Oh no — another damned post about Stems. Fear not dear readers, for this is the one you’ve been waiting for, because today, Native Instruments has finally released the format into the wild, and first out of the box to support unsurprisingly is Traktor 2.9. And to open up the magical world of Stems to everyone else, NI is also running an aggressive but short sale on stems compatible gear.

Here’s the detailed word from NI:

Native Instruments launches open file format Stems

Native Instruments introduces Stems support in TRAKTOR software and hardware, and a catalog of Stems releases 

Berlin, August 3, 2015 – Native Instruments today proudly launches Stems – a new multi-track audio format that introduces enhanced performance possibilities for DJs and a new music paradigm for the music industry as a whole. The format has been widely embraced throughout the industry, and major online music stores are already set to release hundreds of tracks from top artists and labels in Stems format. To mark the launch of the new technology, Native Instruments is offering special pricing on TRAKTOR KONTROL S8, D2, and F1 – the first Stems-ready DJ controllers.

Developed by Native Instruments, Stems is an open file format providing the ability to freely interact with a track’s four different musical elements – such as drums, bass, keys and vocals. Each stem’s volume, filter, and effects settings can be controlled independently to create instant new mixes, mashups, instrumentals, a cappellas, and more. Since Stems was announced in May 2015, six major online retailers Beatport, Bleep, Juno, Traxsource, whatpeopleplay, and Wasabeat have officially begun stocking hundreds of releases from prominent artists and labels in Stems format on their respective sites. From some of 2015’s biggest albums to favorite hits, the list of labels releasing in Stems format is continuously growing.

Hands-on control of Stem files is now possible with the TRAKTOR PRO 2.9 update – the first DJ software to support Stems. For TRAKTOR KONTROL S8 and D2 the Stems View provides a clear, color-coded overview of a track’s four stems as stacked waveforms – granting DJs in-depth, multi-channel control over a single track. DJs with a Stems-ready controller will be able to start playing Stems right away. Three Stems tracks played by Berlin-based DJ-producer NGHT DRPS in a new performance video featuring Stems are now free to download in Stems format directly from the Native Instruments website.

To support the online community of DJs, as well as producers, developers, and industry professionals, www.stems-music.com will act as the official home for important information about playing and creating Stems. DJs can also follow the global discussion online by using and searching for the hashtag #playstems.

To celebrate the launch of Stems, Native Instruments are offering discounted pricing on TRAKTOR KONTROL S8, D2, and F1. The offer runs from August 3 until September 30, 2015 at the NI Online Shop and at participating music retailers.

A full list of labels, retailers, and distributors, as well quotes from artists and labels releasing music in Stems format are attached as additional press material.

Later this summer, Native Instruments will release the free Stem Creator Tool – a standalone application that opens the door for anyone to create their own Stem files.

Pricing and availability

From August 3, 2015 to September 30, 2015, the following pricing applies to Stems-ready TRAKTOR hardware at the NI Online Shop and participating retailers while stocks last:

From August 3, 2015 to September 30, 2015, the following pricing applies to Stems-ready TRAKTOR hardware at the NI Online Shop and participating retailers while stocks last:

USDEURYENGBPAUD
RegularSpecialRegularSpecialRegularSpecialRegularSpecialRegularSpecial
S8$1,199$9991,199 €999 €¥ 139,800¥ 114,800£869£699AU$1,599AU$1,299
D2$499$399499 €399 €¥ 57,800¥ 44,800£369£279AU$699AU$549
F1$199$149199 €149 €¥ 24,800¥ 18,800£149£109AU$279AU$199

The free TRAKTOR PRO 2.9 update is now available for download via the NI Service Center.

A full TRAKTOR PRO 2 license comes bundled with the purchase of TRAKTOR KONTROL S8 or TRAKTOR KONTROL D2. The software is provided as a download following registration of the hardware.

Further product information and press material

A video featuring NGHT DRPS performing with Stems on TRAKTOR KONTROL D2s at Watergate Club in Berlin is available at: www.youtube.link

Additional information on the special offer available at: www.native-instruments.com/playstems

View this post on Instagram

The Kontrol F1 with stems. Pretty light show.

