The analog and digital worlds of vinyl and TRAKTOR can be successfully fused together with a just a bit of practise. Incorporate vinyl into your TRAKTOR sets is pretty easy, and by doing so, it allows you to flirt with the idea of playing vinyl, while still maintaining the flexibility and power TRAKTOR offers.
In terms of setup, you’ll need a DJ mixer or controller with Phono inputs, a direct drive turntable with pitch control and good quality stylus, cartridge and headshell. Many Allen and Heath and Pioneer DJ mixers such as the XONE:96 and XONE:PX5 and DJM-900NXS2 are TRAKTOR certified, but the ideal choice would be the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2. If you’re using a different mixer, you can connect this to your TRAKTOR setup with either the TRAKTOR SCRATCH AUDIO 10 or any other DVS soundcard. You’ll also want to make sure you’re using the latest version of TRAKTOR.
The stylus you use depends on whether you’d like to mix and play tracks from vinyl, or use your records to scratch samples. The elliptical stylus has a triangular shape that fits well into the grooves of a record. This type of stylus has a large contact area, therefore less pressure and less record wear. Spherical styli are shaped similarly to a ballpoint pen and have less contact with the record and therefore less drag. This makes the spherical stylus an ideal choice for scratching. Be sure to calibrate the tone arm on the turntable and use a good quality slipmat. Thicker slipmats are optimized for mixing, while slimmer and customized slip mats and butter rugs are purposefully engineered for scratching.
To connect the turntable to the mixer, plug in the RCA cables on the turntable to the Phono Inputs on the mixer or controller. Attach the ground wire of your turntable to the ground post on the back of the mixer. Set the Phono/Line switch of the same mixer channel to Phono.
In the Audio Setup, select the Audio Device you have available. For example, if you’re using a DJ mixer, select the name of the mixer; if you’re using a controller, select the name of the controller as the Audio Device.
Navigate to Output Routing and set the Mixing Mode to External. Set Output Deck A L to Analogue 1, Output Deck A R to Analogue 2, Output Deck B to Analogue 3 and 4, Output Deck C to Analogue 5 and 6 and Output Deck D to 7 and 8.
Next configure the Input Routing by setting the Input Deck A L to Analogue 1 and Input Deck B to Analogue 2. Next set Input Deck B to Analogue 3 and 4, Input Deck C to Analogue 5 and 6 and Input Deck D to Analogue 7 and 8.
Connecting a turntable to the TRAKTOR S4 MK3
The TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 gives DJs the option of integrating turntables and using them to play vinyl or control the decks with timecode vinyl. The mixer channels on the S4 allow you to connect up to two Phono level audio devices. A turntable that requires a separate Phono preamp has to be connected to mixer channel A or B. A turntable that has an integrated Phono pre-amplifier can be connected to any mixer channel. The tutorial below details how to connect a turntable without a preamp.
1/ Start out by connecting your turntable to the S4. Switch off the S4 and connect your turntable to the inputs Phono A or B on the rear panel of the S4. Attach the ground wire of your turntable to the ground post GND on the back of the S4.
2/ To let the Mixer channel receive the phono signal, you need to enable the phono pre-amplifier stage for the Mixer channel. Switch on the S4. Press and hold SHIFT on the S4 Deck you want to integrate the turntable to access the secondary Deck functions.
3/ While holding SHIFT press the EXT button on the corresponding Mixer channel. The PHONO LED lights up indicating the phono pre-amplifier is enabled for the Mixer channel.
4/ Next, you need to switch the S4 deck to Live Input. Press the EXT button on the Mixer channel you want to insert the external audio from. The Deck has switched to Live Input.
5/ Put a vinyl record on your turntable and start playback. The Mixer channel now inserts the audio signal from the turntable.
Beat matching is the most important skill you’ll need to develop and refine if you’d like to incorporate vinyl into your sets. Play a track in TRAKTOR and then release the vinyl record on beat one. Use your ears to decide if the record is slower or faster than the track that’s playing on the other deck, and use the pitch control on the turntable to make adjustments to the speed of the record. Once the beats are matched together, use the mixer to blend in the track.
