Native Instruments Launches First Look At Stems Creator Tool

Since the announcement of the Kontrol D2 and new Stems format at WMC people have eagerly been waiting for more details on the new file format. Native Instruments has just launched a dedicated Stems site, The site goes into more details on the stems format and the benefits for DJs, producers, labels, and developers. We even get our first look at the Stems Creator Tool.

What Is A Stem File?

Stem Deck view from Kontrol S8 and Kontrol D2

Stem files allow you to interact with four different musical elements of a track independently while DJing – expanding performance possibilities that make your DJ sets stand out. These four ‘stems’ of a track can be modified individually to create spontaneous instrumentals, remixes, or mashups.

Transition between elements stem-by-stem instead of using global volume and EQ control for an entire track. Or apply effects just to a specific stem. And to get really creative, swap elements across multiple decks – take the vocals from one track and mix it with the beat from another, for example. Using the Stem Creator Tool producers and DJs can easily create their own Stem tracks.

Using the Stems Creator Tool

The big question has been: how do you create Stems and how do you deal with mastering individual stems verse a finished stereo track? NI has finally shared some more details the tool that deals with this process.

The Stem Creator Tool first imports four elements of a track, each previously prepared as separate audio files in a DAW or wave editor, along with a stereo master of the whole track. Once imported you can edit metadata like stem name, album title, and stem color.

Master compression and limiting can be applied to all stems for balanced playback. After compression and limiting is adjusted, the Stem Creator Tool exports and packs the stems into a single stem.mp4 file.

For now, it’s a very manual process. But there’s hope for other tools that might improve the process, as the Stems format is open source. This means that popular DAWs like Ableton and Logic could create a dedicated Stems export option to speed up the Stems creation process. It’s a no-brainer since NI is not charging any licensing fees or limiting access to the developer toolkit.

The Stems Creator Tool and developer toolkit aren’t available yet, but the expected release date is sometime in July alongside Traktor 2.9.0. Both will be a free download available to DJs, producers, labels, and developers.

Playing And Controlling Stems

When Traktor 2.9.0 is released, the best way to play and control Stems will be with the Traktor Kontrol D2, Kontrol S8 and Kontrol F1 with Traktor Pro 2. The Kontrol S8 and Kontrol D2 have the added advantage of colored screens so DJs can actually see the individual stem waveforms split across the display.

These controllers will be plug and play with controls natively mapped to the Stem Decks to take full advantage of the new decks. These devices aren’t the only way to control them as the Stem decks will be fully mappable to any MIDI controller (expect to see a Midi Fighter Twister mapping when everything rolls out).

Additionally Stem tracks can be played in any software or hardware that plays .mp4 (the file container used by Stems). If the software or hardware doesn’t support Stems then the track mastered stereo track will be played. This means you can listen a stem track in iTunes or on a CDJ just like a regular track. If other software and hardware developers do indeed add Stem support this would make the Stem format a huge win for DJs/producers and prevent them from being locked down to a specific system (i.e. Traktor).

Have more questions about Stems? Check out the detailed FAQ

Want to see the Stem Decks in action? Check out Ean’s Stem Deck preview!

kontrol D2Kontrol F1kontrol s8Native InstrumentsstemsStems Creator Toolstems-music.comtraktor 2.9
Comments (49)
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  • Karpe DM

    Hey Native Instruments!! Maschine integration PLEASE….

  • Lyndsey Hubert

    I couldn’t wait for the Stems Creator Tool to be released so I took what information was available and have made a template container file so you can attach what ever you want inside using subler on the mac. Quite quick and easy after the initial figuring out. Not sure of the copyright issues but given that it’s just an mp4 file I can’t see that using your original tunes as a stem is a problem. Thought I’d share what i’ve got with those that can’t wait to jam with their own stem songs. More info if requested.

  • audiomontana

    cha ! theres no argument this was coming now !!

  • Roel

    Can you make stems from a existing song? That would be great!!

  • Jonatas Santiago

    Just to point out that there are TWO concepts of STEMS now. The first is NOT a format, not specifically 4 audio files embedded into one file. Stems is a term that came to be many years ago and it basically means each part or track of a song bounced as one file – usually including all the individual audio processing, like reverbs, delays, compression. So you can have 1 stem (e.g., just the bass) or 10 stems (e.g. drums, percussion, bass, synth, piano, strings, guitars, vocal, backvocals and fx). Now NI created the STEMS format, which is what they are presenting here: a format of audio file that embed 4 stems into it.

