In the last article like this, we took a look at things you needed to know when making the jump from Traktor Pro to Serato DJ. Now for the sake of fairness and completeness, we’re switching it up and listing 10 things Serato users need to know before they crossover to Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro software.
10 Key Traktor Points
- You don’t need a Traktor-ready sound card/DJ controller to use Traktor – One of the biggest differences between Serato DJ and Traktor is the fact that you don’t need a Traktor-certified controller or audio interface to run it in its full-featured glory. Though you could practically DJ with just your laptop and a splitter cable, you’d most probably want to use a controller of some sort, and personally I think the best thing about Traktor is that you can use it with just about any controller, even if it wasn’t designed for DJing. (You do need a Traktor-certified device for DVS use, though.)
- You can’t VJ with Traktor, but… – Not, it’s true that you can’t video DJ with Traktor, but you can use a third party app like the ILOVEQC Live FX Mixer that uses Traktor’s Midi output to sync visuals during your DJ set. It isn’t a powerful integrated solution like Serato Video, but for basic visual playback it’ll do
- Industry grade key detection is built in – Serato DJ has keylock built-in, and Serato recently integrated its premium keylock software Pitch ’n Time to work with Serato DJ (albeit as an add on pack that costs US$29), but Serato still can’t analyse and detect key. Traktor, as of more recent versions, can
- Midi mapping is more complicated in Traktor than in Serato DJ… – Customising your Midi controller’s interaction with Serato DJ is as simple as clicking the Midi button on the main Serato DJ screen and then moving that fader/pressing that button/twisting that knob, kind of like a “Midi Learn” function in most Digital Audio Workstation software. Contrast this to the menu-driven and rather clunky Midi mapping in Traktor, and you’ll find why mapping is a bit of a hurdle for digital DJs who want to get into custom controller maps. Of course you could download pre-made mappings online (there are tons to choose from), but there’s something to be said about making your own custom maps, and Serato excels at making Midi mapping a simple task
- …but Traktor Midi mapping is more powerful and comprehensive – Fancy creating sophisticated FX macros that manipulate audio with a single turn of your DJ controller knob? Want greater control of visual LED feedback on your DJ controller? Want to map jogwheels? Traktor can definitely do all that and more, as what it lacks in mapping simplicity it makes up for in controller programming depth. There are books that go into detail about how to take full advantage of Traktor’s Midi programming (Traktor Bible is one), and there are also programs like Xtreme Mapping that make Midi mapping less of a chore
- Your Serato library isn’t compatible with Traktor – Again, we strongly recommend using iTunes to organise your library. Check out this article about organisation essentials for DJs, and also how to maintain your iTunes library for Traktor use
- No need to buy FX packs and other add-ons – If you’ve invested quite a bit in Serato DJ’s optional FX packs and plug-ins like video, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to spend an extra dime once you’ve purchased Traktor Pro 2. The US$99 price simply gives you the full Traktor experience
- No stacked waveforms – Love your Serato waveform layouts? While Traktor Pro offers colour options for waveforms, it doesn’t have the stacked waves that Serato is known for. Further, while Serato DJ lets you pick from a handful of layout and waveform placement options, Traktor always has their main menu standard
- Sample decks = Remix decks – While the Serato SP-6 lets you load six pieces of audio per bank (there are four banks) aside from the ones playing in your virtual decks, Traktor Pro takes this idea and blows it up into a full-fledged remix system called Remix Decks, which lets you play samples using a 4×16 grid akin to Ableton Live. As such it blurs the lines between DJing and production for the adventurous performer
- Speaking of Ableton Live… – “The Bridge” doesn’t work in Traktor Pro 2. For those who aren’t familiar, The Bridge is a plugin developed by Serato and Ableton to “bridge” between Serato Scratch Live and Ableton, effectively letting you DJ with Ableton Live clips and one shots. You can’t use any such plugin with Traktor, but there are workarounds to getting Traktor to communicate with Live via Midi Clock, but it’s still a bit clunky and intermittent. (As The Bridge also doesn’t work at all in Serato DJ, so one can guess it’s going when official Serato support for SSL ends April 2015…
My personal thoughts…
Having been a long-time Traktor user who now also mixes with Serato DJ, I find that there really aren’t any huge differences between the two in use. Of course the graphical user interface and controller/sound card compatibility are certainly key points in influencing buyer decisions as this is where the most important differences are, but when you’re out there DJing, what I’ve really learned to appreciate about these two pieces of software was how they can seemingly disappear into the background if you want them to.
There really isn’t a huge learning curve when transferring from Serato to Traktor, and when you’ve got your controller mapped out the way you want it to work, the software can take a backseat while your mixing takes centre stage as you focus on your DJ performance. I believe a DJ’s primary job is still choosing the best music possible at a certain point in time, and if software can aid you in that endeavour while not calling too much attention to itself (ie screengazing), then it has achieved its purpose.
Are you thinking of jumping to Traktor Pro? Has Serato’s trademark simplicity become too spartan for today’s modern DJ, or is it its strength? Is DJing these days more than just playing one song after another, or is the whole Remix Decks thing only for specialists? Let us know what you think in the comments below!