If your DJ sets focus on using two tracks, it’s likely you’ll be mixing a vinyl record into Deck A or Deck B in TRAKTOR. Once you’ve mixed in your vinyl record, be careful to keep it at the same bpm so that mixing in the next track in TRAKTOR is a smooth process.
If you’re using three or more tracks, you could blend in a vinyl record to a mix that’s playing on one deck and mix in a third track in TRAKTOR. Mix out track one, then allow the vinyl record to play with the remaining track in TRAKTOR. You could use your vinyl records to layer in percussive grooves, or acapellas on top of digital grooves.
Another technique is to create a mix using two decks in TRAKTOR, and layer in the vinyl on top of this. If you want to avoid mixing in another digital file into the vinyl record, mix the vinyl channel out and let the two Deck mix in TRAKTOR play.
If you intend to use the same Deck to play both vinyl and digital files, be sure to check the Phono/Line/USB selector switch on the mixer channel is set correctly. For example, set the switch to Phono when you play a vinyl record and set the switch to USB (or Line, depending on your setup) if you want to play a digital file. Be sure to double check this setting before you mix in a track!
Playing with friends
If you have a friend who plays vinyl and you play with TRAKTOR, a back-to-back set that incorporates both mediums could make for an interesting jam session or performance. There are a few possibilities for how this type of setup could look; one idea is to have two turntables connected to a DJ mixer, with one turntable connected to TRAKTOR using Scratch mode and control vinyl and the second turntable dedicated to playing vinyl only. To learn how to setup your timecode control vinyl with Traktor, please refer to this guide. If you would like to use the same Deck to play TRAKTOR control vinyl and vinyl records, and you’re using a DJ mixer that’s TRAKTOR compatible, switch the Phono/Line/USB switch on the mixer to Phono when you’re playing vinyl records and USB when you want to use the control vinyl.
Another idea is to connect either one or two turntables to the KONTROL S4 and use channels C and D on the controller to play digital tracks in TRAKTOR. Channels A and B can be used to play vinyl, since these are the only two channels that offer Phono inputs. Have your friend mix in their vinyl record and then mix in another track in TRAKTOR. A jam session like this can be a great way to keep your beat matching skills sharp, especially if you usually using sync.
Recording a mix
Once you’ve had a few practise sessions using vinyl and TRAKTOR, the next step is to record a DJ mix.
In order to send the signal from an input channel of the audio interface into the Mix Recorder, the input source needs to be selected.
1/ Go to TRAKTOR Preferences >Input Routing
2/ Choose a TRAKTOR channel pair to assign your input source to. In this example we will be routing the input signal of channel A (Ch A Left and Ch A Right) of the Audio Device (DJ mixer, controller, etc) into the TRAKTOR channel Input FX Send (Ext).
3. If the external audio source is active, the level meters next to the corresponding channel will now show an incoming signal.
Mix Recorder Settings
In order to record the incoming signal, the input source needs to be directed to the Mix Recorder via the TRAKTOR channel we assigned in the previous step.
Go to Preferences > Mix Recorder.
Select External to configure the Mix Recorder for recording an external audio signal.
In the menu External Input, select the channel assigned to the input channel of your audio interface. In our example, this is Input FX Send (Ext).
Recording the Audio Signal
Open the Mix Recorder by clicking on the tape symbol close to the upper right corner of the TRAKTOR main screen.
If the external audio source is already active and everything is set up properly, the level meter in the Mix Recorder will show an amplitude.
The level of the audio recording can be controlled with the GAIN knob. Make sure that the level does not go into the red.
To start and stop recording, click on the record button in the lower left corner of the Mix Recorder.
The recorded files will appear in the Audio Recordings node of the TRAKTOR Browser. The recording path on your hard drive can be set in Preferences > Mix Recorder > File > Directory and can be changed to any location you desire.
If you’re recording your set, it’s a good idea to put the records you’ve played away into your crate in the order you play them in. This will allow you to collect the artist
and track names played in the mix in chronological order. You can view your Playlist History of previous sessions in Traktor by double-clicking on the Archive Folder inside the Explorer node of the Browser. The Playlists in the Archive are named after the date and time of their creation and sorted from oldest to newest in descending order. By merging the track history in the Archive folder with the list of sequential vinyl records, you’ll be able to make a track playlist of all the songs in the mix.