NI_Traktor_DJ

It’s not a controller app. It’s not a “my first DJ app.” Native Instruments has released a full, two-deck version of Traktor, built from the ground up for the iPad, that nonetheless does essentially what the desktop app can. The same team behind the desktop Traktor has reconceived the library, effects, looping, sample navigation, and mixing around touch.

CDM has been testing the result with the developers and in release candidate builds. You can use Traktor DJ for iPad on a bus, or – if you’re Richie Hawtin or on vacation – on the beach. You can then turn around, sync what you’ve done to Traktor on your “desktop” Mac or PC – or skip the whole sync thing and just DJ with an iPad.

What’s a bit surprising about all of this is that NI may have built a Traktor that appeals to a wider audience than the original. Having been instrumental in popularizing first digital vinyl, then digital control systems, NI could prove the company that takes the iPad into the club.

Now, this isn’t Traktor Pro – no massive libraries of effects or four-deck rigs. But what you do get is:

  • Two decks
  • Two channels, each with 3-band EQ and filter section
  • Eight Traktor effects – for now, you can use one at a time per channel. (High on my list would be chaining filters on the X/Y pad, a la Korg KAOSS Quad, etc.)
  • Waveform manipulation, looping, scratching, cueing
  • Full library features
  • Two-way sync with Traktor Pro – all your library files, cue points, and the like can go in both directions. So you can set some new sample loops on a plane, then go back to your laptop for a DJ set.

Let’s talk about what all this feels like to use.

Tap the 'Freeze' button, and you can trigger slices of a sound - matched to beat grid - for a sampler-style experience of a track. It's a hell of a lot of fun, and something we'll cover in more detail soon.

Tap the ‘Freeze’ button, and you can trigger slices of a sound – matched to beat grid – for a sampler-style experience of a track. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and something we’ll cover in more detail soon.

Functionality like the EQ is cleverly mapped to touch.

Functionality like the EQ is cleverly mapped to touch.

Touching sound, now for DJing. This may all sound a bit vanilla, but the actual experience of using these features via a touch point is radically different. Using gestures like pinch and swipe, you can more easily surf and scrub a waveform with your fingers. Setting cue points and looping, for instance, is as easy as gesturing directly on the waveform display.

You can slice the waveform into parts and trigger bits of a sound – all locked to tempo grid if you so choose – and make beat grids in real-time.

This could also be the end of the silly use of turntable metaphors on iPads – the plague that infects other iPad DJ apps. Instead of looking at a picture of a record, which makes it difficult to see what you’re doing, lacks the tactile feedback of a real turntable, and behaves in unexpected ways, you scrub around a waveform. In fact, the experience is so good I fully expect some music makers to pick up Traktor DJ and use it as a production tool, making it into a sample/loop app instead of a DJ app. There are other apps dedicated to that purpose, but Traktor DJ has some neat tricks – and NI’s effects – that could make it an appealing instrument and sound design tool.

Make no mistake: Traktor DJ on iPad could help people make some really awful DJ sets. (It’s a shame we didn’t record the terrible sounds I made with it in my first play.) But with some practice, it could mean for DJs who don’t just want to mix tracks, the possibility of doing some clever looping and slicing in a new way that could be genuinely musical.

Tempo changes get an interface control that recalls the old iPod scroll wheel. Ah, memories.

Tempo changes get an interface control that recalls the old iPod scroll wheel. Ah, memories.

Apart from sample slicing, effects are perhaps the most fun part of Traktor DJ on the iPad. You get the same wild-sounding NI effects from the desktop, now with a nice, X/Y pad interface. (In fact, NI, maybe a separate effects app is in order? Reaktor for iPad? One can dream...)

Apart from sample slicing, effects are perhaps the most fun part of Traktor DJ on the iPad. You get the same wild-sounding NI effects from the desktop, now with a nice, X/Y pad interface. (In fact, NI, maybe a separate effects app is in order? Reaktor for iPad? One can dream…)

Library functionality and recommendations. Finger-remixing is likely not for everyone – you need some finger dexterity and improvisational musicality with samples. What will appeal to everyone is the library functionality. On the iPad, Traktor DJ integrates with your iTunes Library directly. (Hope you bought a 32GB or, ideally, even 64GB model.) The same tempo detection and sync engine from the desktop version work their magic on your collection of tunes, now with precise downbeat analysis. (If it’s wrong, it’s also easier to correct than ever before, by gently swiping on the waveform rather than mucking about with the mouse. That may not sound a whole lot more intuitive, but trust me, it is.)

