MegaSeg DJ 2.7.1, by Fidelity Media
Posted: 30-Jul-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Fidelity Media Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Dan Schneider Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
With the convergence of high quality compressed music (mp3, AAC, etc...), high powered laptops, and near audiophile quality portable external sound interfaces, the time is ripe for production quality portable recording studio software. Or, in the case of MegaSeg, extremely capable DJ software. Not too many years ago it started to become common to see a DJ hook up a laptop and use that to play a few songs. Today, however, software like MegaSeg allows a DJ to run an entire night's gig from a Macintosh laptop.

Way beyond the playback capabilities of iTunes, MegaSeg DJ Automation Software offers advanced features like automatic and custom segues, beat matching, a song request list, microphone support, and many nifty features that come in handy running a dance club or automating a radio station.

Requirements
The MegaSeg manual lists the minimum requirements as:

  • G3 233Mhz or faster (400Mhz+ if using OS X)
  • OS 9 or OS X
  • CarbonLib 1.4 or newer (OS 9)
  • QuickTime 5 or newer

Test Machine

  • G4 PowerBook Ti 400Mhz
  • 384 Mb Ram
  • 40Gb Hard Drive
  • OS X 10.3.4, with all the latest software updates (as of 7/15/04)

Setup
Setting up MegaSeg was painless. They allow you to purchase and download online so you don't have to wait for a CD. The download is a 3 MB .sit file. Unpack it, dump the newly created MegaSeg folder into your Applications folder and you're ready to run. When you fire it up for the first time, it asks you to enter your name and serial number. The only glitch that I ran into was that after I typed in my name, I hit TAB to switch to the next field (the ability to use TAB to advance field input is somewhat common on Macs and ubiquitous on Windows). A bug caused the program to ignore all further keyboard input so all I could do was force quit the program. I fired it up again and this time used my mouse to switch fields and all was well. NOTE: I notified their tech support via email about the glitch and they got back to me very quickly, thanking me for telling them and assuring me that it would be fixed in the next release. Kudos to Fidelity Media for their simple install procedure.

In Use
The first time I started MegaSeg I was struck by how dark the interface is. The background is black and the buttons are a bluish-purple. Initially, I thought that Fidelity Media should have included the ability to "skin" the interface like many other media players, but the more I think about this, the less necessary I believe it to be. When DJ'ing in a club, you wouldn't want a bright screen throwing off the lighting, so the black background actually works nicely. I wish that the interface were spatially customizable, allowing you to place the lists and buttons where it's easiest for you to use them. Secondly, since the keyboard shortcuts are not the same as iTunes (e.g. - spacebar doesn't pause), it would be really nice if, when you let the pointer hover over a button, that it would pop up a tooltip including the hotkey for that screen button. That way, when I realized that pressing SPACEBAR didn't pause the music, I could have moved my mouse cursor over the pause button and found out what the shortcut key was. The manual does list the shortcut keys, and there is an electronic version available under the help menu, so a user isn't totally in the dark, but there isn't a definitive list. Such a list would be a welcome addition to the manual.


MegaSeg Main Screen

The most obvious requirement while setting up DJ software is, of course, the music. MegSeg shines in this respect. It can import your iTunes library (without duplicating the files), folders containing music (mp3 and a plethora of other formats) and other media files, and it can even import from an iPod. Unfortunately, lacking an iPod at this moment, I was unable to test that functionality. Mostly, I just imported my iTunes library. The great thing is that MegaSeg, which uses Quicktime under the cover, can play protected AAC files purchased from the iTunes Music Store. The import completes fairly quickly (i.e., you may have time to run to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee, but you wouldn't have time to make a fresh pot).

Now that you have music in your Library, it's important to understand how MegaSeg manages it. Since a DJ must maintain extra meta-data about the music that a normal music listener doesn't care about, MegaSeg has it's own database that stores this extra information. It's a simple text file, so if you want to make a bunch of edits quickly, it's easiest to just open up that file and edit it directly. The manual has instructions on how to do this safely. And you don't even have to shut MegaSeg down in order to do this - leave it running and when you're done, tell it to re-import the data. This feature is great when you're in a club and you can't afford to interrupt the current song.

