BPM 2012: NI Traktor Kontrol Z2 demo

Having covered off the first big lump of hardware announced just before BPM, it’s time to take an intimate look at the other. Rather than filming a scratch demo, NI delivered Eric Goldstein (from the first teaser) to show us the key elements of their lovely new Traktor Kontrol Z2 mixer/controller.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 Mixer controller demo BPM 2012

First things first – NI wish it to be known that despite appearances, the Kontrol Z2 is considerably more than a 2 channel battle mixer. Yes it can do that sort of thing, but this has a lot more going for it than simple turntablist manoeuvres. And for me, while this can be used as a standalone mixer, the Z2 is much more of a Traktor controller capable of handing analogue inputs and HID CDJs.

Of course, it comes with a handful of new features and innovations that put it some way above the rest of the 2 channel mixer market, and knocks on the door of the 4 channel crowd too. The 2+2 channel functionality really does mimic what a lot of 4 channel users already do on their club mixers.

So first impressions – pure NI look and feel. But there’s an elevated feel of quality here, one that pushes it some way above the feel of the S2 and S4. The expensive and highly polished aluminium faceplate  is of course a finger print hazard, and in certain lighting conditions it’s going to dazzle. The rest however is very pleasing to the hand and eye. As Eric says in the video, they designed it to be thrown against a wall and still work. I’d better make sure that I’ve finished the review and completed photography before I attempt that particular test to destruction.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 mixer (1)

Fader update – all 3 are mini Innofaders, but the line faders have a decidedly stiffer feel. The cross fader however is nice and smooth and eminently scratchable. But it turns out that all 3 can be replaced by full long-bodied Innofaders. At your expense of course and under your own steam, but if you must have that level of fader performance, then that avenue is open to you.

While it’s pretty cool that it’s an analogue mixer, the Kontrol Z2 really comes into its own when hooked up to Traktor and all the goodness that the new v2.6 brings. I was especially taken with the macro FX. A team of 3 NI sound designers have worked on these effects, layering up to 5 different individual effects to create a sort of über effect with a controllable parameter. We didn’t go through each and every one, but the few we heard really were top notch. I was taken by how quickly you could make an average set sound so much better. And when you combine this with post fader effects, this feature alone makes the Kontrol Z2 a hugely attractive draw.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 mixer (3)

I’m also a big fan of the USB hub. I certainly struggle plugging multiple USB devices into my MacBook Air, so freeing up 50% of my ports is very handy indeed. But not only that – I get the feeling that some pretty cool functionality is coming, and possibly some new hardware in the future too. Why do I say that? You only have to look at NI’s growing Traktor hardware family. It started with audio interfaces, then came individual controllers, full-sized controllers and now a 2 channel mixer. I genuinely believe that NI are making a play for the whole DJ market, and want all of it to plug into Traktor. I’d put good money on a 4 channel mixer and some sort of table top player too.

Anyway, have a watch of the video. It has some really nice features worthy of your attention. I’m genuinely excited to lay my hands on one for an extended period of time, which hopefully will be very soon indeed.

  • Ryan Dejaegher

    Hey Mark can you comment on how the remix decks are routed? With my Djm T1 the only way to get 4 decks is to route 2 decks through each channel, this can make for some messy routing. Is this really a 4 deck/channel soundcard or are the remix decks being routed through the same channels as deck a/b

    • The Z2 operates Traktor in internal mixing mode only, so you don’t have individual channel outputs as there’s no need. With the 2.6 update the T1 has got a bit more interesting, currently its impossible to have post fade fx as the T1 hasn’t the I/O to handle send and return. But once 2.6 is live you could switch to Internal mixing mode, map the faders to tractors virtual mixer, map a couple of rotaries to deck C & D fades and hey presto, you got ya self a Pioneer DJM Z2 and post fade goodness.

      • I’ve been a diehard user of the 909 since it came out, but it’s about time I stepped into the controller age. I wanted a two channel mixer but with two additional aux type channels for future f1s if I ever sought to go that route. The Z2 looks like it was exactly what I was looking for and then some. But with the 2.6 update it seems like I would still be able to keep the 909 feel while having the functionality of a Z2 if I went with a DJM T. WIth the prices being pretty much the same, I am having some difficulty deciding between the two. With the new update, are you saying that I would be able to map the volume of deck C to the FX1 3 knob? If so, what would be the advantage of getting the Z2 over the DJM T1? Also, would it be possible to make one of the other knobs to be used as a headphone cue for deck C? Thanks.

  • I’m very surprised NI would come out with this product. Kudos to them for developing a real 2 channel battle mixer with Traktor Magic built in. I need a review on the mini Innofaders. When is 2.6 expected to drop? Now if Traktor will incorporate SPLICE (Seamlessly skip a portion of a song. Anti-Loop) it would be dream come true.

    Can someone make a 10-12″ Direct Drive Turntable that works in MIDI and works with Traktor/Serato? I love controllers, but scratching and cueing on a static platter is not very accurate.
    I’m creating a TSI with multiple effect like Ean Golden’s Gratifier and it takes forever to come up with combinations that work great. MACRO effects is a huge plus. Especially after reading “A team of 3 NI sound designers have worked on these effects, layering up to 5 different individual effects to create a sort of über effect with a controllable parameter.”

    Post fader FX. VERY NICE!

    I’ve been requesting LOOP ROLL for years. FLUX mode gives you that and more. I would have loved to hear some scratching and looping in FLUX mode.

    • Jared Helfer

      As a quick note, the Beatmasher is Loop Roll. If you use it in Chained (or Group) Mode it works exactly the same, just not visually. If you use it in Advanced Mode you can set it up as well, you just need the gate at 64 and the Rot at 0 (it depresses me that I have that memorized.
      As far as combinations go, just experiment, dude. The core 6 FX (Filter, Flanger, Delay, Reverb, Beatmasher, Phaser) can be combined with some really powerful sounds, even before getting to the Bouncer, Reverse Grain, Pitch Shifter, Iceverb, etc. 🙂

      • Beatmasher (an effect I love) is an effect and not as accurate as an actual loop. Wet/Dry also has to be at 100%. Plus, we will now have visual feedback in FLUX. I also don’t have to create any buttons for the 4 Beatmasher Parameters I constantly use. I can use the Existing Loop buttons and knob while FLUX engaged. I can’t wait to chop up samples. Come to think of it, I will still continue to use Beatmasher because I love to chop up beats while the song is playing in the background.

        I’ve also requested a adjustable Turntable Power Down/Brake when pausing like in Scratch Live/Itch. The Brake Effect doesn’t always engage correctly and the song keeps playing. If you don’t have the Brake effect already loaded, pushing a button for Brake effect only loads the effect. You have to hit it again to Brake.

        • The Brake issues your having is because that particular effect needs a 1 bar buffer before engaged. When jumping between effect presets its best practise to hit the bank/preset button twice, some times more with my maps 😉

        • Jared Helfer

          I can’t argue with you re the brake effect. In fact, the entire turntable effect needs some changes.

    • The mini innofades feel amazing! virtually impossible to tell difference. The flux mode doesn’t quite work like slip mode in regards to scratching because once you let go of a hot cue it jumps straight to where the track would of progressed too despite record movement, shame really. There may be an option to adjust the way it works as I’d prefer it to only jump back once you stop scratching.

  • The non free flowing line fades are proper annoying from a scratch dj point of view, I wish manufacturers would stop nursing mixing djs in to the belief they couldn’t control a line fade that wasn’t stiff.

    That new control manager option of layering over default maps with users maps is bloody epic news, creating a line fade adjust options and euro scratch mode will be a lot more easier now.

    My biggest beef at the mo is that this mixer won’t currently support post fade sampling via the loop recorder as it only operates Traktor once in internal mode. So please NI make it possible to sample post fade cuts! unless of course your awaiting Maschine integration to take charge of sampling duties.

    Overall this mixer is sweet, for the price I can swallow the plastic pots I saw at BPM , (you don’t find plastic on real tanks). For under 650 quid I’m choosing to look at the very many many MANY things the Z2 can do rather than couple bits it can’t, the software integration is slick and genius.

    Great vid DJWorx!!

    • mewtant

      surely if its a innofader you can adjust the tension no??

      • They’re mini Innofaders – smooth but basic, so no tension adjust.

  • Paco Loco

    Can’t watch the vid on my iPad, it’s giving me audio only and no video…?

  • jprime

    God damn you Traktor and your tight controller / DVS integration. 🙂

    This might just pull me from the dark side O_O

    • When the nearest official Scratch Live mixer is twice the price, it’s not hard to see why.

      • jprime

        They have itch and ssl rolled up into one…I need to go query some people on the stability of Traktor nowadays…if anyone can comment here, please do.
        Running a dual core 2.4 / 4GB ram macbook pro (Snow L.), how stable is it?

        • Zac Kyoti

          I’ve got the same setup as you. Ridiculously stable, from my experience.

        • djmpire

          stability wise serato shits all over traktor. i was using traktor up untill 4 months ago and f!@k me was it bad. ive came across 3 s4 controllers including my old 1 that had issues.

        • Extremely stable for me on essentially the same setup.

        • I’ve been using traktor for 4 years and I’ve only had problems when I was doing dumb shit with it (downloading songs onto external hardrives, running other programs in the background), but never had a problem at a gig. Ever. Also DJmpire seems to be commenting on bad experiences with hardware, not software. I’m hoping this z2 joint is built like a tank…

  • lack of skillz

    They need to get Craze to make a demo vid

    • I’m sure they’re listening to public opinion.

    • Ryan Dejaegher

      According to his most recent Ustream he was actually just in Berlin shooting a new video, i’m sure we’ll see it the day the Z2 releases.

    • Dj Nice Guy Eddie aka J.Speed

      he did – its on the NI page… its good but could be better… Qberts -Breakfast of Champions w Shiftee (an 1 or 2 others) have a vid usining the Z2 thas hot!

  • facts

    It seems like the only thing analogue about this mixer are the inputs, but people keep calling it an “analogue mixer.”
    A really high-end audiophile analogue mixer with a built-in multi-channel sound card that let you use an analogue summing bus and analogue filters would be a big deal, but I guess no one wants to try it because of cost.
    I wish people would stop calling this an analogue mixer.

  • facts

    It seems like the only thing analogue about this mixer are the inputs, but people keep calling it an “analogue mixer.”
    A really high-end audiophile analogue mixer with a built-in multi-channel sound card that let you use an analogue summing bus and analogue filters would be a big deal, but I guess no one wants to try it because of cost.
    I wish people would stop calling this an analogue mixer.

    • You’re quite right to correct me. When I say analogue, I’m referring more to it being standalone, more like a generic analogue mixer. Thanks for pulling me on that.

      • Shishdisma

        You spelled it correctly though, so at least I’m willing to give you a pass. =P

    • Shishdisma@gmail.com

      That big deal you described is called the Allen and Heath 4D. A pretty big deal, but I think it needs a bit of a revision.

    • DJQA

      People keep saying that about Pios as well, which is just as wrong…

  • Ryan Dejaegher

    It’s funny I watched another video on the Kontrol Z2 from sonicstate and I think Mark is onto something when he says that NI is after the whole DJ market. In this video and the sonicstate video both NI product specialists kept emphasizing that this mixer was capable of everything you get from more expensive products such as a CDJ 2000 (sync, waveforms etc.) and then some. Hell for the price of a CDJ 2000 you can buy two of these.

    I think if you also look at NI’s past behaviour you can see why their own deck may be coming. Some examples:

    1) Remember the NS7? Traktor is the only program that doesn’t support it. Why support someone else’s spinning platters if you plan to release your own? Same goes for that Stanton SCS 1D.

    2) Pioneer HID support: Serato had it for a looong time what could have possibly taken so long for NI to add support. Again this is just limiting competing products for future product releases.

    3) Less Traktor certified mixers: Around Traktor Scratch 3 and Traktor Pro there was a lot of certified scratch mixers. This number has basically been reduced to 3 mixers: DJM T1, DJM 900, and Denon X1600. NI is obviously wanting to limit options and release their own products with really tight integration with their software (F1, Z2 etc.)

    Obviously this is all speculation but you can tell a lot about a company from what they don’t do.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I thought the same thing when they teased the Z2. My spidey senses were tingling!

  • Paco Loco

    So if you buy this and you only use it with traktor ( not vinyl or CDs), are you paying for lots of nice analogue hardware that you’re not actually using?
    It seems cheap for a skratch certified mixer, but if you’re just using it as a midi controller then it seems expensive.

  • Daw-z

    What is Hey, does anybody know the tune thats playing during the effects demo?

    • EGS

      Hey this is eric. I had some Elgato tracks on there… He only has about 6 tracks Out. Could have been Luv Zombie or Blue 😉

  • Hear ye hear ye – NI would like it to be known that despite the plastic appearance, the oh so shiny faceplate is in fact highly polished aluminium, and costs a damned fortune apparently.

  • if I install a normal innofader in this, will it still retain it’s post fader effects? I’m sure it would but I’d like to hear from someone who has a bit more pull to answer this, thanks!

    • DJQA

      I don’t see why not. In Traktor mode, all the faders and controls actually control Traktor’s software mixer – it’s just MIDI data.

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  • Dj Nice Guy Eddie aka J.Speed

    THIS is THE MIXER of mixers of usb/midi controllers in one! .. u can use it wit all hardware, software; and wen connected to ur computer; its a whole new mixer / controller… an wit the NI Maschine; its a match-mate in heaven… total bliss… ive been a vestax/serato user since inception and jus made the switch but kept my SL2 box and serato vinyl – jus in case; but so far it blows it all away!… an if u unplug usb from serato or rane mixer to ur laptop *most* mixers totally flake… the Z2 not only keeps goin wit time-coded vinyl but u can switch tracks from ur mixer that are on ur laptop… and always have songs cued as well as long samples and ull never have a fail; which ive had happen wit serato… so more stable to me and all the remixing and production needs i want 😉 5 stars total win in my book.. i love it.. and its a normal analog mixer wit innofaders and a crossfader u can blow across the clear and concise mixing deck wit a total of 6 decks; 4 virtual and tons of effex and so much – too much too name… highly recommend… i got mine for under $700 wit taxes and 4year no questions asked FULL Warranty – not call NI – jus take back to store and get a new one or next model up!!! onelovepeace