Native Instruments launches DJ-friendly audio format, Stems

Native Instruments has launched its new multi-channel audio file format, Stems, along with an update for Traktor aimed at taking advantage of the new system.

First announced in late March, Stems gives DJs access to four separate parts of a track's make-up - e.g bass, drums, leads and vocal - which can each be mixed, looped, filtered and treated with effects independently. While the concept might not be a million miles away from existing tools like NI's own remix sets, it's Stems' open nature that makes them unique.

Rather than using the format as a platform for 'official' partners only, NI are clearly putting a lot of effort into getting as many artists, labels and retailers involved. At present, digital music stores including Beatport, Juno and Bleep are already distributing Stems, with labels including Monkeytown/50Weapons, Hotflush, Shogun Audio, Run, Toolroom and loads more releasing tracks in Stem format.

Of most interest for producers, however, is NI's forthcoming Stem Creator Tool (pictured below), which will allow musicians to package and distribute their own music in the format. Inputting four audio files into the tool will produce a single .stem.mp4 file, which can be played as a standard stereo audio file by any digital player, or manipulated as four individual parts in Traktor. As well as offering an interesting way to distribute music, this has the potential to close the gap between live performance and DJing for artists looking to play their own tracks out without going down the full 'live' route.

To coincide with the launch of Stems, a new update to Traktor Pro, version 2.9, is available to download. This adds a new Stems deck type, for playing and manipulating Stems tracks. While any Traktor user can play Stems, and the Stems deck can be custom mapped to various controller types, owners of NI's Traktor Kontrol S8, D2 and F1 will get the most out of the new version, as each of these controllers has been designed with the new format in mind. We've tried mixing with Stems using both the S8 and D2, and can confirm that it's a hugely intuitive experience.

To mark the release Native Instruments are also offering savings of up to £170 on these Stems compatible hardware controllers. Meanwhile, Traktor Pro 2.9 is available now as a free download for existing Traktor Pro 2 users and the Stem Creator Tool is due for release in the coming weeks. Head to the Native Instruments site for more info.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.