Time to give you the lowdown on another new product, this time aimed at the ever-growing digital DJ market... and it's a big one... it's the news that the second generation of the landmark Traktor software/hardware is set for release on 1st April!
TRAKTOR 2 - INTRODUCTION
If you've read any of my past blogs on digital DJ equipment, you will know that it's an area that slightly frustrates me. On the one hand I think it's great that digital technology allows for unrivaled mixing creativity, and I also like the fact that certain products such as Traktor Scratch and Serato Scratch allow you to perform in a very traditional way whilst incorporating modern digital techniques. I have nothing against a DJ turning out a pure digital performance if they aren't afraid to use digital technology to push the boundaries and achieve things that would otherwise be impossible with traditional turntables. Also, if you are originally a producer and want a quick and easy way to perform your songs, then fine, there is nothing wrong with that. What I am not so keen on is the number of people that just decide overnight that they want to be a DJ, and smash out commercial obvious hit after commercial obvious hit to satisfy a dancefloor, without really thinking about what they are doing, researching what other music is out there, and without learning any skills - i.e. using digital technology to do what any vinyl DJ could do if they invest a little time to learn to beat match. That dreaded 'auto-sync' function of digital DJ systems really gets on my nerves when used like this, and I believe it is very slowly killing the art of beat matching :(
However, on the other hand I guess it is a good way for people who really love music but are not interested in learning to beat match to interact and share their passion with a crowd! Arghhh! As you can probably tell, the subject confuses me no end! And I know my whinging makes me sound like a grumpy old man! But the debate about whether digital DJing is a good or bad thing is not really relevant to this article... what's important is that whether you like it or not, digital DJing is growing and is here to stay.
It's products like Traktor that have always pushed the possibilities of digital technology. If you are a digital DJ veteran, then you WILL have heard about Traktor, no doubt about it! In fact, if you are into DJing in any form, then I will also be extremely surprised if it has never crossed your path! It has always been a product that has offered the digital DJ that little bit more, and now it is available in a new and improved version...
TRAKTOR 2 - WHAT'S NEW?
The fundamental principles of Traktor remain the same with this latest exciting installment from Native Instruments, so if you're used to working with the older version and want to upgrade then you should find the transition very easy. And if you own the previous version of Traktor and want to know whether it is worth upgrading, then read on and see what you think!
For a start, all Traktor 2 software has been tweaked and enhanced, from additional creative features such as the inclusion of multiple Sample Decks and a Live Loop Recorder, to an improved waveform display and customisable interface. The Traktor hardware interfaces have also all been improved, and now offer true plug-and-play functionality, automatic hardware input detection, intuitive LED indicators, and direct Thru bypass functionality that makes switching DJs or switching from CD to vinyl as quick and hassle-free as possible. On top of this, the hardware also offers lower latency audio drivers and extended connectivity, meaning whatever you set-up or needs, Traktor 2 caters for you.
New Traktor products are available in Traktor Pro 2 and Traktor Duo 2 versions, which provide you with everything you need to get mixing on your laptop (Traktor Pro 2 offers more deck slots), and Traktor Scratch Pro 2 and Traktor Scratch Duo 2, which include timecoded vinyls and CDs (again the Pro Version allows you to control more turntables than the Duo version).
TRAKTOR 2 - AUTOMATIC BEATMATCHING
The beauty of Traktor 2 software is that it is very quick to pick up and simple to use, so it really can be used to take your performances to the next level! Trust me, even though I've been grumbling about digital DJing, it doesn't mean I haven't tried it for myself! In fact at one point I was seriously considering buying the old Scratch version so that I didn't have to carry all my vinyls around with me! It's certainly a brilliant piece of software that I have a lot of respect for!
When speaking about the awesome creativity that Traktor 2 offers, the place to start would be with the improved track tempo detection. I'm going to say this through gritted teeth, but the new version of Traktor can now automatically detect the tempo of a loaded song, and perfectly sync the tempo of any other songs in time with it - you don't even have to press a button every time now! And along with the automatic tempo detection, Traktor 2 can also automatically apply a beat grid to the loaded track, which allows you to create perfect loops and cue points. It's all really useful stuff for the digital DJ, as it completely frees you from any beatmatching time constraints whatsoever, and lets you get straight on to making more exciting creative decisions, or getting on with ultra-quick mixes if you so desire! Traktor 2 is certainly the software of choice for the DJ that wants unlimited experimental scope.
