In a new turn of events this year, a massive portion of Native Instruments’ shares have been sold to the Francisco Partners investing firm. It’s been no secret that NI’s higher-ups have been debating reducing their ownerships, ever since Traktor was almost sold to Allen and Heath last year.
This news might sound alarming, it’s likely for the best for Native Instruments customers and products. Many NI products have been lagging in development, particularly Traktor (which has been at a relative developmental crawl for years). Francisco claims to be fully invested in the NI ecosystem, and voices their commitment to the concept of a unified platform concept that has been spoken of frequently the past few years.
This concept was often referred to in the community as “One Native”, although Native Instruments clarified that this wasn’t “some kind of new product” in a forum post. However, the press release from the company that highlights the investment relationship with Francisco Partners does discuss their interest in building a more seamless experience for creators.
A step towards an improved creator experience isn’t the only piece we’d expect to see after this news, either. We’re thinking a Traktor Pro 4 may be in the books as well.
Could this “seamless creator experience” be forthcoming?
The “One Native” concept was originally released alongside a series of layoffs and management changes back in 2019, with the idea of “unifying” the NI brand. In the forum post NI shared to clarify their intention as speculation gathered, they explained:
“[One Native] refers to how we work inside of Native. In the past, some of our teams have been working fairly separately and products have sometimes been developed with not enough collaboration and integration aspects in mind. By taking a unified approach inside the company, we believe we can make our products and services work together more smoothly and provide better communication to you, the musicians who are using Native. And it’s not just about connecting our own products, but also the wider world of sounds and music making tools out there.”
Back then, this may have sounded like little more than empty promises. At the time, Traktor’s development had all but ceased and NI’s staff was severely cut down. However, with Francisco’s new ownership, the reinstatement of this concept is somewhat promising. After all, the idea of a “single-platform music production service” is extremely enticing, as it entails the combination of Maschine (a beat making and live-performance platform) with Traktor. A program that allows DJing, performance, and producing all at once has been a dream of many advanced DJs and live acts for a very long time, and it’s safe to say a unified NI platform would secure a new position in the musical market.
However, this could be a very long-term goal. Komplete, Reaktor, Maschine, Kontakt, and Traktor are all different programs built on many different developmental platforms. It would essentially entail a complete re-write of Maschine and Traktor (although the latter is already in the works), and complex logistical issues for existing Traktor and Maschine users.
Will we see a Traktor Pro 4?
In the past few years, Traktor’s users have diminished rapidly. DJ software has gone through significant growth as of late, with streaming service integration, cloud connection, and even real-time STEM separation. Throughout these times, Traktor has remained largely stagnant, with NI pouring their resources into Kontakt and Maschine updates.
Fortunately this may change soon, according to a Traktor developer team forum post. In the post, the developers spoke of their immediate goal being a new major update to Traktor.
We’ve long suspected that a new major version of Traktor is coming, as many aspects of Traktor 3 are limited by the software’s roots. Parts of Traktor Pro 3’s core code are quite old, and old code is challenging to work with for developers. Many new features – streaming integration, for example – would require a completely new Traktor built from the ground up, which is exactly why Traktor’s devs have focused on the free Traktor DJ 2 app for all this time.
Traktor DJ 2 is a brand new software with no code ties to its predecessors. It has served as a “lite” counterpart to TP3 for several years. However, this easily could have been a move by developers to kill two birds with one stone. If they could develop the core of a new DJ software first, they could release it as a “lite” version while working on adding pro features like MIDI mapping, advanced FX, and Remix Decks.
What we would expect from the new Traktor Pro
One of the biggest advantages of Traktor DJ 2 is its integration with a multitude of streaming services. Streaming is hugely useful in many cases – most notably as a way to explore new music and find tracks quickly that you may not have in your library yet, or to confidently take requests and access playlists without awkward trips to SoundCloud or Beatport mid-set.
Traktor Pro’s browser has been one of its biggest drawbacks the past few years. Despite several updates, it is still somewhat lacking when compared to those of Serato or Rekordbox. TDJ2 has a much-improved browser that will likely carry over to the new Traktor Pro version.
Traktor Pro has its problems with reliability and CPU usage, largely due to its aging code. TDJ2 is a much lighter and more reliable software due to its efficient new architecture, which is the main reason for the development of a Traktor Pro 4 in the first place.
What we’re hoping for
Accessible performance features
While Traktor Pro is capable of matching all the performance features found in newer softwares, doing so requires the use of complex MIDI mappings. More default-integrated performance features like toneplay would help Traktor stand out to a broader range of DJs, and is hopefully a noted topic for developers.
Traktor has very limited 3rd party compatibility, only integrating with a few non-NI controllers. This isn’t a development issue so much as a management one, and hopefully NI’s new owners will either open Traktor up to more controllers or produce more themselves.
Real-time STEM separation
This goal may not be very realistic, but it is still worth hoping for. Virtual DJ and djay Neural Mix both have recently gained support for AI-based real-time stem separation.
These softwares separate tracks into drums, bass, instruments, and vocals/synths and allow independent level control over these stems with EQ knobs. While such an advanced feature would be dauntingly expensive and hard to develop, it would give Traktor a unique edge against the competition, as Traktor already boasts extensive control over pre-separated STEM files.
Both a new Traktor update and the One Native concept are somewhat far-off goals, neither of which will be coming very soon. Corporate takeovers are never quick or efficient, and the recent M1 and Big Sur pushes from Apple have every developer’s hands tied at the moment. However, it is still very reassuring to know Traktor will finally receive the love it needs and hopefully regain its place in the DJ software ecosystem.
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