Native Instruments Kontrol Z1: Unbeatable Precision

Native-Instruments-Kontrol-Z1

Having caught our attention with its recently released Traktor DJ app (free for a limited time), Native Instruments today released the world’s smallest professional mixer and audio interface, the Kontrol Z1.

The new controller takes the company’s new app and transforms it into a professional DJ system combining the best of a touchscreen with the unbeatable precision of a physical tactile controller.

Combined the recently released app (which is currently free on the App Store) and the Z1 controller you get a fully-fledged DJ system with headphone cueing, dedicated faders, filters, effects controls and crucially a 3-band EQ for each of the 2 channels.

Where the Z1 begins to make even more sense is the inclusion of an integrated 24-bit audio interface that dramatically improves the output sound quality to club-ready levels – all without interfering with Traktor DJs engineered touch interface.

The beauty of the Z1 is it gives users physical controls that complement the touchscreen controls on the app, all faders, filter, effects controls, and 3-band EQ are automatically mapped and synced to Traktor, giving aspiring DJs hands-on, physical control over their iPad or iPhone setups.

Kontrol-Hardware-and-Software

With the Kontrol Z1 added, Traktor DJ becomes a compelling tool for crafting credible live mixes, utilising the app’s looping, cueing and effects functionality to create professional mixes than can even be recorded within the app to be then shared with your fans and friends.

To use the Z1 with Traktor DJ does, however, require an AC adapter for power, meaning the possibility of using it anywhere are off the cards, but it has the added advantage of supplying power to your iPad or iPhone. So at least you know you won’t run out of juice mid-set.

If you want to use the Z1 as a MIDI controller and/or audio interface for other software, you can just open up Ableton Live or whatever you have, and the Z1 should be recognizable and configurable from the jump. We were able to map it to Live 8 using the software’s MIDI map function with no problem at.

The Z1’s cue section introduces channel headphone monitoring to iOS setups, allowing for track pre-listening – a first for any app-based mixing software. The inclusion of a professional 24-bit integrated soundcard delivers quality club-level sound without the need for an additional audio interface.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 is the world’s smallest professional mixer for Traktor Pro 2 too – perfect for intimate after-party gigs or any situation that requires both compact size and professional performance features.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 also comes with a license for Traktor LE 2 and connects to iPad and iPhone with the included 30-pin connectors. For those of you who have the Lightning connector devices you’ll need to pick up the Lightning adaptor which is sold separately unfortunately.

Traktor Kontrol Z1 is available at retailers worldwide and at the NI Online Shop for $199 / 199 € / 20,800 ¥. ??All Z1 customers receive a personal $50 / 50 € e-voucher, which is? delivered by email upon registration of the Z1 hardware.

Top 5 DJ Controllers

Hercules-DJ-Control-Air

With the proliferation of mp3s the world of DJing has seen a seismic shift away from traditional forms of mixing to digital systems and controllers that solely work with digital music files. So it’ll come as no surprised to you that there’s a burgeoning market for low-cost easy-to-use DJ controllers that range from simple midi controllers to all-in-one systems – here are our top 5.

Hercules DJ Control AIR 2, price: £199

Hercules recently updated its popular DJ Control AIR range; the low-cost setup has been really popular for aspiring DJs who are on a tight budget of less than £200. The unique selling point of the DJ Control AIR + is it’s an all-in-one system – meaning you won’t need to fork out for a costly separate mixer.

The biggest change to the new AIR+ is it has increased size making a lot easier to use – crucial for any all-in-one DJ system. Other changes see both jog wheels increase in size to 5.9-inches, and they now both have 750 steps per turn – making scratching a lot more representative of a real vinyl player.

DJs are able to liven up their mixes with samples and hot cue points using the controller’s 8 touchpads, 4 per deck. Another clever touch is the harder you tap on each pad, the louder the playback volume. DJ Control AIR+ comes bundled with DJUCED, a new DJ mixing software that provides an adequate clone of Native Instruments’ Traktor.