Traktor DJ also does something DJ apps haven’t done before: it builds a recommendation engine into the app itself. That seems to me to be inevitable in the Spotify and Last.fm age. While it may make some DJs cringe, the software itself now uses tempo, key, and even timbre metadata to work out what music will match well with what you’re playing. This same functionality is on its way to Traktor Pro, too, via today’s 2.6.1 update (which also provides sync functionality). I have some speculation about the deeper meaning of this move, but it’s only fair to save that discussion for a separate article. (This will also be a good time to go into the significance of machine algorithms for recommendations generally, a topic I covered with some colleagues including fellow Berlin resident BarbNerdy at Campus Party last summer.)

The details of sync, audio interfacing:

Now, some of your likely questions answered.

Cueuing has been the big question mark on iPad DJ apps. You can use a splitter cable, yes, though that means DJing only in glorious mono. (Fine for some clubs, but, really? This is 2013.)

With Core Audio support, Traktor DJ does the better thing: it works with any class-compliant audio device, including the Traktor Audio 6 and Traktor Audio 10, via USB and the iPad Camera Connection Kit. That cuts down on portability a bit, sure, but it also makes this a real DJ solution when you’re actually playing in front of people.

Sync works via Dropbox accounts. It uses only metadata, so even a free account will cover you. Beat grids, cue points, loops and BPM transfer between desktop and tablet.

What isn’t there, apart from four decks (though that seems it’d be overkill on iPad)? You don’t get MIDI control, for one, which would have been nice, though the touch interface is lovely. And you can’t really customize the interface very much. So, I think there is a window for a different DJ app to rival Traktor with a distinct approach; this market isn’t over yet.

You’ll need an iPad 2 or better; I think it’s safe to say the first-generation iPad is mostly a paperweight at this point, unfortunately, as far as developers are concerned. However, the iPad mini is a really beautiful device; I don’t own one, but tested one at NI, and it’s fantastic. Performance is slick, the interface is perfectly reasonable, and you can hold it in one hand.

Price: US$ 19.99 / 17.99 € / 1700 ¥
Available now. iOS 6 or later required.
www.AppStore.com/TRAKTORDJ

Videos

Yep, it’s Richie Hawtin time. Oh, it’s fine, Rich. You enjoy testing Traktor on the beach; I’m having a … great time … in this … Berlin … winter. Ahem.

(I can tell you, having talked to NI, I don’t think this is as staged as it may appear. Richie really did play this at BPM. Good thing that iPad is thin and compact, and no one could see Traktor on the tablet before it was released! And yes, Richie Hawtin is a brave early adopter – not everyone would do a big gig like this on an app they just started testing.)

DE:BUG has a great review in German.

Photos courtesy Native Instruments.

Heh… watch for our images next week, probably not including me as a hand model.

  • autoy

    Can anyone comment how does it work if you have iTunes Match enabled? dJay kinda gets around it, though not in a perfect way.

    • Devin

      It doesn’t recognize music that isn’t downloaded to your device. Actually, even after I downloaded songs it took several force-closes of the app before it finally rescanned and saw the songs there. It made me kind of sad.

    • Devin

      Also, NI say you have to disable iTunes Match completely and sync the songs over USB for the sync function of traktor to even work at all. This actually is quite a dealbreaker for me unless someone finds a workaround. iTunes Match is too useful for my daily life to give it up just for one dj app.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      My current understanding is that this is an iOS limitation, or at least extremely difficult to work around. I’ll look into how djay does it and see what I can find from NI.

  • http://twitter.com/Nikolozi Nikolozi

    Looks awesome! I’ll have to try it out. I just hope NI is not going to abandon it, like they did with iMaschine.

    • autoy

      Yep, kinda concerned with that too, I tend not to trust companies that cut app support. In contrast dJay gets updated often with great features.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      iMaschine still works fine for me. What would you want to see in an update?

