"Which Program is the Best" Traktor, Ableton or SSL?
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  1. #1
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    Default "Which Program is the Best" Traktor, Ableton or SSL?

    I've been using these three softwares to DJ, and I figured to share my thoughts on them as more and more beginners come to this forum each starting their own "Which DVS/controller is the best?" threads. Note, that as I speak from my own experiences, I've left out programs like Virtual DJ, Torq, Mixx etc. I am also speaking of Traktor Pro, not Traktor Scratch Pro, but I believe that everything said below applies to both as it is just a difference of the controller.

    As I speak from my own experiences this is obviously MY opinion, but on the other hand I also haven't received any benefits from any companies and I can complain about each one of them.


    Traktor

    This is the software I've used the longest. It has definetly seen lot of improvement coming to the Pro version. It is also the weapon of choice for many in the DJTT community. Traktor is specifically designed for digital DJing, and is in many ways far ahead the competition. You can mix midi controllers and "real mixers", and with Scratch version add vinyl decks and CDJs.

    Traktor is reasonably priced to what it can do. The midi mapping capabilities are excellent and the screen is readable. The browser works pretty well - you can make playlists and use the browser full screen. On the downside, especially if you use 3 or 4 decks, the layout is cluttered. The effects and master take a lot of space. You can toggle them off but in my opinion it is a bit of a hassle. The decks are even worse, as the deck buttons take a lot of space regardless of the size of the waveforms. Customization of the layout could definetly use improvement.

    In order to sync and cue juggle properly you need to beatgrid the tracks. Traktor is pretty good with it, but some tracks require preparation nevertheless. Overall it is a bit quicker that what it takes with Ableton. The cuepoints can be named but you need to toggle through them, which I don't really like. Alternative could be an inbuilt sampler that many of the competitors use, but it seems that instead Traktor is integrating Maschine better. It is a great looking device and capable of plenty, but ups the price of the setup considerably.

    Overall, stability of the Traktor is good and it offers great effects and plenty of useful features in easily accesible package. If you plan to use plenty of samples and drum loops, you should carefully think your setup and whether you want Traktor. Unfortunately, the competition is quite poor what come to stable alternatives.



    Ableton

    Ableton isn't designed for DJing per se, as it is a tool for live performance. It offers only one waveform visible at a time, but it can be linked with Traktor, and soon officially with Serato. I tried Ableton with Deckadance (demo version) as VST, but it crashed Ableton within minutes every time. It can also be used with Ms Pinky, but I have not heard of any experiences on the stability or functionality.

    Ableton is an expensive program, as the lite versions are not going to offer everything you want. The full version will, on the other hand, have plenty of stuff you'll never use. Even worse, the midi capabilities, especially compared to Traktor, are poor. Due to the conversion of the compressed media, you should use wavs instead of mp3s, which requires a good size harddrive. This frees you from the gripe a lot of people are having of Ableton not allowing to be spontaneous. The file browser is in my opinion decent, and you can make a playlist for your set beforehand if you so wish.

    The learning curve to the program is steep. It took me 6 months of trying and my producing-oriented brother to figure out how it actually works, although basic A->B mixing is easy and there is a tutorial within the program for it. Preparing the tracks takes a long time as well, as you have to warp them. It is really easy to cut a sample from the track. Actually, I cut the whole track into pieces and name them as "Intro", "Breakdown", "Vocals" etc., and better yet, I can easily read the names from the screen, loop them, play them in whatever order I want in perfect sync, and automate sequences.

    Dummy clips are another thing worth mentioning, as you can program 4/6/8/whatever bar risers, loops and other effects. Effects in general can by the way be put to send channels, the audio channels themselves (including master), or both if you like.

    If you get bored with Ableton or feel like you're cheating, you're not using it properly. The biggest hurdle for the djs with experience is thinking outside of the box. For example, at the moment I use 16 audio channels, including 4 "decks" (and soon possibly 6) and dummy clips.

    The rabbit hole goes deep, and seems that there are no boundaries of what you can do, and you can always add VSTs and instruments to go further or even mix videos! This is the only DJ tool with which you can easily integrate live drumming or your keyboard with ease. The feeling of freedom makes Ableton my choice at the moment.


    Serato Scratch Live

    SSL is a very stable system making it possible to use CDJs and vinyl decks. It is not the cheapest, although you (have to) get it with the SSL box which functions as a soundcard and unlocker to the program itself. The box is rugged and pretty small, and the software runs with older computers just fine. It is easy to carry everything you need to a club, but if you are organizing a party, taking 2 decks, mixer and SSL instead of a controller gets quite burdensome.

    SSL relies on hardware functions, meaning that you use it with turntables, CDJs or certain midi controllers and a mixer. This is nice since nothing beats the controllability of a vinyl, but on the other hand if the club's decks are shoddy, or the mixer has no efx, you might end up using most of your time fighting the wavering pitch and simple a->b mixing. There are so called "club standards", which of course are not used by every club, so you might have to learn new hardware while mixing.

    There are no inbuilt effects in Serato as mentioned. What it has is a clear interface and good browser with vertical or horizontal waveforms (which can save you a lot of screen space), midi-mappable cue points, looper, stutter, sampler and whatever you can do with the decks (scratches, phasing etc.). As I mentioned before, that even though there aren't many gimmicks, everything that is included in Serato works amazingly well and doesn't require the newest computer. I'm waiting with anticipation what the collaboration with Ableton brings. If Serato offers you everything you want, you should get it. If you don't have decks or mixer, it's probably the most expensive to start with.

