Controller Clinic #26: Traktor Or Serato After Learning On An iPad?

Traktor Serato

Traktor or Serato - which is it to be for our reader who's upgrading from iPad and wants nicer waveforms?

37-year-old Digital DJ Tips reader Edelso writes: "I'm upgrading from a cheap Numark iDJ unit that I use with an iPad and Algoriddim's djay app (this set up has given me the most fun I've ever had with $120, by the way!). I've got up to $500 to get a new controller. My current laptop should be fine for Traktor etc, and all my music is in iTunes. I'm mostly looking for better song analysis, more effects, and a better beat graph to visually confirm beat sync as well as with headphones/ears."

"I play different kinds of music from electronic to salsa. I play at family parties and with friends, but I did a gig for a fifth graders' party that may lead to others. I was taught the basics by an old school DJ who used records, so I use the jogwheels as well as the cues. I try to use sync only for BPM match, and I appreciate just how easy these programs make it to mix music today."

"I was pretty much decided on a Traktor S2 but played with a Novation Twitch last night and now I am more undecided than before... (The Novation was pretty cool, but I did miss the jogwheels a little). So, which software would you go for in my position? As far as controllers go I'm between the S2, the Novation, and the Pioneer Ergo."

Digital DJ Tips says:

Sounds like you want to change your software (waveforms...), but it sounds to me like there's no real reason for going for Traktor over Serato, which has the superior waveforms of the two. Now that Serato is available for more controllers, look at them over on serato.com and factor in the price of the software when deciding. The Denon DJ MC2000 might be a good bet (well made, got all the basics including jogwheels).

If you do choose Traktor, I have to say I think the S2 would be best, as the jogwheels are better than non-NI controllers. The Novation Twitch can be used with Traktor too as you I am sure know, but the mapping isn't as tight as the Serato mapping (and the unit doesn't work with Serato DJ yet). Also with Traktor, you could use Traktor DJ on your iPad to prep your tunes - something Serato doesn't offer.

Would you like to add anything? What would you choose in this position? Have you "graduated" from iPad to laptop DJing, and if so, which route did you take? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. For parallel waveforms I have to recommend Mixvibes CrossDJ which is natively supported by Twitch and many other controllers. ;) very affordable too!

  2. JonnyFlash says:

    I always wonder why people limit themselves to the “major” software brands only. I used Mixxx initially to see if I wanted to switch from CDJs to a laptop. Then once I found MixVibes there has been no going back for me. The beat gridding is great and the easy of mapping controllers and a keyboard is great for me. Also the new version of Deckadance looks promising…
    Now I am actually doing the reverse and looking to only use my iPad, a small controller and a sound card for a minimal set up.

    • Djchillb says:

      Exactly what I have done, cross DJ in external mix mode to my DJ mixer, volume eq and cross fader on mixer and everything else controlled by touch.

      No controller and no sound card, just mono splitter, great sound and very easy setup/pack up

  3. Keep the iPad, use DJ Player and buy a MIDI controller for it. Laptop is so last decade. :-)

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      If they’re so last decade, why don’t tablets have ports for additional controllers? Also, larger real estate on a laptop and the ability to use DAW programs at the same time seems to keep them ahead of tablets.

  4. Gunther says:

    Serato Dj is great for all different styles (i’m allround dj), yet at this moment there are some issues with version 1.2. Especially if you have a large library.If you want, you should try the 14 days trial first.
    Otherwise, once you have played with Serato, you get used with it very fast.

  5. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Hey Gabor,

    He already has an iDJ (although he didn’t say which flavor), so all he needs is a good mapping for DJ Player for his iDJ. Something more people would love to have :-) .

    Greetinx,
    C.

  6. I was doing my final google search this morning before making the final decision to place my order and I found your reply to my question, it was awesome!!!! Order has been placed for the MC 2000 and I should have it by Wednesday. What’s even better is that Denon has a $50 rebate so the serato dj upgrade is only gonna cost me an additional $50 instead of $100. I will give you an update once I start learning/using it.
    Phil, thank you very much for the quick response to my question and all the very informative videos you have posted. Once I get proficient with this set up my next big dilemma will be choosing a cool DJ name!!!
    Thanks again:)

  7. Quote: “I’m mostly looking for better song analysis, more effects, and a better beat graph to visually confirm beat sync”
    1) Song analysis – Up for great debate, IMO: 1=Serato, 2=Mixvibes, 3=Traktor
    2) More Effects – 1=Traktor, 2=Deckadance, 3=Mixvibes, 4=Serato
    3) Better waveform/Beat sync – 1=Serato, 2=Mixvibes (non color), 3=Traktor.
    This really is a decision based on personal preference, but whichever controller you choose, it’s gonna have to be one that comes with software and fits your budget. That in itself doesn’t leave you with too many options.

