Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 — The Sequel

Native instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 DJ Controller (1)

In what has to be the worst kept secret in recent DJ history, Native instruments have finally stopped trying to stuff the cat back in the bag and have announced the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 — a followup to their first foray into the controller hardware world  all the way back in 2009.

There is of course a video:

[youtube id=”vO0BCH4U1jM”]

…and now the official words, before digging into what it can actually do, and what it doesn’t say too:

Native Instruments announces TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2

Native Instruments unveils redesigned DJ performance controller for TRAKTOR PRO 2

Berlin, July 15, 2013 – Native Instruments today announced the updated TRAKTOR KONTROL X1, a new version of the compact and highly popular decks and effects controller. With the same size and robust product design as the original controller, the TRAKTOR KONTROL X1’s new features include touch-sensitive Browse and Loop encoders, 7-segment displays and LEDs for visual feedback, and an innovative multi-purpose touch strip for added tactile control. When combined with TRAKTOR PRO, KONTROL X1 MK2 delivers plug-and-play physical control over 2 track decks and 2 freely assignable TRAKTOR FX units – with or without the use of turntables or CDJs.

TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2 allows direct control over playback, browse, cue, sync and loop functionality, and now introduces a button for dedicated Flux mode access. This allows fast and fluid cue point juggling and effects looping without the worry of losing phase or sync during performance. Quality RGB back-lit buttons, LED, and 7-segment displays provide precise visual feedback even in the darkest conditions. The effects section features 8 high-resolution potentiometers with buttons to match, and allows simultaneous control of all parameters on two (three in chained mode) TRAKTOR effects units.

The most significant new addition is a multi-purpose touch strip that delivers physical command over track position, pitch bend, and effects. Actions such as nudging, needle dropping, track seeking or setting loop length are now possible through simple finger swiping for customizable tactile control over these parameters in TRAKTOR PRO 2. Equally powerful with an all-digital DJ setup or in combination with TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO 2, the touch strip relieves the need to manually adjust turntables or CDJs. LED indicators help DJs keep track of the assigned parameter without having to look at the computer screen.

The new TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2 hardware now provides even more dedicated control over TRAKTOR PRO 2. Advanced Browse and Loop encoders respond to touch, providing direct access to different views and functions in TRAKTOR PRO 2. Touching the Browse encoder automatically switches to the full-sized Browser view, while touching the Loop encoders instantly activates key change and tempo. Furthermore, the touch strip also interprets deck functions based on status. When playback is stopped, the strip is assigned to track seeking or needle dropping. When playback is enabled, pitch bend becomes active.

Designed with premium-grade materials, the sleek new TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2 is both robust and compact, offering DJs an effective and creative one-stop solution in any setting. The supplementary TRAKTOR KONTROL STAND is also available separately and elevates the unit to standard mixer height.

Pricing and availability

TRAKTOR KONTROL X1 MK2 is available at retailers worldwide and at the NI Online Shop for $229 / 199 € / 20,800 ¥.

All X1 customers receive a personal $50 / 50 € / ¥ 5000 e-voucher delivered by email upon registration of the X1 hardware.

Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 — The Sequel

What is the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2?

If I were to try to describe it, I’d say roughly it’s a Kontrol Z2 without the mixer bits, or the old X1 with the new Traktor bits. This new X1 makes the old one look like a complicated proposition, almost as if a bunch of controls had been thrown into a small case that hopefully made sense. It wasn’t of course, but lessons have been learned to make the Kontrol X1 MK2 a way better controller.

Starting top down, the knobs are unlabelled. I like this approach — I liked it on the EKS OTUS, and I like it here. Obviously, they imply EQ or effects wet/dry or parameters, but can be anything you want without being labelled. It’s just more logical to me, especially having effects on/off buttons right next to them. And I suspect that the shift button turns the knobs into effects selectors too. Well that’s what they’d do if I mapped it.

Native instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 DJ Controller

The Middle Section and that Touch Strip

The middle section is where some real changes have taken place. The loop counter displays have made it across from the Z2, and also included are new touch sensitive encoders (like the forthcoming Numark NS7 II). These will change the on-screen display, so touching the browser knob for example automatically brings up the library. That’s a neat touch, so to speak.

NI have crammed a lot into this area, but seemingly without sacrificing functionality. The new big thing for NI is the touch strip. Jim Mazur, head of Traktor product design, is the guy who brought Stanton’s SCS family to market, so seeing a touch strip on the Kontrol X1 MK2 comes as no surprise. This is a multi-function strip that deals with track transport, pitch bending and more effects controls. The video shows it off in detail.

What NI have done here is something that I hoped I’d start to see happening. Instead of cramming more controls into smaller spaces, NI have tried to work smarter and get more out of less. Time will tell if this touch strip (which I assume is multitouch) can deliver a good experience without trying to do too much.

It’s a measured (or should that be mazured) approach, but has certainly matured from the days of the SCS.3, which was a touch strip frenzy. I imagine that this is a suck-it-and-see approach, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see equally tentative dips in the touch strip pool in future NI products, especially those being used with iOS devices.

And to clarify — the Kontrol X1 MK2 DOES NOT WORK with Traktor DJ, and this has been confirmed with NI. There was some confusion with a misplaced button on the NI site which has since been obliterated.

Native instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 DJ Controller

Upgrade or not?

The question is this — will the Kontrol X1 MK2 be just for new customers, or is it a viable upgrade path? Much of that depends on how you use your existing X1. The current X1 has just been bargain binned and includes a full Traktor Pro 2 licence. If you go for the new one, it’ll cost you more, but you get a discount included in the box, as well as a much more coherent and up to date Traktor experience. Gear Acquisition Syndrome will of course get the better of people, but for a lot of existing users, a simple remap of their existing X1 may well bring much of what the latest Traktor Pro has to offer.

I think that as a workflow, it’s going to find a lot of friends with Kontrol Z1 owners. They very much compliment each other in form, and in providing mixer features to make a side by side compelling setup for those who want to travel small and light. We’re in an age where jogwheels are becoming less necessary, and Traktor has a clear dominance in the more loop and sample based workflows.

Native instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 DJ Controller

It goes without saying that NI will sell many MANY thousands of the Kontrol X1 MK2. At first glance, it’s a much tidier and smarter device. It makes way more sense in Traktor Pro’s current workflow, and is likely to find just as many friends in the Serato world as the old one did too.

So that’s one thumb up from me, and hopefully 2 thumbs up from Jared ” 2 Thumbs” Helfer who I will be tasking to review it.