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Traktor Duo: PC based DJing gets cheaper

PC DJing is now a little more affordable with the launch of the Traktor Duo, a relatively low-cost way for bedroom DJs to hone their skills at the virtual decks and help Pete Tong finally retire

We've long been fans of Traktor. More than any PC DJing software, it offers a simple route into DJing that doesn't involve any expensive hardware. It makes sense to find out if you can match a beat before going out and buying a pair of Technics decks -- and DJing on a PC is becoming more credible with each passing month. Software also allows you to put together a hybrid system of vinyl, CD and MIDI hardware. In short, it can help you build the ultimate DJ suite.

So, what does Traktor Duo bring to the party that Traktor Pro and DJ Studio didn't? For one, it's muxh cheaper than Native Instrument's previous packages. Less than £100 will see you with a reasonably powerful two-deck setup, with a number of audio effects. It's also compatible with audio hardware from Native Instruments, such as the Audio 8 DJ soundcard and the newer, four-channel Audio 4 DJ. This means you can connect up your CDJ or vinyl turntables and use timecoded vinyl to control Traktor.

After having a play around, we have to say we much prefer the interface on Duo to the older Traktor DJ Studio. Everything seems clearer, buttons are easier to find and the layout is considerably more logical than the DJ Studio. Duo isn't as fully featured as DJ Studio or Pro, of course, but for the basics of mixing, it's got pretty much everything you could need.

Using the software was a pleasant experience overall. Mixing with a mouse (or in our case, a laptop trackpad) isn't the most straightforward method. Traktor does its best to help though, with auto-pitch to match beats across two records and a handy indicator that tells you how far 'off' the beat you are. The built-in crossfader does the job, but it lacks the smooth motion of a real hardware fader.

Duo also includes a reasonable file browser that takes up the bottom third of the screen. Using this navigator, we were easily able to find our music and drag it on to the appropriate deck. After about half an hour with Duo we were soon mixing it up like a pro. The built-in effects are also quite handy, and can breathe some life into a session if it's gone off the boil.

We think the only major chinks in the armour of Duo are its lack of recording and Internet-streaming functionality. That said, we've never been a massive fan of Native Instruments' decision to use only Icecast for streaming audio -- it would be useful to have the option of Shoutcast too. The decision to prevent recording does grate slightly, however -- if you want to improve, you're going to want to listen back to your mixes and without built-in recording that becomes much harder, although not impossible.

Traktor Duo will set you back around £100, while the Traktor Duo Scratch kit costs about £350 and comes with the Audio 4 DJ and the timecoded vinyl necessary to get you going. If you want a slightly more feature-rich version, Traktor Pro costs around £100 more and offers more decks, more effects and all sorts of EQ options. Pro also has mappable hotkeys, which is useful if you want to customise the way you control the software with your keyboard. Demo versions of the entire DJ software range is available on the Native Instruments Web site and is compatible with both PCs and Macs.