Traktor Pro S4 – Beyond the Hype, Part 1
Would we see people with sleeping bags living for days in front of the Native Instruments headquarters in Berlin, if NI sold Traktor Pro S4 directly from a little shop? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes; however, there is no NI shop where you can pick up your Traktor Pro S4.
To be honest, I was at all surprised by the hype NI was able to create by some short videos posted on YouTube. Apple, one of the best hype creators, couldn't have done it better. My compliments to the NI marketing guys.
I have been lucky enough to have been able to use the Pro S4 software and the S4 controller for some weeks now, so I won't repeat what you already know from the various videos and sources that were part of the hype. This posting will give a good overview of the new and the changed features in Traktor Pro S4, I shall try to stay rational. It tries to give some deeper insight into what you can expect and/or get and will help users of Traktor Pro/Duo to make the switch.
Version 1.0.0 vs. 1.0.1
If you are one of the happy people getting the S4 package soon , i.e. early in November then install software version 1.0.0. from the DVD, activate it and then download version 1.0.1 with the Native Instruments Service Center application. Version 1.0.1 is the most recent version as of today and this posting is based on that version.
You should do that even BEFORE starting the software for one simple reason. Starting with Traktor Pro S4 each version will have its own dedicated settings folder below your personal folder. For Traktor Pro S 4 version 1.0.0 the folder name will be Traktor S 4 1.0.0 and for version 1.0.1 it will be Traktor S 4 1.0.1.
On the first start Traktor Pro S4 will detect an older version and asks you if you wish to import the old collection. So when you start Pro S4 after updating to version 1.0.1 the collection is imported only once and you can remove the Traktor S 4 1.0.0 folder.
See also the Traktor Pro S4 Setup Guide
CHANGED: Moved and Removed Controls
Compared with "normal" Traktor Pro some controls and features have been either moved or removed. The following list contains an overview:
- The Cruise mode button was moved from Master Panel in Global Section to the button bar in the header. It sits between the Preferences and the Fullscreen button.
- The volume knobs for the headphone and for Main/Cue level moved from the Master Panel in Global Section to the crossfader.
- The Timecode settings in the Preferences dialog have been removed. Only the Platter/Scope section on Preferences/Decks is still visible but it is disabled.
- The 4 band EQ type Xone was removed; now you can select only between the three different 3 band types.
- The space usage in the Global Section is worse than it was, especially if you use a laptop with a higher screen resolution. "Normal" Traktor Pro was able to display Master Clock/FX 1 and Recorder/FX2 side by side if there is enough space. Now, no matter how many pixel width your screen has, they will never been shown next to each other.
- The code for the CPU Load indicator in the Traktor header has been improved and better informs you than in earlier versions about the CPU load of the Traktor internal audio engine (not about the total CPU load of the application).
NEW: Sample Decks
Traktor Pro S4 introduces the new deck type Sample Deck. Only deck C and deck D can be configured as sample decks. Each sample deck offers four sample slots. The deck type can be set in the Preferences/Decks dialog in section Deck Flavor. (You can no longer set the deck type with the context menu of the deck letter of the deck anymore as it was possible in Traktor Duo/Pro.)
Decks A and B are always set to Track Deck. Deck C and Deck D can be set to either Track Deck, Sample Deck and Live Input (see next section).
Selecting Sample Deck gives you four Sample Slots in the respective deck. The maximum length of the audio that can be loaded into a sample slot is 48 seconds. You can either load a sample from the browser, or copy it from the track deck above the sample deck, or copy a recorded loop from the loop recorder and even copy samples from one slot to another.
The sample slots offer two playback modes: loop and one-shot. Samples that are played in a loop mode are automatically synchronised to the tempo master and continuously looped; one shot samples are played at the original tempo and playback ends at the end of the sample. You can change the playback mode by clicking the mode indicator in the slot.
You can tag your samples with the playback mode you with which you wish to use them. This can be done either when you import the samples or you can change it later for samples that are already in your collection.
To import samples as loops or one shots open the Explorer/Finder node in Traktor and then browse to the folder where the samples live. Select the files, right-click them and select Import to Collection. Then select either As Tracks, As Looped Samples or As One-Shot-Samples.