  • Justin Herriford

    I’d Like to see an APC20/40 Mapping ASAP. 9 faders across the bottom can handle it. : ) The community should be able to get one together. I’ll be working on one from day 0. Race you to it!

  • Will

    it will be interesting to see which producers support the format. Some big names don’t want their vocals or drumkits out there for 14 year old producers to use and make horrible mashups and edm tracks.

  • sammsousa

    they keep saying ‘high quality format’ but from what ive heard, it doesnt support lossless?!?

    • xel_ramix

      I’am not aware of the standard structure of steams, but I can tell you that mp4, the format used; is only a container of media files subject to a metadata header (the steam specification standard) So any track packed inside, could be already compressed or in lossless supported (as in traktor) format like FLAC. I think this will be openly eligible by the author of the steams file. So, for what I understood, “STEAMS” is just an open standard METADATA contained in an MP4 file.

    • Justin Herriford

      From the FAQ –
      ALAC is supported! : )

      “Is the Stem format lossless?
      The Stem format uses the mp4 framework which allows Stem files to be encoded either in AAC 256 kbps VBR or Apple Lossless audio (ALAC). The upcoming Windows 10 provides native ALAC support however previous Windows operating systems do not. Please note that any playback software used on older Windows systems needs to support ALAC itself.

      What kind of compression can be used when creating a Stem file?
      Stem files can be created using 256 kbps AAC encoding with an output quality just like that of iTunes for example. Despite this similarity, Stem files encoded with AAC are of higher quality since each Stem is encoded individually. This is because the net quality of each Stem part is greater than that of a single file encoded in 256 kbps.”

  • Pach

    Just get a drum machine and play your own stem if you really want to add something cool

    • Jon

      Not all DJ’s are producers. Why would I want to waste my time learning to make my own stems when its easier to let the professionals do their job?

    • Mijk van Dijk

      I might wanna add: create your own stems out of your song parts that you cannot recreate easily on stage without a DAW, than bring your drum machine and jam along.
      Combined with RemixDecks STEMS give Traktor similiar capabilities like 2 x “Mini-Ableton-Live” (Stems = Arrange View, RemixDecks = Session View), but with much more spontaneous interaction on the timeline (Loop, Beatjump, Cue-Points).


    WHEN ? WHEN ? WHEN ?

    I need to know the date !

    N.I. : put a countdown on the head page of

    • NeilOughton


  • J Williams

    Oh no, Now everyone will become Danger Mouse

  • John Viera

    Is every single track going to have this STEM thing? Because if not this is a fail. Unless EVERY SINGLE new track on Beatport has this STEM option this technology is DOA.

    • wtf

      …uh, no? why the fuck would that be the case

    • Jon

      Are you the kind of person that wants everything yesterday?

  • Justin Herriford

    I see ALAC support on the FAQ 🙂 This is everything I dreamed it could be. Now it just needs to be released and get that DJTT Stems exchange going. I plan on making dozens of my tunes into stem files the day the creator is released. SO STOKED.

  • Jayson Joyce

    Talking to other producers about stems since it was announced and some issues always come up.. From a producer standpoint… I can see Hip Hop DJ’s loving the tools because they get acapellas easy and can really add to their sets…Problem is 80% of Hip hop DJ’s use Serato…last time I used Serato DJ..It wouldn’t play Mp4 files (Don’t know if it can play them now)..and Serato doesn’t have a dedicated 3rd party player/controller like the D2 or S8..and until they do I doubt they will promote/add Stems in their software to help NI sell hardware..Same with Pioneer and CDJ’s and their controllers. So don’t know if it will blow up the way it should in Hip Hop. For dance music..the bassline or lead synth is basically the equivalent of our’s the meat of the song..It would be easy to see a Stem of a popular dance song up on pirate bay as 4 MP3’s (after being recorded from the original stems) that could either be played in 4 decks sync in traktor ( or any software these days) or worse the best part of the song taken in MP3 format and used in someone else’s track..much easier and cleaner than slicing a sample..and the artrist/producer gets nothing..not the $4.99 for the original stem..and the best part of their song is available in MP3 for the world to do what they want with it..I know pirating is what it is.. but don’t see many popular songs coming out in stems at first..maybe back catalog music that has had its revenue streams dry up being re released but a producer would be crazy to put out new material on stems…wouldn’t effect NI because 3 synced stem copied MP3’s playing or 3 original stems playing will work the same in their software and hardware..
    Will have to see how it develops..but right now I think many producers would not release in the format once they take 5 minutes and think about what could (and probably will ) happen with their music…Unless, like I said they release old stuff that wasn’t selling anyway..

