Native Instruments Announces Stems: New Multitrack File Format for DJs w/ ENDO

Dubspot Instructor and Native Instruments product specialist ENDO shares his insight into Native Instruments announcement of Stems, a new open audio format for DJs aimed at expanding the creative potential of DJing and Live Performance.

Stems_HeaderThis week at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Native Instruments made two big announcements that could very well change the face of DJing as we know it. On top of debuting their new controller, the Traktor Kontrol D2, Native Instruments also just announced a new file format that they’ve invented called Stems. The new multi-channel file format will pave the way for a whole new style of DJing aimed at merging the worlds of producer and DJ even further. It gives DJs, producers, and live performers the ability to mix with a track’s different musical elements individually. In addition, it will give record labels and producers a new way to monetize their music.

stems_WMCStems is a new open audio file format that contains an audio track split into four musical elements. For example, you could set up a drum stem, bass stem, synth stem, and a vocal stem. It also contains the full stereo mix of all four Stems mixed together. The stem file is a container that holds all of these elements into a single file with the .stem.mp4 file extension. Since Stems is an open audio format, it can be supported by any DJ software or hardware. The code and format specifications will also be available if anyone wants to integrate Stems into their future music performance and production tools. The open file format also allows anyone to create Stems without paying licensing fees for creation, distribution, or use. As of now the only program that supports Stems is Traktor, but I’m sure we will see others supporting this new file format very soon.

Stems files can be played back using any audio player or DJ software that supports MP4’s such as iTunes, Serato, and even a CDJ. You can also put Stems into iTunes playlists just like they were any other song in your collection. If you play the song in iTunes, or any program that doesn’t support Stems it will just play the mixed stereo file like it was any other track or MP3.

Stems_d2_640_2The magic of Stems happens when you load a stem file into a program that supports the Stems technology, like Traktor. When you load a stem into Traktor, it will automatically change the Traktor deck into a “Stem Deck” and will split the song into four sections. Currently, the Traktor Kontrol S8 or a Traktor Kontrol D2 is the best way to play with Stems. Both controllers have a dedicated section to use Stems as well as a “Stem View” located on the controllers’ screens. Stem View displays a timeline of four moving waveforms and shows you exactly what is happening in the song for each musical part. You can use the Remix section and short faders on the D2 / S8 to mix in different elements of the song, or take out certain elements. This method can be great for creating acapella’s or impromptu instrumentals. For example, you could be mixing the drums and bass of one song with the vocals and melody of another. If you don’t have a Traktor Kontrol S8 or Traktor Kontrol D2, you can still use any MIDI controller or even a keyboard to control the Stems since they are MIDI mappable.

A lot of questions are being asked about how Stems behaves in Traktor. The answer is you can do EVERYTHING you can do with a normal track to a Stem in Traktor meaning you can loop them, set cue points, set Beatgrids, BeatJump, and change the pitch. You can even do more advanced Traktor functions like freeze mode and slice mode while having the additional power of isolating different sections of a song live. You can even use scratch control for a stem deck creating even more possibilities for advanced turntablism.

Stems introduces a whole new style of DJing and mixing songs. Traditional DJs have always used EQ’s and volume faders to mix in two songs. For example, when you want to switch the bassline, often you would do a bassline swap with the Low EQ’s. Well, now you can just simply remove the drums and bass of one song and bring in the bass and drums on another! Rather than using the MID EQ’s to bring in or turn down the synths and vocals globally, you can just mix in vocal, and synth stems individually. Rather than using volume faders to bring in the entire song and use EQs to manipulate the song as a whole, you can now bring in individual parts as you please. This ability gives you much more control over how you mix your songs together, and maybe even more accuracy by giving you an even more unique style in your mixes.

Stems_D2_640Another question on a lot of people’s minds is how do you make a stem? That question will be answered soon, and there will be a dedicated website for Stems that will have tutorials and the new “Stem Creator Tool” application so producers and DJs can make their own Stems.

There is also the question of audio quality and whether the Stems will be mastered or not. My feeling is that it will be up to the artist or label who creates the Stem. A lot of these questions will be answered shortly with the release of Stems. I think this new file format will open up all kinds of new doors for DJs and producers. Since it will be a premium file format, labels can now release their back catalogs as Stems and allow DJs the opportunity to perform their tracks in whole new ways.

The concept of “Stems” isn’t totally new. Traktor has been using Sample Decks and now Remix Decks for quite some time now. You can easily play your loops and samples, and even save remix sets for easy loading in your sets. So why is Stems any different?

My personal opinion on Stems vs. Remix Decks is as follows. Stems are EASY to load. You can have Stems in the same playlists as your songs, so you don’t have to change playlists and dig through your music collection to find your Stems tracks. I feel that Remix Decks, while being innovative, are too complicated for most DJs who just want to load and play songs. With Stems, you can just load and play them like they are a normal song, or you can have the additional option to remix them live and isolate parts. I feel that Remix Decks also have more of an Ableton style feel where you are triggering clips and samples. Whereas Stems are more linear, which is how most DJs play by mixing tracks left to right vs. up and down.

