For DJs like Manuela Krause, it’s the Traktor software, not the Stanton hardware, that makes digital DJing a draw. Now NI just has to figure out what hardware will be ideal for this market … perhaps a laptop-based cupholder for our cocktails? (I’d buy that, NI.)

Native Instruments, maker of the leading Traktor DJ software (now part of their DJ line, have quietly announced they’re ending their relationship with Stanton, the company that makes the vinyl-to-computer interface Final Scratch. Given that the Traktor/Final Scratch combination has been dominant in the DJ club world, that’s big news. Here’s what Native had to say announcing the “mutual” decision. (I cut the part where Stanton said “we’ve been together for several years now — where is this relationship going?” and Native said something about how they “really liked Stanton” but things had been getting a little “too hot and heavy” and that “maybe the best thing would be a break.”)

The successful partnership with Stanton Magnetics based on the pioneering FinalScratch digital DJ system will mutually expire in 2006, with both companies focusing on their respective product lines from that date on. Native Instruments will continue to maintain the FinalScratch user forum on its website until December 31st 2006.

I was planning on calling on my secret informant deep inside NI’s Berlin headquarters to find out what was going on, but it turns out it’s in black and white right in the press release:

In the future, the DJ Division of Native Instruments will completely concentrate its operations on the TRAKTOR platform, and will also develop integrated solutions for the DJ market based on its own internal hardware engineering capabilities and expertise.

There’s your answer: NI clearly wants to build their own hardware instead of relying on Stanton (unless they’re planning on using their “internal engineering capabilities and expertise” to build model airplanes or something).

So, good news or bad news? I think that depends entirely on what NI plans for their hardware. Personally, to me the core of what Traktor is is, well, Traktor. Now that NI has had some experience building a plug-in host in the form of Kore, it’d be great to see Traktor DJ take on plug-in support and other software features. And if there is hardware, it’ll be up to NI to prove they can offer something existing offerings don’t do already. Of course, for DJs who really want to redefine their techniques in digital terms, NI’s real strength is its wild sound-mangling capabilities in Reaktor, but I won’t kid myself about the size of the market for that — part of what makes it cool is that the experimental DJs doing crazy things with Reaktor are a radical, fringe group. The reality on Final Scratch may simply be that it’s a technology others can replicate; even M-Audio recently jumped in with its own hardware product line.

The best news: NI is dropping its confusing product names like “Traktor DJ Studio” and going with “Traktor”, which is what we called it anyway.

In the meantime, here’s my hope. I don’t think anything can replace the feel of real turntables, any more than I would give up playing acoustic pianos forever as a pianist. But there are a number of good products for connecting vinyl to Final Scratch. What there isn’t out there is a strong control surface for DJs, many of whom have developed new techniques in Traktor, Live, Reaktor, Max/MSP, and others, to say nothing of VJs. I’d love to see NI apply some experience to that; so far we’ve had a few knobs and foot pedals here and there, but no hardware that’s yet as striking as NI’s software.

  • Damon

    I'm no DJ and have never used dj gear, but I have heard there are latency issues with the Stanton rig. And knowing how finicky are the NI people, might they have parted with Stanton over such issues as latency and quality? I wonder if NI is going to build their own hardware controller that may be more compatible with their own software. I can't think of anything more frustrating to a DJ than latency while trying to get that scratchy feeling. PUSH PUSH…………..(steps out to the bathroom, comes back from the bathroom)………….scratch scratch…

  • Valis

    I think the latency issues existed in older versions and is why they were stuck on Linux for some time? There is still some effective latency now but in digital systems today you can't eliminate that, only minimize it. Just like playing any other instrument once you go below a certain threshold things become much more fluid.

    I think that the part about NI attempting to do a control surface is sadly buried beyond the main page of the article, because imo this market could be completely CORNERED through using an input fader for pitch that has higher resolution (OSC) than typical MIDI controller resolution. Certainly the layout of the rest of the controller is important as well if you want to replicate all of the traktor functions, but a high resolution fader could completely eliminate the turntable. Currently to use Traktor without final scratch input you'll probably have to map course & fine pitch both, and constrain the range of the fine pitch. With a programmable controller you can setup your faders to send pitch bend data rather than midi cc or note values and help matters considerably.

    A lot of the dj's I know in Cali are also moving to (or have moved to) Rane/Serato In addition to iTunes integration (which bores me personally) and better standalone hardware, the TTM-57 mixer is in more & more club installations. Personally I use CDJ's when I DJ because I dislike mucking around with connecting gear on whatever random setup I'm standing in front of, but the TTM-57 is appealing for a gigging dj because you simply step up & connect a single data cable to the laptop (you only need the software, not the standalone serato interface). However it's doubtful that the mixer will become the default standard everywhere in the world.

    On a different tack, I can also see a market for NI if they can partner 'Traktor 3 LE' (or current ver) with a very cost effective consumer grade interface. $150 or so would be a killer deal for the dabbling dj.

  • http://www.davidalvarado.com David Alvarado

    I've been using Final Scratch since day one. As one of the original beta testers I've seen it evolve. The biggest problem as a touring dj is the inconsitancy from club to club of the turntables. That is the weakest link in the chain. I've had a hard time leaving the FS vinyl at home and have thanked God for the Traktor platform when the timecode gets forever lost in mid set (reverting to key commands to mix). The power of the Traktor platform has left me seriously thinking of ditching the FS all together anyways..but..and I say but..nobody has addressed the power of the platform with any decent midi controller. That and the fact that the damn FS2 scratchamp would never (and now ever) work right with the Mac's leaves me in a daunting position..hopefully this break up will only flame the solutions and evolution of the 2 ground breaking ideas into some usefull and open ended in its possabilites.

  • http://www.djalfred.se Alfred

    The fact that the Kore controller isn't midi but another much more detailed/accurate technology is quite interesting DJ wise. If NI have made one such controller then they could make another one for Traktor with very tactile feel.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    For the record, MIDI is also capable of the same accuracy (in terms of # of steps). It's just generally, for convenience, lower-resolution data is used. But yes, assigning certain controls … like filter sweep or even the crossfader … could provide a nicer feel, sure.

  • DJ Galloway

    I've owned FS 2 for 2 1/2 years now, and have had no problems. I just need to know if Stanton will be upgrading it's product themselves.

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  • DJ Galloway

    Well guys, I've put sown F/S 2 and got Traktor Scratch. It runs laps around F/S and Serato.