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Product Review – TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 From Native Instruments

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Traktor Kontrol F1 DJ Controller is a new product from Native Instruments. It is hardware for controlling the powerful new Remix Decks in TRACTOR PRO 2.5 – the software that is included with the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 as well as NI’s other DJ software. This controller gives you the ability to launch clips in a DJ-centric way, control your Remix Decks as you would other track decks, and switch between up to 64 tracks, loops, and one-shots on each of the four decks that the software provides.0_3f0951e5a8

TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 has its roots in the djing world and its workflow stems from its culture. Remix Sets are made up of your individual loops and one-shot sounds that you load just like regular tracks. You have your drums, base, percussion, vocals, and lead sounds at the ready for creating your performance.

The TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 comes as two parts – the TRACTOR PRO 2.5 software, and the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 hardware unit. The software has been known for years for its rock solid four deck capability that allows you to mix right as soon as you have it installed. The F1 unit is meant for hands on control of an entire Remix Deck with access to the 64 loops and samples which can be loaded, arranged, and mixed through the hardware.

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TRACTOR PRO 2.5

The TRACTOR PRO 2.5 is mixing software for DJ’s, for live remixing, and improvisation. It comes with four decks that can be set to any combination of regular decks, Remix Decks, or live capture. In regular mode, you can load tracks up to be played straight as they are or in combination with other Remix Decks to create your own remix of a track.

As a Remix Deck, you have access to a loop suite that is made up of 64 slots that you can pre-made Remix sets, create, build, and save your own Remix Sets, or add to, or modify existing sets. Each slot or cell can hold a loop or a one-shot sample to which you can load from the included TRAKTOR content, import from your hard drive, or capture live. If you are a producer you can break down your tracks and jam or build your productions in a DJ sort of way. You can even mix out of your remix session and into a regular track deck at any time.

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Using TRACTOR PRO 2.5 makes it easy to build a unique library of loops sampled from your own DJ sets and create your own sound. A remix set is the combination of 64 loops and one-shot samples and their respective beat grids and BPMs. These can be loaded, saved, and constantly refined and branched off of. They are even easy to transfer from one computer to another. Because a Remix Deck behaves like any track deck, you can control the entire Remix Deck via Native Scratch timecode control with vinyl or CDs, or scratch using the S2/S4 Jog Wheels! Each Remix Deck has its own transport, sync and tempo master controls.

Another new feature of the TRACTOR PRO 2.5 is the improved BPM detection technology. You can now load a track and TRAKTOR will automatically find the exact song tempo in beats per minute (BPM) and compensate. Detection of BPM for variable BPM tracks (soul, disco etc.) is improved, while Tempo-Tap is updated to deliver even easier realignment of tracks drifting from their grids over time.

With the TRACTOR PRO 2.5 any sound or loop can be assigned one of 16 colors, either in the software or via the controller – super-tight integration means the other instantly follows suit. With full visual feedback keeping you in control of your performance, there’s no need to keep checking your computer screen – leaving you free to focus on the crowd.

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TRAKTOR KONTROL F1

The TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 is a deck unit that is 4.7″ (120 mm) x 2″ (52 mm) x 11.5″ (294 mm) and weighs 1.6 lb. (730 grams). It is powered by a USB 2.0 interface and needs no other additional power supply or battery. The basic case is black in color and can be separated into three main areas.

The area designated in the image above as area 1, is the FX Control area. It contains four high-resolution faders and four knobs control the dry/wet and first parameter of both FX units, as well as their corresponding filter controls. Use your faders to bring TRAKTOR’s first two effects in with precision.

Area two is the Global Control Area and manages the control of aspects of both areas one and three. The encoder lets you browse and scroll with ease through your track collection. These buttons trigger all other essential software functions and hardware modes such as Sync, Quantize, Snap, Keylock on/off, as well as setting the various pad-controlled modes. You can use the various modes to delve deeper into the F1’s functionality.

Area three is the Pad Control Area. This is the area that primarily handles the cells within the decks. The pads and buttons allow for control over features like hotcues, beat-jumps and loops. Set Loop and Move mode to set loops and execute beat jumps by hitting the pads. The pads even provide color feedback so you know the mode you’re currently working in. At the very bottom are four stop/mute pads for turning off the current column.

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Effectively what you have is four columns in each deck. Each column can contain up to 16 loops or one-shots that are contained in the individual cells. You use the pad to trigger the cell. One cell can be playing at a given time for any one column. You can also record a sample to a given cell while other cells are playing. The pads on the F1 are not velocity-sensitive as they are on a drum style of controller – such as the MASCHINE, since they are primarily built for triggering loops. It does not take a lot of pressure to activate them and thus work really well for rapid-fire work. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them for playing percussive one-shot samples – it only means that you won’t have the volume control that you would otherwise.

The pads also come with a multi-color LEDs that let you set them to one of 16 colors. This way you can arrange them as you see fit. You can also set the percentage value of the ‘on’ state and the ‘dim’ state to your preference – this can be useful especially if you are playing outside. The main control of the pads comes from area two where you can browse for and load Remix Sets as well as other functions such as setting the colors of the pads, controlling the pitch of the sample, the speed of the sample, and much more.

Overall the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 hardware is optimized to provide dedicated hands-on control of an entire Remix Deck with access to the 64 loops and samples which can be loaded, arranged and mixed via the hardware.

You can add the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 to just about any kind of TRAKTOR-based DJ setup. It can work well with the TRAKTOR KONTROL X1, TRAKTOR KONTROL S2, TRAKTOR KONTROL S4, Digital Vinyl systems, as well as the TRAKTOR AUDIO 10.

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I found that the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 along with the new TRACTOR PRO 2.5 software to be incredibly easy to use. The unit itself is reasonable in size and feels very solid. It is effectively a plug in and go controller. It does take a little playing with to fully get the hang of it, but the conceptual workflow makes a lot of sense and is easy to understand.

It comes with 1.4 GBs of loops that you can drag and drop in or point to the general vicinity of loops or tracks and TRACTOR PRO 2.5 seems to just scoop them up. I think that whether you are a DJ or a producer, the TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 is a very good deal for what you get. If you are already a Native Instruments user of their other DJ equipment, the Traktor Kontrol F1 will make a fine addition to your arsenal and so I can very highly recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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