Native Instruments is to launch its first DJ mixer, the Kontrol Z2. It will be both a Traktor Scratch certified mixer, and a Midi controller for the company's own Traktor software. As such it will be a rival to Pioneer's Traktor-certified mixers (especially the DJM-T1 and the DJM-900), and Rane's Serato Scratch Live mixers, the Sixty-One and Sixty-Two.
There was a teaser photo on Facebook yesterday, followed by a video today that all but gives the game away. We could be wrong about any of this, of course, so please watch the video (see the official video here), view our sequence of enhanced screen shots (in our photo gallery on Facebook) and share anything that corrects or adds to what we've worked out.
Just want to know the juicy details? then read on:
Main features of the mixer
- Two-channel Traktor Scratch certified battle-style mixer - The unit is full-sized (you can see a Traktor Kontrol F1 elevated to be flush with it in the video), and thus let's guess its going to be metal (I've never seen a plastic full-sized mixer). Presumably it will be built to the same high standards as the rival units it thus completes with, namely the aforementioned Pioneer and Rane models. Of course it will need to have a built-in audio interface
- Two extra channels for Traktor - From the video there appear to be only two line/phono inputs on the back of the mixer, but there are clearly four VU meters (marked A,B,C and D - the latter two doubling up as masters). The video also shows two control decks (a Pioneer CDJ and a Technics) plus an F1, which is therefore controlling at least one of decks C & D. It is not clear whether these are integrated in to the mix via a soft-takeover style using the same two channel faders with layer buttons (there do seem to be layer buttons), or via some other method, such as dedicated rotaries. What it dos mean is that the audio interface will be at least eight-in
- A USB hub for integrating all your Traktor gear into one USB cable to your computer - The word "USB hub" is clearly visible on the back of the computer in one of the shots from the video
- Midi control over loops - There is two-digit LED feedback, similar to the S4. This is almost certainly feedback for the mixer's control over Traktor's software loops - indeed, the loop encoder is shown in use in the video
- Midi control over Traktor's effects engines - There are effects, but whether they're on-board (like the Pioneer DJM-900, for instance), or whether the unit simply offers Midi control over Traktor's effects, is unclear to our eyes
- Hot cues for each channel… but do these buttons do more? - There are four buttons down the left and right of each channel, similar to those on the Rane Sixty-Two or indeed on the Kontrol F1. These are sensibly going to be hot cues (I'm pretty sure they're being used as such in the video) but could also be sample trigger buttons and maybe even assignable as transport controls too. The fact that they are multi-colour suggest multi-use and some sample deck involvement, and the fact that there's a big "shift" button suggests comprehensive Midi control will be mapped across not just these but the majority of the mixer's knobs, buttons and faders
- Separate filters - There are clearly five rotaries above each line fader. Taking gain, hi, mid and lo out of the equation that leaves one, and taking into account that the lowest rotary is a little bigger than the rest (plus you can see an "F" under the knob in one of the shots from the video), we're outing this as a channel filter. But will they be hardware filters like the Vestax VCI-400, and thus usable with any inputs, or just software filters?
- Traktor library browser - There's a mid-central lone knob with a couple of buttons beneath it that are labelled with a single character; likely "1" & "2" or "A" and "B". We reckon this is a library browser for navigating and loading tracks in Traktor
Who's it for?
It looks like this is a mixer designed to cover bases with a number of types of user:
- Scratch DJs - People have screamed for a Traktor-branded scratch mixer for eons, and this is it. Two channel, a simple layout, on-board Traktor Scratch sound card, and presumably faders that are both replaceable and high quality, it is clearly designed to challenge similar mixers from the likes or Rane and Pioneer
- Controllerists - With a combination of F1s and X1s added, while bypassing any decks, controllerists could set up a powerful, modular Traktor system based around this mixer. With lots of assignable buttons available, they could map and configure their own unique workflow in a way not possible with even the most flexible all-in-one DJ controllers. The USB hub means all this lot could be set up elegantly, and presumably even things like Maschine could be integrated
- Club DJs - Clubs could install this mixer along with a pair of CDJs, allowing "normal" DJing with the CDJs, but also allowing Traktor DJs to plug in and then commission the CDJs as controller with two-way HID integration. However, wouldn't it have been better to have the USB on the top, Pioneer style, for easy access? And in this user scenario, we'd want to see filters in the hardware if nothing else, as a straight mixer with no filters or FX in a club would be considered underpowered, especially against something relatively affordable such as the Pioneer DJM-850 (which also works as a Traktor sound card). We didn't spot any microphone inputs either, but surely they'll be there…
While this is quite a move for Native Instruments, away from small(ish), plastic, portable controllers into heavy, full-sized gear, it is a logical one, especially as the company clearly wishes to push Traktor Scratch as a viable alternative the Serato Scratch Live. But past that, it seems that in this product, Native Instruments has aimed to produce the perfect mixer for Traktor, that is also pretty good for use with other software or even just standalone.
Exactly how well the company has done this and how much success the mixer will bring them will depend upon how much of the goodness is simply Midi control over Traktor and how much is on-board - and of course what price it comes in at. My guess would be between $999 and $1299.
What do you think? Good move by Native Instruments? What features do you think have been included and left out? What would you like to see included on the mixer? Can Native move into mixer territory and rival Pioneer, Rane, Allen& Heath and the like? And did you spot anything in the video we didn't? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
• View our Facebook photo album of stills from the video