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The Great Traktor Mobile Soundclash

headphonesLast week I got an extremely excited tweet from our great mate Jon. Now getting an excited tweet from Jon isn’t unusual – he has wicked taste in music, and gets pretty passionate about great tracks, which is one of the reasons why we keep him kicking around (you can follow him too @kenjonnard). So what made this particular tweet blog worthy?

Well, it was about an app he’d come across, which was being given away for free. Not that exciting, right, but Jon had a rather inspired idea as to how we, and some of our other DJ friends, could have a bit of fun with it.

The app in question was Traktor DJ, a mobile version of Traktor; a programme used by DJs worldwide which allows them to mix and manipulate tracks using their laptops. Jon’s plan was to lay down the gauntlet and challenge our DJ clan to each record a 30 minute mix, using only their smart phone and the music on it.

It didn’t take long for the idea to escalate, and before long we had plenty of people wanting to get involved, and most importantly, a name! And so, the Mobile Soundclash was born.

As well as the mix, each DJ has submitted a brief explanation, including why they chose the tracks they used, and details of any effects. So here, for your listening enjoyment, are just some of the results of the Mobile Soundclash. We’ll add more as they come in, but let us know which ones are your favourites, and if you’re musically minded get your hands on Traktor DJ – it’s a nifty little app and is great fun!* And if you like what you hear you can catch most of us hosting shows over on – check the schedule to find out more!

P.S – After listening back to the boys’ mixes I’m feeling rather sheepish! I might give mine another go, as in comparison it’s pretty shoddy!! You can listen to my other Cloudcasts here if you want proof that I’m not completely incompetent!

DJ Jonny Leisure’s mix:

Part of the challenge I was keen to stick to was to only use music that was on my phone at the time the challenge was set (rather than upload music to it that might form a more coherent mix), because it would force me to use more of the features of the app to get between genres more smoothly rather than just cueing and beatmixing. But as I thought might happen, I just ended up using delay on everything – it’s way too much fun. Hey, if it’s good enough for Jazzy Jeff, it’s good enough for me.

I still haven’t got cueing down properly, and I’m not sure I trust the sync function to quantize and align the two tracks properly, but all this said, it’s really user-friendly and has loads of FX packed into it that are really easy to pick up. You could play out using this app – it’s that good. You’d need quite dainty fingers though – the loop button and the play button are next to each other and if you have sausagey digits like me you might end up stopping the playing record (for that authentic drunk DJ vibe – I’ve done that a few times in clubs).

I remember reading an interview with Coldcut (always advocates of the latest DJ technology) a few years ago and Matt Black saying he wanted DJ tech to get to the stage where you could play out from a device in the palm of your hand. You could with this, if you wanted to. Provided you don’t get a phone call halfway through.

Matt the Good’s mix:

As someone who loves Serato, Traktor isn’t really something that i’ve ever considered using but when I saw the app was free I thought i’d check it out.  At first I found it pretty unintuitive but once i’d figured out the tracking side of things cueing became pretty simple and I was off.

When Jon said the challenge was to use just the tunes that are on your phone right now I was pretty happy with my habit of keeping a lot of my current serato crates on my phone.  For the intro I combined a couple of loops and the delay and eq to create something a bit odd from the wu-tang sample on the start of van helden’s mecca toast and a nine inch nails track (which also closes the mix).  The rest of the tunes I picked were pretty much just what I thought might work when browsing through, i’m a slave to mixed in key in serato so the idea of traktor’s own key recognition software in the app is something i’ve since read about so will check when using again.

The sync button on Traktor has always seemed like cheating to me, think it’s just my old man way of looking at djing and all the hours learning to beat match.  On the phone it made just dropping tunes into the mix a synch (provided they’re grid matched) and the ability to adjust the grid slightly if they’re a little out is a nice touch which I found mostly worked well, couldn’t prevent a couple of loose mixes though and there were a few i’d have nudged if on the decks but wasn’t convinced i wouldn’t make it worse trying it in the app.

One problem I did have was that I found there were some audible glitches when loading tunes/using fx.  I think this is probably just down to me using an iphone 4, while I think it’s recommended for 4S upwards.

