Djay from a Traktor DJ's Perspective

So I’ve bit the bullet and got a Reloop Beatpad and decided to dig into Djay. I thought we’d compare a bit of the functionality and paradigms of the two apps, since I’m sure many more are fed up with the lack of support from NI for Traktor DJ.

I realise now that Traktor has spoilt me a lot. Djay, while probably better for the traditional DJ has some serious shortcomings when compared to Traktor DJ (DJ purists might want to look away now):

No automatic or reliable sync
Traktor has got this one right: it knows fairly reliably (or at least once you nudge the grid when it guessed the wrong beat) about 4/4 bars. It is very reluctant to let you **** up by starting off beat. Yes, I realise this is hand holding and that many will prefer the manual control afforded by Djay, but I’ve come to rely on quickly syncing up beats so I can get into transitions creatively without having to worry about train wrecking or starting just right. With Traktor I can start the track just before the actual beat and know it will start reliably in time and in sync. Especially if I’m doing loops.

Djay supposedly has a feature called “Perfect Sync” that’s activated by double tapping sync. I’ve never gotten that to work and I’ve tried every combination of tapping the sync button both in software, with the currently playing track, on the other track etc. There’s meant to be a blue border, but all I get is the red border or no sync. Red border means beat syncing only, and not grid syncing. It’s all very confusing which track syncs to what, which leads me to the next item:

No master tempo
This is a shocker. In Traktor, the first loaded and synced track sets the master tempo. In Djay, the first played track sets the master tempo, but then if you hit sync it syncs to the not playing track? No problem right, just hit the non-playing track to sync to the first track, right? But if you hit the not playing track’s sync button it syncs to the nearest beat, regardless of grid AND starts playing. Very confusing and frustrating! I assume this will come with practice, but I’ve yet to figure out how the sync button actually works and why either track can be master or slave.

Library browsing
Now there’s no recommendation engine for local library. And it makes me choose between local and spotify library every first time (annoying). That’s fine, but the biggest sin is that there’s no current playing track info in the full screen browser! No track name, no key, no BPM. The only useful information is time remaining. You’ll actually have to find tracks in the library with the currently playing key to have them slightly different colour on the key info. On the plus side it does remember what tracks have been played (come on already NI!).

Now, the Beatpad is a serious piece of gear and has some niceties that come from having more buttons: dedicated record, browse and load buttons are nice. The effects are pretty dire, but I’m sure they can be configured. Hardware cue buttons are also nice. And the built in stand completes the package. However, most clubs I play at simply does not have room for it. With the Z1 I can just place it on top of a CDJ-deck and have the iPad on a stand. It’s also bigger than my regular bag. I really wish the Z1 or a similar compact pro controller existed for Djay. It’s a really nice piece of gear to have at home and I’m looking forward to practising my scratching. The loop size knob is very finicky and sensitive. Is there a way of setting the default loop size? Two beats is a bit short (I’m a 32 beat loop person myself).

Now a lot of my complaints probably stem from unfamiliarity, but I also probably shouldn’t have taken for granted a lot of the features that Traktor has afforded me. Right now, without any obvious fixes for my above complaints, it looks like I have to put up with Traktor DJ and its idiosyncrasies for at least one more weekend.Please let me know of your experiences and how they line up with mine. Do you find it easy to go back and forth? What features do you wish they both shared?