  8. I’m missing one important aspect in the article and the discussion: flexible beatgridding. Edelso says he’ll be playing all kinds of music, so i’d say this is the most important aspect in the analysis bit.
    I know traktor cannot do it, do any of the softwares mentioned before do offer flexible beatgrids (or ‘warp’ like ableton)

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      Serato (ITCH and DJ) does, Virtual DJ does… -ish (if you can get it right), Mixvibes does and so does Dekadance.

  9. Serato has elastic beat grids. Even thought Traktor is my weapon of choice. Serato would be better if you play tracks with a variable bpm or live drummers etc.

  10. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    I am getting into the whole beatgridding drifting tracks a bit more and it seems that the best way for me is gonna be to run all the tracks that I feel need it (quite a bit since I do mobile/wedding stuff a lot = old music) through Ableton Live.

    It can do something called warping (which pretty much is elastic gridding by another name I guess). The trick it seems is to not warp the entire song, but just the bits you think you might like to mix in to/out of. So intro (32 beats, you could even create an intro that length if the original is only 16 for example by copying/pasting the first 8 or 16 beats once or twice respectively), the outro and perhaps another part that feels right (especially useful if you are playing 6-7 minute 12″ remixes).

    Warping can have some odd effects on the overall sound quality, plus if you warped the entire song you’d be losing some of it’s authenticity and “schwung”. So just doing the intro/outro and perhaps another 32 beat bit elsewhere seems to make sense.

    If you used wav files as source and export/save the warped file to wav again, you can then run them through MiK, PN, any other pre-DJ software tool and then into your DJ software of choice. But if you were to take the track with you on USB for use on CDJs or even if you burn it to CD, it would still have those great quantized bits at the beginning and the end.

    It will be more work, but since the “warp/elastic beatgrid” stays with the track, you’ll be way more independent of what software (if any) you use.

    I was struggling with the, “should I try Serato too”-question, but I think I will go the AL Warp method I described and not have to worry in the future about where and with what gear I’ll be playing my tracks.

    Greetinx,
    C.

    • MellonHead says:

      an issue you may want to think about would be artifacts. everytime an audio file is mixed down (rendered) noise and other undesirables are added to the sound. also if the audio is less than 32-bit, a process called dithering is always applied. there are a few dithering options in ableton, but all add noise. little-scale did a post on dithering artifacts a while back, included a comparison of dithering noise from silent audio. i’m pretty surprised this didn’t come up in the recent ddjt article on platinum notes, as that program also renders audio.

      http://little-scale.blogspot.com/2012/12/aural-comparison-of-ableton-live.html

      • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

        Thanks. As I said though, I’d be taking the original wav file as input and exporting to wav. The only possible shadow effects would be the ones related to the warping process and maybe a bit of dithering. Not very worried about both, as a) I am not trying to create audiophile quality tracks and b) we are talking about the first and last two bars of a track that are intended to play together in a mix. The way to do these things is to do all your processing in the original file format (wav in my case) and don’t pipe it down to MP3 til you are done processing.

        Greetinx,
        C.

  11. DJ Ben Blayton says:

    If you can do two things..try to save a little more money and get an S4. Two shop around for a good price on one.

  12. DJ_ForcedHand says:

    I’ve got a lot of experience with both the S2 and the Twitch and while the S2 jogs are hyper accurate with Traktor, the Twitch has so many more features, it’s not even close. To me, the Twitch feels more like Vinyl than any jog wheel, and it’s native for Serato Itch (soon to be replaced by Serato DJ) which comes with iZotope effects.

    All is not perfect with the Twitch however, when assigning controls to non-supported programs (like Deckadance 2, Virtual DJ and Mixx), it’s best to use the (free) Middleware that accompanies it, “Live Twitch Tool.”

    I think it’s important to note that laptops have more than one port for a controller and you’ll use these other ports for other controllers should you choose to add on a drum machine, a keyboard or any other interface that isn’t your primary controller. This is where tablets fall down (and go boom) apart from their limited viewing size.

    I really like what Traktor does (up to 4 decks of control with the Twitch, 2+2), but it doesn’t have flexible beat gridding.

    I really like Serato DJ, but the interface seems incomplete even though side-by-side waveforms and smart folders are really helpful.

    I really like Deckadance 2, but mapping jogs for the Twitch is harder than most DJ applications. It is a monster when you get it working with all of your control surfaces and VSTs.

    Virtual DJ is a mixed bag, really good at some things, really not in other areas.

    All told, the S2 is an inferior product to the Twitch if you’re going the Controllerist route. If you’re simply looking for a good 2 channel controller with jogs, the S2 is a solid controller, but you’ll find out soon that it’s limited… Which is why it’s priced the way it is.

    • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

      I am guessing some clever manufacturer will release an integrated dock/stand for iPads that has it all, sound card, USB ports, power, inputs for mic.

      Alesis has an iDock similar to that, but it was pre-iOS6 and aimed at musicians. The principle of it would work though, provided you can get your routing sorted out.