XDJ-R1

Pioneer XDJ-R1, price: £859

Established hardware manufacturer Pioneer are also courting the all-in-one market with their newly announced XDJ-R1. This system is four times the price of the AIR+ – but for the money you get a system that wouldn’t look out of place in any of the world’s top clubs.

The controller features two decks (that work identically to the company’s much-love CDJs), there’s also: two CD slots, a full built-in mixer, two USB ports (allowing users to use the company’s Rekordbox software) – and a bulletproof set of ports and connections to supplement the system with extra CDJs and vinyl players.

Elsewhere you’ll find a bevy of beat effects, cross faders, EQs, filters and hot cues on the controller – just about everything you’d expect to see on professional club setup.
The XDJ-R1 can also be controlled wirelessly using Pioneer’s new Remotebox iOS app. The app allows users to browse music, mix tracks and even mash up tracks, all remotely using their favourite iDevice. The app can also be used to control an XY pad, crucial for professional sounding effects.

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Push Controller – Akai, price: £429

While Ableton Live isn’t exclusively a performance tool, it does now have a brand-new performance controller called Push from Akai. The new controller doesn’t follow the design and look of a traditional DJ controller, instead Akai has taken it takes its design cues from its classic pad-based drums machines.

The Push controller essentially turns Ableton into a live instrument rather than being just another a generic midi controller – and, on the whole, it largely succeeds at this. Push immediately feels robust, mainly, due to Akai’s decision to give the controller a rubberised coating – making it perfect for DJs who do a lot travelling.

You can control almost any function of Live, so you can use the controller to navigate samples, launch tracks, play or step sequence drums, and you can even use it as a midi keyboard with fully pressure sensitive velocity pads.

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Native Instruments Traktor Z2, price: £500

Industry leaders in digital mixing, Native Instruments have also recently launched their latest all-in-one creation: the Z2. It’s another Traktor-centric MIDI controller that comes with a built-in audio interface, conventional analogue DJ mixer, a copy of Traktor Pro and Traktor Scratch Mk2 time encoded vinyl and CDs, for use with CDJs and vinyl players.

Like any good mixer, NI has kept the Z2’s hardware simple. It offers two channels, fed by either line or phono inputs, both with built-in Traktor Scratch decoders – so whether you use CDJs, turntables or even a laptop, the Z2 looks bring together the best of Traktor Pro and the tactile feel that only a phyiscal deck can provide.

The Z2 features two remix channels, meaning it fully supports Traktor’s recently released Remix Decks. Another great feature is the Allen and Heath-style filter knobs on each decks – making sweeping high and low-pass filters are incredibly smooth.

Pioneer-DDJ

Pioneer DDJ-WeGo, price: £249

Pioneer is also aiming to corner the budget DJ market, too, with its latest ultra compact DJ controller, the DDJ-WeGo. It enables DJs on a tight budget to get a professional DJ controller for under £300. Much like the Air+, the DDJ-WeGo is a two-channel all-in-one system.

Setting up WeGo is simple: just plug in a laptop and start up the software. The WeGO’s ergonomic controls and user-friendly interface make it easy for aspiring DJs to learn the ropes from the ground-up. But there’s also a range of advanced features from Pioneer’s professional products – such as Beat Sync, sound effects and loops, for DJs who want to get really creative. For the asking price you get a free copy of Virtual DJ that has the ability to perform music stored on a Windows PC or Mac.

Traktor DJ iPad App Review: Near Perfect Digital DJing

NI-Traktor-iPad

DJ iPad apps have been around for years, and on whole they’ve always been a bit hit and miss, generally falling into two categories: a midi controller or a virtual deck setup – neither of which particularly works well on a small tablet touchscreen.

Well, those days are behind us as the company behind Traktor, Native Instruments, has released its first attempt at a DJ app. Their vision for Traktor DJ is all about using the iPad’s best feature: touch. They’ve come up with a system that uses pinches, swipes and taps to manipulate the music – a system that is a lot of fun to begin with, but has the necessary depth to keep you coming back for months to truly master it.