TRAKTOR 2 - SAMPLE DECKS
So with more free time to experiment, what else can you do? As with the previous version of Traktor, you can use your time to create standard hot cues and loops, but you may also be interested in the innovative new Sample Decks. If you've ever used or researched the Traktor S4 hardware controller, then you should have some idea of what these are, but if not, then it's my job to fill you in!
The Sample Decks allow you to load in loops or one-shot samples, and then trigger and layer them as you require. For example, you could load in individual drum hits to each sample deck and trigger them in time with a currently playing song to create live remixes! Each deck includes 4 Sample Decks, each with individual volume and filter controls, so you should have enough tools at your disposal to get extra creative in the mix!
TRAKTOR 2 - LOOP RECORDER
The Loop Recorder is perhaps your most versatile tool for on-the-fly remixing. It functions in a similar way to an extra deck, but instead of loading existing content into it, it can record a live audio source. You can record any input (e.g. a microphone using a live MC or vocalist, an individual deck, or even the master output) straight into the Loop Recorder, and get creative by manipulating the captured audio with processing, effects, or creating new loop points. You can even drag and drop the audio into a Sample Deck to free up the Loop Recorder whilst your loop is still playing - no pauses or breaks in output, it all happens seamlessy, and means you are free to record another loop straight away!
TRAKTOR 2 - EFFECTS
The new Traktor 2 software has bolstered it's ammunition, and now comes with over 30 studio grade and DJ inspired performance effects, including the much requested tape delay! You can now spice up your tracks more than ever before, and can set your effects to intelligently syncronise to the tempo of your performance, so it will always sound perfecto!
TRAKTOR 2 - WAVEFORM DISPLAY
How can a waveform display be more intuitive? Before I saw the Traktor 2 software for myself, I didn't understand this statement, but it's actually true! Traktor 2 now displays high-resolution waveforms that analyse each track's frequency content, and brings them to life with colour variations! This feature is probably most useful as it allows you to quickly identify different drum hits within a track, and make cue and loop points based around them. For example, kick drums, snares and high hats all possess different frequency characteristics, so they all show up as different colours within the Traktor 2 waveform display!
In addition to the enhanced waveform display, which also provides you with seamless zoom levels for setting sample accurate cue and loop points, Traktor 2 also offers an improved stripe wavefrom overview, that lets you navigate through your loaded songs easier than ever before.
TRAKTOR 2 - CUSTOMISATION
Traktor 2 allows you to customise your software in much more depth than previous versions, meaning you can always work in the way that suits you. Change the colours of the waveform display, alter the entire Traktor 2 layout, tweak the controller assignments, and change the audio signal routing. This level of custom design contributes to making the product the most powerful version of software to date!
TRAKTOR 2 - PERFORMANCE
If you favour using a hardware controller to guide your performance rather than a computer mouse or timecoded vinyl, then all Traktor software is pre-configured for use alongside the Traktor Kontrol X1, S4, or controllers from other manufacturers. Of course, to get the most out of the software, then it's best to use a dedicated Native Instruments controller. In fact, the S4's features are so closely linked with the Traktor 2 software, that I imagine this combination will work particularly intuitively. But then again, the X1 is also a perfect partner for the software, and is certainly a more cost effective choice for the DJ on a budget.
If you DJ in a pair or in a group, then the Traktor 2 software also caters for your needs, and can be used to take your groups' creativity even further. Use the MIDI clock to sync up external equipment such as effects units, synthesisers, drum machines, or even another laptop running Traktor, and form the perfect team!
TRAKTOR 2 - HARDWARE
As I've already mentioned, it's not just the software that's been given a make-over! Traktor 2 also comes with the next generation of Traktor Audio hardware.
The smallest and most portable digital DJ solution is the Traktor Audio 2, the upgrade from the award-winning Audio 2 DJ interface. It offers two stereo jack inputs in a package that is comparable to the size of a smartphone, but still supplies the same loudness and amazing audio quality of it's bigger brothers.