There are going to be a lot of questions of legality as well since you can solo and record individual parts, but this is a can of worms that Native Instruments and everyone involved has opened already. For the meantime stay tuned, all questions will be answered soon with the launch of the Stems website.

As for the release date, it is said that the Stems website is set to launch in June, and there will be a Traktor 2.7.4 update that supports Stems coming in June as well. Stems will be available for purchase on Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource. I hope that labels and artists will also back the new file format since this new technology will push forward the art form of DJing and live performance. Cheers to the #FutureOfDJing


The industry reacts to Stems

DJ Craze

“The Stems format is very exciting to me because I come from the generation where records have 1/Instrumental/Accapella and Dubapellas, so now I’ll be able to get way more creative with my sets and have fun combining elements from tunes I like.”


“The Stems are the most innovative idea for DJing because they push creativity to the next level and they push DJs and producers into a new era for dance music. We are finally to the point where it’s not about playing A with B anymore, but we can take the essence of A and adding C, D and B and splitting this upside down with an absolute freedom of composition. It’s time for a creative era.”


“Stems is just what the industry needed. It will change the way music is mixed down from a producer’s standpoint. It will make producers think more about what they are actually doing when they make music for DJs to play.”


“The world of electronic music is always evolving, both culturally and technologically. Beatport is therefore proud to support the new Stems initiative as a retail partner to continue serving DJs in any format they desire.” – Rich Ziade, Chief Product Officer


“Stems is a truly exciting development for DJ and live music performance. It strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and flexibility, and incredibly, it’s all achieved with a universally compatible file format. We couldn’t be more pleased to give Stems our full support, and look forward to adding the download option to our site in the coming months.”


“Traxsource is 100% behind Stems and we are extremely excited by the possibilities.”

Baroque Records

“We couldn’t be more excited about putting together an exclusive release for this new format, just when we were all looking for the next major step forward in DJ technology, this came along! The possibilities really do seem endless, and with the open source format everyone can get involved. We feel something big on the horizon here.”

Cr2 Records

“Cr2 Records will continue to support the evolution of the modern day DJ. With Cr2 Traktor Tools combined with our releases for the revolutionary Stems technology, our DJ fan base will be able to provide the ultimate in live performance.”

Get Physical

“Remember the days when DJs had to carry very heavy reel to reel tape recorders into the club in order to make their sets special, to play around with basslines and drums and loop songs into danceable tracks? No? Well we do, and we still remember the pain of the physical implication. Hence we think Stems is a great idea to bring back that fantastic tool into the world of DJing without having to carry around these heavy machines!”


“InFiné is music, art, and technology and so is the new Stem format. This is opening new creative doors for us!”

Kling Klong

“We are happy to provide these tools to the DJs who love to entertain with creative sets and play with the music from our artists.”

Mobilee Records

“It was always part of Mobilee’s mission to embrace new technologies and innovations for DJ and club culture. We learned that every generation is discovering music production and DJ performance in its very own way. Stems will be the next big thing to add new opportunities to DJs’ creativity. And the fact that it is an open format proves Native Instruments’ passion for music and technology.”

Modeselektor (Monkeytown Records & 50 Weapons)

“Hi-hat in, hi-hat out, ride in, kick in, clap in, everything out… Being able to break down all tracks to your favorite elements will bring loads of fun!”

Noir Music

“Once you see, hear, feel, and try it… It’s AWESOME!”


“Stem files offer DJs the creative freedom to control different elements of a track, blurring the lines between DJ and live sets. We are happy to be part of this exciting new concept with our labels GREEN and Rejected.”


“We have always encouraged the evolution of DJing, providing an expanding market with the musical tools it demands to make a DJ set reflect an individual’s sound. For us, DJing has always been about owning a sound and style. From the early Hip Hop years of looping the break on 2 decks to Richie Hawtin’s Closer To The Edit album, the idea of creative manipulation has always driven our scene forward. We are once again pleased to be working on a project that allows for this to happen.”

Labels who are officially supporting Stems

Baroque Records


Cr2 Records

Get Physical


Herzblut Recordings




Kling Klong

Mobilee Records


Monkeytown Records

Noir Music


Toolroom Records


50 Weapons

Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro

The definition of DJing has changed dramatically in the last decade. Laptops, controllers, and software have emerged alongside more traditional turntables and CDJs, smashing the barrier to entry. In today’s digital age, anyone can become a DJ. To reflect this renaissance, Dubspot has created the Digital DJing with Traktor program. In both our physical and online schools, students will learn how to DJ entirely with Traktor’s cutting-edge technology. An emphasis will be placed on the concepts of DJing rather than simply learning how to use the software.

What’s Included

  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 1: Introduction to DJing
  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 2: Phrase Mixing
  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 3: Beyond The Beatmatch

“I love the class, and the content! Shiftee and Endo are very funny, and very clear, so the material is easy and fun to follow! I wish my college teachers  were more like these two!” – Leandro Martinez, Chicago IL

More start dates and information about payment plans can be found here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.