Your Questions: What Non-Traktor Gear Works With Stems?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 3 August, 2017

Stems files work just fine in Native Instruments’s own hardware and with Traktor… but where are the other hardware / software combos we’ve been expecting from other manufacturers?

Digital DJ Tips reader Andre writes something we are getting asked a lot by readers at the moment, in one shape or form, about the new multitrack file format, Stems. He writes: “Hi guys! Who else other than Tractor will be incorporating Stem files in their controllers?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Stems are a special music file format that puts four parts of a track (that together make up the whole) into one single file. So on compatible software, DJs can turn these parts on or off, or put them through filters, change their volume, add FX individually to them, and so on. or, they can just play the track like normal – it’s the DJ’s choice.

The file format was developed by Native Instruments for DJs, but it is “open”, meaning Native Instruments is encouraging producers to make Stems, and developers to incorporate the ability to play Stems into their software.

Actually, any Midi controllers can “control” Stems, so it’s not really a case of manufacturers incorporating them into their controllers, more incorporating them into their software. The thing is, as of the time of writing Native Instruments hasn’t released the developers’ kit to let them officially do that. That means so far, there’s precious little out there that isn’t Traktor-driven.

What is out there…

Mixed In Key’s Flow 8 Deck can play stems, and ingeniously uses the EQ and gain knobs on a whole host of DJ controllers to control the four parts, but it’s (as of now) an unofficial implementation, and you can’t see the four stem waveforms in the software at all (remember, in Traktor you can’t either in the software itself, but the built-in screens on the Kontrol D2, Kontrol S5 and Kontrol S8 let you see this info).

We’ve been privately shown a forthcoming version of another manufacturer’s software that DOES show the four individual waveforms of the stems, but that company is holding back from going “public” until the NI developer kit is released, so they can tidy up the implementation.

Watch this space…

So it’s early days for Stems, I’d say watch this space because while there almost certainly will be more hardware mappings and more software to let you use Stems in lots of new ways, until Native Instruments gets that kit out, they’re likely to be very thin on the ground.

Have you seen any novel used or mappings for Stems? What hardware and software would you like to see working with them? Please share your thoughts below.

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