Native Instruments have a knack of creating fantastically user-friendly products that manage to tick all the right boxes for DJs, especially on the all-important build quality and value for money fronts. In recent times their compact range of controllers — which include the F1, Z1 and the X1 — have received a whole lot of love from the DJ community, and here in the DJ Mag Tech department the only time our F1 and Z1 are not connected to our in-house DJ booth is when they are out on the road with us at gigs. So the news that Native Instruments have released their Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 will be of great interest to many DJs the world over, not least to all of us here at DJ Mag HQ who have been very keen to get our grubby mitts on this shiny new compact controller. This new MK2 version of the Traktor Kontrol X1 is an evolutionary upgrade of the original. It sticks to the same general layout but adds some very tasty new features into the mix.
The size of the X1 MK2 remains exactly the same as the original version, which will be welcome news to those upgrading because their stands and cases are compatible with this new version. Setting up the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is a breeze as everything is plug and play, and as long as the latest update to Traktor is installed, the controller will work as soon as it is plugged into a computer — with the least amount of fuss. Of course, this controller is fully MIDI-compatible, so extra functions can be mapped to the buttons on the control surface within Traktor, as well as the possibility of using the X1 with any other MIDI-compatible software.
The top section of the control surface which is dedicated to FX control has changed little from the original version, with the same four back-lit buttons and four knobs. However, some of the functions have changed, with a new Mode control added that switches effect control from single to triple control modes. Located just below the FX control section is a completely redesigned track browsing and loop control section that has some lovely new features that are bound to excite NI aficionados, in the form of two loop length displays and a touch-sensitive strip controller that has been put to use in some very clever ways. Some stereotypes exist for a reason, and in typically efficient German style NI have taken the two browser/load encoders found on the original X1 and combined them into an uber-efficient one-knob arrangement with a new touch-sensitive rotary encoder. This changes Traktor’s display mode to browsing when touched. Two new arrow buttons below the encoder allow tracks to be loaded into the corresponding left and right decks.
Thanks to this innovative combination of controls in one knob, the resulting space left over from the original X1’s control surface has been used to place the loop length displays. The two LED displays which show the current loop length come as a most welcome addition to the X1’s arsenal and are each situated above an encoder, which provides loop control and editing functions such as loop size and position. The redesigned Transport section found at the bottom of the control surface benefits from new multi-colour LED backlights which have been fitted to the hot cue buttons, with colour used to indicate the type and position of the cue points.
Some buttons found on the original X1 are gone, but few if any will miss these. One of the most exciting new features of this latest incarnation of the Traktor Kontrol X1 is the multi-functional touch strip, which manages to pack an incredible amount of control options into a tiny space. Depending on the mode selected, the touch strip can be used as a pitch-bend, with the left side of the strip controlling the left deck and the right side controlling Traktor’s right deck to give DVS-style control. Holding the shift button down turns the strip controller into a CDJ2000-style strip-search. When playing loops, holding the middle of the touch strip and then pressing the top of one of the loop encoders will activate loop control.
Effect control parameters can also be controlled with the touch strip by holding the middle of the strip and selecting the effect to use. The result of Native Instruments' improvements to the X1 is a subtly redesigned control surface that retains the original X1’s minimalistic and down-to-business approach while adding extra functions, without creating clutter or fiddliness. In order to keep the slick and uncluttered control surface, Native Instruments have removed a few of the functions found on the Traktor Kontrol X1, but these will not be missed by most and can always be mapped for those who find their absence irksome. All in all, the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is a fantastic controller and is sure to sell like hotcakes.
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