live stream of DJ mix audio onto the users hard drive representing a full .WAV quality recording of the set.
Get Down On It
Into a full DJ set we go then. I mixed a half hour selection, utilising just about every function of the hardware and software combination. Track selection, cueing, pause and playback worked just fine, and although the chassis, faders, controls and platters don’t have the ultra-pro quality of Numark’s flagship NS7/V7 etc, the Mixtrack Pro was a real joy to work with. The platters (or decks) operated best for me when used as pitch bend/tempo nudgers, not so well in scratch mode (where they tend to have a degree of ‘lag’, so definitely not a system to be used forturntablist competitions).
As mentioned above, effects, looping and hot-cue functions worked very well indeed and would definitely suffice up to a major Pro DJ level where masses of effects and other looping/cue tricks may be required. As also mentioned in part one of this review, the lack of individual [gain] trim knobs on the Mixtrack Pro itself is a bit of a bug bear for me personally, but in fairness, maybe not to others.
One other important point for DJ’s is the efficiency of hardware and software working together to tempo match , ‘sync’ track’s together, BPM wise. During my half hour mash up set, just about every occasion this ‘sync’ mode was engaged resulted in a long and accurate lock. It’s best to manually get the beats and bars locked together in an old school DJ style first, then when you’re happy, flick into ‘sync’ and let the software take the reigns. I had a couple of hiccups (when playing AIFF files for example), but pre-checking on headphones, watching the blue and red grid markers on the software and not getting overly cocky should always ensure a good mix – there’s always the tempo nudging options to tease the mix back in should the software throw a minor paddy at any competent DJ worth his salt.