Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 Mixer (4)

Just when you thought the world had gone controller crazy, out comes a classic 2 channel mixer. But Native Instruments have gone a few steps beyond what you might call the norm and added a few useful extras into their all new and very shiny Traktor Kontrol Z2.

There’s a performance video from Ean Golden:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFumWO3sCMQ

Some lovely pictures:

…and the official word from the NI HQ in Berlin:

Native Instruments announces TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

First 2+2 channel DJ control mixer offers comprehensive connectivity and new creative features, all housed inside an installation-height, aircraft-grade aluminum chassis – the ultimate TRAKTOR hub

Berlin, October 4, 2012 – Native Instruments today announced TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2, the world’s first 2+2 control mixer combining the industry’s leading DJ controller design with a high-quality soundcard and a host of new features, all housed inside an aircraft-grade aluminum chassis. New creative features inside the acclaimed TRAKTOR PRO software expand creative possibilities while industry-standard InnofadersTM assure rock-solid dependability when DJing, making KONTROL Z2 the first professional club mixer from Native Instruments.

The Z2’s 2+2 design unites analog and digital DJing techniques. Two standalone channels provide connectivity for turntables or CDJs while two additional channels offer control over TRAKTOR Remix Decks, cue points and effects. DJs now have access to all aspects of their setups from one intuitive control hub. This combination of hardware and software accommodates a host of workflow preferences from vinyl and CDJ setups to elaborate controller configurations.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 was designed to deliver the reliability and pro sound quality essential for professional club DJing. Its installation height delivers the comfort required during performance while the aircraft-grade construction provides necessary stability when on stage and reliability when on the road. The Z2’s 24-bit soundcard and professional XLR outputs deliver high-quality audio to club sound systems while a separate booth output and microphone input allow KONTROL Z2 to integrate into any DJ booth. Advanced HID technology delivers seamless integration with CDJs including enhanced visual and tactile control of key features. A built-in USB hub adds connectivity for additional controllers without having to use the host computer’s USB ports, making it easy to integrate add-on controllers such as KONTROL F1 and X1.

The KONTROL Z2’s spacious layout ensures straightforward access to the high-quality knobs and premium-quality InnofadersTM. The two primary channels each feature a dedicated three-band EQ, filter and fader section, while two separate, chunky rotary volume knobs offer control over the TRAKTOR channels. Four additional multi-colored LED buttons for each TRAKTOR channel assigned to control cue points and Remix Decks are placed in their own section on the Z2 and an intuitive master section lets DJs comfortably browse files inside TRAKTOR and access advanced controls such as Sync and Quantize.

New Macro FX specifically designed for TRAKTOR combine multiple TRAKTOR effects on a single control on the hardware. Customised to classic DJ workflows such as breakdowns, punch-in or blends, Macro FX condense complex effect performances to a single action increasing the possibilities available to creative DJs. All new Flux Mode tracks the time during complicated scratch and effect performances, allowing for creative loop rolls or effects while returning the song accurately to the beat.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 also includes the latest version of NI’s flagship TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO 2 software and TRAKTOR SCRATCH timecode vinyl and CDs rounding out this powerful hardware control mixer with software options for all popular club workflows.

A new video, in which controller guru Ean Golden showcases the new TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2, is available at YouTube under: http://youtu.be/RFumWO3sCMQ

Pricing and availability

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 will be available at retailers worldwide and at the NI Online Shop from November 1, 2012. Pre-orders are currently being taken.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 pricing information: $899 / 799 € / 83800 ¥

Further product information and press material

Additional information on TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is available at: www.native-instruments.com/z2-dj-mixer

Dear NI – looking at my stats, the US, then UK , then Germany are my biggest readerships, so do be jolly good chaps and start adding GBP prices to your releases. Thanks Mr Parker for confirming the UK retail price as £645, but most probably £629 street.

