Key Detection Software Comparison: 2015 Edition - DJ TechTools


Key Detection Software Comparison: 2015 Edition Since our last key detection software square-off almost two years ago, we’ve seen new iterations of DJ software continue to incorporate key analysis. Serato DJ enters the fray, and Rekordbox is vying for status as a DJ platform. Want to know what software has the best key-finding algorithms, and which still need an overhaul? Read on for our test results. Two Key Detection Tests Major / Minor Triads (“Control”) – In our first test, we crafted 24 very simple songs, consisting of an basic house drum loop and a piano playing a major or minor triad for each of the keys. Some softwares understand this pretty well, others get completely thrown off by how simple the solution is – the results are always fascinating. Real World Test – Like last time, our real world test consists of 66 tracks from Beatport – the top three songs from every genre on the platform. This is designed to mirror what DJs might be playing on dance floors right now around the world, which is what these softwares claim to be able to detect the key of. We ran songs through our human key finding experts and 10 different softwares to see how close software can come to the human ear. Human Testers VS Key Finding Algorithms I’ll repeat what we always say when talking about harmonic mixing – “trust your ears!” It’s critical to not build a dependency on tools, but instead use them to augment a sense of when something works or doesn’t. We’ve heard from some sources that even a groups of pitch-perfect classically trained musicians have a significant rate of disagreement about the key of certain songs. Like last time we did a test like this on DJTT, all the songs had to have a consensus from the human group to be included in the final results. Our human test group included myself and 5 well-suited volunteers with experienced ears from the DJTT community. We all pain-stakingly listened to every song and came up with the best choice for the key of the song. Despite coming to a consensus (simple majority) on each track, maybe six sets of ears could be wrong. All of the data is available as a free download at the end of this article (or click here), and if you disagree, feel free to make a case for a different consensus on a track in the comments. The Key Analysis Competitors Beatport’s Store Tags We’ve read many reports around the web of Beatport using their own internal software to determine the key of tracks – something that is backed up by the data. Our understanding is that the keys are not just what the label reports to Beatport when submitting them – so we decided to analyze how accurate the keys that come with purchased tracks are on the Beatport store. Major/Minor Triad Test: Not possible – no way to manually test.# of correct tracks (vs human volunteer consensus): 40 (61% correct)# of Major / Minor misreads: 13 Serato DJ 1.8 With 1.8 only just becoming public a few weeks ago, this is easily the newest key detection algorithm in the industry. We were impressed at a strong initial showing from Serato in this roundup. With the addition of the Pitch’n’Time DJ key shifting in 1.8, Serato have a major win for harmonic mixing DJs on their hands. Major/Minor Triad Test: 67% – eight incorrect.# of correct tracks (vs human volunteer consensus): 46 (70% correct)# of Major / Minor misreads: Only 1 – this doesn’t seem to be an issue for Serato DJ Mixed In Key 7 (and 6) Mixed In Key’s algorithm remaining the reigning champion in this domain, but did the new update to the software from 6 to 7 make a difference? In our testing, the results were identical – meaning that if an upgrade is only really important if you’re looking for auto-cue points, better energy levels, etc – in terms of the results in key detection, there was no difference. Either way MiK landed the top slot yet again! Major/Minor Triad Test: 75% – six incorrect.# of correct tracks (vs human volunteer consensus): 57 (86% correct)# of Major / Minor misreads: 2 Virtual DJ 8.0.0 Since the last test, Virtual DJ finally rolled out their version 8 update to the software – but it was too much to hope that the key detection algorithm had improved with this new update. It’s the lowest-scoring software in the lineup, and for some reason was unable to get any of the Major/Minor triad test correct Major/Minor Triad Test: 4% – only one correct, because it returned G#maj for every track.# of correct tracks (vs human volunteer consensus): 27 (41% correct)# of Major / Minor misreads: 10 Rekordbox 3.3.0 Since the last test, Rekordbox has gone through two iterations – one of which involved the entire rewriting of the code base and complete ownership by Pioneer DJ (they previously outsourced development to Mixvibes). Rekordbox 3 had a pretty mediocre showing, but actually out-performed in the Major/Minor Triad test. Major/Minor Triad Test: 96% – one incorrect.# of correct tracks (vs human volunteer consensus): 34 (52% correc…

How does the latest DJ key detection software stand up in a test? We pit all of the key-finding algorithms against each other in an epic battle.

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