Best Professional DJ Software 2016: Traktor Pro is a Dj Software package by Berlin-based Native Instruments. It’s the software of choice of many (German) techno DJs and as such heavily influenced in its choices by the needs of those type of DJs.
In this article, I want to check how Traktor Pro handles several key points DJs should be paying attention to when they have to choose a DJ software package, so you can make an informed choice.
Choosing the right DJ software is more important than choosing your first controller, as your choice of software will follow you for a good while into your DJ career.
The points that this article will cover, are the following:
- DJ controller support
- Performance features
- IOS/Android app
- Beatgridding & Sync
- DVS capabilities
- Video capabilities
But for now, let’s dive into Traktor Pro!
Traktor Pro is currently at version 2.11, and with the integration of Stems, and the new Sequencer functionality it continues to appeal to the creative DJ controllerist/performing producers.
Traktor Pro is very popular with DJs that focus on electronic music that by its very nature is very bpm stable. By that, I mean that during the track, the BPM doesn’t vary.
Many of its more advanced performance features such as the Sequencer, Stems and Remix Decks rely on a very stable bpm. Therefore Traktor Pro is not very suited if you tend to play music with BPM that varies a lot, usually older music or live music.
Midi Controller Support
Traktor Pro works best with Native Instruments controllers, such as the Traktor Kontrol S8, S5, S4, S2, D2, X1 or F1. Since Traktor Pro supports its own controllers natively, everything is just smooth and responsive as it should be.
But, Traktor Pro can be midi mapped to any DJ controller that supports the midi protocol (which is most of them). Most popular DJ controllers have mappings for Traktor Pro. A good place to find them is the maps database at DjTechTools.com. Don’t expect an operation or integration that is as smooth as when using a Native Instruments controller though.
Native Instruments also has a full list of supported controllers up on their site, but note that this list seems to be a bit outdated.
Our top picks
Below a list of Traktor Pro DJ controllers that I recommend for professional use:
|The Traktor Kontrol S8 is the top of the line Traktor Pro controller from Native Instruments, with support for every current feature (stems, sequencer, remix decks), including two high res full-color screens. Buy at Amazon.|
|If you don’t need the full power of the S8, but still want a similar workflow and the build in screens, the Traktor Kontrol S5 is your choice. Buy at Amazon.|
|Finally, if you are happy with basic controller features and don’t see the point of onboard screens, the Traktor Kontrol S4 is the most affordable all-in-one 4 channel solution for Traktor Pro. And it has jog wheels! Buy at @ Amazon.|
Effects is another strong point of Traktor Pro. Traktor Pro has more than 30 high-quality effects. Traktor Pro has 3 effect channels per deck that can be activated individually or can be used in a chain. Different settings can be adapted per effect, in order to fine-tune the output as desired.
Traktor Pro is performance oriented Dj software, and it has many features that push DJs beyond the classical 2 deck (or four decks) mixing.
Remix Decks + Sequencer
The remix decks are essentially a way to load and play samples packages in a structured and layered way. It was introduced a few years ago together with the Traktor Kontrol F1.
Since the release of Traktor Pro 2.11, it’s possible to use the Remix decks as a sequencer, effectively allowing you to sequence your samples – drum loops, vocals, synths – on the fly and create completely new sounds in the process. Check the video below for a demonstration.
Ableton Link Integration
Ableton Link is now available in Traktor Pro 2.11, allowing for different devices that support Ableton Link to sync together in a very straightforward and simple way. Many IOS music production apps already support Link, now Traktor Pro is on the train as well. Check out the demo video below to learn more.
Traktor Pro has an IOS application that integrates many of the effects that are available in the desktop application. Traktor DJ maximizes the use of the touchscreen to manipulate loops, and there is Freeze Mode to remix tracks on the fly.
Check out the video below to get a feeling on how one of Traktor DJ’s performance features, the SuperSlicer, works:
Beatgridding and Sync
Going into details on how Traktor Pro syncs and beat grids your tracks would be the subject of an entire article by itself. So let’s cover the basics here. Traktor Pro syncs tracks against what is called the Master Clock. Traktor has different sync modes you can choose from: Beat Sync, Tempo Sync, and Phase Sync.
The default mode is Beat Sync. In this mode, Traktor will match the phase and the beat of the track using the beat grid of each track. Therefore it’s very important that the Beatgrid in Traktor Pro is correctly detected. If not, you will have to adjust it manually. Tempo sync will not look at the tracks phase and just focus on the beat grids. Finally, Phase sync will focus on syncing the phase of two tracks, but will not sync the beat grid.
What is important to remember is that Traktor Pro doesn’t have a way to properly beat grid tracks that have variable BPMs, a feature that other DJ packages do have. So if your style will include lots of older music that will less likely be easy to correctly beat grid by Traktor Pro, you might want to consider other packages.
A pretty good explanation on how Traktor manages sync & beat gridding was posted a while ago at ask.audio over here.
Native Instruments has a dedicated package to work with DVS (Digital Vinyl System): Traktor Scratch Pro. This package can be used with a sound card and timecode Vinyl and/or CDs to use traditional turntables, mixers, and media players to control the Traktor Software.
Native Instruments sells Traktor Scratch Pro in conjunction with their certified Traktor Pro audio soundcard (most current model is the Traktor Audio 10), the timecode for vinyl and cds for USD 499 at Amazon.com.
You can also buy the package without the soundcard if you have Traktor Scratch Certified equipment.
If you want to see Traktor Scratch in action, check out DJ Craze’s amazing live performance, with a good view on the gear:
A the time of writing, Traktor Pro has no video capabilities.
So is Traktor Pro your software of choice? It might be, but a few things are important to keep in mind when making your choice:
- Traktor Pro is at its best with tightly beatgridded tracks. If you play electronic music or at least recent music, you will feel at home.
- Be prepared to use Native Instruments dedicated controllers, as these work best and are deeply integrated with Traktor Pro.
- If you love platters/jogwheels, go for a Traktor Scratch package and be ready to invest in mixers & turntables, as most recent Traktor Kontrol controllers don’t have jog wheels at all. If jogs are your thing and don’t want to make investments to use them, you might want to look at other packages.
If all the above boxes tick off for you, Traktor Pro might well be your software of choice!