And speaking of it's bigger brothers, the step up from the Traktor Audio 2 is the Traktor Audio 6 interface. As you may have guessed, this interface provides 6 (mono) inputs and outputs, perfect for DJs who prefer to work with the traditional 2 decks and a mixer set up, or use a 2 deck set-up with the Traktor Scratch Duo 2 vinyl system. The front-mounted inputs and outputs allow you to get extra creative, and make full use of the Traktor 2 Sample Decks and Loop Recorder. Really, the only limits to your creativity are the ones you impose yourself!
However, having said that, for the ultimate in flexible working, you should look no further than the Traktor Audio 10 interface, which offers 10 mono inputs and outputs, so you can hook up 4 decks alongside the software Sample Decks and Loop Recorder! The Traktor Audio 10 even features a microphone input, perfect for quickly hooking an MC into your set, and MIDI In and Out ports for syncing playback with external hardware (syths, drum machines, etc). The Traktor Audio 10 interface ships with Traktor Scratch Pro 2, allowing you to use up to 4 timecoded sources at once!
All the new Traktor hardware is built with the DJ in mind, with newly developed audio drivers and upgrades to the quality of the audio convertors, so now Traktor 2 produces crisper, more detailed audio than ever before, with less latency! The new interfaces also intuitively tackle the problem of switching DJs between sets. This is something that I have always thought needs to be refined before digital DJing fully takes over! Each Traktor 2 interface now features a direct Thru mode on each channel, which supplies an active bypass to allow for seamless transitions between artists. All you have to do is use the software to disable the channels you are disconnecting from, and then re-enable them once you are hooked up again!
However, in my opinion, the greatest improvement on the new interfaces has to be the improved LED feedback. For starters, they look really cool! But perhaps most importantly, this feature allows you to know exactly how the interface is set-up, even in a dark and dingy nightclub! This feature should completely eliminate any embarrassing mistakes, such as unplugging the wrong deck just as the crowd have gone mental!
TRAKTOR 2 - TIMECODE
If you still want to perform like a traditional DJ, but harness the awesome power of digital technology, then the Traktor Scratch Pro 2 or Traktor Scratch Duo 2 packages will be perfect for you! Each package comes with 2 timecoded CDs and vinyls. The vinyls work by having a 2 kHz control signal embedded onto them to enable completely realistic and ultra-fast scratching, backspins, and motor-offs! And they feel just like real vinyls, so if you are coming from a traditional background, you should be completely at home!
TRAKTOR 2 - SUMMARY
As you already know, the subject of digital DJing is one that I view with both excitement and frustration! But I have to say that Traktor 2 looks like a brilliant product, and as it's an improvement on the last version, it's got to be good!
However, the question on many seasoned Traktor users lips will be 'is it worth upgrading?' And I'm afraid I'm going to have to sit on the fence when it comes to answering this question, and say it depends what your needs are! If you are a highly experimental DJ, then I have no doubt that the upgrade will be worth it, as the Sample Decks and Loop Recorder will add another dimension to your sets, allowing you to work in a slightly different and more streamlined way. I can imagine these new features being put to some really interesting uses, allowing digital DJs to perform complex on-the-fly remixes all from one easy-to-use platform. I also really rate the new look and features of the hardware interfaces, so I would also recommend upgrading if you are a serious digital club DJ who is playing out regularly.
However, if neither of these fit your current status, then I would question the essential need for you to update (unless of course you just happen to have a load of spare cash lying around!) You can get special discount prices if you are updating from older versions of Traktor (click here for details), but if you aren't playing out regularly, or you are unlikely to use the Sample Decks/Loop Recorder, then I would question what you are spending your money on. A nicer looking, more customisable interface? A few extra effects? Slightly quicker sync mixing capablities? Slightly improved audio quality? It's all good stuff, but I would view all these little features as useful additions to the main upgrades that I mentioned earlier, and lets face it, the older version of Traktor is still a beast of a product! So, I will leave you with that, and let you make up your own mind! Traktor 2 is released on 1st April and will be available from Absolute Music!
For more information on Traktor Pro 2, click the link below: