The days of effortless sync are upon us. Hot on the heels of a Serato update adding Ableton Link support, Traktor 2.11 is available in public beta with the same.

Actually, the fact that you have both Traktor and Serato with Link support is itself significant. You could play back to back with a friend using the other DJ tool, and remain in perfect sync.

This also opens up Traktor to easy integration with everything else with sync support. Add an iPad drum machine. Drop in loops in Ableton Live. And it seems soon inevitable that we’ll see some additional solutions that allow easy hardware connection or ship with Link support already integrated in hardware.

It’s interesting to see users complain online that you can’t work with Traktor and other NI products. Maschine would be an obvious choice. But I think that’s missing the point. Shipping Traktor means now the two top computer apps for pro DJs have Link support. And NI have overcome any initial hurdle about the “not-invented-here” technology from Ableton. More products will surely follow soon, from NI and other vendors.

The other big feature in Traktor 2.11 is a step sequencer. Step sequencing Remix Decks is a concept first envisioned by one Tomash GHz. The Cyprus-born Tomash released the product for free and even implemented special hardware he built himself, since discontinued, for controlling it. The idea was picked up by DJ communities not long thereafter.

Tomash didn’t just throw a clever hack up on the Internet, either. He’s a model of virtuosity with this very technique:

It’s great to see it show up in Traktor. I’ve been pleased to learn NI have been hosting regular internal “hackdays” – a chance to get out of the usual slog of product development and try out cool ideas. I don’t know if this was a hackday product, but I do know that some of that work does eventually ship.

Here is in action:

You get some cool functionality, too. (I’m going to try this out with the F1, to save space.)

Adjustable pattern length
Volume per slot
Filter per slot
FX send per slot
Pitch per sample
Global swing
Native support for S8 and D2
F1 user mapping
MIDI mappable

To sign up for the beta, you’ll need an account on NI’s CenterCode site. But once you’ve verified your email, you’ll get instant access to the download and documentation.

So have at it now:

Native Instruments beta site

I also recommend if you’re on a recent OS (10.9-10.11) that you might consider the upgrade to macOS Sierra, particularly if you’ve experienced audio problems on 10.11. Take that word “consider” carefully – that is, you could potentially cause incompatibilities with other software, and you’ll certainly want a full backup first. But while rushing to upgrade macOS is usually a bad idea, this is a unique instance: Sierra ships a critical audio fix that could significantly improve reliability for users who have been impacted by the problem. I’m going to make the leap and report back myself, but one person’s anecdotal evidence isn’t compelling. What I can tell you is that feedback I’ve gotten supports the idea this problem was widespread.

As for the Traktor update, this to me adds up to a fundamental answer to my complaints about laptop DJing. If you show up at a gig with a laptop, you need to make sure of two things. One, you need to reliably integrate with the night – plug in smoothly, don’t take up too much space, and for the love of God, don’t crash. Two, you need to then do something that suggests you’re using that choice of gear for a reason. That’s not just for the booker or the crowd; it’s primarily for you, for some reason to lug a laptop and do the extra work to make it function properly, rather than just plug into CDJs. I don’t think it’s always the right answer, but I’m glad there’s a choice. In fact, I’ll appreciate the best CDJ sets, too, if I know it wasn’t the only default option.