A post shared by DJWORX (@worx) on

STEMS — OUT IN THE WILD

And they’re off. A bunch of labels are putting stems out, download stores have them ready, and NI has introduced some very aggressive short term pricing on the Kontrol S8, D2, and F1. Check the above Instagram video to see how the Kontrol F1 looks with stems.

FACT — you need compatible hardware to manipulate files. We haven’t found a way in Traktor 2.9 to control stems without hardware, nor can we see anything directly in mapping that mentions stems explicitly. I suspect (and I defer to considerably more gifted people in the team about this) that when you define a stem deck, the remix deck controls become stem controls. We’ll have a play and see if we can male stems work with other controllers.

STEMS – IN USE

Being the trusted members of the press that we are, we’ve got a bunch of files to play with. And in the shortest time, it became clear to me that Stems are a heap of fun. Dan played with D2s and a Z2 for a while and generally loved his session. I did ask how long he could mix two different stems tracks in and out of each other before a crowd would get bored. Personally, I think I could spend hours on a set with just a handful of tracks. I love that I can totally interchange track stems to make new blends. I also occurred to me that mixes could become a complete homogenised blobs where the concept of individual tracks is out of the window.

I know there has been much discussion about the more production side of Stems. But as a DJ, the wider chatter about compression and mastering are of little interest to me. All I see are tracks broken down into key elements, ready for me to mess around with.

One last thing about Stems — from the few that I’ve played with, it seems that the summed individual stems do make the master. I don’t yet know if this is a limitation or by design. But I would like to see individual stems to be just that i.e. four stems being kicks, snare, clap, and hi-hats if I choose. Time will tell on that, and I would check if it wasn’t for the fact that…

stems d2 kontrol traktor

THE STEMS CREATOR TOOL IS MISSING

Yeah, the very thing we all want to get our hands on has not been released just yet. No word on timing, but it really would made the most sense to have this out much sooner, in fact in advance of anything else to boost adoption of the format. Hopefully it’s just a matter of days now.

ABOUT TRAKTOR 2.9

It’s in the Service Centre and it’s free. Here’s the complete list of what’s new, and take note of some of the important bits:

New Stem Deck Flavor in TRAKTOR PRO
TRAKTOR 2.9.0 introduces a new Stem Deck which is capable of playing and mixing .stem.mp4 files. Thanks to the Automatic Deck Flavor Switching that was introduced in TRAKTOR 2.8.0, a Deck will automatically switch to Stem Deck whenever you load a .stem.mp4 file. The Stem Deck functions identically to a Track Deck, but just has additional sub-mix features for controlling the 4 Slot Volumes, Filters, and FX Sends for the stems.

Stem Support for TRAKTOR KONTROL S8, D2, and F1
The TRAKTOR KONTROL S8, D2, and F1 controllers now natively support Stem Decks.

The KONTROL S8 and D2 will provide full 4-stem visualization of the Stems on the in-built displays, and the Performance Knobs, Buttons, and Faders control the sub-mix of the stems (such as Slot Volumes, Slot Filters, and Slot FX Sends). The KONTROL F1 also supports Stem Decks via the same sub-mix controls that are also used for Remix Decks. When assigning an F1 to a Stem Deck, you’ll be able to control Slot Volumes, Filters, Mutes, and can also access the FX Sends via the shift-layer of the Pads. The Pads also serve as 4 visual level meters for the 4 audio slots in the Stem Deck so you can see if audio is playing on a slot even when its volume is turned down.

Stem and Remix Deck Sub-mix Controls in Controller Manager
The sub-mix controls for the Remix Deck have now been upgraded to Deck Common controls in the Controller Manager. Controls like Slot Volume, Slot Filter, Slot Mute, and Slot FX Send Amount are now located in “Deck Common > Sub-Mix”.

When mapping a MIDI Controller to these controls, these controls will now control a Stem Deck or Remix Deck, whichever type is loaded. If you had MIDI Mappings for Remix Deck mix controls previous to this update, those controls are now automatically mapped to the Deck Common Sub-mix controls for convenience.