      I think some iOS developers have a much swifter release cadence than others; it’s not always clear what expectations should be…

    • http://twitter.com/Nikolozi Nikolozi

      I think you are right, these days we’re used to swifter releases with mobile apps. But at the same time, iMaschine has been out over 2 years now, and it hasn’t had any minor features added, just bug fixes. At least give me AudioCopy/Paste. I’m not even talking about iPhone 5 screen or iPad support. Propellerhead, for instance, has been quite aggressive with Figure releases. iMaschine just feels abandoned. Maybe NI used it to experiment with iOS world.

    • heinrich zwahlen

      ipad support would be nice and maybe add a bigger step sequencer showing more than 16 steps at a time. I also think the pad should actually wotk with the hardware controller eventually

    • Fábio Cavalcante

      I have imaschine, but it’s really useless to me. It’s incredible, cause i can imagine a lot of functions for it… and NI can’t? I don’t believe it. NI acts just like they abandoned imaschine.

      Look to traktor app! – it’s something like this that had to be done in Maschine area.

      [excuse me for my english, it's not my native language]

  • http://www.facebook.com/raphaelrissato Raphael Rissato

    Does it work with Audio 2 DJ? That would be awesome, given the potentially small size of the whole setup.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, I think the problem is, Audio 2 DJ needs drivers. Agreed, though, I’d want a somewhat compact interface – looking into that.

    • autoy

      My Griffin iMic should work fine due to USB-Class compliance. iPad main out for main, iMic for prelisten, the same way it works with dJay. Will post later with the results.

    • autoy

      Sadly, I’m afraid Traktor does not support multiple audio devices (yet?) just one device with multiple outputs. Hope this is fixed in the future, the OS offers an API for it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/oliver.chambers Oliver Thomas Guy Chambers
    • Chris Belsey

      I think one of the biggest challenges with the TRAKTOR AUDIO 2 is the fact that the iPad does not push out enough power over the USB port to run the sound card.

      If you read the notes in the NI Base, both the AUDIO 6 & AUDIO 10 need power supplies connected. http://www.native-instruments….

      It’s a real shame as the TRAKTOR AUDIO 2 & iPad would make a really light mobile setup…

    • djcxp

      does it work with Audio $?

    • djxp

      I meand Audio 4 Dj?

    • Chris Belsey

      I can’t see how it would as the Audio 4 is USB Bus Powered so would have the same issues as the Audio 2. As far as I’m aware the Audio 6 & Audio 10 are the smallest soundcards from NI with an external power supply

  • anyon

    Can it be used with an external mixer through a 4 output soundcard?

    • Topper

      As they say you can hook up with the Audio 6 & 10 I would say. Yes!

    • Devin

      You can output through a soundcard but I don’t believe it outputs separate tracks, so you can’t use an external mixer to mix two tracks running within the app itself.

  • http://twitter.com/Bill_Darby Bill Darby

    No wifi?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Wifi what?

      AirPlay, just like any other audio stream from an iOS app, if you mean sound?

    • http://twitter.com/Bill_Darby Bill Darby

      WiFi for playlist sharing. Similar to Pioneer XDJ Aero. People could live tweet you a request direct from their own playlist.

      Could also use your iPhone for cueing. Though I’m guessing those features might be patented and/or they wouldn’t want to seem like followers

  • No

    Is that a new version of the Samplr app or what?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, had the same thought – but with a library. And the grid behaves more like a DJ app. I could see having a lot of fun with both, and it’s part of why I could imagine people using Traktor DJ as a sampler/looper/production tool as well as DJ tool.

    • Luke

      Am I missing something? This is traktor. No recording to tracks. However I would love that functionality! Implementation of sample decks could fill that gap. Imagine those slots being displayed big and freezable too. Audiobus support. Please! :)

    • ok

      recording is done by pressing the speaker symbol right beside the Native Instruments logo in the upper rit corner but then EXPORTING or SHARING seems to be a nightmare or still a fantasy in this seemingly enclosed Ipad bubble.

  • oliver

    it looks like audio 6 and audio 10 compatibility for now. hoped it would work with one of the two audio 8′s i have lying around.

    http://www.native-instruments.com/knowledge/questions/1403/How+to+update+the+TRAKTOR+AUDIO+6+%7B47%7D+10+for+iPad+Compatibility

  • Theinvis

    Does it have background audio?

    • Devin

      Yes.

  • Luke

    This might be pretty sweet for preparing tracks on the go. However a Sample deck implementation for recording with audiobus support, would be ace. But I guess that’s not their focus.