    • Jon

      But the majority of DJ’s who are producers (those that I’ve spoken to anyway) release tracks for exposure not for the financial reward (which actually hasn’t been there for a VERY long time). If making tunes is your primary source of income then you are doing something wrong.

      • ShiftFunction


  • ESG

    Concept of stems has been around forever at producer level, now that music production has become more accessible it’s awesome to see them also become more attainable.
    I’m curious to see how clean the quality will be. I too would love to pull out acapellas and baselines on my own with producer level quality.

    PS I can’t help but smile at the MK cartoon, he looks cute as a cartoon. I’ve always wondered if like Ean Golden if MK is behind some of the hardware development (Is it a coincidence some of native instruments production tools share his mk acronym mk1 and mk2, just always wondered) luv MK

  • kebzer

    This Stems thing is very interesting indeed, but there is one point omitted from this discussion (and from the Remix Decks realm): the difference from the final mastered version.

    Playing stems is almost like playing your rough DAW version of a song, only with every plugin rendered. In a big room, the difference in sound quality will be huge, even leading to unpleasant final results like booming low ends or squashed highs.

    I don’t see NI addressing this. How are they supposed to keep things under control, during playback? A solution could be a limiter/compressor on the Master output, with adjustable settings for each user. But still, any stems will never sound like the final mastered version of a song.

    Creative wise, this is a brilliant idea. But it will eventually lead to even more horrible sounding sets.

    • Christopher Robertson

      they do have a master compressor, watch the second video. but i agree it will def sound different to the actual mastered version of the song.

    • Jerr1233

      You will be able to set a compressor for each stem and I think there is a master limiter…

  • QCube

    I see this only as a adition to remix decks to reach more people. Former you had to make your 4 “Stems” yourself or search for fitting stuff in the web. That could make it a lot easier to mix tracks the way you want if the stems are made good (i dont want too much stuff put in a stem, 4 stems may be not enougth for 2 x drumms, synth, bass, vocals and maybe spheric sounds or something else)

    • Prof_Strangeman

      Nope. Not enough faders in the right places.

    • mixeffector

      An S4 will need to be flanked by F1s or D2s

      I welcome this – I flanked my S4 with F1s and never use them because I haven’t had time to really dig into remix decks – this gives my aesthetic F1s a purpose

  • Buts

    The logo sure as hell looks a lot like Ableton’s..

    Nevertheless, I’d love to see some songs appear as stems, but mainly to have the studio acapellas for remixes and the lot.

  • Wes Wunder

    This is awesome, but the color of each stem should be defined, not arbitrarily chosen by each producer, so the vocals, drums, etc. are always the same color across all songs

    • Scott VudderHütz Rodger

      uhhhh thats terrible.

      • Wes Wunder

        Really? How so?

    • mixeffector

      It will be – NI is doing a Best Practices document including what color different track types should be.

    • Jake

      It’s better to be chosen by the producer, as not every producer will always bounce stems, as drums, bass, vocals, & synth.

      • Wes Wunder

        Of course the actual stems may vary a little, but in general, a consistent color for Vocals, Drums, synth, bassline, keys, pads background vox, percussion, etc. etc. etc. that couldn’t hurt right? In the “Stem creator” software, you basically pick a category for each stem, and the software dictates a color.

        • Ezmyrelda

          I think that’s a bit limited and kind of dumbs it down for DJ’s who should (if they are playing it) know what color everything is.. and where it is.. I think.. maybe.. having a standard for order would be a good idea.. like drums, then bass, then synths, then vocals..

          But I want to keep the option to make my stems look rainbow queer or have the trans flag colors for identification.. I think the ability to customise and make it individual is key.

          • Wes Wunder

            Good idea, I’m with you on that kind of standard/creativity

  • Joshua

    I think this is a Great Idea. Sound pack Stems go Boom!!!!!