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Product Review – TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 From Native Instruments

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Traktor Kontrol Z2 DJ Mixer, a new product from Native Instruments, is their most advanced DJ controller and resides in the body of a professional 2+2 channel mixer. This controller gives you the ability to launch clips in a DJ-centric way, controlling your Remix Decks as you would other track decks.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is the world’s first 2+2 DJ control mixer. Built tough for pro club use, the Z2 excels both as a state-of-the-art club mixer alongside turntables and CDJs, and as the hub of an advanced setup of remix racks and controllers. It can work as both a fully integrated TRAKTOR controller and a standalone digital mixer and audio interface, giving you the full flexibility of DJing with or without your computer.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

With it you can run as a fully functional DJ mixer, as the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 lets you plug in turntables and CDs and use the built-in EQs and filter. You can plug in a microphone and auxiliary audio device (such as an MP3 player). But its power is maximized when you use both the internal mixing capabilities along with its function as a fully-integrated TRAKTOR controller, integrating perfectly with the TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO software.

The TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is a deck unit that is 10.7″ (272 mm) x 15.3″ (388 mm) x 4.3″ (109 mm) and weighs 11.2 lb. (5.1 kg). It is powered by a USB 2.0 interface and internal power supply with 3-pin IEC power cable included. TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is designed for tight, club-ready sound. From low noise audio power supplies to premium 24-bit soundcard, Cirrus Logic converters, and pro XLR outputs, every component has been chosen so your sets hit with maximum impact.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

The basic case is black in color and can be separated into three main areas. The center is the main mixer area and along the right and left sides are two strips that handle the different decks (A&C on the left and B&D on the right). The case itself is made of aircraft-grade aluminum chassis and has precision knobs, buttons, push encoders and Innofaders that will give you very accurate control of your sets.

The Z2 has backlit buttons provide visual feedback in even the darkest clubs, and the built-in, powered USB hub adds connectivity for two add-on controllers such as TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 or X1, freeing up laptop ports. Additional TRAKTOR rotary encoders for Macro FX and Remix Decks are placed in the KONTROL Section alongside Flux Mode buttons for easy access, and multi-colored cue point trigger buttons allow you to jump through and re-edit your tracks in style.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

The center section is the mixer area and its look and feel is based on standard industry designs. You have a series of controls that give you the ability to manage your decks and browse through your playlists and much more.

On the side strips you have an effects section with one-knob Macro FX for buildups, breakdowns, that is meant to enhance your creative ability. You have a control section that is contains TRAKTOR-specific cue points, Remix Deck and loop controls which is one of the things at the core of the 2+2 design. For a full description of all of the controls on the top of the deck check out the “Take a closer look at the Z2″ on the Hardware Details Page.

On the back of the unit you have the plugins for your output that you can connect to a PA either through RCA or XLR leads. You have inputs that allow you to connect an external sound source such as phono lines or CD decks. You also have connections that give you the ability to connect to an auxiliary sound source such as an MP3 player as well. The back also contains the power plug, a USB connector to plugin to your computer as well as two additional USB plugs for hooking up to other peripheral devices such as additional controllers or hard drives.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

On the front of the unit, you have plugins for your head-phones – both 1/4 and 1/8 inch plugs. You have a switch that reverses the behavior of the crossfader. And a knob that allows you to adjust the crossfader curve from smooth to sharp/cut.

Along with the full version of the TRACTOR software you also get the full version of the TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO 2 digital vinyl system with Remix Dec technology. This has the TruWave colored waveforms that let you spot kicks, hats and snares at a glance. Browse and prep your tracks quickly thanks to iTunes integration, and use Crate Flick to easily select the next track by artwork. Auto track analysis plus BPM and beat detection give you the freedom to choose: Match beats manually, sync to tempo only, or use full-on beat and phase sync.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

You also get both the TRAKTOR SCRATCH timecode vinyl and CDs which has the tight, 2kHz control signal which means TRAKTOR SCRATCH responds to every scratch with analog precision – even on tricky motor-offs or ultra-fast rubs.

You also have the brand-new Macro FX combine multiple TRAKTOR effects on a single knob. Now it’s easier than ever to build up, breakdown and destroy tracks with a single, intuitive action. Add 30+ club-proven effects from classic DJ effects to advanced beat manglers – you’re ready to take your sets to the next level!

Flux Mode tracks the time while you’re juggling cue points or looping and lets you drop back in at exactly the right moment. The intuitive loop and cue functions allow for perfect auto loops at the press of a button – and the immensely powerful Remix Decks make live remixing a breeze.

The first thing that I notice about the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is that it is extremely well built. It looks and feels solid and very well put together. The knobs and controls are well placed and everything is in easy reach. As with other recent hardware from Native Instruments, the Z2 come with their colored button looks which makes for an attractive looking deck.

TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2

 

Next, the nice thing about the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 is that it really puts you in control of your DJing in that you can use it with or without the TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO software, you can configure it with decks, CDs, or other controllers. With USB inputs on the back of the unit, who knows what else the NI universe will come up with in the future. One other thing of interest is the fact that it appears that the black may be only temporary as I was able to pull the knobs off and it appears that the unit uses magnetic panels, so perhaps there may be some custom color panels in the future!

Finally, while the TRAKTOR 2.6 software isn’t a revolutionary change, the Flux mode, the post fader effects, and the Macro FX, really add a lot to the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2 deck and how it performs. If you really want to take your DJing efforts to the next level, then I very highly recommend the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z2.

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About T. Michael Testi

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