It’s fair to say that Native Instruments have taken virtual DJ software to a new peak of excellence with the release of its OS X-compatible Traktor DJ Studio 2.0 Armed with nothing more than a PowerBook, you’re ready to play anywhere, any time.
Version 2.0 sports a much cleaner interface, the redesigned graphics giving a tidier, more professional appearance. Literally everything happens within one full-screen window – there are no menu-bar items at all. Rather, you simply hide any aspects of the program you aren’t using to allow more room for the rest.
Basic behaviours, such as mouse scratch transmission, pitch range (up to 100%), cross-fader speed and so on, are set in the Preferences option, while the Input section details any MIDI devices attached; you can use MIDI or keyboard shortcuts to control virtually every aspect of the program.
AIFF, Wav or MP3 files are supported, while the OS X version can also play tracks directly from a CD. If you’re using a basic two-channel stereo interface, you’ll either have to accept mono output or sacrifice the pre-listening option for stereo, so Native recommend an interface with a minimum of four mono outputs.
Audio files are located by scanning available drives, and in this respect storing your collection on an iPod is ideal: Traktor will import all titles and tags created in iTunes and you can mix tracks directly from the iPod, which appears in the Browser window.
Loading tracks is simply a matter of double-clicking or dragging them from the Browser window onto a deck. Icons indicate the status of each track – played, waiting and so on – and you can perform searches using fields such as keywords, title or beats per minute (BPM) values. Alternatively, using the Playlists feature you can line up your set beforehand and Traktor will auto load each song in turn, leaving you free to focus on other aspects of the mix.
There are often several ways to perform a given task in Traktor. To beat-match tracks in the mix, for instance, you can either manually adjust the tempo (and the pitch) or click the Sync button to have Traktor match both decks. Additionally, holding down Sync aligns the beats more or less precisely.
However, this synchronisation is likely to gradually drift. This is where Traktor’s new Beat Grid function comes in. Initially, it seems a complicated procedure, but is ultimately worth it as the Grid is precise to 1/100th of a beat. Once done for a given track, the information is stored within Traktor, making any future mixing much more accurate. The grid covers the entire song; too, so even ambient sections can be beat-matched.
Traktor’s mixer section replicates a hardware mixer and features a customisable cross-fader, peak meters, +/-12 db gain and autogain (to match both decks’ volume), a three-band EQ with kill switches and a separate volume for the headphone mix. Standard transport controls are provided and a mini-fader provides rapid scanning. The display also shows Cue and Loop points, with up to 10 editable Cue points possible per track.
Loops are incredibly easy to create: just click the Set/In button, followed by the Active/Out button. Traktor automatically starts a loop at the playback position, using the track tempo as a reference; it sounds perfect provided you choose the right spot. The loop range can be anything from 1/8 beat to an entire track, and you can even save the number of loop repetitions.
Traktor also has plenty of novel features for special effects. Waveforms can be scratched with the mouse, which is great, and programmable scratch macros can be created and automated. The Move buttons allow you to skip back and forth for 1/4 to 32 beats while the track plays, which is ideal for creating quick loops. And the Punch and Mute buttons are useful shortcuts for firing samples quickly into or out of a mix. To prevent accidentally ruining a decent mix, it’s advisable to activate the Lock Playing Deck function.
Traktor’s filter section is excellent. Notch, low, high and band-pass filters can be created and the manual illustrates good working examples. They all sound great and sweeping the controls back and forth quickly becomes addictive.
Record your mix
Finally, mixes can be recorded, with 10-step undo/redo allowing the DJ to perfect each section. You can also overdub new elements. The finished mix can then be exported as an audio file for burning in iTunes with individual track markers for a professional result.
Traktor DJ Studio 2.0 is an excellent product that benefits from Native’s expertise in other areas of music software and its increasing adoption by professional DJs. Feedback from users has resulted in the 2.0.3 update, bringing new features such as support for multiple CD drives, a Reverse button on each deck and the Live button, which disables functions such as Delete and Quit during a live performance. It’s hard to see any rival DJ programs topping this.