Traktor Pro is the successor to Traktor 3, and users of this version will be met with a brand new GUI on their first boot of this new software. The first thing you notice is that the waveform display has changed from a red-on-yellow overkill to a sleek light-yellow-on-lead-grey eye-pleaser.
Next big difference, and probably the biggest change in terms of functionality, is that everything associated with a deck is located around it. The Traktor 3 mentality of every aspect of each deck, apart from the most basic controls, being displayed on the top panel is no more.
Thank God for that too - the last thing you want from DJ software is confusion, and anyone who's used Traktor in the past will know that the Page layout was far from ideal in a live situation.
Now, your loops (which we'll talk more about later), BPM grids and cue lists (which have become much more advanced) are all controlled from the layout surrounding the waveform.
Moving to the mixer and, before you even read a single word, the size difference is immense. In fact, everything in Traktor Pro's new GUI is bigger. Again, it's not rocket science that you need to be able to clearly see everything that's going on in a dark club at 3am after many drinks
In creating this new mixer, it feels and looks like NI took all of the user-feedback as well as their own technical knowledge and combined the two very successfully. In a space previously occupied by the EQ and Master effects parameters now lies a 3-band EQ, a Key knob for transposing and a very convenient one-knob filter - a blessing when limited knobs are available on your chosen hardware controller.
The effects remain up top, but there's only one page and the new effects routing system provides each channel with FX 1 and 2 buttons. Simply put: the 1 button routes the channel to FX1 and the 2 button routes the channel to FX2. That said, there's no stopping you routing one channel to two effects sections for multiple effects on one signal path.
The familiar four-knob-four-button effects section remains, but with new all-important Advanced and Chained modes.
Advanced gives you the familiar effect section: select an effect and its parameters appear. Chained mode is where it gets interesting: this lets you 'chain' three effects together in one section with a simple Dry/Wet control for each effect.
Essentially, this means you can have up to six effects at once per channel. That's a lot of sound control. To top things off, there are now 20 effects to choose from, as apposed to the five in Traktor 3. There are some great additions too, including Iceverb, Gater and Mulholland Drive.
It sounds as if the effects are running behind the sound, rather than over-bearing it, which keeps things flowing (in fact, this seems to be the ethos behind the new Traktor). What's more, you can now save your effects settings as a snapshot that loads automatically when you select that effect - a feature sorely missing from T3.
Below the effects, the Browse and Search section has had a makeover, too, incorporating much bigger font sizes for track names and an eye-pleasing cover art addition, designed to make it feel like you're looking through a CD/vinyl box.
We're not sure how much DJs care about this, but it's a nice touch all the same and adds more chic and colour to an already stylish new look.
So, you get it - it looks great, but does it all work like it's supposed to? In short: yes. The interface has removed the visual confusion of previous versions and you are free to be creative.
The Cue Point section now sits happily below the track waveform rather than being buried in a Page up top. For those of you who shied away from using these in previous versions, you'll be happy to hear that, not only is their new location one hundred-times better, but they've also developed a new technique: quantise.
Each cue point can be quantised to a value of 1, creating seamless track jumps - not unlike another 'live' software package we know and love. You can store up to eight cue points per track these can be configured either before your set or on the fly.
We did have some problems with Traktor's BPM detect when we first started loading up tracks. It was convinced that our 128bpm four-to-the-floor tracks were 60-something bpm.
After some fiddling around, we found the 'x2' button, and we were rolling again. Thankfully, once you correct the bpm, it won't get it wrong again for that track.
Another issue we had was, when using a low-latency and searching through a track using Vinyl mode, we got a lot of crackling if another deck was playing. The latency had to be set quite high (over 20ms) for the crackling to stop. Not a huge issue, though, and it's likely to be user-specific (for this review we were using a 2GHz MacBook with 2GB RAM running OS X 10.5.5).
When it comes to hardware control, NI has included a bunch of pre-mapped TSIs (previously TKSs) for the most popular controllers out there. We tested the Behringer DDM4000 TSI with relative success, although the mappings were a bit awkward. However, the TSIs save a lot of time and are definitely adequate starting points.
Speaking of settings, NI have introduced Import and Export functions. Export saves every setting of your preferences (soundcard, latency, mappings, browser and deck settings etc) to a tiny file which you can then bring to the pre-installed laptop in the club.
The important thing to stress about this update is that it makes you feel comfortable. NI has done their usability homework and it's paid off in spades. It's a natural progression from the previous version, and a step in the right direction for Traktor and digital DJing in general. Traktor fans - get it. Now.
Hear Traktor Pro's Iceverb, Gater and Transpose effects: