Audio 6 & Audio 10 Sound Interfaces: Worth The Upgrade?

Traktor Audio 10

The Native Instruments Traktor Audio 10: The ultimate DJ audio interface? Pic: James Lee

Along with the new generation of Traktor Pro and Traktor Scratch Pro, Native Instruments presented two new audio interfaces, the [audio6] and the [audio10] to succeed the fairly successful Audio 4 and Audio 8. They promised us improved sound quality, connectivity and flexibility as well as being "installation friendly".

But how do they hold their ground in daily club routine, especially for DVS DJs who will make most use of them? And is there any reason to switch to a new interface if you already own one of the old generation?

What's new

Let's start with the obvious changes: the Native Instruments interfaces are now larger because they offer more channels - the Audio 6 has three stereo inputs and outputs, the Audio 10 has five of each. This way they offer more connectivity, no doubt about that. They are also heavier. The difference between the Audio 4 and the Audio 6 are an additional stereo in (line only) and stereo out on the front panel, an additional hook to fix a USB or power supply cable on the backside and an inlet for the (optional) power supply.

The changes between the Audio 8 and Audio 10 are more significant. The Audio 10 has four ins and four outs on the back as well as USB and power supply connectors. Every of these four inputs can handle phono and line signals! The external power supply for the Audio 10 is obligatory, a USB connection simply can't handle that much power demand. The Midi in and out on the Audio 10 are now on the front panel as well as a fifth pair of in and out connectors (only line this time for the inputs), a microphone jack plug (as opposed to the XLR plug on the Audio 8 ) and a headphone socket.

The headphone socket on the Audio 6 always sends the signal from the main output (on the front). On the Audio 10 you can choose between the input signal and the output signal of the front panel connectors. The status LEDs on the upper panel of both new interfaces are bolder and brighter.

In use

So let's start the testing. For the test I used my Macbook Pro 13" (mid 2009) with 8GB RAM, and Traktor Scratch Pro 2.0.2. The audio interfaces tested were the Audio 8 (representing the old generation) and the Audio 6 (representing the new).

The things I wanted to test were:

  • Is there any difference in sound quality I can actually hear?
  • Is there a difference between the Audio 6 with external power supply and without? (I read in a forum that there is less latency with external power)
  • Is there any difference in latency between the Audio 6 and the Audio 8?

So, with exactly the same conditions for both audio interfaces, my first finding was that I couldn't hear hear any difference in sound on my studio monitors. That does not mean that there is not one, but it's not enough that I can hear it. As the specifications are nearly the same I am also not surprised about this. The sound is good and punchy - as it used to be.

Native Instruments Traktor Audio 6

The Native Instruments Traktor Audio 6: Best suited for two-deck DJs needing less flexibility.

The Audio 6 operates exactly the same way when connected to an external power supply as when only connected to USB. There is no change in latency on my system. And yes, there is a difference in latency between the audio interfaces: Audio 8 needs about 2ms more overall latency to run without a crackle. (Of course it would have been interesting to also test the Audio 4 and the Audio 10 here.)

Connecting the interface to your equipment has changed a bit - at least if you use Traktor Scratch with vinyl or CD control as I do. For the old generation you had to use one of the Native Instruments multicore cables in order to split the signal and play vinyl (or CDs) alongside your files. This new generation has a thru function, that lets you switch the outputs (on the back of the devices) between the signal from Traktor and the input signal. A phono input is converted to line level here.

Switching between analogue and digital
A good thing is: the multicore cables are gone. I will not miss those cables: they were heavy like professional equipment, but error-prone like a child's toy. But is the thru function a real replacement for them? To switch between thru and the signal of Traktor you have to open the control panel, a program that comes with your audio interface. There is no way to do this from the Traktor settings (but there is a button to open Control Panel in Traktor's Audio Setup). There is also no way to configure a keyboard shortcut or Midi command for this.

As there are no hardware buttons for this on the audio interface either, you do have to take your mouse or trackpad - something I really hate during DJing. I would have preferred hardware switches or separate thru outs (like on the Rane SL 1) here. But as most DJs seem not to switch mediums during their sets nowadays, I understand why neither Native Instruments (nor indeed Rane) support this any more.

The control panel
Let's take a closer look at that control panel. It contains two tabs, "Current" and "Startup" - I think this is well thought-out. As Startup is also the state that is set active when you disconnect the USB, Direct Thru should be selected here if you want to play records or CDs when a computer is not connected. In the Current settings you can choose what you need during your set on a temporary basis. Direct Thru, Phono and Line are the options here.

The option to run the audio interface in thru mode and connect a computer later makes them - like Native Instruments pointed out in its press release - usable for club installation. A second USB, like on the [sl4], would have been useful here. Clubs may also take upgrading to a [djm-900] (with a built-in sound card) as a better (if more expensive) option. And the Xone:PB patch board is a great option if you have to switch between two digital DJs (although you then need two audio interfaces as well).

After all these tests and observations only one final test is missing: using it live. I'll keep it short: everything works like it is expected to. I did not experience any surprises.

Should you buy one?

So, should you buy a new Native Instruments audio interface if you don't have one by now? Sure, they are great audio interfaces for DJs.

Should you buy a new one if you already have an Audio 4 or Audio 8? No, there's no real benefit for you, unless you need more channels or you play with Traktor Scratch and really, really hate the multicore cables.

These new audio interfaces do bring more channels and slight adaptions, but they are not the reinvention of the wheel.

• Aka Tell is a DJ and producer from Vienna, Austria. You can visit his blog at akatell.com.

What sound interface do you use? Are you a DVS user who has a Native Instruments audio interface and is thinking of upgrading? Or do you already own one of these devices? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Comments

  1. A good review of a new product.. thanks :)
    I have been thinking for a while to upgrade to the Audio4 from my Audio2 but now I am gonna go with the Audio6..

  2. Phil Morse says:

    It’s worth pointing out the reason why NI added the extra inputs I think. They’re designed to make routing the sample decks and loop recorder from Traktor Scratch Pro 2 to the channels on the mixer a breeze, something the old interfaces don’t offer. So this would be a reason to upgrade if that’s your aim.

    • You´re absolutley right on that!
      I for my part use the extra output for the sample decks (3&4 both routed to it, a new option on traktor pro 2)

  3. I really wish you would have compared the two on a Windows machine. I recently “upgraded” to 64 bit Windows and have problems related to drivers. Both my Audio8 and Audio2 have had issues. Switching from TSP to TSP2 fixed some of my problems. If the new interfaces have better 64 bit drivers an upgrade becomes a no brainer.

    • First time I heard switching TO Traktor 2 fixed some problems.. for most users (including me) it only created problems

  4. In traktor, if you change a deck from “track” to “live input”, aint that the same as the “thru” option ??

    • yes – i would say it is. I just set a keyboard shortcut for this and it saves going through drop down box options.

      Also imo – it is actually better than the “thru” option as you can still use all of traktors effects over your vinyl or cd.

  5. [email protected] says:

    I “M having problems trying sync traktor pro 2 and maschine 1.6.2 I have a macbook pro 17 last model audio 8 dj and mixer xone 42 and i want to use 4 decks one on each chanel + maschine with the sound card of the mixer. so one on each chanel . maschine on la 5th chanel the usb one . Any one no how to set this up ?

  6. I wish you had thrown in the Audio 2 for fun and tested that (as thats what i have).

    But I am guessing its the same audio quality as I remember reading that the Audio 4 had the same quality and mechanisms used as the Audio 2….hopefully….

  7. It’s not really that surprising that a sound cad with more outputs has higher latency. Would be interred to see how the ‘comparable’ sound cards would compare.

    Also, you didn’t have to use the NI cables, any worked. They were good though – wish they had been made by a third party company, and then adopted as a standard.

  8. futureglue says:

    Thanks for the non-fanboy review.
    I love my audio8 and I guess I will stick with it.

    Plus another wallrat on the audio10 is a downer. running out of space on my powerbar!

  9. dj scorpio says:

    Thanks for the review. I have had the audio 8 since 2007. I haven’t used those multicore cables in about 3 and a half years. Just connected my technics 1200s right into the box and have had no problems.

    • mcpotty says:

      the multicore cable is intended to be able to have a thru signal to your mixer allowing you to use regular vinyl/cds alongside vinyl/cd timecodes. Before having the thru option on the software itself (and the new interfaces control panel) it was impossible to do so without that cable.

  10. DJ JdUb says:

    Hi all,

    Just upgraded from the Serato SL1 to traktor pro 2 (audio 10).

    Just in case anyone is curious, the sound quality difference is night and day. the low end is considerably more punchy and the high end is very warm in comparison to the sort of digitized sound that the SL1 can make

    Definitely worth the upgrade

  11. Hi,im havin afew problems.ive got NI audio 6 and traktor scratch duo all installed and runnin tickerty boo,however,its the recording side of things im havin trouble with.im recording my dj mix internally in traktor using and external mixer and 2xtechnics sl1200.now i kinda understand that im usin the faders on the mixer after the music goes thru the interface.can anyone tell me how to configure traktor to record the 2 decks properly as when i hit record no matter weither my external mixers faders are closed or open on playback of the recording i have the sound of both channels coming thru,ie i can hear my cueing the track up prior to droppin the mix,the lot!!its doin my nut in,im presumin its something to do with the output routing.pleeeeease,someone help!!!! :)

    • You have to record in external mode and route your master signal out your mixer bk into traktor via your interface. I guess that’s what the extra inputs are for on the Audio 6. 2 x ins and outs for 2 decks and 1 x ins and outs for recording/ aux send return. You select the inputs to record on your interface in the control panel.

  12. My Audio10 just arrived:

    On my MacBook Pro 13″ i need a power supply for the interface.
    The new Timecode Vinyls are much better then the older ones.
    And the Latency is very Good.

    I had a Audio8 before and i can say the upgrade is every penny worth.

  13. Great review, but can anyone tell me what the difference is between the new Audio 2/6/10? im looking to get one of them at some point.

    I mean, can I run the new traktor software with any of the interfaces above? Is the main advantage of the 10 just that I can link more decks to traktor or are there other benefits?

    Ideally id like to get 2x cdj 1000’s and 2x 1210’s attached..

    Thanks!

  14. I recently bought my Audio 10..what a piece of equipment. The idea is to be able to play using traktor on CDJs using the DJM mixer…when l play big clubs however l have the Pioneer DDJ-T1 and l wanted to beef up my sound too, as well as record at optimum sound too. Please help on how l can connect them both. Usually my set up is DDJ master out into a club mixer then to the speakers so now l want the A10 between the DDJ and the club mixer. Does that make sense?

    Thank you.

    • It does, you just need to select the appropriate Audio 10 outputs in Traktor’s config. You’ll have to use Traktor Pro, the Pioneer version that came with your controller probably won’t let you make that change.

  15. Can I connect two turntables, and a traktor controller with the A6? Am a little confused as to whether the A6 can handle extra controllers if two turntables are connected and being used..

    • mcpotty says:

      the only thing the turntables control is the playback through the timecode, in relative mode you can loop, pitch bend and all that jazz from the computer and of course, yes. you can use controllers alongside your time codes, if you do any action requiring relative instead of absolute mode traktor changes the mode automatically. i.e. you press a 8beat loop button on your controller and it will loop and change the vinyl mode from absolute to relative.

  16. I have an original S2 (not Mk2) and am considering one of these so i can use a mic which is picked up during a live broadcast on Mixify or MIxlr. Before i go and buy one does anyone know if theres a new way of doing this within Traktor yet? All the google posts ive read seem to be from last year, saying its just still routed to the master output and bypasses the traktor software.

    Cheers all :)

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