Issue 91
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2 April 2015


Native Instruments has just unveiled a new open audio format – Stems – which is set to revolutionise the way DJs and live performers create music, by allowing users access to four channels in each audio file.

The multi-channel Stem format gives creatives the ability to manipulate different elements of a track, by accessing its four different ‘stem’ parts, e.g the bass, drums, melody, or vocals.  The Stem parts can each be modified separately, isolated or effects can be applied to specific parts of the track. For example, transitioning between tracks with Stems means the cross-fade can be done part-by-part rather than only using the global volume or EQ control over the entire track. Or vocals can now be lifted cleanly from a track for new mashups.

The open format, means that anyone can create, modify, perform with or distribute new Stems files, opening up a host of new musical opportunities and revenue streams for both for users, labels and retailers. NI is hoping its new standard will benefit the entire music industry.

“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.” – Baroque Records.

The new format uses an mp4 container (files ending with stem.mp4) which stores a stereo mix and four individual stems of the track, and averages at around 70mb per file. It can be played in the same way as an mp3 file, using mp4-compatible audio players (such as iTunes) and most smartphones. In order to access the individual parts, users will need Stem-supported software and hardware which will be introduced over the coming months, with selected artists, labels and production companies beginning to support the format. The first of which is NI with an update to its TRAKTOR software in the near future.

“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.” – MK.

A free standalone application, the Stem Creator Tool, will soon be released, allowing creatives the ability to author their own Stem files. Along with a dedicated Stems website, expected to launch in June, which will contain all tech specs, source code, tutorials and downloads. Developers will also have access to coding to integrate the new technology into performance and production hardware and tools.

“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.” – DJ Luciano.

Excerpts from Press Release


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Issue 91