REVIEW: NI Traktor Scratch A10 Mk2 Audio Interface

Link: Native Instruments — Price: $499/€499/£399

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In a case of “why didn’t they do this in the first place’, Native Instruments have quietly released a MK2 of their full-fat Traktor Scratch A10, a stealth update that has slowly been circulating through the supply chain with no fanfare. So, what’s different? First, read the changelog from NI, then let’s go through the changes and how significant they are.

Official changelog

  • Now works without an external power supply (USB bus powered)

  • Overall output (and input) volume has been increased to CDJ standard (+12dBu)

  • Direct Thru Mode is now working without a volume decrease

  • Microphone amplifier has been replaced by updated hardware

  • High Impedance mode is now available (activated via audio control panel)

  • Phono pre-amplification has been adjusted to a flatter response and attenuated highs (12kHz)

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What does this mean?

The big news is the fact the Traktor Scratch A10 can now run on USB bus power. This means you don’t need to plug in the power supply anymore… it’ll run off your computer. You’ll still need external power (still in the box) to run audio through the soundcard in Direct Thru (sic) Mode when it’s not plugged in via USB, but it’s one less thing to worry about when you set up.

A lot of work has gone into getting sound quality/volume closer to the old Audio 8. Quite a few people on various forums noticed a distinct drop in volume, particularly when using the Direct Thru Mode.

The change in phono pre-amplification is also something that most wouldn’t ever notice, but means audio running from turntables is reproduced more accurately. This may help with timecode reading, but would mostly mean vinyl played via Direct Thru Mode would sound more like they should.

If you use NI’s excellent multi-core cables, High Impedance Mode keeps the Audio 10 from sucking too much of the signal away from the turntable, thus maintaining a good audio level when played directly through the mixer channel. You’ll get an overall louder and crisper signal at the mixer’s phono inputs.

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What else is new?

Like the S4 MK2, the Traktor Scratch A10 is simply an update, rather than a new product, hence the lack of fanfare. NI have also taking the opportunity to make a few other tiny design tweaks.

First off, branding has been brought up to date, to reflect the new Traktor logo along with naming conventions. Whilst the old box was called the ‘Traktor Audio 10’, the new one folds into the Scratch brand with ‘Traktor Scratch A10’.

The nice people over at Native Instruments have also  confirmed that the MK2 is friendly with iOS7, meaning you can use it hooked up to your iPad with software like Traktor DJ, should you wish.

There’s also a very slightly different cable hook. Like I said… ‘tiny design tweaks’.

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A to B (and C) comparison

We decided to run a completely unscientific A/B(/C) test to see how much the changes affect audio quality and volume difference. Using my old Audio 8 as a baseline with everything running through Xone:62, I tweaked the gains with each of the three audio interfaces running on a separate channel, to get the output equal on each. Just for reference, I tested with Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.

Volume output

Old MK1 A10: The audio interface is quieter than both the MK2 and Audio 8. Not massively, but you needed to run it a little hotter.

New MK2 A10: Output was the same as the Audio 8.

Direct Thru Mode

Old MK1 A10: Audio passing through the audio interface from the Audio 8 is quieter than the newer one

New MK2 A10: Audio passing through is slightly quieter than the interface audio output by ever so slightly less. There’s less than 30 minutes of angle (ie 11 o’clock vs 11:30 on the dial).

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The first question you are all probably thinking is “which do I have?”. If you turn your interface over, the label on the new box will clearly say that it’s a MK2 model. The next question might be “what if I have an old one?”, to which I would say “If you need any of these features, upgrade”. Otherwise, be happy you have a great piece of kit already!

As we’ve shown, there are noticeable improvements in the output and pass-through audio in the new unit, but it’s very minor. The complaints about a significant loss in volume when using Direct Thru Mode have been addressed, but not fully. The hardware still sounds great, is still built like a tank, works with iOS7, but now only needs a USB connection to turn on. Sweet.