It seemed like all people could talk about yesterday on my Facebook news feed was either the lady who got an artificial third breast implanted or the upcoming Traktor Kontrol S8. Since I'm a breast purist who thinks the traditional setup is already perfect as is, I was not too interested in the former and couldn't really understand why everyone was getting excited about ruining a good thing. I am, however, a DJ adventurist who is an avid proponent of technological advancement and sees no problem with changing things up if it means that we can do more with our sets and do it better. I think I'm the only person I know who owns both a S2 and S4. I love the Traktor line because they have their eye on the future and Native Instruments are perhaps the only company that are pushing for a true paradigm shift away from the traditional idea of two turntables or CDJ's and a mixer as the basis of DJing.
A lot of people hate Traktor for that very reason, though. For purists they're the company that popularized the reviled "sync" button, allowing a bunch of talentless "noobs" to pick up DJing with no knowledge of how to beatmatch records. For them, it has made the profession of DJing less about skill and more about playing songs everyone likes. I can sympathize with them since I actually started on vinyl (control), it's tough to see a whole skill set, acquired over years, be easily bypassed and rendered irrelevant.
My whole take on the situation is that if DJing was about beatmatching it would be called "Beatmatching," but it's not, beatmatching is just one of the ways to transition between two or more songs. Native Instruments gets that, too. From the way the Traktor screen is laid out, to the type of controllers they manufacture, they are clearly trying to move away from the idea that you require two spinning discs to control the playback of tracks that you want to play. Why not have them perfectly "synced" already? It's what you're going to end up doing anyway. Why not just skip that step so you can get on with other aspects of mixing like effects and loops? I could write a whole post on this topic alone and maybe I will another day. On the very popular Traktor S2 and S4 controllers, it seemed like the jog wheels were an afterthought anyway. You could easily never use them. They were like some kind of DJ vestigial tail and they took up a lot of space. It was almost as if the designers at Native Instruments wanted ridiculous it is to hold onto this medium for control.
Well, with this new teaser for the forthcoming Kontrol S8 they've finally gone and cut off that vestigial tail. The jog wheels are gone. Check out the teaser:
There you have it. They've ditched the jog wheels and decided to fully embrace the fact that digital files don't need to be controlled the same way as vinyl has been for almost 40 years. To me this is a watershed moment akin to the wide acceptance of digital photography. Just as with people who still choose to use traditional photographic film, it's pretty clear that those who continue to use records and CDJs will soon be seen as fringe hobbyists who insist on continuing with the medium for for sentimental or artistic reasons. It may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen soon. As soon a the next generation of top tier DJs and producers who have grown up with ubiquitous digital DJing emerges, it's game over.
Scanning Twitter and Facebook I have yet to see any real complaints or resistance as of yet. I would imagine at this point it's because the bulk of people paying attention are already Traktor converts. Once the S8 starts popping up at clubs and festivals is when the Serato and "vinyl only" diehards will start paying attention.
If they're open-minded, they'll see that in many ways the new S8 is a way back to a lot of what has been lost in DJing during the transition from analog to full-on digital. The fact that it has screens built into the controller itself mean that you can set the laptop aside and look at the crowd again. The small size of the screens mean you have enough information to get the mix started but you won't have your eyes glued to them. Also the fact that it puts a lot of the remix functions front and center means that it's a lot easier for someone to add spontaneity to their sets another complaint from purists. If what I gleaned from the images and the teaser is correct, then the Kontrol S8 is an all-in-one performance tool that blurs the lines between a live show and a DJ set.
People can complain about the lack of the tactile feel of manipulating a record or CDJ deck (or jog wheel, I guess) just as they can decry how the sync button means people no longer have to beatmatch, but they'd be missing the point. By getting rid of some of the steps it allows people to focus more on the mix itself. Think of it this way: no one rides horses or walks to get from town to town. Hardly anyone sends letters anymore (other than grandparents). People drive cars or hop in planes to travel. People send texts or emails to communicate. People can be more productive than ever with those advancements. By getting rid of the formality of beatmatching, DJs have the potential to be better than ever. Let's get rid of this formality.
The way a lot of people use Serato these days, the decks are pretty much just for show anyway. The only people who require turntables are scratch DJs. It's time we stopped playing pretend and get on with the times.