“We’ve taken our time to come to market,” says product designer Scott Hobbs. “We wanted to stop and think about this: how could we break down the digital DJing interface? We didn’t want to emulate the vinyl interface. There’s been too much skeuomorphism to date, so we really broke the interface apart and rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

When you fire up the app you’re greeted with a layout that is strikingly similar to their previous software, perfect for anyone who has used their DJ software before. Basically, you’ve got a 2-channel mixer and two virtual decks. Select one of the decks and you’re taken to your library of tracks, they are then arranged by song, album, tempo or key. Once you chosen a track you’re asked whether you want to load the mp3 into channel 1 or 2 – with either channel flashing if a track is already playing, a simple reminder so you don’t load the mp3 into the wrong channel and cut the music.

To mix two tracks of a similar tempo and key requires very little work, as the app relies on Native Instruments auto tempo detection whilst the iTunes integration turns your iPad into a virtual crate to dig through.

Traktor-DJ-FX

On top of the standard mixing functionality you’ve got full channel EQs, filters, and 8 effects to combine into your mixes. And this is where Traktor comes into its own, mixing two tracks together in the 21st century isn’t that hard or exciting, but where it become exciting is layering loops over tracks, adding your own effects and generally trying to combine as many of those at once. Obviously this doesn’t work out all the time, but give the app to some who is a dab hand at mixing and they’ll be able to do mixes that a DJ with CDJs and an expensive mixer wouldn’t be able replicate.

At the heart of the app is Traktor’s acclaimed sync engine that keeps tracks locked together so mixes hit hard and on time. Traktor DJ app also syncs up to Traktor Pro 2, allowing users to share track data, beat grids, BPM counts, and set cue points – making the app both a companion app for Pro users and all-in-one DJ solution for iPad owners who want to DJ at parties or at home.

Traktor-Freeze-Slice

One feature that’s exclusive to Traktor’s DJ App is a “freeze and slice” a feature that allows you manipulate waveforms with gestures like swipes and pinches, allowing you to slice a track into playable parts and remix it on the fly. If you grab the waveform with two fingers you can set a loop, widen your fingers and the loop with increase in size, and you can punch out with a quick two-finger tap.

Another clever addition is the notification centre, this allows you read up on the all functionality of the app, but it also suggests techniques and features you haven’t used yet – giving the app the ability to actually teach you.

Traktor-DJ-EQ

Elsewhere, you can add up to eight cue points to any track, allowing you jump to the breakdown or main drive from anywhere within the track without it ever stopping or going out time.

Another feature that we were really impressed with is the ability to record mixes from within the app that can then be downloaded and shared to friends or fans.

If you’re a bedroom DJ looking to have a bit fun on long journeys, or a professional DJ who want to prepare their sets before the getting to the club – Traktor DJ is a must. It strikes that perfect balance between a professional tool and a fun app that lets anyone have a go at DJing. This desire for mainstream and professional appeal is reflected in Traktor DJ’s price: £13.99 –matching Djay, which is probably the most high-profile iPad DJing app to date. But quite frankly DJay pales in comparison to Native Instruments’ first attempt at an all-in-one DJ app in both scope and functionality.

Denon MC2000 DJ interface: USB power to the people

DJing has always fascinated me as a transformative “power to the people” interaction of music and technology. Taking the music given to you by record companies and radio stations and being able to repurpose it to express yourself was all at once revolutionary and ancient – harking back to folk songs shared around the campfire and changing over time.

Denon-MC2000

In keeping with this idea of non-exclusive DJing Denon have released the MC2000 – a USB DJ controller that welcomes novices and pros alike and invites them to mix it up and start again.

The plug and play controller is really easy to get going. Denon lent me one for the weekend and I simply had to install Serato DJ Intro, pop the controller in and I was good to go. The software is pretty simple to use and you pretty much just have to drag a track into the respective window to get going. If you want to bring all your iTunes music and playlists into the fold you just hit a button and everything is set up for you.

In terms of hardware, Denon haven’t skimped and there’s a rugged metal chassis combined with the jog wheels and faders. Nothing feels at all plasticky and everything feels reassuringly solid. The whole unit runs off USB power making it pretty portable and there are a host of illuminated buttons which makes essential controls easy enough to access.

