So Traktor Kontrol S8 – the new jogwheel-free flagship controller from Ni that brings the Remix Decks into the same unit as everything else, and adds screens to help break the reliance on the laptop screen – is out on October 30. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that at some point – either when the S8 drops, but probably shortly afterwards – Traktor 3 will be with us too.
Now, Traktor has lots of fans, because it’s the most technically flexible / configurable of all DJ software, and because it carries NI’s DJ/producer ethos baked right into its DNA. So if you love what NI as a company does, you’re likely to love Traktor too. But Lord knows it ain’t perfect.
It’s a victim of its own history in a lot of ways, having had stuff bolted onto it over the many years it’s been out there to the point where it feels very “top heavy”. I am gonna take a wild guess that NI’s developers loved making Traktor DJ for iOS, precisely because it was a “clean slate” – the absolute opposite to working on Traktor code, I’d imagine, where the weight of legacy stuff deep in its core must – to the developers – at times feel pretty paralysing.
The fact that the highly useful metadata sync between Traktor Pro and Traktor DJ was announced, then later on broke, and has remained broken with no sign of a fix right to the present day, to me is an indication of the precarious nature of making changes in Traktor 2.x as it stands. So it’s my guess that Traktor 3 is going to be NI’s rework of the whole thing from the ground up, just like Serato has done combining ITCH and Scratch Pro into Serato DJ, and just like Virtual DJ has done in the total rewrite between 7 and 8. A code base to build future iterations on: A clean start.
That’s my reasoning for thinking it ain’t coming right away (I’d love to be proved wrong), and that’s why I think it’s gonna be a pretty big deal when it does. That’s also why I think they’ll have had internal meetings that go “OK, clean sheet – what shall we include in Traktor Pro 3 that ain’t in the software right now?”
Of course, we speak to hundreds of you guys and girls each week and we hear the same requests over and over again, plus we use all DJ software including Traktor practically every day to do our jobs, so we have a pretty good idea of what people (including us) would like to see in Traktor Pro 3. It’s that combined knowledge that we base this list on. Not all of the following suggestions would, we guess, fit with where NI wants to take the platform – but a lot of them just might. We’d be surprised if at least some of them don’t appear in Traktor Pro 3. So here they our, in our order of likelihood:
Our Traktor 3 Wishlist
1. Metadata syncing with Traktor DJ
Traktor DJ on iOS is a wonderful thing. It’s smooth, fun and minimal, and I love DJing on it. In short, I think they got it right, not only as a portable platform to DJ on, but as a platform for preparation away from your laptop too. Traktor DJ could and should shine in this respect, however the metadata sync with Traktor Pro broke down, and they just haven’t managed to fix it. It needs to be fixed, now. Prepping your tunes on your iPad and DJing from your “big” computer and software is an awesome timesaver and no-brainer, and they were built-in already as they teased us with it, only to have it taken away after a while! Bring it back, please…
Likelihood of happening: 95%. Would be a major boo-boo to leave this out of any upgrade.
2. Manual beatgridding/warping
Put simply, the next version of Traktor Pro should include the ability to smoothen out tempo fluctuations in non-electronic music. Ableton has it, Serato has it, MixVibes has it, Traktor doesn’t. It lets you easily incorporate types of music that features a real human drummer like funk, soul, disco, and even rock into DJ sets that feature electronically programmed elements like house and EDM, all the while being able to use all the advanced features of loop-based DJing with such music.
To me it’s a curious omission, and adding it would bring a lot of people back to Traktor who have abandoned the software because for them, this is a dealbreaker. With the emphasis on “master tempo” on the Kontrol S8 (it has its own knob…) and the depreciating of individual tempo controls, this becomes even more important.
Likelihood of happening: 90%. I am sure they’ve wanted to do this themselves for years now, and I think they’ll do it in Traktor Pro 3.x.
3. Better library management
For me, Traktor has always tried a bit too much to reinvent the wheel in the way it integrates with your files: Too many flashing alerts at the bottom of the library when you feel things should “just work”, too many error messages that don’t make a jot of sense except to the person who originally programmed them.
Modern OSes are great at dealing with files, and software should only add on top what it really has to. Why is my MP3 artwork too big for Traktor when it’s fine for everything else? Why can’t I edit ID3 tags from within my iTunes playlists in Traktor? From a user experience perspective, there’s no reason for such things. Damn, Traktor should be as good as iTunes so I don’t have to use that other piece of software at all! How good would that be? Give me smart playlists and tagging and make it look good. You guys can do it!
Likelihood of happening: 85%. I think this will improve, but I think the temptation to “do things differently” may just mean that even in Traktor Pro 3 there will be head-scratching quirks.
4. The recommendation engine from Traktor DJ
Look, I don’t care what purists say: That recommendation engine in Traktor DJ is freakin’ awesome. It sorts by BPM, key and whatever else it does to give you a list of possible next tunes from your collection, in order of likelihood that they’ll be a shoe-in for a perfect mix. Who cares that it undeniably makes finding the next tune easier? It’s not like you have to do what it says unthinkingly – but damn does it work! As far as I’m concerned, my answer to detractors is that you chose all those tunes in the first place anyway, right? So it’s still you DJing, it’s just that you have an invisible little helper in Traktor making you even more awesome. I love it! Bring it to Traktor Pro 3, guys, you know you want to.
Likelihood of it happening: 75%. They’ve already got a compatible key filter, it wouldn’t be so much of a leap. Will upset purists but I think NI loves this feature, too.
