In The Never-Ending Battle Between Serato And Traktor, Native Instruments Just Made A Brilliant Chess Move

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If you haven’t heard already, Native Instruments has hacked the price of their flagship DJ-software Traktor when they announced the release of the Kontrol F1. To celebrate the release of their new controller and Traktor 2.5 on May 30th, the Krauts streamlined their DJ offerings. The new hardware device, the Kontrol F1, is a controller for the “remix deck” a new feature in the upcoming Traktor 2.5.

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Doing away with Traktor Duo/LE, the limp version of their DJ software, Traktor Pro 2 is now offered with every NI hardware device (the S2, S4, X1, soon to come F1 and the Audio 2). This means that with the purchase of a $120 Audio 2, consumers can have unfettered access to the world’s best DJ software and be ready to “rock a club.” Those with previous versions of Traktor can upgrade cheaply and Traktor 2 can be bought standalone for $89. DJs who want to use DVS will now need to buy an Audio 6/10 that’s packaged with Traktor Scratch and starts at $339.

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Now that we have the semantics over with, let’s talk about how smart this reorganization  was for Native Instruments. One of the biggest hurdles in DJing is the initial barrier to entry for the average consumer. If you use Serato, even though the software is free, you need to buy a Rane box for a mere $699. Serato’s Itch, the MIDI friendly version of Serato is extremely under-featured when compared to Traktor and is meant as an appetizer to big boy Serato. With the new Traktor product line, there is no appetizer. There is no Duo or LE version so consumers get the main course for one extremely low price. The “Scratch” brand starts at almost half the price of a Rane box and the S4/S2 models can be used as DVS mixers for a small upgrade fee. In the never-ending battle between Serato and Traktor, Native Instruments just made a brilliant chess move.

The Traktor Pro 2.5 update that’s coming in May sweetens the deal even more. Adding the “remix” deck, Native Instruments answer to Ableton/Serato’s Bridge, the update  will open up creative possibilities. Essentially, the remix deck has four slots which hold four Ableton-like clips which are all synced to the master tempo, allowing users to control up to 64 samples. This allows DJs to remix tracks live, adding additional percussion, vocals, basslines, etc. and producers can even create an Ableton style “live” set with the stems of their tracks. The F1 is a small pad controller for this new feature, and while I haven’t personally used one I imagine it’ll be like a small-scale APC-40 experience. Additionally, Traktor’s redone their Beat-Gridding engine, which allows for adaptive “average” grids for songs that don’t maintain perfect time. This is a huge feature and Ableton/Serato have had a leg up on Native Instruments for some time. Now if only they’d add native HID support for the CDJ-900/2000!

Traktor’s new price point also tackles another huge issue in the music software industry: piracy. The old entry-level, Traktor Duo, cost $120 and was limited in comparison to Traktor Pro, only allowing users to use two decks and a handful of effects. It was meant as an appetizer, similar to Serato Itch, giving users a taste of the $229 Traktor Pro. This model while making sense in economic theory, falls flat on its face in the age of Internet piracy. When an hour of Internet digging can save oneself $229 and give you access to the full version, it’s hard to resist the temptation to pirate the software. But once there’s an update, you’re stuck with that version until a hacker delivers a cracked version. Also, due to the nature of a “crack,” your DJ software isn’t as stable as a store-bought version. For $229 those are risks most are willing to take, but by hacking the price by more than half, it removes a lot of the incentive around piracy (saving money). $89 is a much smaller price to pay for piece of mind...

With the discount, the question of “if” one should upgrade goes out the window. The “when” is the frustrating part. Traktor 2.5 and the F1 don’t come out until May 30. In the meantime, I’m sure Traktor registrations are going to go through the roof!