So breaking this down, what you’re getting is a premium quality Traktor certified mixer – not just a controller as some would insist. This is a full on 2 channel analogue with filters (It’s a “hardware emulation of the software filter which in itself is a hardware emulation” according to NI) and 2+2 channel digital Traktor mixer. When plugged into Traktor, it’s instantly mapped – indeed it can be handed over entirely to Traktor to become a full control surface. But you can also use the Kontrol Z2 as an independent analogue mixer. So yes, you can use it with Scratch Live and an SL interface and map the buttons to cue points.

Some bullet points:

Faders

AN IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION – yes there are 3 Innofaders in the Z2, but they are the new mini Innofaders and not the long body ones. It won’t be first to market with them as that honour goes to the new DJ Tech DIF-1S. But it’s a whole world better than regular Alphas.And should you mercilessly hammer them, they’ll be easily replaceable. I asked about if full sized Innofaders could be swapped out, but nobody was available to confirm. Still, mini Innofaders do feel amazing so this is a big plus.

Now there are crossfader controls, but none for the line faders. I’ll be finding out if controls can be added into Traktor to offer curves/reverse but you certainly won’t have them in analogue mode.

USB Hub

I do love the idea of the USB hub, which means direct HID support for Pioneer CDJs right inside of Traktor. The hub also allows you to hook up other devices like Kontrol X1 and Kontrol F1, but the more interesting prospect is for other NI devices. Digital decks somewhere in the future? I asked and the response was as vague as ever. NI have learned to neither be positive or negative about future developments – times change and shit happens.

Macro FX

Imagine stringing together a heap of cool effects into a single workflow and putting it on one knob. Now imagine being able to apply that with wet/dry and control over an overall parameter and be able to decide on pre or post fader – that’s macro FX. This is just NI preset macro FX, but I don’t think anyone can complain about the quality of those. For those of you who read my iDJ Pro review, these are like the instant FX in djay.

Flux Mode

From the original video, it did look like some randomised slicer, but is in fact a sort of slip mode. Basically you can engage flux mode and go mad on cues and loops, while all the time the original track is playing underneath, ready to be reengaged when you’re done.

What do we think?

A long time ago, I asserted that there were battle mixers and 2 channel mixers. People seemed to think that you needed 4 channels to mix 2 tracks together, and that you could only scratch on anything less than 4 channels. But 2 channel mixers needn’t be turntablist specific, and the Kontrol Z2 is a solid example of this thinking.

When I was told Ean Golden would be doing the video, I was surprised. Their first so called scratch mixer being demoed by a controllerist? Given their propensity for scratch DJs, it seemed like an odd choice. But then NI explained that they wanted cross market appeal. So it makes perfect sense then to show that 2 channel mixer is absolutely fine for demos like the one in the video. I really enjoyed Ean’s mellow and laid back performance – a lot less frenetic than normal, but if I’m honest, it didn’t really show the mixer off at all. But this is a means to an end – you still need some sort of mixer controls for those boxes of buttons, and NI want it to be the Z2. I wouldn’t worry – DJ Craze and Shiftee have Z2s as well – a rather more punishing and complex display is almost certainly coming your way soon.

So you have a new version of Traktor (2.6) on the way with some cool new features for free. And those in the market for a mixer have the most Traktor-centric box of stuff hitting the shelves in a month. It’s not a balls out scratch mixer – for that, you’re probably still looking at Rane or Vestax. But what the Z2 does offer is a core hybrid world bridging turntablism and controllerism with a huge amount of flexibility in between. Will you see it in a booth? How often do you see a 2 channel mixer in a booth is my answer. The Z2 isn’t going to change that, but it will at least start to make Traktor users look at the Z2 more favourably than having to carry an interface everywhere, especially with the greater control over Traktor that the Z2 offers.

NI have gathered together an extensive wodge of material, so head over there for the full rundown. We’ll be seeing the Z2 upclose and personal at the BPM show this weekend.