Controller Clinic #20: Best Micro Set-up For DJing & Live Performance?

Korg NanoKONTROL 2

The Korg NanoKONTROL 2: Too fiddly for our reader, who's also looking to reduce the number of items he carries from country to country in his DJ backpack.

Digital DJ Tips reader Ramunas writes "I need a set up to DJ and do live performances, but I DJ abroad so it involves flying. Right now I have a Novation Launchpad, Korg NanoKontrol 2 and Traktor Audio 2. It's a bit of a chore because I need to carry three USB cables, audio cables and a USB hub with power supply, as well as my headphones and laptop.I like the Launchpad a lot, but I don't like the NanoKONTROL 2 so much, which I'm using as a mixer, because of the layout and all those small rotaries faders and buttons, so I am thinking of changing it for a Novation Nocturn to get a more "logical" layout. Then again, I thought about just using the Pioneer mixers that are most of the time in my gig venues, but I hate the cue/mix method on all DJMs except DJM707."

"I have another thought, maybe just to abandon all that gear and get an Allen & Heath Xone:K2 instead. But I see its not the smallest device, and I don't know if it would fit to my backpack along with the laptop. How is the audio interface? is it enough good to match Traktor Audio 2?What would be your advice? I need full control over Traktor 2, an audio interface, plus the ability to control FL Studio 11 in performance mode and Ableton Live."

Digital DJ Tips says:

OK, here's my thoughts. Firstly, it might be worth getting over your "hatred" of Pioneer's mixers and their cueing - using what's already in venues makes a lot of sense to me, because deciding to use venue mixers (whatever mixer you happen to find there) would allow you to leave one "box" at home.

Secondly, to let you know the Allen and Heath Xone:K2 is very light and shallow, and certainly if you're carrying a Launchpad around, you shouldn't sweat carrying a Xone:K2 around with you. Its sound card is very good, so again, no worries.

Thirdly, I strongly recommend you look at the Faderfox controllers. There are a number available, they're tiny, they're really well made, and they've just had an across-the-board price reduction. They can all be mapped by you, but they also come with excellent Ableton Live and Traktor mappings as well.

So, over to you: Do you have a micro set-up you use for Djing and performing live electronic music? What would your advice to Ramunas be? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. I second the advice of looking at the Faderfox controllers! I use the DJ3 with the NI Audio 2 sound card and it's great! Superb quality controller that works out the box. Everybody who sees this thing in action usually end up buying one...check them out1

    • dj salseando says:

      I second that! While I have an assortment of controllers and sound cards, the set-up I use most frequently is Traktor Audio 2 with a FaderFox DJ3 hooked-up to a spec'd-out MacBook Air 11"
      Everything fits in a back-pack and squeezes into the smallest of dj booths too.

      • salseando, i have this equipment but are strugllin to set it up! how do you set up your dj3 with ni audio 2? i cant work how to set mine up and there isnt much advice on the internet. cheers!

  2. Rob Hayden says:

    I have an Allen & Heath Xone:K2, it's perfect as a 2-deck or even 4-deck traktor controller, the inbuilt sound card is top notch. I also use it with ableton and map the pots & faders, it's a great production tool too... I highly recommend it!

  3. Same with the small and really cheap (but well built) Akai LPD8. 39€ - more than a good price.
    I use this for Traktor Pro (Cue-Points, FX, Filter, Sampledecks) or Ableton Live.

  4. I use two K2's and love them, but I also really enjoy the Faderfox controllers so I don't think you can go wrong either way.

    I imagine the only way to go even smaller is to switch to CDJs and just bring USB sticks and ditch the laptop altogether (though I can see this not working if the gigs don't have that kind've setup).

    Strange how different types of DJ gigs can be when it comes to cords; this one is pretty simple and easy to setup compared to some of the modular setups around.

  5. How about the new Behringer CMD series controllers? Personally for my portable Traktor setup I use an Audio 2 DJ, QuNeo and an iPad running TouchOSC. The QuNeo has great custom mapping possibilities and with TouchOSC you can create a completely custom setup to control everything you need. Plus they are both very portable. The only down side is you need to get your hands dirty and do some custom midi mapping. Well worth it in my opinion.

  6. I have a Faderfox Micromodul DJ3 and a 15" laptop and an old Echo Indigo DJ PCMCIA sound card and in ear headphones. That's my portable setup. The faderfox can be tricky, you have to be mindful of which options are selected, the rotaries along the top perform different functions depending on the selection you've made, but they are sturdy, small and light
    I also have a Novation Nocturn which I find to be a pain to configure. The faderfox will give better control of Traktor 2 as that is what it was designed for, the Nocturn is designed for plug-ins (only 8 buttons, 8 rotaries and a crossfader)

  7. JonnyFlash says:

    For my portable set up I use my Allen and Heath K2 along with my iPad and the DJ Player app. Now I have download the new Traktor DJ app and may just me using that alone soon.

  8. I'm really looking at the QUNEO and a behringer mm-1 because i already own an NI audio 2 and for me the idea is to never care what gear they do or don't have. Give me a sound system to plug into and i'm ready to rock. I have no problem putting an mm1 right on top of a $3k pioneer mixer because i know it's mapped, ready go, and my gear works. If i didn't already have an audio I/O i might seriously consider the A&H k2 but the usb hub and led volume indicator on the mm-1 is much more appealing to me. I can't find anywhere to see if the mm1 eq rotors are also push button to function as kill switches but I'm completely sold if they are. I can't believe there isn't a single detailed review of the mm1 online yet. even the behringer pdf is useless. So the probably aren't because they would sell the fact if they were.