To change the file type for samples that are already part of your collection you can use the Set type to commands in the context menu of the tracks. Looped samples and one shot samples are marked with a special icon in the first column of the track browser.
Traktor Pro S4 offers two control modes to deal with the slots of one sample deck: either you control all slots at the same time or you select individual slots and then perform action on them. Actions can be: changing the volume, changing the filter, halving or doubling the sample size.
(There is no Keylock available for the Sample Slots.)
EXAMPLE: Let's assume you set deck C to sample deck mode and want to change the volume. First use the deck focus button and make sure that the focus is on deck C. The Deck C focus indicator in the display should be lit. Use the Loop Move encoder to change the volume of all four slots.
Now hold Shift and press Hotcue1/Hotcue 3. That selects sample slots 1 and 3; the LEDs in the Hotcue buttons are blinking. Turning the Loop Move Encoder now changes the volume of slots 1 and 3 only.
If you have Traktor Kontrol X1 as well download this mapping that allows you to change the filter and volume of each sample slot with the FX section on the X1
There is much more that you can do with the sample slots but not all possibilities are mapped to the S4 controller. If you go to Preferences/Controller Manager, then click Add In and open the Sample Deck submenu you see all actions that can be mapped.
CHANGED: Live Input (was Audio Through)
Selecting Live Input (which is the old Audio Through mode) routes the audio from the sources connected to Channel C/D (on the back of the S4 controller) into the internal Traktor mixer. You then can control the audio with the S4 as if the audio would come from a normal track deck: use the EQ, the Filter, the Gain encoder or even the FX units.
After you connected the source to the rear of the S4 controller open Preferences/Input Routing and select the appropriate Inputs either for Input Channel C or Channel D.
ATTENTION: You cannot use FX units 3 or 4 for that side of the controller on which you set the deck mode to Live Input. To be able to control FX unit 3 and 4 you would need to change the deck focus. But: the deck focus button is disabled for that side of the controller. This is a little design flaw and I would expect that it will be repaired in a future version.
NEW: Using a Microphone
Using a microphone with Pro S4 and the controller is quite easy. First connect the microphone to the MIC socket on the rear of the S4 controller. This disables the input of two RCA connectors automatically. Set the THRU/USB switch in section Channel D on the rear of the S4 controller to USB.
You can use the mic in two ways: either with the Live Input mode of one deck or use the dedicated Microphone mode. To configure the mic for Live Input mode go to Preferences/Decks/Deck Flavor and set Deck D to Live Input. Then open Input Routing pane and select in section Channel D the two inputs 3 In: Ch D Left and 4 In: Ch D Right. Now you can set the volume of the microphone with the up-fader of deck D and you can use the equalizer, filter, gain and also the FX unit. Those are the advantages but you loose one deck in this setup.
In dedicated Microphone mode you do not need a deck, but you will not have an EQ for the mic. To setup the routing in this configuration open Input Routing pane and select in section Input Aux the two inputs 3 In: Ch D Left and 4 In: Ch D Right. Now you can change the volume with the knob on the right on the front side of the S4 controller.
NEW: Loop Recorder
One of the other big new features of Traktor Pro S4 is the loop recorder. In the GUI it occupies the part of the middle panel in the Global Section and almost all controls (except the Loop Recorder Source Selector) can be found on the S4 controller as well. To select the source open the menu and select Main, Cue or Aux. Main sends the Master Out to the loop recorder, Cue sends the signal of the deck/s where the Cue/Prelisten button is On and Aux sends the signal that is configured in section Input Aux of the Preferences/Input Routing pane. This could be the microphone (as explained in the section above) or whatever source you connected to the routed inputs (even a CDJ or an iPod).
Use the SIZE button to set the audio length that shall be recorded: it can either be 4, 8, 16 or 32 bars. Press the record button to start the recording. During the recording the SIZE button shows a red frame, the moving marker indicates the recording position. Once the selected length of audio is recorded the frame colour changes to blue and playback of the sample starts.
