A Nisus style, review of Native Instruments Traktor Scratch

There are plenty of reviews of Traktor Scratch on the web, so I thought I would approach it from the point of transitioning from vinyl to digital. I’ll also explain my desision to go with Traktor over Serato. I have finally gone to the dark side. Digital. WTF huh? My excuse is that I needed an external sound card for production and Native Instruments provided a nice one with the ability to Dj along with it. I bought it, six months ago and just this week installed the djing software. Impressed? Sort of…

Truthfully the NI box is a really nice piece of hardware. I chose it over Serato mostly for the production features, like midi in/out and the extra line ins and effect loops and sound quality…..ect. If you do your homework you see pretty quickly that technically speaking NI has a solid edge over Serato. Sound-wise here is why I went with Traktor. In the field I have a few beefs with Serato. First, vinyl sounds like crap through the serato box. Period. I play on a lot of different systems and in mixed media situations and this was apparent. The truth is in the phono pre amp that takes the stylus voltage up to line level, amplifying the signal over 1000 times. A cheap phono pre amp circuit is around $.05 to spec. Audiophiles spend up to $3000 on a good preamp. There is a difference. Traktor adressed this with a phono switch, (covered later). Traktor also is USB powered. Lastly the Traktor box, called the Audio 8 doesnt stop working ie no sound when you close the lid of your laptop. Insert moment of terror from actual experience here. Gnar Gnar. So from my experience with Serato I went with Traktor.

I’ve been using the Audio 8 interface with Logic Pro 8 for about 6 months. Its great. The sound is good, its stable and it looks nice in the studio. In the field I really love the color coded rca’s for drunktime setup in dark environments. Can I recommend glow in the dark inputs though? The hardware itself is well built. The multicore cables are effective and keep my box less cluttered. So far everything is great. Now the bad part. My first gig out with Traktor fucking sucked. It refused to work. The control vinyl needs to calibrate everytime you fire the system up. Kinda lame when it refuses to find the signal even though its coming through the phono setting. WTF I downloaded the updated drivers and went to my next gig. This time it worked flawlessly. Next gig, Traktor Scratch refused to work again. I am kinda a tech nerdus and I know Im not retarded when it comes to trouble shooting. Also I have worked with computers my whole life and I know their sneaky tricks. This was a serious NI fuck up. Re installed the drivers and Next gig it worked flawlessly. 2 for 2, Except now I’m carrying too much gear!

This Sat I’m playing for 30000 people at Lovefest in SF and I have to leave Traktor at home because its too risky to rely on it. Here is where Serato has the edge. Serato is reliable. We will see if Traktor holds on but its looking kinda sketchy. Im gonna keep using it for instore gigs where its not life threatening if it goes down. Im gonna have to stick with vinyl for anything bigger. Which brings me to the sound.

I have written about the sound of Mp3s and had many discussions with my peers about it but now its conclusive. Vinyl sounds better that any Mp3 ever!!!! No debate really needed. When I drop the needle on a piece of wax the whole room warms up. The bass gets fatter and it feels better. Yes this is technically because there is distortion. But it feels better. Which is the point really of going to a club with a soundsystem that is not a home stereo. Or sitting infront of your monitors at home or listening through your headphones. I don’t play headphone music. I play dance music. When I switch from Timecode Vinyl to Phono on the Audio 8 there is a further difference in sound. Thank you NI for still caring about vinyl enough. Now can you please make the software “listen” for the vinyl control signal and switch the setting automatically? Thats what the scopes tell us, make the software recognize this too.

Lastly, what has changed in my Djing by going to digital? In the last 4 sets Ive played out, my sound has changed. Traktor has allowed me to play a bunch of music that was made by friends of mine and has allowed me to participate in a whole new genre of music that is region specific to the SF bay area and I’m really proud to be playing. The next phase is to apply my own remixes and productions to my live set. Its awesome to feel like I can contribute to a scene in this way. The next step is to move away from the turntables completely and into controllerism. Weening myself off of vinyl only until I can afford to press my own tracks. For now Im looking for wav files. Send me anything you think I’d like.  D

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