    *As a footnote, although the SSL pitch lock was the poorest in the DJTT comparison, I haven't really noticed that in use, which is probably due to the fact that I mix within the limits of vinyl deck, and the pitch change is therefore limited. I haven't seen a problem with this, but your style might differ from mine*


    -Tuomas
    Last edited by Stumpy; 12-17-2009 at 07:07 AM.
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  2. #2
    Tech Mentor Lantau's Avatar
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    Pretty darn good comparison; wishing I'd tried out Serato many moons ago when I switched to digital instead of getting CDJ's but now I can't see myself switching from Traktor

    The notes about Ableton almost exactly explain why I don't use it but why one day I hope I'll be able to
    MacBook, Vestax VCI-300 with Serato Itch
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  3. #3
    Tech Guru charo's Avatar
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    it's too bad you had problems with ableton and deckadance, it's a pretty cool combo. I rarely had issues when i tried it.
    We don't believe in the star system. We want the focus to be on the music. If we have to create an image, it must be an artificial image. That combination hides our physicality and also shows our view of the star system. It is not a compromise-daftpunk

  4. #4
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    I know, but I won't fork money into a program I can't test and see it working. I hope Ableton+Serato will fix that issue in November. Another one would be Torq through ReWire, but I'm not interested in M-Audio hardware.

    Lantau: I think there are 4d layouts for Ableton easily available, and there is a fully functional 30-day demo available...
    @Twumpy

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    Tech Mentor Lantau's Avatar
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    I actually had a play on Ableton when I was testing out a Xone 4D prior to purchase; it was pretty fun! I guess I sort of formed my opinion about it a while ago when I tried to get back into producing, in that a lot of things seem awfully complicated (I'm sure they aren't but compared to putting a needle on a record...) so I think I'd need a serious amount of time to sit down with it as you found to start to get results with it
    MacBook, Vestax VCI-300 with Serato Itch
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  6. #6

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    I like traktor ...... and I like Ableton ...... and I like Serato ........

    ....... but which ones best ???

    Theres only one way to find out .....

    ..... FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG HT!!!!
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    part of the digital revolution

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    DJTT Moderator bloke Karlos Santos's Avatar
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    Love it!
    M I S T E R M O L E Y M O L E
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  9. #9
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    I used Torq for few months. I bought the xponent controller/audio interface. I will talk about that combo

    PROS
    The controller/software integration is fantastic. You don't need to configure anything, all you need is laid there and have a shift button which gives another layer of control. You can for example press shift, turn the jog wheel and that moves the beat grid in realtime. You have 4 knobs for each deck only for effects. Loop size button, 5 hot cues per deck, etc. The light integration in the controller is also pretty nifty, you can make the deck follow the tempo with the lights.

    The sound card is ok, not as bad as the one on my MBP, but not as good as a dedicated one.

    As for the software I have to admit I prefer it over traktor in some aspects. Like how it handles loops and effects. When loop is active you can jump from hotcue to hotcue and the loop remains active. In Traktor to do that you have to define every loop before. As for the fx Torq has the advantage of having an fx config for each track. When you load a track you get the fx config for that particular track. That is cool. Also you can use vst fx in it.

    You can also zoom the waveform much more than traktor, which is also cool for setting your cues precisely.

    The beat grid is better in Torq as you have the anchors for tempo drifting and don't have to waste a hot cue for setting a grid.

    Also you have a sampler which is handy in some situations.

    CONS
    The major con for me was that the xponent is very plasticky and bulky... didn't like the feel of the faders or the knobs. I always had the impression that they were going to break, although in 6 months of use they never did. Also the size of the controller is nasty... almost double the size of a vci. That makes it difficult to carry along with your laptop. You couldn't put all your rig in an eastpak backpack and move in the metro freely as I do with the vci. There's a bag from maudio but that states clearly "I have an xponent and a laptop here" and in some places you don't want strangers to know that...

    Also you need to have a dedicated hardware to use the software. You can't use your vci with it unless you own an xponent or a connectiv as a dongle. That is really bad... they don't want to sell their software independently.

    As for the software.... Torq is very ugly and not very dj organized IMO. The faders are horizontals... wtf. The waveforms are taking too much space and that annoys because that space could have been used for other things. I'm a designer and all that bad user interface job annoyed me a lot.

    It only had 2 decks, at least the version I was using like 1.5 years ago. You don't get the autogain feature which is very handy in traktor to have all your tracks at the same level.

    You only get 5 hotcues...

    Also you know what kind of company is Maudio... corporatocracy at it's best. If you get a problem you can wait until they release a new patch, their support is pretty bad IME. AFAIK they still don't have drivers for Snow Leopard for most of their products.



    In the end I lean over traktor because to me what counts most is the controller, and being able to change your setup over time. Both softwares are very good and stable and completely usable for djing. I'm pretty sure going for one or the other is only a subjective choice, because objectively those are two power horses.

  10. #10
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    I almost bought Torq instead of Serato, but after the update at the time it would no longer run on my old iBook - unlike SSL and Ableton. Do you have experience with rewiring it to Ableton?

    edit: Who's that bald guy? I feel like I'm missing a joke.
    Last edited by Stumpy; 12-17-2009 at 01:20 PM.
    @Twumpy

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