Full Reviews: Kontrol F1/Xone:K2
The Same But Different?
What with the Allen & Heath Xone:K2 and Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 hitting shelves at more or less the same time, and having a very similar appearance and workflow, it seems only right for us to put them up against each other in a head to head comparison. Now, we’ve gotten down and dirty with both pieces and reviewed them (F1 & K2) in typical DJWORX fashion already, so what we’re going to do here is draw on some key aspects of the two units and see which comes out on top for each. Here goes…
Build Quality: K2 (just)
Both the F1 and K2 are well built, sturdy units; it’s quite difficult to choose a victor in this area. The reason I’m giving the K2 the nod is because of the nutted rotary pots and pro grade, large fader stems. Even though I don’t expect the F1 to fall apart any time soon, the K2 just has that little extra attention paid to its construction that make me think it might make it through just that bit nastier a bump.
(Side note: Decksavers make an Kontrol X1/F1 cover, but not yet for the K2 – Ed.)
Software Integration: F1
This is a really tough area. On the one hand, the K2’s layering system gives it lots of options when configuring it to work with just about any software, but on the other, the F1’s super tight integration with Traktor is a huge feather in its cap. The F1 can be configured to work in standard MIDI mode, but you only get a single layer of control – so the K2 has an advantage there – but considering that Traktor is such a powerhouse in the DJ software world, and for a lot of users a single layer of control is all that will be configured, the F1 just squeezes this one. I do mean just, though, and it’s mainly because I think most users will do the majority of their mapping on a single layer whether they have the option to use multiple layers or not.
There’s really nothing in it when it comes to controls; it seems to me that around an equal amount of people will prefer the options offered by each controller. Whilst the F1 has RGB lights (although they only work properly in Traktor mode right now) and slightly bigger and nicer buttons, the K2 has more knobs. The Kontrol F1 has pinch style, short throw faders, the Xone K2 has longer, looser faders with studio style caps. The increased size of the K2 makes things feel just a little bit more spacious, but ergonomically both controllers are on point. Joint honours here.
Perhaps this is a different folks, different strokes issue, but both lumps of gear have their own incentives for purchase. The K2 doubles up as a great sounding audio interface and comes with a carry case, but the F1 is marginally cheaper and includes a Traktor Pro licence. Maybe you already have an audio interface you’re happy with, maybe you already have Traktor Pro. Maybe you’ll buy the F1 carry case, bringing the purchase to the same as the K2, or maybe you’d sooner the K2 was a little cheaper and the bag was optional. The bottom line is that because both units are so good, and their added extras are worth roughly as much in ‘real money’ as each others, I’m declaring this area a tie as well.
Overall: F1 for Traktor Remix Deck users, K2 for other software
Is this wimping out? The two controllers are so close to each other in all the important stakes that it’s really tough to put one ahead of the other overall. When it comes down to it, it’s the F1’s Traktor integration that’s the major differentiator between the two products; if you use Traktor, then unless you have absolutely no interest in the Remix Decks the F1 is a no brainer purchase. The K2’s extra controls and layering mean it’s probably the better choice if you use other software or just want to control standard Traktor functions… and that’s about as much of an official line as I think you’ll get out of me, guys!
A Second Opinion from Mark Settle
It’s really hard to add anything to Chris’s appraisal of this hotly contested battle. At the time of writing, the biggest differentiator is the F1’s ability to handle Remix Decks fully and completely. There’s nothing else on the market that can handle such a task with arcane hackery, so if you’re dead set on travelling down NI’s new road, the F1 is the controller for you.
But if we’re talking about MIDI controller vs MIDI controller on a level playing field, the issue becomes considerably harder to resolve. The Xone K2 has more going for it – way more controls, enough to act as a full mixer including an audio interface, X-Link connectors making it an easier purchase for existing A&H customers, as well as MIDI layers. The F1 is more compact, has much better pads and comes with a full copy of Traktor v2.5. On a more personal and generic level, the K2 just has it. I don’t need pads, as buttons suffice, and I like having more controls.
So just to echo the review, I can’t help but think that it you want the most up to date features with seamless Traktor integration, the F1 is for you. And while the Kontrol F1 performance pads are a head turner, to get more adventurous with MIDI, and have greater control of more software features for the widest range of applications, the Xone:K2 has more going for it.