Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 Review
The NI Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is a compact and modular Digital DJ controller that was built specifically for the full Traktor Pro 2 software that allows DJ’s to control file navigation, effects, loops, hotcues, Flux Mode, and other playback properties. The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is the second iteration of the original X1 with some minor layout changes and the addition of a touch strip and loop counter readout that allows DJ’s to take even more control of their mixing than ever before. Watch our full review video for the complete rundown.
Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The NI Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is a compact and modular Digital DJ controller that was built specifically for the full Traktor Pro 2 software that allows DJ’s to control file navigation, effects, loops, hotcues, Flux Mode, and other playback properties. The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is the second iteration of the original X1 with some minor layout changes and the addition of a touch strip and loop counter readout that allows DJ’s to take even more control of their mixing than ever before. I’m not going to spend much time comparing the original X1 with the X1 MK2 as I wasn’t an actual owner of the original X1. There are more than enough reviews out there that go into the differences, so the focus of this review will be the X1 MK2 itself and what we can do with it while working in Traktor Pro 2.
The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is a DJ controller that is meant to be used as an auxiliary controller in conjunction with another soundcard or mixer that has outputs and inputs. Many DJ’s will use the X1 MK2 with a DVS (Digital Vinyl Setup) with external Turntables or CDJ’s and an analog mixer in order to control the advanced features within Traktor. Other DJ’s will use the X1 MK2 with another Traktor controller, or with the new Traktor Kontrol Z1 modular mixer for a compact but powerful all-in-one DJ setup. The X1 MK2 only has a USB port to connect to the computer for use with Traktor Pro 2. Like the Traktor Kontrol Z1/F1 the X1 MK2 also is a fully MIDI-Mappable machine, meaning the DJ can switch this over to MIDI mode and program this unit to work with any DJ software out there.
The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 Hardware is built very much like the other modular Traktor controllers such as the Kontrol Z1 mixer and the F1 remix controller in terms of size, construction, and overall build quality. The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 shares the same dimensions as the Z1/F1, so the new hard-case stand or soft-cases will fit perfectly. The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 chassis is made up of mostly plastic with a brushed aluminum face on the top. The middle section that contains the new touch-strip, loop controls and browse functions has a shiny poly-material (similar to what is found on the Z2) so that the digital readout of the loop length can be read.
The setup of the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is very easy. The X1 MK2 is a plug and play device as long as the latest version of Traktor Pro 2 is already set up on the computer. Simply connect the supplied USB cable to the X1 MK2 and the computer and that’s it. The X1 MK2 does not come with any DJ software whatsoever, so if you are looking to use the X1 MK2 straight out of the box without DJ software, then you will be disappointed. On a side note, NI has included a $50 E-Voucher inside the box so that you can purchase the full Traktor Pro Software at a $50 discount.
When the Traktor software is turned on and the X1 MK2 is connected, the user must first select the decks they want the X1 MK2 to control. This is done using the digital readout in the middle of the controller. After the decks are selected, we are ready to go. The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 can control two decks at a time. The controls on the left will operate one deck while the controls on the right of the unit will operate the other deck the user has selected.
All the way at the top of the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is the effects Section. There are four knobs and four buttons per deck. The knobs are all have a rubber coating and they have plastic posts underneath. The FX knobs also have a center click so the user knows when they are in the middle of the effect parameter. The FX1, FX2, and FX3 buttons are used to turn on/off the effect and all illuminate to show the user what’s active at a glance. When the shift mode is pressed, these FX buttons cycle through the effect for that position and allows the user to change effects on the fly. When the shift button is pressed and the FX Mode button is engaged, the user can switch between a single effect module and triple effect module for that deck.
The middle section of the X1 MK2 contains the file navigation controls, FX activation buttons, auto-loop controls, and the new touch-strip. At the top of this middle section are the FX-A and FX-B buttons that activate the two FX banks on that particular deck. Below the FX bank activation buttons there is a centralized Browse knob which is an endless encoder knob that allows the user to scroll and select folders and tracks. The Browse knob is also a touch-sensitive encoder, so that as soon as your finger makes contact with the knob, MIDI information is sent to the Traktor Software. By default, as soon as you touch the Browse knob, the view of the software turns into the “browser view” which shows much more of the song library and minimizes the track decks. This feature can be turned on and off inside the Traktor Preferences menu.
Under the browse knob there is a Load Left arrow and a Load Right arrow button which allows the user to load the highlighted track into the selected deck. Between these load buttons is the Shift button which allows for additional functions on certain buttons when pressed. Off to each side, there are two endless encoder knobs that are used to engage and change the auto-loop function. The loop count will be displayed on the LED readout located directly above each knob. Turning these loop encoders right or left will change the loop count on the display. When the track is in play and the encoders are pressed, the loop is activated or deactivated. If the shift button is held down and the loop encoder is turned, the loop will move to the next section of the track and continue looping the next area in the song. If the song is not in play but is loaded onto the deck, the user can press the shift key and move the Loop encoder to move the play-head of the song forward or backwards in the track by jumping to the length that is set by the loop. This makes it easy to jump from one section of the song to another while still remaining in the correct loop length.