  9. 99% of the time I use the CDJ 2000's Hid mode to control Traktor. I take an F1 and the midifghter with me and that's all the control you need.

  10. King Of Snake says:

    Twitch + macbook air
    Just finished a mobile, but 3,500 people party with it
    1 usb cable to connect
    Jacks to the main mixer

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      I totally agree here. With all of the call outs that the reader had and noting they loved the Launchpad, I cannot think of a better solution than the Twitch (depending on how they use the mixer). It has the same buttons (albeit only 16 of them laid out in 2, 4x2 grids) and a pretty advanced DJ control set up, PLUS it is designed to work with Ableton using the "Live Twitch Tool."

      If the reader is looking to upgrade the NanoKontrol2, try the Novation RemoteZERO SL Mk2. It's a lot bulkier than the Korg NanoKontrol2, but it's solid and it has a touch-target backlit LCD panel display, 8 drum trigger pads, 16 knobs (8 limitless, 8 270 degree), 8 up faders and a cross fader (plus a bunch of red LED buttons) for things like mode and transport control. The reader won't have a huge learning curve because it's also a Novation product. The RemoteZERO SL Mk2 can be found online for around $250-$300. I was going to get one until I saw that, for $100 more, I was able to get all that (minus the cross-fader) plus a pitch/mod wheel, an X-Y pad, and two octaves of keyboard keys. I'm very happy with my ReMOTE 25 SL MK2 (and my Twitch).

  11. Great article and I can't wait to see the comments. I have an X1 but have been looking at the K2 and DJ3 to easily access mixer functions more easily. Anyone use an FT3?

  12. iPad with Traktor dj has been putting a massive smile on my face over the last few days. I so wanted to hate it, but damn its such a fun application to use.!! I'm a 20 year dj vet and am seriously considering using the app for some of my shorter live shows. I currently rock a ddj sx as well as use ableton with an Akar apc40, each set up has its advantages, but now I've tried iPad dj'ing I have to say I love the touch interface. I just wish it was a little less reliant on the sync feature. But with that said, it's good enough to become a powerful tool in any dj's tool kit. Try it, for £14 you'll be gobsmacked by how good it actually is!

  13. Dr. Riddim says:

    Just got the Faderfox DJ3 last week and I am very impressed with it. The Traktor mapping is great and the knobs and faders feel good. I am sure one can go a long way with it. It is light, but solid. You just need a separate sound card with it. Found my old GigaPort NI Edition, so now experimenting with it.

  14. I use a very light weight set up for radio gigs. It's a mac air, NI audio DJ 2 and an NI X1. The station has a nice Rane mixer so I don't have to worry about bringing a mixer.

    When I play at Burning Man I bring the same set up but add a m audio x session pro to have on hand if the camp doesn't have a mixer installed. the x session pro is by no means a "professional" piece of equipment but I got it for $80 and the desert destroys mixers real bad.

  15. Two X1's and F1 should do the trick, map an x1 for mixing. Just a thought.

  16. I use M-Audio x-sessions which I picked up for €45 and an X1 plus a novation NIO interface. I mapped the x-sessions as a mixer and use the X1 for effects and hot cues. All works well!

  17. Steve Mac says:

    Hi Guys,
    I'm in a similar boat. APC40 looking to downsize for travel etc.
    At the moment I'm thinking Launchpad as the main Ableton clip launcher and FX punch ins, and then using the club mixer for classic DJ controls. If I turn up and the mixer is crap, I have the Xone:K2 to act as mixer mapped to how I want it. I also have an iPad mini so was thinking this could be a great backup mixer using a custom touchOSC template?
    My main question is the sound quality of the K2 - can anyone confirm it will compare when playing next to peeps with 'better' soundcards????????
    cheers guys

    • Steve Mac says:

      Just seen the Xone 2D..
      Can anyone also let me know if they're aware of a product like the Xone 2D but smaller / more compact? Ie. DJ Mixer layout, with cross fader, soundcard inside.

    • It sounds great :)

      • Steve Mac says:

        OK cool, all signs say the sound quality is good. I'm super keen to use the K2 and launchpad because it means I can have a lightweight option that I can use anywhere. I just want a god damn cross fader! Fader fox is out as the small units don't have sound cards. At the moment I'm planning on mapping the second 8 columns (right hand side) of launchpad to a few tasks, such as cue select, and cross fader (have mapped a cross fader using three buttons so that left is left deck, right button is right deck and middle button is a mix) but in order to use the session mode and navigate clips well (visually), the second half of the grid can't have LED feedback. If you use user 1 or 2 modes then I can map the cross fader and alike to have LED feedback but now I loose then crucial session mode nav and launch features. I don't want to go between pages, must all be on the same page. Is there a workaround for this or a python mapping someone has made? I can't find one...
        Also, whilst I'm here :), what's the best advice you have for a recently successful producer who's now getting approached for decent / semi high profile gigs but has only ever been a producer and is shit scared about playing out shortly (without his setup even in place yet!) :)

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