Traktor's grip on the digital DJ world continues to tighten. For a long time, Serato was the only name on DJs lips when it came to timecode control, but over the past three years, NI have done a fantastic job of selling Traktor not only to House and Techno DJs for its rock-solid simplicity but to the Hip Hop DJs who adopted Serato so extensively.
This was helped in part by their incredibly successful Maschine campaign and just like the MPC advocates have swarmed over its orange pads, Serato has found itself with stiff competition in the form of Traktor Scratch Pro.
Now with the SP-6 sampling functions of Serato implemented in Traktor Pro 2 via the Sample Decks, the battle for the booth continues to heat up.
So what else is new?
Users of the flagship Kontrol S4 controller will already be at home with Traktor Pro 2. After all, the two main additions to Pro 2 have already seen the light of day in the bespoke version Traktor Pro S4 - namely the Sample Deck and Loop Recorder.
Without jaunting over old territory, they are simple but effective performance options based on sampling and retriggering. Sample Deck can load in either dedicated loops or one shots from your track collection or 'sample' from a loop currently activated in the Track Deck into one of its four slots - although it doesn't actually 'record' it in real-time, it's instantly transferred to its new home.
The Sample Deck does need to occupy one of your four decks, but once it's been assigned, it has access to all of the processing any standard track would, such as filter, EQ and effects. However, each sample slot in the Deck also has its own volume and filter control independent of the channel.
If it seems like having to loop before you can transfer a live recording into the deck is a bit of a hindrance, the Loop Recorder is your friend. This nifty addition will let you record on the fly, quantised to a predetermined length, measured in beats from four to 32.
One thing that's kind of missing is an on/off button as cutting it in and out can sound great, but there's always a small fade via the Dry/Wet control. This is the way Traktor lets you sample on the fly without looping, and in fairness it's a pretty tidy solution.
It doesn't end there though as not only can Loop Recorder take its input from the master out, any cued signal or an aux input (and external when using Ext Mixer mode) it can also be overdubbed for loop layering. Considering its power and potential, NI have done a great job of keeping it simple and in combination with the Sample Deck, it will definitely raise one or both eyebrows from the Ableton Live performance crowd.
Apart from the Sample Deck and Loop Recorder, the other obvious addition is that of coloured waveforms. As well as being able to zoom in to almost sample level, you can now also change the colour of the waveforms in both Deck types. The brighter shades represent higher frequencies while the darker ones represent lower ones. While there are three other options beside the default - Infrared, X-Ray and Spectrum - there is no option to turn it off, which is odd.
It's designed for you to mix your tracks visually, identifying the kick and snare, for example, even if the transients are identical. Anyone who's used Serato Scratch Live or Deckadance will recognise this visual treat but it's more for scratch DJs than anyone syncing four-four.
Alongside some new effects in the form of Tape Delay, Ramp Delay, Auto Bouncer and Bouncer, a whole heap of one shot and loop content from Loopmasters' DJ Tech Tools series and twists and tweaks in the preferences, that's about it for Traktor Pro 2.
NI have refined the way sync works in Traktor Pro 2. Now, in preferences you can set which sync type you want to use - either TempoSync or BeatSync.
TempoSync will ignore the phase metre when the sync button is pressed and simply ensure that the tempos of the tracks are matching. Now if you manually nudge a track or scratch, it won't automatically turn off sync or jump back into phase with the Master.
It feels much more natural mixing this way and although you might need some practice to get used to it if you rely heavily on sync, it is a very welcome addition.
BeatSync keeps tempo and phase locked down so any scratching ends with a jump back to phase alignment. Depending on how you want to work, both settings perform well and are noticeably better than previous versions.
Put quite simply, if you're looking to get in to digital DJing either from vinyl, CDJs or from scratch (ahem) Traktor is the first software you should check out. It really is that good.
For current users that's where it gets more difficult. NI admit that not all custom mappings will be seamlessly ported so you may have to test your setup extensively before your first gig with TP2, although we found no issues.
You will also need to re-analyse your collection thanks to the new strip view and sync functionality. This could take anything from a few hours to a few days depending on the size of your library. It's not really about the price as much as it is about the turnover time. However, TP2 does not install over your current TP.
Right on Trak
If we were to find fault with TP2, we would say that it's becoming a tad bloated. Laptop screen sizes aren't getting any bigger and NI are trying to pack even more into the interface. There is a danger of it becoming crowded and the coloured waveforms only add to the amount of information you're taking in.
Although you can hide everything you don't need, you're not making the most of what you've paid for. While it's a bit of a stretch to call this a 'flaw', we're hoping NI put the brakes on in terms of bolting on to the interface for the foreseeable future, or release an iOS and Android browser app to search and load from your device, so your mixer, decks and effects can rule the screen - just a thought.
Also, there was a considerable difference in the CPU usage of Traktor Pro and TP2 - something to keep in mind if you were already stretching the limit of your laptop. Traktor Pro 2 might not be a huge update in terms of features, but it tweaks and refines an already streamlined DJ tool.
We can imagine some DJs never even looking at the Sample Deck or Loop Recorder and still loving TP2 for its sync overhaul while we can imagine others completely changing their performance approach to cater for its power. Whichever one you are, there's enough here to keep Traktor powering ahead of the pack, yet again.