../ Native Instruments Announces Traktor 3
Will It Deliver?
Native Instruments announced the third incarnation
of Traktor, their DJ mixing software, would be available in November for $279. Traktor, which owes its popularity
more to Native's marketing muscle than it its features, aims to meet its critics head-on by
addressing many of the problems that have plagued the
software from the start.
Considering Native Instruments' (NI) pedigree of
groundbreaking software synthesizers, samplers and drum machines, Traktor has always been the one product that never
fired on all cylinders. The processor hungry application often provided jittery playback, even with the latest
computers, and the mixing environment looked more apropos for flying a F-16 fighter jet, then DJing. If Traktor was
released by a small manufacturer, it's very doubtful the software would have made it to version 2.
However, with Native's
reputation, distribution network and promotion machine, not to mention very little competition when Traktor first bowed,
the software was adopted by computer DJs around the world.
Traktor 3's new resizable and customizable interface.
The aforementioned deficits notwithstanding, the biggest
problem we had here at Futuremusic was that Native didn't take the DJ paradigm to the next level. This is
Native Instruments we're talking about. The same company that brought us Reaktor and Absynth. Why was Traktor
such a dog? No innovative interface. No mind-melting, beat synchronized effects. No rock-solid playback and mixing.
Well NI aims to meet the demands of their users,
not only because they want to, but because they have to...
Traktor is not only a stand-alone application for
computer DJing, but it also is the software behind Final Scratch and Beatport's free DJ platform. NI had to kick
it into gear because the underdogs were catching up and even surpassing Traktor.
The biggest ass-kicking Traktor received was from
Serato's Scratch Live. Serato's dynamic software component didn't nearly have the bells and whistles of Traktor, but
it was robust, stable and demonstrated what a provocative and useful graphical DJ interface could be in a software
environment. Serato positioned the waveforms from the two sources next to each other like the double yellow
lines on a highway, something that escaped PCDJ, Traktor and other DJ software applications, yet is so obviously useful
that this attribute alone made Serato the sleeper hit
of the industry. Now, DJs could visually, as well as aurally mix music. It was just this type of paradigm
shift that really should have come from an innovator like Native Instruments, but it didn't, and hopefully
it was just the wake-up call they needed.
The Native Instruments press release of the new
features and upgrades in Traktor read like a laundry list of improvements that every serious mixologist would have
insisted on for the next version. The first action-item, that actually will be met with audible cheers from
prior Traktor users, is the ability to resize and even
customize the interface. The interface is now fully resizable and will be able to adapt to any screen size and aspect ratio.
NI has grouped individual elements, such as the EQ section, Cueing, Looping and other facets into what it calls
"control modules." The DJ will now be able to place
each of these control modules in a custom configuration based on his/her style.
Number two on the list of must improvements was the
addition of more sound sources, and NI delivered. Traktor now offers four, full-featured playback decks. Now
DJs can mix four sources simultaneously and creatively integrate loops and samples for remixing on the fly. Sweet!
Each of the four decks in Traktor DJ Studio 3 is fully equipped with zoomable waveform displays, comprehensive cueing
and looping, and Traktor's time stretching algorithm providing excellent audio quality even when pushed beyond normal
Effects is where Traktor really fell short. A
respectable sounding, but convoluted Filter effect is all that Traktor offered, and we were left scratching our heads why
a software application would leave us wanting in an area where it could easily trump hardware. Truth is,
effects are dangerous territory - a minefield where a simple
misstep could easily result in an overblown and obvious mix. However, certain taming attributes like wet/dry parameters,
which are costly trimmings in hardware, could easily be instituted in a software interface. However, NI's engineers were
tackled in the backfield when they got the ball. An unfriendly Filter effect is not what we expected, and NI failed
to shine by taking beat synchronized effects to the next
level. Thus, a new Effects section came in on our list at number three.
In their announcement NI states that it completely revamped
the effects section and Traktor now offers an "arsenal" of beat-synchronized performance effects. NI added a new high-quality
Filter, a Beat Masher, a Flanger, a Delay and several Reverb effects which can instantly be sync'd with the music with a click
of a button. The effects can also be inserted on individual channels and/or the master section of the mixer.
Coming in at number four on our wish list was surround sound
implementation. Native Instruments has implemented surround very effectively on the most recent updates of Absynth and
Reaktor, but unfortunately Traktor will not have that ability.
Considering the possibilities, it's really a shame.
A close up of Traktor 3's new DJ Deck - Notice the Xone EQ on the left.
Native Instruments did surprise us with a couple of provocative
new features. First off, is the emulation of the mixer section of the
Allen & Heath
Xone:92 mixer. This premium DJ mixer is a favorite of hardcore mixers and features tasty 4-band EQ and a killer
Filter section. NI worked directly with Allen & Heath to
accurately model the characteristics of this premium mixer right down to the channel fader and cross fader behavior.
In addition, Traktor can also replicate the EQ sections of the Pioneer DJM-600 and the Ecler Nuo4, and
I'm sure we'll see other popular mixers emulated in future
Native Instruments also implemented macros in this
version of Traktor. Multiple parameter changes can now be recorded and then instantly replayed with the click of a button.
Intricate knob and fader movements can now be accessed anytime during a mix to create spectacular performances without breaking
a sweat. That' what we're talkin' about!
Beatport.com's online record store built right in!
Native Instruments has also fully implemented Beatport's
online dance music store into Traktor 3. The complete Beatport catalog of over 1200 labels from around the world
can now be accessed directly within the browser section of Traktor, allowing DJs to preview and purchase the latest club
music releases. This is enormous and will be bookmarked
by digital music industry watchers as a major paradigm shift. This union of NI and Beatport is the first major implementation
of a digital music store from within the interface of an application. Beatport was already two generations ahead
of their competition. This could push them into the
From the looks of things, this appears to be the Traktor we've
all been waiting for. Years of exasperation and cursing may have finally created a program that brings computer mixing into
the new millennium. We always knew NI could pull this off and now we'll just have to wait until November to give Traktor a
The Future: If Native Instruments delivers on the
hype and feature set of the Traktor 3 announcement, then DJs, both computer and analog, will rejoice.
In the future, we'd really like to see a dedicated hardware controller for Traktor 3. Maybe the positive collaboration between
Allen & Heath and Native will yield a new controller in 2006. Allen & Heath is now bringing to market a DJ mixer/controller
dubbed the Xone:3D.
Can a Traktor/Xone hybrid be in the works? One can only hope.
Even if Traktor 3 doesn't meet the lofty expectations of this announcement, The real win has been scored by Beatport. I don't
know if Beatport co-founders Jonas Temple and Brad Roulier each had to give up their first-born child and/or a choice part of
their anatomy for this strategic alliance, but even if they did, it was probably worth it.
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