The NI Traktor Scratch System is a great way for DJs to make the move from hardware to software-based systems. I have even been able to use my old CD player and mixer with Traktor using the control CDs and the A10 interface - even the RCA cables were included!
Made the switch from SSL to Traktor
Are you ready for a slightly long story?
After using SSL for almost 5 years I decided to switch teams and explore what Native Instruments had to offer for DJ software. I heard a set side by side on the competing software and felt that Traktor had a bit more punch, but later learned it was because the DJ was playing WAVs. This sweet misunderstanding has now lead me to feel reinvigorated when I DJ for a number of reasons. I started using Traktor and I now pony up a bit more cash to be able to play WAVs. They sound soooo much better.
I have spent just under a month using the new software and have put close to 60 hours of time into using it. My first impressions were a bit mixed due to the analyzing process being different and having my music library organized in a way I didn't fully recognize right away made me feel slightly unsettled when playing out the first few times. Everything was an icon and I had to hover to figure out all the functions I wanted to access. It felt clumsy for a bit but it's all over now and I access everything with ease.I literally unwrapped the box and was playing for a crowd of 500 within 6 hours so making the switch won't be a long transition if you have 1/2 of a brain.
I have been DJing since 1999 and started out on vinyl so beat matching was essential to my success back then and the sync function on Traktor didn't really appeal to me until I started in on using the remix decks. Syncing loops and samples to your songs is easy and fun and can be done quickly letting you get crazy creative with your sets while you maintain an active dance floor. I have barely cracked the surface of these features, but now I'm hooked and ready to go after a dedicated controller to access these awesome tools with ease. Did I mention you can use vinyl control to scratch and mix the remix decks unlike the sample decks in SSL!? It was pure bliss to have a bunch of battle samples ready and waiting I could scratch and loop with the touch of a button. I keep them loaded in deck C at all times. I figured out that building the beat grid manually is the best way by far and marking the first beat of the song yourself is the way to go. The UI that NI built for Traktor is pure eye candy and the cover art peek-a-boo is a nice touch when scrolling through the crate list.
Having four decks vs the two right out of the box for only $500 was a bonus and I started using the feature right away on Traktor. The quality of hardware is noticeably better on the NI box. Indicator lights on the unit made it easy to see connections and the on screen prompts to detect which input is sketchy was a nice surprise to help with troubleshooting that always occurs when playing out on other systems.
Might as well mention if you ever get caught with out your Traktor box you can still use the software to DJ! Using an 1/8" connection you can plug into any source input and mix use the built in mixer to blend and EQ. It was fun to explore the new software and find this feature. I'm totally car DJing on my laptop whenever possible now when riding shotgun.
The FX section being so large and well engineered by IMHO "better" technicians made me curious as well. I owned a TTM-57SL and used it for about 4 years. I have had several mixers in the past and found that this one was cryptic when it came to using the FX bank. NI makes a intuitive dedicated device that will bring FX usage back into my sets which I am very excited about. This is another reason I decided to give NI a try. I have used their software for production for quite a long time and feel that their development team has the advantage when it comes to expertise in the field of sound design.
I will say this for SSL:
The auto analyze function for BPM seems to be more accurate and easier to use. The side by side waveform display for tracking BPM is a nice visual aid that Traktor doesn't offer. Creating crates and organizing music seems to be a bit more straightforward and natural. It opens and closes faster on my MBP. If you like battle style mixers integrated with their software Rane does have the advantage by far. So many people in the US use SSL interfaces they are almost always available to plug into already at the club or a friends house.
You don't need to think I'm drinking too much of the Cool-Aid from NI without seeing it for yourself. Please visit NI's site and check out the demo vids. Watching their whole product line work together and make for a more creative performance is a big reason I wanted to give Traktor a try. I never had any in depth exposure to Traktor and I think that is why I used SSL for so long. SSL dominates the US market and the rumor on the street is that Traktor DJs can't beat match so thats why they love their sync function (I didn't want that reputation at all). Never mind that almost every DJ I know that learned on SSL uses the visual aid to beat match vs monitoring in their headphones like they'd want you to believe. Screw what people say about each platform and at least try both to figure out what is best for you.