Next up we have the brand new touch strip. The touch-strip is the most significant update to the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 and with it DJ’s can actually control the tempo or pitch of the track that is currently playing. The touch-strip is really broken into two equal parts. The left part of the touch strip will control the left side deck and the right part of the touch strip controls the right side deck. The full touch-strip, however, can also be used to control only one deck if the user touches the middle of the strip and drags to one side. The full real estate of the touch strip will now be used to manipulate the opposite side deck. In order to control both decks again, the user simply drags the finger from that side back to the middle of the touch strip. When a track is playing on a deck, the user can use that side of the touch strip to drag or nudge the tempo of the track to get the perfect BPM for mixing. This is similar to what is found on the Novation Twitch where users manipulate the touch strip to beat match and scratch instead of using jog wheels.
With the X1 MK2, users can now manipulate the speed of the track for beatmatching. This pitch bend feature can be used by itself on only the X1 MK2, or in conjunction with a Digital Vinyl Setup where external timecode vinyl and CD’s are also in use. DJ’s can use the touch strip to make minor adjustments to the speed of the song to get the mix just right without even touching the Digital Vinyl Decks.
Besides pitch bend and tempo-changes, the touch-strip can also be used to control track position, loops, and effects parameters. When the track is not in play but is loaded onto the deck, the user can use the touch strip to grab the track and scratch or move back and forth. Also, when the track is not in play and is loaded into the deck, the user can press the shift button and manipulate the touch strip in order to jump to a particular part of a track. In order to control loops with the touch strip, you must press and hold the middle of the touch strip and then press the loop encoder for the deck you want to control the loops. Then when the touch strip is pressed, the loop is activated. The loop length will depend on where the touch strip is touched. Touch towards the left of the touch strip for short loops and towards the right of the touch strip for longer loop lengths. In order to control the effects with the touch strip the user must press and hold the middle of the touch strip and also press the button of the corresponding effect they wish to control. Now the touch strip will function as the parameter knob for that effect.
Next we have the playback controls towards the bottom of the X1 MK2. The first four buttons on each side are the four HotCue buttons for each deck. These buttons are multi-colored backlit LED so the user knows which type of cue point is in the HotCue position just by looking at the color. White is a grid cue point, yellow is a load cue point, blue is a regular cue point, etc… These four HotCue buttons can also work as the first four buttons of the remix decks (to launch samples/loops) if you are controlling remix decks with the X1 MK2 instead of track decks.
Below the HotCue buttons are the Flux and Sync buttons. The Flux button activates Flux Mode in Traktor which allows the user to manipulate the music using loops and hotcues while the song continues to play where it would have been if there were no alterations to the track. This feature is already found on the Traktor Kontrol Z2, and now users have a way to activate Flux Mode while using another DVS or controller setup. When shift is pressed, the Flux button is now used as a Tap button that allows the user to get the accurate BPM of the track. The Sync button will match the BPM of the track with the track that is already playing. If the shift button is pressed along with the Sync button, then that deck becomes the Master deck for BPM. Under the Flux and Sync buttons are the Play/Pause and Cue buttons for each deck.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In Conclusion, The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is an excellent modular DJ controller that works perfectly with the Traktor Pro software to control advanced MIDI functions such as effects, loops, playback, hotcues, and so much more. The X1 MK2 can work in conjunction with a DVS system to handle controls that aren’t present on the traditional mixer and turntable/CDJ setup or it can work as an additional controller in conjunction with a full DJ controller or the Traktor Kontrol Z1 for a modular, compact, and powerful setup. The X1 MK2 also has good overall construction and the same Traktor build quality we’re all familiar with. The new Touch strip gives DJ’s the ability to pitch-bend, adjust track position, control loops, and control effects very easily. The X1 MK2 also has advanced controls for Traktor such as FLUX Mode, Sync, and Master. On the downside, the X1 MK2 does not come with any DJ software whatsoever, so the user must already have their own DJ software in order to use the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2.
We at DJbooth.net are going to highly recommend the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 for any DJ who needs advanced control over the Traktor Pro software or for anyone who wants a compact controller to work with the DJ software of their choice.
Pros & Cons
- Good Overall Construction & Build Quality
- Excellent Modular Controller or DVS Controller for Traktor Pro 2
- Nice Touch strip that controls Pitch-Bend, Track Position, Loops, & FX
- Advanced controls for Loops, FLUX, SYNC, & Master
- No software Included