It was February 2010 when Native Instruments released their first X1 DJ Controller. Three years on they have released an update to what I would deem the best controller they have made. But does the Traktor X1 Mk2 change things enough, or too much, to buy one?
With vast amounts of technology available to you, you must develop your own unique style and workflow. You all control your DJ equipment in different ways; manipulating your music using a myriad of differing movements across customizable buttons and knobs. You develop a technique that may be unique to you, or at least with some form of familiarity. Then someone comes along and offers an alternative. In this case, Native Instruments have updated the Traktor X1 to the Traktor X1 mk 2.
Lets take a look at what they have added and removed from the Mk1 to create the Traktor X1 Mk2.
Traktor X1 Mk2
The main concept stays the same, it’s the same casing, the same layout and ultimately provides you with the same essential functions. The Traktor X1 Mk 2 is still used to control 2 track decks, 2 effects units, loops, cue points and browse functions.
This hasn’t changed much. It’s the exact same functions, buttons and control, except a few minor tweaks in the shift functions of each button. Instead of having pre-programmed effects, you can set them up to be what you chose. Making it very easy to set your favourite 6 effects up; 3 on each effect unit.
The physical layout remains the same, but the functions have changed somewhat. You have direct access to hotcues 1 to 4, which now have colour coded feedback indicating if they are a loop or a standard cue, load or fade marker. But if you want to access hotcues 5 – 8, you’ll need to press the shift key. I could see this hindering some DJ’s work flow. This move however, has made way for a Flux button, enabling you to toggle flux mode on and off. The dedicated sync button has moved one level up, being replaced by a larger Play Button, which you will notice has moved over to the right to allow for a ‘Cue‘ button in it’s place. This button move might cause some of you big issues when you think you’re playing your old X1 and reach for the sync button, only to stop the track midway through! Something you really need to train into your muscle memory before you play out.
Browse / Loop Section
This is where the Traktor X1 mk 2 has received the biggest facelift. Two browse encoders have now become one, with the addition of load buttons on either-side, one for each deck. The browse encoder is now touch sensitive, allowing you to enter browse mode by simply touching the browse encoder.
Losing the 2 browse encoders means Native Instruments has moved the function of ‘seeking ‘, to the loop encoders, or the new touchstrip (see below). The Loop encoders still work the same, but with the added luxury of a digital display for the loop length. This display can be toggled to show the tracks’ Key; a function I find more involved and cumbersome than simply looking at the screen. However, you are also able to use this function to change the key of the track, an excellent addition. You can use the loop encoders to set auto or manual loops, but NI appear to have, once again, omitted the snap and quantize buttons from the Traktor X1 mk2; a feature I find extremely useful on the Kontrol S4.
Aside from sounding like a more intimate form of striptease, the touchstrip is the biggest change here for NI. Something they have not integrated into any controller until now. Possibly using ideas from the Pioneer CDJ’s or the Numark controllers, the touchstrip I feel is a step in the right direction. If NI are moving away from jog wheels yet want to keep some kind of ‘DJ feel’, then the touchstip might be the way to go. The touchstrip is multifunctional and is split into two sides; left for deck A and right for deck B.
When the deck is stopped the strip will act as a needle drop or a seek function, allowing you to quickly scroll to a point in the track. If you are using cuepoints however, this function can be somewhat unnecessary, although it may be utilised as a way to ‘pre-listen‘ to the track, as unlike the S4, the X1 doesn’t have the pre-listen function.
When the deck is in motion the touch strip can be used in a number of ways:-
- To nudge the pitch bend of the track, allowing a form of manual beat-matching using the phase meter (and your ears) as a guide.
- For preset loop lengths – Pressing and holding the strip in various places could trigger a loop in flux mode allowing you to create build ups with very tight loops such as 1/16 or 1/32 to create loop rolls.
- Assigning different effects to the touchstrip could really boost your performance.
Is the Traktor X1 mk2 for you?
At $199 it’s not ridiculously cheap, however it is within grasp of many aspiring DJ’s. The main deciding factor for purchasing the Traktor X1 mk2 is down to your workflow. How do you currently use traktor and how to you propose to use traktor in the future?
If you already own the X1, and you’re happy with your workflow, then it may be wise to wait until your X1 fails and you need a replacement.
On the other hand however, Native Instruments are offering you a $50 e-voucher right now. So if you were once toying with the idea of owning 2 X1’s (so that you can control all 4 decks), then now may be the time to get your 2nd X1.
The introduction of the touchstrip add’s some nice functionality when it comes to playing music that isn’t beat-gridded, but it’s no replacement for a turntable or jog-wheel. If you are excited about the prospect of jumping around your tracks using loops and the flux mode and adding lots of effects and noises into your DJ sets, then the Traktor X1 mk2 will definitely be up your street. However, if your musical style isn’t too suited to tweaking mashups and build ups, and you’re content with the effects panels at the top of your X1, then I’d save the cash and maybe put it towards a Z1 instead.
For those that do not own any Traktor DJ controller, this would be my first choice, along with the Z1 mixer with the built in audio card.
Do you own a Traktor X1 mk2? What do you think f it? Are you thinking of buying one? Has this article helped you decide? Let’s get on it in the comments……
X1 Mk 2 – Release date August 1st 2013.