I liked the fx provided, the delay sounds pretty good, especially when used alongside the EQ, this mix has some pretty heavy handed use of them together.  I don’t think I used the flanger on the mix but did like it when I tried it out, though it can be a bit over the top.  The filter sounds like a good idea but to be honest I haven’t really checked it.

I didn’t use the headphone cue, stupidly only really noticed it after recording, think it could be really useful especially if you’re not entirely sure that the tunes will go/sync properly.  I’m not a massive fan of in ear mixing anyway but if you were trying to use this for a proper set you’d definitely want it.

The app offers a great way to try out mixes when your usual setup isn’t available or you’re travelling, think it’s something i’ll use quite a lot for roadtesting mixes

Megala’s mix:

After a bit of umming and ahhing over track selection I chose to take the easy route and stick with 128bpm, partly because it’s super easy to mix and partly because I’ve got tonnes of it already on my phone. The first couple of mixes didn’t go too badly, which I think is a lot to do with knowing the tracks inside out, but as the mix went on I found myself getting a bit more ambitious, and hence, cocking things up a bit! You only have to listen past Plump DJs Gobstopper to realise what I mean!

One of my biggest issues with Traktor DJ is the fact that with some tracks, no matter where you tell the track to play from, it’ll start from a different point. This means that even if you think you’re playing the track from the first beat of the bar, if Traktor doesn’t feel like co-operating, it won’t. This inevitably ends up skewing your mix a bit (as you can hear from the Au Seve/Jessie Ware transition!).

FX wise, I just chucked in a bit of flange (who doesn’t love a bit of flange?!) and some gater – mainly because I got halfway through and realised that I hadn’t used any FX, but listening back it actually doesn’t sound too bad.

Overall, Traktor DJ is a great little app, but could you use it for a proper set? I doubt it. The biggest thing I struggle with was the fact that you can’t use your head phones to listen to your cued track independently, but I find it hard to imagine they’d make a DJ app without this function. It’ll be just my luck that some clever clogs will now point out that you can do that – I’ve just missed it!

Guinnessdj’s mix:

Have played with it about 3 times for about 20mins each since downloading, but this was the first time i sat down and actually tried to record/mix a set.

Found the best way to make it work is set a marker for first beat. can cue up, drop a track on the hop and you can check the beat match is ok before dropping it into the mix. this is my work around for not listening to the loaded track, which is important as you can’t hear the track you are cueing. I found it helpful. Not sure if jumping around tempos this would be so helpful but for one genre it gives you a good buffer for mistakes. Need to find that all important first beat or it’s clanging time.

Didn’t use many effects, the odd filter and gate, but I did use the eq’s a fair bit to cut mids and lows so incoming tunes dropped into the mix. really quick and easy to use. really like the touch to A/B/AB for track or mix. means you can jump between tracks/mix and it opens back where you last were editing a track.

The tighten up the beat on the fly is good too. sometimes the beat match doesn’t work, this lets you move the beat on the quantise point during the mix.

My top tip is make sure you don’t trust the sync 100%. the first mix was out of sync according to traktor but I knew the tune and the first beat so I went with what I knew and it worked. as always – know your records. Good fun for testing tracks / sketching out mixes, I could use it if I was in trouble and it is all I had, but given the choice I will go for the full technics option every time.

Will make travelling on trains more fun.

J4ms’ mix:

This mix was really an experiment. When I was asked to get involved, I had only had the software on my phone for 2 days and had barely used it. However, when the call went out I was a on a train (lubricated by a couple of beers) so could not resist giving it a bash. I spent about 15 mins picking some tunes and trying to make sure the beat grids were correct and then just winged it. I played it safe with tune selection – picking tunes I knew were of a similar tempo and would work together.

I’m really impressed with how easy it was to use, especially on a small phone screen. My only real gripe is the lack of cueing – meaning you either have to prepare all tunes in advance or just hope for the best. With the exception of one mix, it worked well for a first time. The EX are also dead easy to use, so apologies in advance for the excessive use of the flanger.

*the app’s now gone up to normal price of £2.99, but hey, that’s less than the cost of a pint and it’ll keep you entertained for much longer!


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