Headphone maker Urbanears has expanded its lineup to include Slussen ($15), an affordable DJ accessory. What at first looks like just a headphone splitter actually allows track cuing to wired speakers. Along with the company’s free companion app, users can act as DJs without breaking the bank. There are certain serious limitations — primarily software-related, and thus capable of being fixed — but it’s an interesting product to be sure.
The actual accessory is nearly as simple as it gets: a 3.5mm headphone plug juts out the side of a U-shaped piece of plastic. At the two open ends are ports for headphones and a speaker, respectively marked with raised plastic symbols. Plug the appropriate accessories into the right ports, then plug the entire thing into your iPhone, and you’re good to go. For convenience, an included keychain cap fits over the plug, allowing you to keep the adapter with you at all times. Slussen also comes in four different colors.
Urbanears’ iPod/iPhone-formatted Slussen app is necessary to take advantage of the connector. Much like Algoriddim’s Djay, the app gives you two digital turntables, with full access to your music library and lots of control over playback. It has a very simple design, based around rectangles, circles, and flat colors—a nice match for the distinctive accessory. The app’s core function is to let you start a song playing on the speakers, get another ready on your headphones, then fade between the two when you’re ready to switch. You can adjust the EQ and beats per minute, and even “scratch” the records.
Unfortunately, we experienced significant issues with tracks not loading properly; some didn’t play for more than a few seconds, and others got stuck with a “Loading…” message and required the app to be force quit multiple times. Roughly three-quarters of the tracks we tested worked fine, but issues weren’t uncommon, and they were most pronounced with music downloaded from iTunes. Notably, we were using version 1.0.3 of the app; future updates may address these issues.
While it wasn’t a huge surprise, we confirmed during testing that Slussen divides the headphone port’s stereo audio into two output channels, turning both speaker and headphone output into mono streams. While amateur DJs might not find this to be a big issue, it is a downside for some situations, and not the way professional gear would handle the split.
Slussen is a very good idea, but bugs in the software combined with some hardware limitations dampen the appeal. Urbanears definitely needs to tweak the app to ensure it can import any songs you throw at it, and not freeze or crash with such frequency. It also would make a lot of sense for the company to release an iPad version of the app; we hope that’s coming in the future. Other than that, the only real concern is ensuring you have an audio cable long enough to connect to your speaker without being right next to it. A cool and affordable accessory, Slussen is dragged down primarily by its unpredictable software, and earns a B- rating.
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Compatible: iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen), iPad mini, iPod touch 4G/5G, iPhone 4/4S/5