  • PausAkid

    slick interface but no VU meter, seems a major oversite.

    • Daniel

      the waveform display is a series of meters

  • nico4via

    hoping this app have compability with my Audio 8 DJ, so won’t waste another expenses :)

    • NXLT

      Unfortunately no – neither in the future…

  • forsue

    So, I don’t have an ipad, but I do have a desktop and a laptop. Can I somehow achieve the syncing part? That would be great!

  • Hitch Rawtin

    I’m a pro DJ and have been waiting for a serious iPad DJing solution for a longtime.. i’m excited with the Traktor DJ iPad approach, looks like some clever use of tactile technology, HOWEVER they definitely need to offer a practical solution for interfacing with your mixer / PA system, using an Audio 6/10 with the camera adapter is just bulky and ball & chain, completely defeats the idea of mobility, I might as well keep my laptop.. I’m hoping they support at least Airport with iPad headphone Cue (something no one is offering atm) or come up with some kind of wireless audio interface that you’d connect to your mixer. Proper Cueing and separate EQ through my hardware mixer is a must for professional use.. if they can make it mobile/wireless then this could be a game changer

    • autoy

      The problem with wireless is latency, it’ll always be greater than wired. You can’t break the laws of physics.

    • Iand

      Some of the other apps use Bluetooth and iPhone as cue headphones….?

  • mixer

    how to export the recordings you made? does anyone know? its not in the dropbox and you can only delete but not export…thanks for any help!

    • Panopticon

      You access it through the iPad’s app section(at the bottom) in iTunes.

    • ok

      hey so what does that really mean? “app section”? .. Im trying to find my mixes in itunes but it sounds like a joke. would you be able to describe this in detail?

  • nickolass

    Great to see native finally doing something than producing over priced over marketed door stops and doing something 2013 for a change…

  • Zubben

    Does the app has midi sync? Can it sync to another host via wifi? I know its not the purpose of a dj app, but this can be a great looping tool for live performance.

  • mercury

    Is there a way to send digital audio out via the lightning connector to USB in to a desktop/laptop? It would be nice to be able to transfer mixes done on the iPad to the desktop software version. Or can you do this via dropbox as well? The freeze feature is awesome I wish I could use the Ipad to control Traktor Pro this way as well on my desktop. Anyone know how to do this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ruffrob1 Robert N. Griffith

    I second Mixer’s question about exporting a mix I made this morning…and I have a external drive with my entire library that connects wirelessly to my Ipad 2…how do I use that instead of the 16GB HD within the device

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Wait, so you’re loading your library via an external drive? (Wow, I didn’t even know this was possible on the iPad.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/scott.hobbs.10420 Scott Hobbs

      Sorry for the side step question, how did you wirelessly connect your library with external hard drive? Specific hard drive perhaps? An app/wifi? ,I have a 16g iPad and more music than would all fit at once so nice to know that solution.

    • Dan

      Please explain how you sorted this wireless library to iPad hook up! Sounds great. Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/ted.pallas TJ Pallas

    After a few days of playing with the thing, it’s super-awesome EXCEPT for the fact that everything is tied to the grid, including locations for cue points. I can keep my own tracks in sync – it’d be rad to play back tracks at their original tempo, with pitch faders, with cue points I can drop on any point in the sample, IN ADDITION to all the sexy SYNC stuff that happens when you hit that button. I see what their product managers did here – it’s hard to sound terrible if what you’re after is tight dancefloor grooves, but as soon as I tried to go beyond that into some gamelan loops the system started showing it’s colors.

  • White mountain

    Does playlists created on the app show up and sync on the desktop?

  • Freddy

    what about you stop whining and instead give us back noise.io!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathan.brockwell Nathan Gazza Jimbo Brockwell

    Is there a way where I can incorporate the iPad with the audio 6 and use my time coded CDs on pioneers without using laptop and iPad instead. If this makes spence.

  • Maxxxx

    Will there ever be able to be a way to stream songs from an online database or separate device? My music could never all fit on my iPad lol

  • jblack

    However, no one entirely likes IAP.
    So why not charge users full price for the app instead?
    And it’s obvious people want Noise.io back…
    … As for the claim for Touch DJ and Touch DJ Evolution, you might be right that it’s hard to compete but even I had your both apps

    And it’s obvious people want Noise.io back…
    So love ya no $hit, but…