DJ Tech Tools jailbreak the Remix Decks

You’ll remember when Native Instruments caused a bit of a disturbance in the controllerist force, when they dropped the bombshell that their oh so on-trend 4×4 pad Kontrol F1 controller would be the only box that would be allowed to harness the power of their new Remix Deck workflow in Traktor 2.5. Well, for now anyway.

Purveyor of boutique controllers DJ Tech Tools weren’t best pleased with to hear this. A core element of the controllerist raison d’etre is being able to map any hardware to any software, and for NI to put a big stop sign in front of their new shiny ruffled more than a few feathers. DJTT’s MIDI Fighters are becoming a firm favourite with controllerists and the wider DJ scene too, but to have the Remix Decks closed off to their controller offering was essentially waving a red rag to a somewhat experienced bull. NI went as far as to joke about jobs being on offer for anyone who manages to open the closed door. The gauntlet was laid down, and DJTT rose to the challenge. In style.

The DJTT MIDI guys donned their white coats and got very intimate with the inner workings of the messaging going on between the Kontrol F1 and the Remix Decks. Bit by bit they managed to reverse engineer just how NI did it (HID apparently), and created new firmware for their MIDI Fighter 3D that mimics the F1 pads perfectly. But then they went a little further and added features like beat pulsing on the lights. They’re not messing about with this.

The great thing about this is that it’s all free. Obviously you’ll need to own a MIDI Fighter 3D, and you’ll need Traktor Pro 2.5 (which comes free with the Kontrol F1), but I’m sure most of you are already eligible for the free upgrade.

For the DJTT guys to discover and replicate the F1’s workflow so quickly and effectively should be applauded. But what will NI do about this? Will sales of F1s plummet at the expense of a quantum shift to MIDI Fighters? Can NI close down this jailbreak with a simple software upgrade? Or will NI as indicated simply headhunt the key players at DJTT?

It’s hard to tell what NI might make of this – I doubt however that they’re happy. But the silver lining on this particular cloud is that NI will have a heap of extra users helping to establish this new workflow, and not have to offer a moment of support to them either. And these users are most likely to be bleeding edge users, who will be only too happy to provide feedback to help make the Remix Decks even better.

But where does this leave the rest of the controller market? Given that the vast majorty of controllers simply aren’t programmed to accept the HSB colour values generated by the Remix Decks, and instead rely on RGB, the full spectrum of Remix Deck features aren’t likely to happen for a long time. It’ll be the next generation of controllers for sale that embrace RGB and HSB colour values that will begin to see Remix Decks and other new workflows enabled and advanced. It certainly makes better commercial sense to sell new controllers than prolong the life of old ones.

Whatever happens after this, it goes without saying that we’re all very deeply impressed with this DJTT project – NI however probably less so. MIDI Fighter 3D owners can have a dabble on the DJTT site.


    Reverse engineer, that is HUGE.


      NI would better listen closely to their customers, clean up and enhance the software. Traktor should keep open the doors for other controllers. Great deal of decision has been made on favor to NI with customers using the software, and many people will want their particular way to manipulate it. I’m glad DjTT gave a choice.

      On another line of ideas, RGB buttons are great, but too much options in colors might distract.

  • ace

    Not too sure what you mean about the RGB / HSB color values? If a controller has 2 or more led’s per button you can create different colors by turning them on individually or together. I can’t see why the midi messages would change. The F1 has cool colors because they are physically there inside the hardware, my logic tells me that the messages to turn them on & off would stay the same. But……. I could be wrong.

  • Ken Uston

    At Ace:

    You are incorrect. RGB/HSB is taken care of with a tri-color LED that has different states to display colors. As well, RGB and HSB are two totally different standards, and RGB (Red/Green/Blue) is handled a hundred different ways by different companies. For instance, the Launchpad is capable of ONLY displaying Red, Green and Blue, while the VCI-380 can display 7 pre-defined values. Some controllers display RGB values with different notes, some display with different 0-127 values within a note, etc. HSB on the other hand is something of a way to throw down the gauntlet-if you want to support the remix decks in their full glory (14 colors?) you will have to support their color mixing which is very well defined and not up for debate.

  • Ken Uston

    For more info: (from NI forums)

    “When using HSB you actually need to send 3 output messages to the controller to set the color – 1 each for Hue, Saturation and brightness.

    Hue chooses the color
    Saturation on 0 will make it all white & on 127 will be full color
    Brightness is brightness with a range from 0 to 127

    For the first F1 controller …
    Hue is on midi channel 1
    Saturation is on Channel 2
    Brightness is on channel 3”

  • Now that mixvibes has a sampler I see my self using this .but only if we had some golden style making for it 🙂

  • Thanks for the positive article Mark. We are very excited about the developments in Dj technology and hope this inspires other companies to give djs more creative ways to express themselves.

    • shishdisma

      GG to you guys. Looks like NI might owe youma dream job now! Hahaha.

  • ace

    Thanks for the info Ken. So it’s no longer a simple case of on & off anymore.
    That’s actually quite insane!

  • Am I wrong or the MidiFighter 3D colors doesn’t match the remix decks sample colors?
    Did they arrange to handle HSB data as well? I doesn’t seem so…

  • sinjintek

    i still have no beef with Traktor over their choice to offer the Remix Decks as they did, it’s always been said that full access would be eventually made available and i’ve never doubted them. i recall when NI candidly stated they were open to letting users attempt some backdoor hackery, and i saw how several members of the DJTT community stepped up, i believe there were 4 working or semi-working methods reported in their blog several weeks ago. it’s actually impressive to see DJTT step up and provide firmware for one of their products, if only so many other manufacturers would make similar efforts! Kudos to the DJ Tech Tools team