You can use the Dry/Wet knob to set the ratio between the main signal and the loop recorder signal that is sent to the master out ports. Depending on what kind of audio you recorded be careful with the knob. There is a chance that you hear a kind of flanger effect and I wasn't able to get rid of it.
Once recorded the audio inside the Loop Recorder can be overdubbed by pressing RECORD again. Then the new audio material is added immediately you need to press RECORD again to stop recording; it won't stop automatically. To add another layer, press RECORD again and so on.
To restore the recording to the previous state press the UNDO button; if you want to undo the undo-action press REDO.
To keep the audio from the loop recorder in your collection you need to copy it to one of the sample slots. Then the audio is saved and the file is added to the collection.
The loop recorder is a great tool to prepare loops and samples before a gig. I don't think I will use it live often because of the unwanted flanging.
REMOVED: External Mixing Mode
As Traktor Pro S4 is available only bundled with the S4 controller the only mixing mode that is available on the Preferences/Output Routing pane is Internal: the checkbox External was removed.
However, if you want to you can get the External mixing mode and the options to define the routing back to the Preferences dialog.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial that shows how to get External mixing mode back.
REMOVED: External Recording
The default settings to record your mix is using the Master Out signal that the Traktor internal mixer provides. There may be situations when you want to be able to record an external signal. Traktor forum user JuG found out how to get there.
You can find a step-by-step guide to his hack here...
NEW: Looping Backward
One of the looping features requested for a long time is finally here, but unfortunately it is implemented half-heartedly.
When you set an auto loop (by using on of the buttons in the Loop Length selector on the decks) the current playback position is used as the Loop-In-point. Quite often it would be good to be able to use the current playback position as the Loop-Out point after you have heard a few bars you wish to loop.
This can be done with the mapping the command “Backward Loop Size + Set” maybe to a keyboard key. Even though this command has several interaction modes available, the only one that makes sense is Direct; forget the other ones. After selecting Direct as the interaction mode use the list Set to value to choose the desired loop length.
Having this new command available will make a lot of Traktor Pro users that switch to Pro S4 happy. However, the implementation and integration of this great feature could be improved:
- There should be a check box on the Preferences/Traktor Kontrol S4 pane that allows you to configure the behaviour of the AutoLoop buttons on the S4 controller between "Set AutoLoop Forward" and "Set AutoLoop Backward".
- The MIDI command set misses the command "Backward Loop Set" that behaves as "Loop Set". Loop Set uses the current value of loop length selector to set a loop forward from the playback position. "Backward Loop Set" should be the same except when setting the loop backwards. With this command it would be easy to map the backward looping to a push encoder: turning it would set the loop length, pushing it would se the loop.
Hopefully both features will be implemented in a future version to make Backward Looping really useful.
NEW: Beatmarkers and Hotcues
In the default setting of the S4 controller you have four buttons to set and select hotcues 1 to 4 of a track. (You can change that by open Preferences/Kontrol S4 dialog, open the drop down list Sample Play Buttons and select Hotcue 5-8 from the list. Then you can control the Hotcues 5 to 8 with the sample play buttons on the S4 controller.)
To make optimal use of the four default Hotcue buttons you can exclude the beatmarkers to become hotcues automatically. This is done with the new checkbox on Preferences/Decks.
If the option Include Beatmarkers to Hotcues is checked, then each beatmarker that is either set during the track analysis or manually will be mapped to a Hotcue button (of course, only as long as not all eight Hotcue buttons are occupied). If you uncheck this option beatmarkers can still be set and they show up in the waveform and the stripe of a track, but they are tagged as "not a hotcue" and don't occupy a Hotcue slot.
This option only affects NEW beatmarkers. If you import tracks with beatmarkers that are set in earlier Traktor versions and if those beatmarkers were hotcues as well, the beatmarker hotcues will not be removed.
This ends part 1. One of the topics of part 2 will be the new synchronisation architecture of Traktor Pro S4. This will be available soon.
Meanwhile check the other tutorials that are linked in the Traktor Pro S4 menu as well.
Written by Rainer G. Haselier
Edited by Karl Yates a.k.a. Karlos Santos in the Native Instruments forum
Last update: November 4, 2010