If you’re a Traktor user who’s frustrated at the way Traktor and iTunes play together, TrainspotterTwo may be the program you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve yearned for native smart playlists in Traktor, again this program could be right up your street.
Ever fancied auto key detection, or auto ID3 tag retrieval, or cover art completion? Yup, it’s got you covered too. Oh, I forgot to say, it’s donationware. In this exclusive review of the forthcoming TrainspotterTwo, we find out why Traktor users may be about to get a piece of software they won’t be able to live without.
Why it’s needed
You already know that Traktor is great for playing your music. More likely than not, you probably also acknowledge that iTunes, with its smart playlists, is a wonderful way of organising your tunes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just have all the power of iTunes – the smart playlists, tagging and so on – then when you get into Traktor, access all of that info and play away, adding cue-points, BPM info, key info and so on, only for all of this to be stored happily for you without you having to think about it?
Yup, but maybe in the next world! As you’ll know if you’ve tried, there are all kinds of issues when DJs rip, organise and tag their music in iTunes, then try and use those smart playlists directly in Traktor. You can access you iTunes folders and playlists, sure, but it won’t remember your cue points or BPMs reliably or predictably. Of course, you could just reorganise all of your music again in Traktor (and keep updating your playlists when you add new tunes) but it’s hardly ideal.
Enter TrainspotterTwo – a program that attempts to give Traktor users all the tools that between them, iTunes and Traktor fail to provide, and then some more. Plenty more.
Coming of age
Trainspotter is not new. However, TrainspotterTwo is, and this new version comes with some pretty major improvements. As we say, it’s donationware – it is a labour of love from its developer, and he’ll answer questions and fix bugs and generally be there for you. Thumbs up.
(You can donate to get rid of the occasional nag screen, and I suggest if you find the program useful, that’s exactly what you do. You’ll be investing a lot of time and energy into using this program to organise your equally valuable music collection, and I am sure that rewarding the author for his hard work will bump you to the top of his list should you need help. Quite right too.)
What it does
The program actually has a lot of powerful features, and they’re not necessarily connected, apart from the fact that they allow you to get a better hold on your digital music for playing in Traktor.
At its heart, it is a browser and manipulator of your music file metadata and of your Traktor music database (which is the register of tunes that Traktor makes for itself when you import into it).
As you know, Traktor offers rudimentary control over your tunes once you’re inside the program. TrainspotterTwo, though, gives you a whole host of features. Once you’ve finished doing your stuff in TrainspotterTwo, you save and quit, and when you next open Traktor, all your good work – smart playlists, properly tagged music, cover art, key info etc – is there for you to use.
Here are the main features:
- It can locate all the ID3 tag information for your tunes from Discogs, which is probably the most respected source of catalogue information for dance music releases online. No more manually typing ID3 info in – especially good when ripping vinyl
- It lets you tag your music in any way you like, just like in iTunes. You can tag any MP3 any number of times, so a song could be tagged “Top 40”, “floorfiller”, “house”, “clean”, “long intro” etc
- It lets you create smart playlists, based around any criteria or any combination of criteria, to a level that’s even more sophisticated than that which is possible in iTunes
- It can detect the key of the music in your library, writing it back to Traktor so key information is now present in the program for harmonic mixing. You can choose what notation to use too, so you can prefer Camelot notation as popularised by Mixed in Key over traditional, for instance
- It can find missing cover art (again by querying Discogs, and also Google Images), and write it either to the MP3 itself or to folder.jpg in the containing folder, Windows Media Player style
- It allows you to considerably streamline your workflow when ripping vinyl, as it will let you find your record on Discogs, grab all the info, open a new window ready to rip it, rip it, and then save it as an MP3 (or FLAC) complete with metadata
All changes are either saved to the metadata or back to the Traktor database depending upon what the info is.
Basically after doing all of the above, next time you open Traktor, there are all of your files, complete with all the right information, cover art, and – crucially – with all of your smart playlists worked out and present and correct.
Only now, unlike iTunes smart playlists, they’re in perfect sync with your Traktor info. Just to be clear, this smart playlist data is utterly independent from any smart playlist taggings you have in iTunes, as it is stored right there in your Traktor database.
(Of course, universal ID3 tag info is obviously going to change in iTunes too, but smart playlists and tagging? They’re now a native Traktor/Trainspotter thing.)
What it’s like to use
The program is not smooth and polished like iTunes, it has to be said. To start with, the Mac version looks like the Windows version, so Mac users will get that “ported over” feel. Also, it is still a bit buggy (help files, preferences).
But apart from that, and once you’ve worked out how the various windows interact (they’re all resizable now, unlike in the original version), it’s all pretty self-explanatory.
It’s also donationware, and as it stands today on the early beta I tested, it’s 95% useful, 5% off being perfect. That’s not a bad ratio, especially considering that as I said, the developer is very accessible for dialogue – he’s helping out several people over on this DJTechTools forum post, for instance, as I write.
Once you get used to its little foibles, it is fine to use, and nothing – and I mean nothing – can prepare you for the joy of opening Traktor to see all your good work (especially beautiful, fully functional smart playlists) all present and correct.
I can’t state enough the joy of having good smart playlist implementation in your choice of DJ software. Serato ITCH (for instance) plays absolutely fine with iTunes smart playlists, but sadly Traktor doesn’t. The fact that Trainspotter fixes this – never mind key detection, cover art and the rest – mean that if you’re a Traktor user who’s serious about music collection management, you will really love this.
Conversely, of course, if you’re the kind of DJ that just has your tunes organised by the order you bought them in (and I know plenty of vinyl and CD DJs who do just that, never mind digital DJs), never rips vinyl in bulk, and alway plays the same kind of sets, you’re probably not going to find the extra complication that TrainspotterTwo introduces into your workflow to be worth the hassle. If you’re not technical at all, ditto – it has some pretty involved functions if you get deep into it. Lucky most digital DJs are geeks, eh! 😉
But overall, for everyone who’s a Traktor user and has a vested interest in getting the most from their digital music collection, I thoroughly recommend grabbing TrainspotterTwo on its release. Take the small amount of time involved in getting used to the (sometimes not 100% obvious) way it works, and try all of its features out for yourself. I suspect you won’t want to stop using it once you have.
TrainspotterTwo is released soon and will be available from the Trainspotter website. If you can’t wait and wish to try the beta, you can always ask nicely on the Trainspotter forum – tell them Digital DJ Tips sent you!