Offbeat music apps for iOS

This week's collection of apps are all unique music tools. The first lets you stream your music to game consoles; the second auto-matches rhythms for beat synced mixes; and the third offers a gesture-based interface for easy control of your music.

One of the greatest things about the iPhone (or any smartphone) is that it has music listening capabilities so you can bring your tunes with you anywhere. Also, with tons of music apps in the iTunes App Store, you have even more ways to listen to, edit, mix, and organize your music.

There are many apps in the app store for listening to music, like the popular Pandora Radio that's great for music discovery, or Djay for iPhone that lets you mix and scratch with your music. But there are also some music apps that are in a league by themselves--the ones that are admittedly quirky, but still quite useful to music lovers.

This week's collection of apps are all unique music tools. The first lets you stream your music to game consoles; the second auto-matches rhythms for beat synced mixes; and the third offers a gesture-based interface for easy control of your music.

AirMusic ($3.99) is a unique music app that lets you stream music on your iPhone to popular gaming consoles. Some readers may already use Apple's Airplay feature that streams music to your Apple TV. But with AirMusic, you can stream music to your XBox 360, PS3, or a PC running Vista or Windows 7.

To get started, you'll need to be on a shared Wi-Fi network with the console or computer you're going to stream to. Then, you simply turn on Air Tunes via a slider within the app, then navigate to your music folder on your chosen device. In our tests, the app worked beautifully, but we experienced some skipping on the XBox 360. Fortunately there is a fix: if you turn off High-Quality streams in the settings, the music plays normally (with little difference in quality).

We should note that AirMusic has a couple of less-than-ideal features including the inability to play songs from iTunes that have Apple's former DRM attached. But all of the newer DRM-free iTunes songs will work. The app also requires that you relaunch every 10 minutes when listening to music in the background, but the developer points out that this requirement is imposed by Apple.

Overall, if you want an easy way to play your iPhone music over your entertainment system, AirMusic offers a painless way to do it.

MiniMash ($1.99) is a DJ app that automatically matches beats from songs in your iTunes library, but it doesn't always produce great results. Immediately upon launching MiniMash, you'll notice a unique artistic style to the interface. The hand-drawn-looking controls and bright colors are easy on the eyes, but its difficult to know immediately what each control does. Fortunately, you can touch an information button that explains how to use each control and get your music up and running quickly.

The app has you start by "Preparing" your tracks--MiniMash runs an analysis algorithm to scan each track's beat information. From there you can add songs from your library to each turntable on the play screen. Both songs will play at the same beats-per-minute, which can be great if you picked songs with similar rhythm, but will sound choppy and strange if the original songs differ too greatly. Also, MiniMash will only let you use music you created as a playlist, so make sure to put together a list of similar rhythm songs beforehand in iTunes or on your iOS device before launching MiniMash. You have the ability to create loops for more advanced mixes and MiniMash offers tools for starting and stopping songs at specific points you control. The app also offers recording features so you can later play a mix made in MiniMash from iTunes.

Overall, MiniMash is a unique take on the DJ app genre allowing you to automatically match BPM between songs. With a little planning while making your playlist, you'll be able to create beat-matched mixes easily using a cool-looking interface.

CarTunes Music Player (99 cents) is the perfect app for the road or at the gym--it lets you use gestures as music controls so you don't need to look at the device to control your music.

Upon launch, CarTunes will go through a brief tutorial showing you the main gestures to play a song, quickly move from track to track, and many other options using a swipe-controlled interface. Simply touch to play, swipe left or right to switch tracks, or touch and hold in the middle to control a volume knob. To add songs and control the apps settings, swipe upward to open the app's menu. From here you can create and edit a playlist using songs from your music library, change what information each track shows on screen, and switch the font to your liking. You also get a menu that shows you all of your available gestures, with some options that might make it easier for you to use (you can switch volume control to a single vertical swipe, for example, if that's easier than using the volume knob). You can assign other functions to more-complex gestures (a three-finger tap, for example) as well, making it easy to set the app up just the way you like it.

Overall, CarTunes Music Player is an excellent idea that makes it easy to control your music without looking at your iPhone--perfect for when you're on a road trip or exercising and don't have time to fiddle with controls.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.