Stem file management in Browser
To support management of .stem.mp4 files, a new smart folder called “All Stems” is added to the Browser Tree. All Stem files in the Track Collection can be found quickly by clicking on this node in the Tree.

Performance Optimizations
Playback of Stems requires more resources from your computer, so the team implemented a number of performance optimizations to TRAKTOR to reduce the overall CPU load. These optimizations can be enjoyed even when not playing Stem files.

Fixed Issue with Preview Player Loading via Controller Manager
There was a bug where attempting to load something into the Preview Player via Controller Manager (hardware control) while no track was selected would result in the function not working until restarting TRAKTOR. This has now been fixed.

Known Issues in TRAKTOR 2.9.0:

Stem files must be analyzed before loading and playback
Due to the large amount of data that must be read from a Stem file, it is currently necessary that Stem files be analyzed before loading into a Stem Deck. It is not possible to load and play a Stem file before analysis is
finished.

CPU Spike when enabling Keylock on Stem Deck
When enabling Keylock on a Stem Deck, you might experience a brief CPU spike. This spike is only temporary and CPU load will return to normal after Keylock has been activated. If you experience this problem, it is recommended that you enable Keylock before you perform.

Windows users must run the 32-Bit version of TRAKTOR to be compatible with 32-bit audio drivers
TRAKTOR is now a 64-bit application for OS X and Windows. However, if you are a Windows user who is trying to use older 32-bit audio drivers with TRAKTOR (for example, audio drivers for Pioneer DJ products), you will need to run the 32-bit version of TRAKTOR in order to be compatible with these older drivers by following these steps:

1. Rename the “Traktor.exe” found in the Traktor 2 folder to “Traktor 64.exe”. This will be your backup 64-bit application.
2. Go to the x86 folder and move the 32-bit “Traktor.exe” file to the Traktor 2 folder. Now your Traktor 2 folder should contain both files “Traktor 64.exe” (64-bit) and “Traktor.exe” (32-bit).
3. Now you can launch “Traktor.exe” which will be the 32-bit version of
TRAKTOR. You may also create a Desktop shortcut for quick access. This problem does not pertain to OS X as the operating system only supports 64-bit drivers and applications.
3.4. ALAC Support only for Windows 10 Microsoft Windows 10 will natively support Apple Lossless Codec (ALAC) playback, thus restoring this functionality to Windows users. If you previously used ALAC files before QuickTime was deprecated, you can resume using ALAC files by upgrading Windows to version 10.

Playback of M4A (AAC) files limited to 48kHz on Windows
The Microsoft Media Foundation supports playback of M4A (AAC) files, but only up to a maximum sample rate of 48kHz. Attempting to load AAC files with a sample rate higher than this (like 88.2kHz or 96kHz) will result in a file loading error.

Fullscreen Issues on Windows
Some Windows users with high-resolution monitors are experiencing trouble when setting TRAKTOR to Full Screen Mode. This problem appears to only occur when the “Change the size of all items” Display Preference is set to a value larger than 125%. Therefore, if you are experiencing the problem, setting the preference to 125% or smaller
should temporarily fix the issue while we continue to investigate a permanent fix.

Crackling During Playback of WMA Files on Windows
We have now diagnosed the issue that is causing the WMA playback problem on Windows, but we still need to implement a workaround for the problem which will take more time. Therefore, WMA playback issues still exist in this release version.

High CPU Load when Loading Tracks on OS X 10.8
OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is no longer supported as of TRAKTOR 2.8.0. Users of OS X 10.8 may find high CPU load when loading Tracks into the Decks. If you experience this, please upgrade your OS to at least OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

The one thing we did notice today was that moving away from Traktor on our Macs makes Traktor go funny. Music plays, but the screens on the D2 freeze.

So Stems are out to buy and play with, and NI has temporarily slashed prices on suitable controllers. You’ll have to wait to create your own but that’s coming. All we know is that from our short play, Stems are a lot of fun. Game changer? Well… they at least add a few new tools.

 


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