As most Laptop DJs know, it is not easy getting Traktor + FinalScratch to perform without glitches in your live DJ set.
NI stopped supporting FinalScratch and there are other alternative setups out there. But if you are on a budget – you can still get used FinalScratch 2.0 hardware on the cheap, buy an older version of Traktor (see below), a 2 year old laptop and spin like a king. The main problem is that technical issues may slow you down and ruin your set if you have not configured all hardware and software properly and it is hard to get this configuration right without being a techie. Most of these issues still exist when you use other types of Vinyl control hardware but I’ll focus on FinalScratch 2.0 in this post.
It took me few good years to get to a point that the tech setup side of my set is rock solid. I’m sharing info about my setup here with you, so you can avoid the mistakes I made (in some cases in front of 500 people). I hope you’ll find it useful…
- Use Traktor 3.1 (I use version 3.1.306 on Windows) but not a newer version. Newer versions of Traktor don’t support FinalScratch 2.
- Use the latest Stanton ScratchAmp drivers. They can be downloaded from Stanton’s website.
- Use Windows Vista, XP or OS X – It is more important that you’ll configure your OS properly. You can get good results in any of these OSes. The main reason to use Windows is playing WMA files because Traktor does not support WMA playback on OS X.
- Keep the default ScarchAmp driver settings and increase the latency if you are getting dropped sounds. Read the Traktor docs – there’s a section about FinalScratch in them with more info on this issue.
- Replace your turntable stylus needles heads every 3-6 months. Dough!
- Use the medium quality time stretch quality in Traktor. It is good enough for most sets and uses less CPU.
- Use a new set of FinalScartch 2.0 records every 6 months. Use the 45″ side when you play.
- Clean your FinalScratch records before you play.
- Use a fast laptop – I use MacBook Pro 15″ with a 2.4 GHZ CPU . It is a 2 years old model and it works fine. Don’t go crazy with the latest hardware but if you get a new laptop make sure you have a built-in FireWire port.
- Get the max RAM your laptop model supports – 4 GB in my case. go to newegg.com for cheap hi-quality ram.
- Use a good quality Firewire cable. Always have a backup cable with you.
- IMPORTANT: Disable all network connections, including Wireless networking when playing – this is key – Firewire is choppy with wireless networking is on most laptop models, and you are going to get dropped sounds while performing if you don’t follow this tip.
- IMPORTANT: Get a techie friend who knows your OS and have him disable all the services running on your OS that you don’t need. Don’t do it yourself if you don’t know what you are doing in this area – you’ll screw-up your OS and will have to install it again.
- Preferably, don’t install any software on your DJ laptop unless absolutely needed. Uninstall everything but Traktor 3.1. Ideally, start from a clean OS install and just install Traktor 3.1. Ask a techie to uninstall all apps you don’t need for you if you still have some running.
- IMPORTNAT: Quit all running software applications (if you still have any) before starting your set.
- Pre-analyze your tracks in Traktor for BPM, Gain and Strip.
- Adjust the gain knobs on the FinalScratch 2.0 device until you see a good image in the FinalScratch panel in Traktor.
- Always connect the Phono-through cables to FinalScratch 2.0 and to your mixer and test that you can play regular vinyls on the mixer just by switching the input source in each channel to Phono form Line before you start playing! This will save your butt in case Traktor/FinalScratch stop working in the middle of your set due to technical glitches.
- Always bring a backup crate of real records with you. Laptops are not reliable enough as live performance tools to play a DJ set in front of a big audience without this backup. If you tested the Phono through connections, you should be able to switch to real vinyl very quickly. Unfortunately, laptops and operating systems are not reliable enough as DJ tools yet so until they become more reliable and even if you follow all the tips here – you’ll need a PLAN B.
- Always make sure your laptop is connected to a power source before starting your dj set, otherwise your laptop may go to sleep due to low juice halfway into your set.
Being glitch-free will allow you to focus on being more creative and to enjoy your set more, because after playing with your laptop setup for few times without glitches, you’ll stop worrying about the tech-side of your set and because you’ve got your vinyl backup jic anyhow, right? Have fun playing a glitch-free DJ set with your laptop :-)