Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 Review
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 extends the Traktor range with a combined mixer and controller
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 is here. Following a teaser video which was revealed a few weeks ago, Native has now revealed a combined premium mixer and Traktor controller which is likely to attract many admiring glances…
The Z2 looks, to all intents and purposes, like a high quality, 2-channel DJ mixer. And, it is. But, aside from providing a means of mixing two audio sources, it is designed (unsurprisingly) to integrate perfectly with Traktor 2.5. This comprehensive set of features makes the Z2 the ideal hub of a DJ rig capable of playing from all major music mediums. Do Native get it right first time?
We find out in our Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 review.
Full Traktor Scratch Software Included
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 is being dubbed as a 2+2 channel DJ mixer and audio interface. At its core is a premium 2-channel DJ mixer. The quality of construction here is particularly noteworthy. The aircraft-grade aluminium chassis is super-solid, and a gloss central panel adds a slick visual contrast. The Innofader faders are also very nice indeed. All are incredibly smooth smooth and precise. The crossfader is has the loose, lightning fast feel that should keep turntablists very happy, and in addition, can have the cut-in distance adjustded to ludicrously short distances- perfect for fast cuts and scratch moves.
The onboard buttons and switches will feel very familiar if you’ve ever used any of Native’s DJ gear before, but this is no bad thing. They provide a mixture of hard-wearing rubber type buttons (such as the sample-deck triggers), and harder ‘clickier’ types for function buttons. All feel of a very high quality.
When not plugged in, the Z2 has a very cool, ‘stealth’ aesthetic. Hooking it up to a computer and firing up the included version of Traktor Scratch pro reveals a far more ‘neon’ look. Like the F1 controller, the sample decks illuminate according to how samples are set in Traktor, and all other buttons are brightly illuminated.
The two channels have 3-band EQ and individual filters- a very nice touch.
In terms of inputs, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 has four pairs of RCA inputs, such that the two channels can be switched between phono and line level inputs. A separate ‘booth’ output is equipped via a pair of balanced jack outputs, with main outputs via a choice of RCA connections or balanced XLRs. Inputs can be switched between ‘Traktor’ decks and external sources via the Traktor control buttons at the top of each channel.
One of the particularly nice things about the Z2 is that integrates all of the Traktor Scratch time encoding into the built-in interface, meaning that you don’t need another interface to use the included timecode vinyls/ CDs with it. Simply install Traktor, hook up your decks to the mixer, and you’re ready to go. Installation was incredibly smooth, in this regard.
So, the Z2 is a top quality DJ mixer. It is also a very high quality controller for Traktor, too. Aside from every controller operating its ‘virtual’ counterpart within the Traktor software package, the unit has eight brightly lit trigger buttons on either side. These are used to trigger samples from the remix decks within Traktor, or jump to cue points. Essentially, they provide a scaled down version of the F1, allowing very powerful and complex manipulation and triggering of samples and loops. Ideal for exploring the ‘controllerist’, live remix tendencies in you…
Standalone or Integrated With ‘Traditional’ Setups
The fact that the Traktor Kontrol Z2 is both a dedicated Traktor controller, and has a high quality 24-bit audio interface built-in means that it can be used as a standalone controller for Traktor, without any decks required. Simply connect to your computer via USB, fire up Traktor and you’re ready to go. Though, unlike the S2 and S4, there are still elements of operation that rely on keyboard/ mouse, it’s still a very elegant solution, and one of exceptional quality.
It can also provide something of a ‘safety net’ if a turntable or CDJ packs up at an inconvenient moment…
The Z2 may be Native’s first ‘proper’ DJ mixer, but it oozes with a quality and maturity that belies this fact. In terms of build quality, it easily matches anything anything at its price point. The ‘stealth finish’ is particularly pleasing to the eye, and when powered, the neon lit buttons look great. The faders are very special- slick, smooth and with the ability to adjust the cross-fader for super-sharp cuts. All styles of DJ will appreciate the quality on offer here.
Despite the tech packed within, there’s a simplicity to the design, too. It terms of audio quality, again, the Z2 comfortably matches any mixer in its class.
It is only when it is examined as a complete package that the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 reveals its true strength, however. The combination of premium mixer, high quality audio interface, and superb DJ controller (complete with Traktor Scratch Pro and Timecode discs) means that it will easily slot into any DJ setup. If you have turntables or CDJs already, you can add a Z2, connect your laptop and suddenly have an ultra-flexible yet familiar DVS setup.
Alternatively, install Traktor, and just use the Z2, and you’ll have a premium, compact DJ rig. In both cases, you’ll benefit from the Remix deck controls, too.
At the price, this is something of a bargain. If you’re thinking of making the leap to a computer-based DJing system, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2 is a perfect way of ‘easing’ into this new world, whilst still being right at the cutting edge. Superb stuff.