So what is the extra information that MegaSeg stores in it's database? First of all, it stores category information (which is distinct from the Genre tag on mp3's), allowing you to assign a song to one or more categories. The fact that the category is distinct from the genre is great because you could have a category for "Wedding Favorites" or for "Jeremy's Ipod" where you can list all the songs imported from a particular location. Since categories are what MegaSeg depends on to filter the Library list, it's important to understand them. It took me a little while to get them figured out. Other data in the MegaSeg database includes song specific information like personal notes, desired volume, pitch adjustments, beats per minute, intro time (so MegaSeg can display a countdown timer letting you know how much time you have before the singing starts - great for doing voice overs), Cue-in Time (so you can start the song part way through without hacking the mp3 file), and Segue time (when it will start to transition to the next song). Getting all that info into the database is no small task, but the payoff is well worth it. With all that info, MegaSeg can automatically cross-fade between songs just as if a real DJ were controlling the segues. Of course, if you prefer, you can always manage the song transitions manually with the MegaSeg Mixer.


MegaSeg Mixer

One of the most powerful features of MegaSeg is the Mixer, a built-in tool that allows you adjust the pitch (and therefore the speed) of the current and next songs. This allows you to beat match so you don't confuse the dancers groovin' to your tunes. This is where another really cool feature becomes useful. MegaSeg can simultaneously drive multiple audio output devices, meaning that your preview can come from the laptop's headphone jack while the current song continues uninterrupted over a connected Griffin iMic or other USB/Firewire audio output device. If you don't have an external audio interface, MegaSeg will just split the channels, leaving the current song in the right and putting the preview track into the left. The sliders and buttons in the mixer are mostly self explanatory (if you're familiar with DJ equipment), except for the pitch sliders and associated buttons. If you've read the manual or just give it a little trial and error, they're pretty easy to figure out, but again, I think this would be a good place for tool tips (you would probably need to be able to turn them off so once you learn the interface they don't get in your way) as it would really make the interface more understandable.

So far, I've covered the basic setup and DJ use, but MegaSeg also has some really cool features for running and automating a radio station. The first is the request list. This one is actually useful for DJ's to. Simply find the requested song in your Library and click "Note Request". Type in a note that you want to see when the song is queued. You can bring up a list of all the requested songs and easily add them to your play list. When a requested song is on desk, the note will pop up, reminding you to voice over, "This song goes out Jenny, from Mark." MegaSeg also supports what it calls a "Hot Key List". This is a list, typically of sound effects or short sound bites that you want to play on a moments notice (e.g. Applause, Station ID, commercials, etc). You can assign keys to each or just bring up the list and click the one you want to play. The selected track plays over the currently playing song. Finally, MegaSeg supports powerful scheduling features that allow you to do things like specify how often to insert a song or a selected playlist into the rotation (daily, every hour, once a week, etc). Or, you can instruct it to play your station ID at the top and bottom of every hour without explicitly inserting the ID into the playlist every thirty minutes. This means you can set it in one place and never worry that the FCC will come down on you for not id'ing your station per regulations.

Summary
MegaSeg DJ Automation software is a powerful audio tool for managing, mixing, and playing back audio files from your Mac. It can play a variety of audio formats, and is well integrated with iTunes, giving you full access to your iTunes library (including AAC files). It takes advantage of additional meta data to provide DJ features such as pitch adjustments, beats per minute, Cue-in Time, and more. MegaSeg includes a powerful mixer, as well as features designed for radio station DJs (such as voice over reminder notes and hot keys for sound effects). The feature set is nothing short of stupendous. MegaSeg ran very well on my 3 year old laptop and didn't crash once. The interface takes a little getting used to and could benefit for some customizability, and there is some initial effort required to establish the meta data needed to take advantage of all of the software's features. Overall, MegaSeg is a great piece of software for it's target audience. At $199, it may be out of reach for the casual home user, but for the serious club, radio station, or even home DJ, MegaSeg, coupled with a portable Mac, is a "must-have" DJ automation tool.

Pros

  • Extremely Capable DJ tool (all the features you need to replace your cd's, decks and mixer)
  • Well integrated with iTunes Library (and supports iTMS files)
  • Works well with existing files (stores music metadata separately from music)
  • Powerful scheduling abilities
  • Nice features for running a radio station

Cons

  • Interface could be more intuitive
  • Lots of tedious effort required to get the most out of the software (beat matching, etc)


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice