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.
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.
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.
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.