      Not too much of a stretch to think something more DJ-esque will appear some day soon :-).

      Greetinx,
      C.

  13. Really going to disagree on the waveform bit, other than placement once you change Traktor’s to “Spectrum” view there really isn’t that much difference imo.

    Love the push towards the lesser known DJ software in the comment section, really hoping this continues so the larger names take note and continue to innovate.

  14. If overall soundcard volume is important, it’s good to know that the Twitch does suffer from a low overall volume output. I’ve never tried an S2, but I’ve read here and elsewhere that the output volume for this controller is good for most gigs. I own the Twitch and eventually had to purchase an inline gain booster (+35db) to compensate for the low overall volume. You can only boost the gain through the controller so much before the limiter kicks in and you have dropouts and such. All the aforementioned comments about the Twitch are spot on, just thought you should know about the output volume problem before you spend your money on it if you decide to go that route.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      Which booster did you get? I’m asking because I’ve never run into this problem. I typically route my Twitch through a sub-mixing board (Allen and Heath ZED 14) so every controller has it’s own volume gain perfectly dialed in.

    • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

      That is pretty bad. I heard/read about the issue. Apparently their official solution is to sum booth and main out through a y-cable. Not a solution I’d opt for but hey. What surprises me is that with the amount of headroom on house mixers even very low inputs whold not be a problem. I can see luke-warm signals being problem if you are running directly into amps/active speakers. In that case a booster would be a good fix I suppose.

      Greetinx,
      C.

      • DJ BRUAEL says:

        The low sound output of the Twitch can be corrected in a few ways. First of all, you can combine the booth and main ouput into to a single input. This can effectively double the output level, but you lose the ability to independently control booth volume.

        The other option is to purchase a separate power amplifier. I’ve done this and it works great! I purchased the ARTcessories Power Mix III. This was the one recommended by Novation and effectively brings the output level of the Twitch equal to that of CDJ’s. It can also hook up three separate devices at once, with independent gain and pan controls, pretty cool! You do need AC power for the Power Mix III but it is worth it!

        I’ve used the Twitch at gigs and I bring the Power Mix III with me, i even hook it up to the main mixer at clubs. I love having so much control over volume levels.

        The sound ouput is a little louder when you use the Twitch with Traktor, but I don’t like the mappings with the Twitch. I love traktor, but to me the Twtich belongs with ITCH (and soon Serato DJ!)

        Hope that helped clear the air about the sound output levels of the Twtich!

      • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

        It is odd, I’ve heard about different software giving off different output levels, at the same time the folks at Serato claim it’s a hardware problem.

        Now it’s either or. Either it’s a hardware problem and should be the same for all software or it’s a software problem and they should be able to update fix it.

        Oh well, guess it is useful information to have if you consider buying one of these babies.

        Greetinx,
        C.

  15. DJ Forced Hand says:

    I think it’s important to note that VST plug-ins are really expanding effects possibilities. As of right now Traktor and Serato DJ do not support VST plug-ins but Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, Deckadance 2 (and the now-defunct Torq 2) do.

  16. There are many good choices out there, such as Algorithm djay & vjay, Traktor Pro, Traktor DJ, Serato DJ, DJ Player, Deckadance and Mixvibes Cross DJ (sorry for Virtual DJ fans, as I’ve tried many times to use it, but it either crashed or the sound quality/FX was just not quite there…). If you want to mix Video and/or various types of music genres, then Serato DJ and Mixvibes Cross DJ could be better. If you want to mix mostly Electronic music, probably Traktor is the way to go. For the best of two worlds, I would suggest the Vestax 380 controller which comes with Serato DJ and then you can also map it to Traktor Pro later on if needed. If you want to avoid laptop DJ, then I would recommend Pioneer DJ Aero or for even greater portability, I would choose an iPad with the Traktor DJ app. Last if you want the best of the best and have enough budget, I would go with the Pioneer CDJ-2000 nexus and DJM-2000 nexus or DJM-900 nexus. Basically, it all depends on your requirements and available budget. You can’t go wrong with any of the above mentioned solutions.

    • (sorry for Virtual DJ fans, as I’ve tried many times to use it, but it either crashed or the sound quality/FX was just not quite there…)

      I switch to digital 4 years ago with Virtual DJ then Traktor now I use Serato but up to this past Dec. was still using VDJ for videos parties and never had any problem with it.

  17. Go with traktor for more options, more flexibility, superb effects.. Yes, serato has paralel waveform, but you wouldnt need it as much to be honest, also traktor substitute the parallel waveform with their sync parameter display. Serato is too instant, you get what uou pay you cannot expect more, its right off the box, you couldnt make it “more you” its just too instant, too easy, and to be honest, its boring. You want to keep up in the future of the digital performance, go with Traktor.. As it is the pure real essence of Digital DJ era. Nuff said.

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