Traktor DJ iPad App Review: Near Perfect Digital DJing

NI-Traktor-iPad

DJ iPad apps have been around for years, and on whole they’ve always been a bit hit and miss, generally falling into two categories: a midi controller or a virtual deck setup – neither of which particularly works well on a small tablet touchscreen.

Well, those days are behind us as the company behind Traktor, Native Instruments, has released its first attempt at a DJ app. Their vision for Traktor DJ is all about using the iPad’s best feature: touch. They’ve come up with a system that uses pinches, swipes and taps to manipulate the music – a system that is a lot of fun to begin with, but has the necessary depth to keep you coming back for months to truly master it.

“We’ve taken our time to come to market,” says product designer Scott Hobbs. “We wanted to stop and think about this: how could we break down the digital DJing interface? We didn’t want to emulate the vinyl interface. There’s been too much skeuomorphism to date, so we really broke the interface apart and rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

When you fire up the app you’re greeted with a layout that is strikingly similar to their previous software, perfect for anyone who has used their DJ software before. Basically, you’ve got a 2-channel mixer and two virtual decks. Select one of the decks and you’re taken to your library of tracks, they are then arranged by song, album, tempo or key. Once you chosen a track you’re asked whether you want to load the mp3 into channel 1 or 2 – with either channel flashing if a track is already playing, a simple reminder so you don’t load the mp3 into the wrong channel and cut the music.

To mix two tracks of a similar tempo and key requires very little work, as the app relies on Native Instruments auto tempo detection whilst the iTunes integration turns your iPad into a virtual crate to dig through.

Traktor-DJ-FX

On top of the standard mixing functionality you’ve got full channel EQs, filters, and 8 effects to combine into your mixes. And this is where Traktor comes into its own, mixing two tracks together in the 21st century isn’t that hard or exciting, but where it become exciting is layering loops over tracks, adding your own effects and generally trying to combine as many of those at once. Obviously this doesn’t work out all the time, but give the app to some who is a dab hand at mixing and they’ll be able to do mixes that a DJ with CDJs and an expensive mixer wouldn’t be able replicate.

At the heart of the app is Traktor’s acclaimed sync engine that keeps tracks locked together so mixes hit hard and on time. Traktor DJ app also syncs up to Traktor Pro 2, allowing users to share track data, beat grids, BPM counts, and set cue points – making the app both a companion app for Pro users and all-in-one DJ solution for iPad owners who want to DJ at parties or at home.

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One feature that’s exclusive to Traktor’s DJ App is a “freeze and slice” a feature that allows you manipulate waveforms with gestures like swipes and pinches, allowing you to slice a track into playable parts and remix it on the fly. If you grab the waveform with two fingers you can set a loop, widen your fingers and the loop with increase in size, and you can punch out with a quick two-finger tap.

Another clever addition is the notification centre, this allows you read up on the all functionality of the app, but it also suggests techniques and features you haven’t used yet – giving the app the ability to actually teach you.

Traktor-DJ-EQ

Elsewhere, you can add up to eight cue points to any track, allowing you jump to the breakdown or main drive from anywhere within the track without it ever stopping or going out time.

Another feature that we were really impressed with is the ability to record mixes from within the app that can then be downloaded and shared to friends or fans.

If you’re a bedroom DJ looking to have a bit fun on long journeys, or a professional DJ who want to prepare their sets before the getting to the club – Traktor DJ is a must. It strikes that perfect balance between a professional tool and a fun app that lets anyone have a go at DJing. This desire for mainstream and professional appeal is reflected in Traktor DJ’s price: £13.99 –matching Djay, which is probably the most high-profile iPad DJing app to date. But quite frankly DJay pales in comparison to Native Instruments’ first attempt at an all-in-one DJ app in both scope and functionality.

Traktor Kontrol F1: Live looping and sampling on the fly

As Electronic music finally penetrates American mass culture 20 years after it reached European Shores – music hardware sales are rocketing with the advent of digital mixing.

Digital mixing isn’t anything knew as there are a plethora of programs and software solutions, which makes the laborious task of beat matching as simple as making a slice of toast.

NI-Tracktor-Kontrol

The digital vs analog argument with run and run, with purists arguing the essence of turntablism has been lost via technology company’s constant pursuit of the perfect mix. Analogue purist will always insist if you take the human element out of DJing then what’s left is just a man, or woman, stood behind a laptop essentially checking their email.

Traktor over the last 5 years have built reputation as the go-to company for digital mixing. Their software allows almost anyone to learn to mix with little or no knowledge. You can always use the synch button and never have to worry about an impending car-crash mix or use the system like a virtual DJ setup where you need to do the basics like you would with a traditional vinyl/CD setup.

Their new Kontrol F1 midi controller looks to marry the old with the new, and from the face of it is the best compromise between digital advances and the skill of a good DJ.

The new system is aimed at one particular group of DJs: Scratchers. Most modern day mixing takes place where two tracks need to be seamlessly woven together to continue the groove of a DJ set. The other school of DJing is scratching and beat juggling, which is were the origin of mixing comes from, firmly anchored within the world of hip-hop and DMC champions.

The new system allows users to mix an endless amount of loops and samples live, via two time-encoded vinyl’s, and the new F1 midi launch controller – whilst the software allows you imprint any digital sound file upon the two blank vinyl’s. Instead of mixing two full tracks, the Kontrol F1 has been firmly aimed at DJs who uses loops and samples. It comes with 16 multi-color LED pads, where you launch clips in a perfectly intuitive, DJ-centric way, switching between up to 64 tracks, loops and one-shot samples on each Remix Dec.

From the controller you can control every function of the software and digital decks. You’ll be able to controlling sync, select your preferred quantize method, sample size, reverse and other functionality. The comprehensive global section also features a push encoder to switch through the four pages of the 16 pads and offers a ‘Capture’ button, which allows DJs to grab samples from running tracks of each track deck within the TRAKTOR software, both before and during the actual DJ performance.

Each regular track deck within TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 can be switched to a Remix Deck, offers dedicated transport, sync and tempo master controls. This allows DJs to control an entire Remix Deck via Native Scratch timecode control with vinyl or CDs, or using the jog wheels of the KONTROL S4 and KONTROL S2 hardware.

TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 will be available on May 30th for a suggested retail price of $279 / 249 EUR at authorized retailers and at the NI Online Shop It will ship with a full version of TRAKTOR PRO 2.5. All owners of TRAKTOR PRO 2, TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO, TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 and TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 will receive TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 as a free update from May 30th.