If you want to beat-mix like a club DJ without developing serious turntable skills, computer software that automatically creates smooth transitions between songs may be the perfect solution. One such application, MixMeister Technology's MixMeister Express 6.0 ($49.95), makes it easy for novices to get good results with little effort, but it also provides adequate editing features to keep things interesting for the experimentally inclined. The only features we missed were pitch shifting and video-file mixing, both of which are supported in the costlier versions, MixMeister Studio 6.0 ($169.95) and MixMeister Pro 6.0 ($279.95).
To get started, we inserted the MixMeister Express 6.0 CD, ran the installation file, and clicked through a few setup screens, entering the supplied authorization code when prompted. Installation on our 2.3GHz Pentium 4 PC took approximately one minute. The first time we ran the software, an informative three-minute tutorial automatically launched, providing ample information for getting started with the software. MixMeister Express 6.0 worked perfectly with our consumer-grade Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Pro PC sound card.
The MixMeister Express 6.0 interface is logically divided into three main panes: Library (top left), Playlist (top right), and Timeline (bottom). To make your PC-based digital audio files available for use in MixMeister Express 6.0 projects, you click the Library pane's plus sign, then select the files you wish to add. You can add a single file or an entire folder of files, or you can set up watch folders from which files are automatically imported whenever they're copied into the specified directories. The software automatically scans each audio file to determine relevant information, such as its BPM (beats per minute). After a track has been scanned, it's available for use in any MixMeister project. During testing, the software typically took less than 10 seconds to scan each file.
To begin creating a custom mix, you drag files from MixMeister's Library pane to the Playlist pane. Any time a track is added to the Playlist pane, it also appears in the Timeline. You can drag and drop tracks within the Playlist to change their playback order in the project. When the order of tracks changes in the Playlist pane, it automatically changes in the Timeline pane as well.
MixMeister's real magic lies in its automatic track transitions, which can be selected using the orange pull-down box beneath each track title in the Playlist pane. The transition options include Short Beatmix (four measures/16 beats), Long Beatmix (eight measures/32 beats), and Crossfade. The Beatmix options gradually adjust the tempos of two adjacent tracks so that during the four or eight measures when the two tracks overlap, their beats match up, resulting in a smooth, beat-matched DJ-style transition from one track to the next. It's worth noting that adjusting a track's tempo doesn't affect its pitch. Lastly, the Crossfade function essentially creates a smooth volume transition from one track into another without adjusting the BPMs.