Archive for July, 2006

How to web DJ with Traktor and a cheap soundcard.

July 22, 2006

Web DJing seems to be getting more an more popular every day, with every body wanting to give it a shot. A recent article on digg managed to make it to the front page, and is all about how to setup a radio station with icecast. A quick overview for those who are unfamiliar with Icecast, it is a free (and open source) server that is very similar to the shoutcast protocol and allows people to setup a radio station. I won’t go into much more detail than this, because the digg article does a fine job. What I do want to go over is how you can use Traktor to DJ straight into Icecast, mainly on a rubbish soundcard.

I have a nForce2 motherboard, with built in sound. It does a fine job really, or at least I thought it did. When you get into DJing more and more, you realise that this isn’t really going to cut it. You need to be cueing up tracks in the background, and with only audio output on the card – you just can’t do that. As a result,each track trainwrecks and you, or more importantly, your listeners aren’t very happy. Now before you go out and buy yourself a nice new card (which you should do!) – there is another way.

Traktor ❤ Icecast. ‘Nuff said. Traktor comes with bulit in support for Icecast, and can act as a client to the server. This means that your master channel in Traktor can be streamed to the server, instead of “WhatUHear”, “Stereo Mix” or whatever your soundcard likes to call it. This gives you the ability to cue up tracks, sync them perfectly then hit your crossfader over. Sure, it won’t sound nice to you, and still takes a bit of guess work – but it works a hell of a lot better than before. You listeners will never hear the cueing, and all should be good!

The Setup

Ok, want to give this a shot? Here’s how it works! Firstly, your going to want to get ASIO drivers for your soundcard/chipset. If you can’t get them, you really shouldn’t be doing anything. ASIO gives low latency (I get 2.5ms) between the computer and your speakers. Also, for me – ASIO seemed to give me more information on my sound channels, while nVidia’s DX driver did not. So, with this installed – bring up the “Audio Setup” dialouge in Traktor’s preferences, and go to the “Soundcard” subsection. Set this up to use your ASIO driver, and get your latency down to something small (I’ll explain more on latency later). Now, pop over to “Output Routing.” For “monitor”, select the first 2 channels as the left and right, respectivly.

This has setup our sound output. If you have a microphone and want to use that as well, pop into Input routing, and for Channel C (we’ll see why you use C later), do as we did above – first 2 channels to left and right, respectivly. Now, you’re all ready to DJ in Traktor, but you won’t have any listeners. So, let’s setup Icecast! Go to the broadcasting section, and enter in all your details. I can’t really tell you what to do here, but it’s all very self explanitory.

Some notes on DJing

Now you’re all setup and ready to go; almost.This setup isn’t excellent, so I need to show you how to get going. Hit 4 on your keyboard to change to the 4 minimised deck layout. Click on deck C. Now, in the bar at the top, right click in some of the grey area and select “channels.” We’re going to set the mic up. First, click “Ext” in the Channel panel. This tells Traktor that it’s external, not internal. Also, click the Arrows at the bottom of the dialogue, so neither are active. This bypasses the crossfader – which can be a real pain in the butt for micing. When you want to mute the mic, just click Ext too, and you should be ok.

Right, onto Djing. Switch to the full 4 deck layout by pressing 4 on your keyboard. In the main mixer, see that little dial, “Ph Mix.” This means “phones mix” and what that really means is how much of the master channel you hear. When it’s at 100%, you hear what everyone else hears. When it’s at 0%, you won’t hear any of the master channel. Also, notice that each deck has a Cue button? This routes the output of the channel into your headphones, so you can hear the channel without anyone else hearing it, aslong as your Ph Mix is less than 100%. Here’s what I suggest:

Load a track into Deck A, move the crossfader all the way to the left, play the track. Load a new track onto Deck B and activate cue. Lower Ph Mix to 40%. Play Deck B and make sure it’s beatmatched (I can’t explain how to beatmatch now, maybe in another tutorial if this prooves useful – check out DJ Forums for beatmatching tutorials) and when it is, put Ph Mix back to 100%, and toy with the crossfader.

Hopefully, that shows that you don’t need an expensive soundcard to be a hobbiest Dj, but it does still require some talent, and certainly outside the box thinking. Any questions, drop a comment!