A couple of weeks back we mentioned the teaser video NI had released showing a new Traktor iPad app. I only heard one negative response. It felt to me like the DJ community had resigned itself to the increasing democratisation and some would say theft, of their art by boys using toys. It did occur to me that perhaps the lack of indignant threads of the predictable “is not like vinyl bruv” variety was because all NI are doing is replacing the laptop with the iPad, so what’s the issue here? Nothing has really changed.
But they haven’t just replaced the laptop with the iPad, oh no, they’ve replaced EVERYTHING with the iPad. This is an all-in-one, 2-deck solution, record bag, controller, mixer- everything, all in your iPad. You don’t need anything else except a splitter cable or external soundcard, some headphones and some talent. Oh actually they are trying to do away with that too, but more on that later.
Now there are a few all-in-ones about now and my favourite, as regular readers will know, is DJ Player. It does everything my DX can do, albeit on two decks, but rather than try to replicate CDJs, record decks or controllers on your screen, iMect started from scratch and said “How do we use touch screens? What will work at this size? How can we make it PLAYABLE?” And so DJ Player uses sliders instead of rotaries, multiple screens instead of cluttered ones, and contrasting colours instead of black and grey. It retails ad-free at $20 which some would say is a lot for an app, but it does a lot and since I bought it they have consistently improved it and it is now even possible to use it with time-coded vinyl a la Serato Scratch.
Let’s be honest, iMect, Algoriddim and the rest can pretty much do what they like and the only people that are going to pay any attention are amateur DJs and writers of music technology blogs. And Traktor, apparently. Why do I say this? Let’s look at Traktor DJ. It’s an all-in-one, 2-deck solution, record bag, controller, mixer- everything. Sound familiar? Traktor DJ uses sliders instead of rotaries, overlay screens instead of cluttered ones, and, in a stunning piece of independent thinking, have retained their black and grey colour scheme.
A few years ago I was surprised to learn that Whiskas the cat food people also make Kitekat but I’m sure this is pretty common- creating your own competition so that if people want a change, crafty manufacturers might still retain their custom. Is this what Traktor are doing? Do they see the DJ Mixer Pro flying out of the app store and think they can capitalise and sell to all the bedroom DJs who just want to have a go? Or do they see an inevitable..I want to say slide.. movement towards smaller, craftier DJ packages and plan to help shape it? Are they planning for a bright, mobile IOS future or are they hedging their bets?
There’s one other important innovation introduced with Traktor DJ which I find both sinister and exciting at the same time. I wish it didn’t exist but I cannot wait to try it out. Traktor DJ does on-the-fly harmonic analysis and tells you the key of your tunes without you needing to use Mixed In Key but that’s not it. Traktor DJ’s USP, the killer function, is that it then SUGGESTS what tunes might follow nicely from the one you’re playing. That’s right, after all the harmonic mixing and beat matching and synching arguments (the Pioneer Nexus can now synch CDJs and laptops, remember) the one thing, the ONLY thing left to the DJ is programming. Read any thread on the subject of digital vs. vinyl and they all agree that programming is the most important thing a DJ does and until now it could not be done by a machine. Well now it can, for the same price as that other DJ Player, a very affordable £13.99.
Fuck you very much, Native Instruments.