As you’d expect the MC2000 has twin jog wheels and faders for vinyl-like mixing so you can scratch and mix to your heart’s content. I will never enjoy mixing on a USB controller as much as an old fashioned vinyl but this is much, much easier to pack up and take to a house party, wedding or small club.

If you want a to make things a little more fancy the MC2000 also includes full sample control, loop control, on-board effects and auxiliary as well as microphone input.There’s high-quality audio output from both the RCA sockets on the rear panel and the front mounted headphone socket.

The Denon MC2000 is available for about £260 from October.

Traktor Kontrol F1: Live looping and sampling on the fly

As Electronic music finally penetrates American mass culture 20 years after it reached European Shores – music hardware sales are rocketing with the advent of digital mixing.

Digital mixing isn’t anything knew as there are a plethora of programs and software solutions, which makes the laborious task of beat matching as simple as making a slice of toast.

NI-Tracktor-Kontrol

The digital vs analog argument with run and run, with purists arguing the essence of turntablism has been lost via technology company’s constant pursuit of the perfect mix. Analogue purist will always insist if you take the human element out of DJing then what’s left is just a man, or woman, stood behind a laptop essentially checking their email.

Traktor over the last 5 years have built reputation as the go-to company for digital mixing. Their software allows almost anyone to learn to mix with little or no knowledge. You can always use the synch button and never have to worry about an impending car-crash mix or use the system like a virtual DJ setup where you need to do the basics like you would with a traditional vinyl/CD setup.

Their new Kontrol F1 midi controller looks to marry the old with the new, and from the face of it is the best compromise between digital advances and the skill of a good DJ.

The new system is aimed at one particular group of DJs: Scratchers. Most modern day mixing takes place where two tracks need to be seamlessly woven together to continue the groove of a DJ set. The other school of DJing is scratching and beat juggling, which is were the origin of mixing comes from, firmly anchored within the world of hip-hop and DMC champions.

The new system allows users to mix an endless amount of loops and samples live, via two time-encoded vinyl’s, and the new F1 midi launch controller – whilst the software allows you imprint any digital sound file upon the two blank vinyl’s. Instead of mixing two full tracks, the Kontrol F1 has been firmly aimed at DJs who uses loops and samples. It comes with 16 multi-color LED pads, where you launch clips in a perfectly intuitive, DJ-centric way, switching between up to 64 tracks, loops and one-shot samples on each Remix Dec.

From the controller you can control every function of the software and digital decks. You’ll be able to controlling sync, select your preferred quantize method, sample size, reverse and other functionality. The comprehensive global section also features a push encoder to switch through the four pages of the 16 pads and offers a ‘Capture’ button, which allows DJs to grab samples from running tracks of each track deck within the TRAKTOR software, both before and during the actual DJ performance.

Each regular track deck within TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 can be switched to a Remix Deck, offers dedicated transport, sync and tempo master controls. This allows DJs to control an entire Remix Deck via Native Scratch timecode control with vinyl or CDs, or using the jog wheels of the KONTROL S4 and KONTROL S2 hardware.

TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 will be available on May 30th for a suggested retail price of $279 / 249 EUR at authorized retailers and at the NI Online Shop It will ship with a full version of TRAKTOR PRO 2.5. All owners of TRAKTOR PRO 2, TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO, TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 and TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 will receive TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 as a free update from May 30th.

DJ Rig: Keeping it real on the wheels of steel

Determined to bring as much music making to your iOS device as possible IK Multimedia have added to their iRig series with the DJ Rig a new DJ app. DJ Rig is a full-featured, double-deck DJ mixing app with instant song-playing automatic tempo sync and beat matching, sample-based pads and performance recording, plus an array of high-quality DJ effects.

DJ-Rig

It’s surprisingly fun and full-featured and whilst it’s not the same as keeping it real on the wheels of steel – or even playing on a Native Instruments Traktor Kontroller it is a fraction of the price and fits in your pocket. I played around with one for a few minutes and it’s surprisingly immersive. I was sent a 52 page manual but even without looking at a page I was able to dive in, get tracks playing, scratch, mix, loop and play with effects so the software design is pretty intuitive.

