Those of you who've been hanging around in this corner of the Internet know that in addition to being somewhat of a geek, I'm also a runner. As such, I'm always excited to check out new tech toys that combine these two passions. One such thing is an iPhone app called TrailMix Pro.
What is TrailMix Pro?
First and foremost, TrailMix Pro is a clever running app that automatically changes the beat of the song you're listening to so it matches your pace.
If you run faster, the song will speed up; if you run slower, the song will slow down, without changing the pitch.
I'll confess that at first I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but in practice I found it to be surprisingly useful and a lot of fun.
Running to the beat of music
The idea of running to music that matches your pace isn't new to me. I even started a website about it! In fact, a couple of years ago I went through the process of adding beats-per-minute (BPM) metadata to all songs in my iTunes library using a software called beaTunes. Now I just create smart playlists with different tempos and use the appropriate one depending on how fast I want to run. It's awesome; but it's also a pain to have to add the BPM metadata to new songs.
TrailMix Pro solves this problem, as it figures out the BPM automatically. And the fact that it can change the tempo of a song as you run is pretty cool.
This live-tempo-changing turned out to be a killer feature for me. You see, unless you run shortish distances on a completely flat surface, you're likely not going to maintain the same pace for the entire run. Hills, for example, naturally slow you down. On long runs, you'll get tired towards the end. Having the music match your pace automatically is brilliant.
Of course, you can also set a specific pace and TrailMix Pro will adapt the tempo of all songs to match. They call this Cruise Control.
Oh, and it's also a pedometer.
How does it work?
TrailMix Pro uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to detect your motion as you run or walk. It then analyses the information and uses it to determine your pace and to count your steps. And since it knows which track is playing, it simultaneously finds the BPM of the song.
So now TrailMix Pro knows your steps-per-minute and the beats-per-minute of the song you're listening to. With these, all it needs to do is calculate the difference between them and make the song faster or slower to match your pace. Pretty clever, I think.
TrailMix Pro in actual use
OK, so how good is it in practice? Well, I think it's pretty obvious by now, but I think it's pretty cool.
The process couldn't be easier. Put in your earbuds, fire up the app, pick a playlist, tap on the Magic Shuffle button, and start running.
That's exactly what I did on my first run with TrailMix Pro. I was thinking about writing this review and wanted to see how easy it was to get the hang of it. At first, it was a bit weird. The first song was from Pitbull (don't judge, I like it only for running) and because I was walking slowly it plllaayyyeed veeerryyyy sllooooowwlllyyyyy. Pretty funny for an upbeat song. But as soon as I started running the tempo picked up and amazingly matched my footsteps exactly.
As I went about the run, the music kept up with my pace. It was great. When I got to the hills and slowed down, so did the song. My feet kept hitting the floor in sync with the beat.
For my next run, I decided to set the pace myself using Cruise Control and try to keep up. I went on the exact same route as the previous run and did maintain a higher pace. I'm already thinking about a training plan using both Cruise Control and normal modes.
After using TrailMix Pro for several weeks, I've realised it pays to create playlists specifically for running. For example, avoid slow songs and songs with no bass. These sound weird. In one fairly fast run, the track changed from Pendulum to Nearness of You, by Norah Jones. Trust me, no matter how much you speed up Norah Jones, it's impossible to get it to match your beat.
By the way, if you use Runkeeper (or similar) and, like me, get a nervous twitch at the mere thought of loosing your stats, you're in luck. You can use both apps concurrently without a problem. Just don't play any music through Runkeeper and you're good.
TrailMix Pro was a pleasant surprise. Honestly, my only complaint is the interface. The design has a lot of room for improvement, but it works fine and is intuitive enough. My real issue is this whole sharing on social media push that many apps do. It drives me crazy.
When you finish a run, you get a screen with useful stats (steps taken, time spent, average pace), and a big ass "Tell Your Friends!" message with huge Facebook and Twitter buttons. OK if you like that, but I find it really annoying.
That's a minor gripe though. The truth is that I found TrailMix Pro useful and enjoyable. It makes it exceptionally easy to match your music to your beat.
I've kept using it and I know I will continue to do so.