5. Better use of space on the screen
Traktor currently kind of demands a big screen: Think 15″ MacBook. To me this is not where things are going, and NI will be thinking that too, what with dealing with the small screens on the Traktor Kontrol S8. The ethos needs to carry across to Traktor 3 too! I mean, look at the 13″ MacBook with Retina display: In default resolution, they actually slide back to 1280 x 800 effectively. Have you ever tried DJing with Traktor on a 1280 x 800 screen?
Trouble is, stuff does genuinely need space. Look at Serato: It’s got more and more cluttered as new features add panels and layers. So this one is actually kind of a big ask, but it’s one that it’d be great to see somehow worked into 3.0.
Likelihood of happening: 60%. Probably more modularity will let people switch off what they don’t need to achieve this, and to get more than, like, two tracks showing in the library at the bottom of the screen…
6. The option to have parallel waveforms
Look, you’ve gotta have them on the screen anyway, somewhere. There’s already a “phase meter” that shows how far ahead or behind the beats one song is from another, so it’s not like the concept of visual beatgrid comparison is the issue here; it’s not like NI feels that visual beatmatching or “waveriding” is a a bad thing. So bite the bullet, boys, and do it how everyone else has – it truly makes sense that way. And if not as a default, then at least give it an option.
Likelihood of happening: 50%. For some reason it’s always been resisted until now. A small, hardcore portion of the user base thinks parallel waveforms are a bad idea and they’re quite vocal about it…
7. Simplified configuration
Yeah, I get it: Traktor is meant to be insanely configurable. I’m not saying remove any of the actual functionality here; just get a UX guru in to rethink the moving parts, the language, the workflows etc within the daunting current configuration menu. You shouldn’t need whole books written about how to use your config panel (ie Traktor Bible), and you shouldn’t need third-party software to help with mappings. Why not have a simple config panel with what 80% of the audience uses 80% of the time, and squirrel the rest away in advanced menus? Wouldn’t that be a good start?
Likelihood of happening: 40%. I just can’t see Traktor abandoning its “lift up the bonnet at your own peril” approach in this area, even though as part of an overall design simplification/user friendliness overhaul it would send out a powerful signal.
8. Easier installation, product registration & licence management
That Service Center (sic) thingy is an arse. That whole convoluted installation procedure never seems to work first time, it gives bizarre error messages, and the upgrade process is not intuitive. Worst of all, it all happens precisely when a new users needs hand-holding the most: Right at the start of their Traktor experience. Not good.
Now, I’m no software engineer and I’ve no idea how they’d do it, but the days of huge portals to manage customer rights to products are surely numbered. Why not just make it all “just work” when you plug your NI hardware in, the way a Serato-compatible controller does? Do all the registering stuff as much as you can behind the scenes. Have just one serial that “knows” what you’ve bought. Something, anything. That Service Center is bloat: I bought one bit of software, not two.
Likelihood of happening: 20%. It’s not actually a part of Traktor, so no real pressing need to change it, plus it protects revenue. I can’t see it changing radically any time soon.
9. Incorporate Beatport
Virtual DJ has Grooveshark. Algoriddim’s djay has Spotify. Serato has White Label. For me, Traktor and Beatport would make great bedfellows: Have Beatport on a tab right there in the browser that’s searchable and easy to play tunes right out of Beatport’s library.
Of course Beatport is a store, not a streaming service, but this is a wishlist, and we’re down to the improbables here, so what the heck? I’m throwing it out there anyway. Maybe Beatport is planning a streaming service in the future, and if so, Native Instruments has to bolt it in! Even if not, why not make it possible to buy from within Traktor itself and play immediately thereafter? Would save a lot of app-switching, if you ask me.
Likelihood of happening: In Traktor 3.0? 10%. By 4.0? 80%. It’s coming, like it or not, in some way or form. It’s an online world, and one that Traktor should be quick to exploit.
10. Incorporate video
I personally don’t care so much about this one, gotta say, but a lot of you folk do. Serato DJ, Virtual DJ, and MixVibes have it, so again, why not Traktor? Why not have a video plugin as an add-on pack or in-app purchase for those who want or like such things? It could play music videos, or it could add cool visuals to DJ sets. After all, look at any EDM show: They aren’t exactly visual-free affairs, are they? Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could take the growing popularity of cheap, awesome lighting and video walls and build the ability to control them straight from your DJ controller? Someone who also had the software platform to power it, too? Someone like NI, perhaps?
Likelihood of happening: 5%. I just can’t see it. After all, from production to DJing tools, NI is an audio company through and through. This one truly is wishful thinking…or is it?
What Native Instruments has achieved in its few short years is awesome. It has its own way of looking at things, trying to break down the walls between DJing and production (both of which it has a huge, genuine passion for), and between hardware and software (again, both of which it is 100% totally committed to). All of this makes it unique as a technology company.
With Traktor 3.0, it has a chance to catch up with some of the best innovations of its competitors, iron out some of the weaknesses of its own software, and forge ahead once again, restating in the software’s design and feature choices what really matters to NI as a company. Whichever of the above are or aren’t included in Traktor Pro 3.0 when it drops, it’s gonna be mighty interesting to find out…
What do you think of our list? What do you think should be included in Traktor Pro 3.0 that isn’t in it currently? Are you excited by the direction NI is taking with the Traktor Kontrol S8, the Remix Decks, and Traktor DJ? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!