The app is iPhone only at the moment, which is a shame as the large screen iPad experience makes it much more fun to play with. Hopefully a universal app is on its way. Apart from that, the software seemed rock solid and I didn’t notice any lag, stutter or skipping. Landscape gives you a two-deck set up and flipping to portrait mode lets you focus on just one deck and a clearer view of the waveform you are working with.

The automatic Beat-Match function goes beyond the basic tempo matching found in regular DJ apps and allows anyone to DJ – pretty amazing tech to be crammed into a phone. As with all beat-matching results vary according to the track but it’s generally quite easy to create buttery smooth mixes on the fly.

There are plenty of built-in DJ effects and the XY touch interface is very similar to twiddling with a Kaoss pad. There are stutter, flanger and delay effects as well as classic bandpass effects.

The built-in looping is another sweet addition and easy to set up (you pretty much just hit loop). You can vary the length of the loop and it keeps everything in sync so it’s incredibly fun to play with. There’s also a built-in sampler with all the classic fog horn, applause and gun shot sound fx for you to throw over your mixes.

The app is currently on sale for less that £2 which is incredible value for all the features and would represent good value at £20.

iTunes link

Radiopaq Duo headphones

Ever play music on your laptop with headphones on and pretend to be a DJ at heaving, sweaty club in some dodgy Spanish town? Just me?

A big part of the DJ look is all in the headphones. Forget about all the vinyl scratching and the disc swirling, bobbing headphones is where it’s at – no-one really likes to see ears anyway.

RadioPaq-Duo

And now you can do your best to replicate the club demons with the Radiopaq Duo, a new range of headphones with an emphasis on style.

They come in a range of bright colours – or black, if rainbows offend you – but it’s with its swivelling and tilting ear pieces that the DJ look is realised, allowing you to rest them on your neck or listen to just one channel whilst your other ear takes in the world.

With a gold-plated 3.5mm jack, these headphones can easily be used with…well, just about anything, be it your iPod or your laptop, although it does not work with the iPod Shuffle 3G.

Wondering if the oft-used ‘style over substance’ saying might come into play with the Duo? Well they actually have pretty excellent sound quality, with better-than-expected bass response, especially at a healthy recommended price of £19.99 and they could be set to cause an epidemic of newly-born bedroom DJs.

Yours from www.radiopaqproducts.com

DJ World Studio: Last night a DJ app saved my life.

Well being honest not last night, but a few nights ago. And not so much save as spare me from a boring party. The CD player was acting up and we needed tunes. So I decided to plug my iPad in and inflict Roy Ayers and Bob James on my friends. And as I’m sure you aware there are any number of apps to do this – including the built in iTunes app. However (un) fortunately for my friends, I was testing the new DJ world app for the iPad so thought I’d give playing with the digital wheel of steel a go in a live environment.

iPad-DJ-World

Before I go on I should point out I have a few years experience of vinyl and radio DJing – not on a professional level or with any great degree of technical prowess but I’ve played around with the real thing, can beatmatch, crab and flare a little on a good day and fade in and out with the best of them.

So how does iPad DJing compare? Well it’s not a good. Obviously. But it is quite good. And more importantly it’s quite good fun. And most importantly, with a bit of practice you can rock a party – although Bob James must share some of the credit for this for writing Take Me to Mardis Gradis.

DJ World comes loaded with about 20-30 songs that allow you to dip your world into the murky world of what should be called mixology (how did we let cocktail bar staff take that name?).  You can see the waveform of the songs as you play them, so you are able to beatmatch with a degree of precision unthinkable in the old days. Once you get used to the feel of smooth glass instead of vinyl (there is a CDJ skin as well) you can easily nudge the records in time, scratch a little (working the surface of the record and the crossfader is a little fiddly) or just press the auto sync button and pretend you are Kool Herc.

It’s a good £11.99 in the app store – but considering a set of decks and vinyl could easily run into the hundreds it’s not a bad price for a dabble. Out now at an app store near you.

****** Update *******
DJ World Studio celebrates the arrival of iPad2 in Europe this weekend with the App available for £5,99 instead of the usual £11,99 from March 25th to 28th only: