Native Instruments has a long history of providing software tools, the frontrunner in this being Traktor. Traktor is arguably the best DJ software available in electronic music.
The emergence of Traktor has been prompted by the decisive shift from CD-to laptop DJing witnessed in the last few years.
Traktor Kontrol Z2 is Native Instruments’ first mixer in the line of laptop DJing. This latest creation serves as a conventional stand-alone mixer, an audio interface and a Traktor control surface.
The Traktor Kontrol Z2 works as an analog mixer. This means you can plug record decks and CD players for input, which is passed through an amp and projected through speakers, while you DJ away.
While this is not new, the Z2 gives you a good Djing experience with its set of one-knob filters combined with the standard EQ settings and volume.
The Z2 also provides an audio interface meaning it can be connected to a computer and function as a DJ sound card. This is unlike previous editions of most Djing equipment which relied on sound output from the inbuilt sound tool of a computer.
The Z2 adopts the current model of equipment which incorporates an audio interface which is inbuilt to enable the equipment to dictate the sound quality.
To add on to that, the audio interface of the Kontrol Z2 is compatible with Traktor Scratch. This makes it possible to use the mixer with CDs or control vinyl’s which are specially made containing “timecode” (A digital signal that is understood by Traktor).
Another essential feature of the Traktor Kontrol Z2 is the Midi controller which can control most of the features of the Traktor software including the Traktor Pro 2.6 whose launch was set to coincide with the release of the Kontrol Z2.
Finally, it has a powered USB hub which is one of its most special additions. Therefore, you do not have to use the free USB sockets on your computer to plug other equipment onto the Djing unit. Some commonly used instruments which can be plugged are the Traktor Kontrol F1 and the Traktor Kontrol X1.
Construction and Impression
While the Traktor Kontrol Z2 has a similar appearance to other Traktor Kontrol DJ controllers in the Native family, it sets itself apart with an all-metal chassis which is heavily built making it feel like a tank.
The side panels have a coating made of rubber while the front, bottom, and rear have a shiny plastic inlay. Underneath, all the knobs are covered with plastic which could prove quite risky while transporting the equipment.
The buttons are a combination of plastic and rubberized pads giving them a nice feel to the touch. They are also easy to control. They are designed to illuminate to let the DJ know which “mode” they are. They are also designed to be durable.
The box containing the unit itself comes with other components. These are packed inside the box and include: two Traktor control CD’s, two Traktor control vinyl pieces, a USB and a cable to connect to electricity.
Essential items such as stickers, installation instructions, safety flyer and your serial number card are all also contained in the box.
Setting up Traktor Kontrol Z2 is a bit complicated especially for beginners.
And it’s typical of most Traktor gadgets.
First, you need to register yourself as well as your software on the “Service Center” provided by Native Instruments. This is used to give you authentication and to provide you with software upgrades.
The process is not easy and could cause anxiety for first time users who would be unsure if they’re doing everything right. A typical case that most people encounter is a dialogue that asks one to “Please launch Service Center now” while only providing a “Restart” button.
Users who already have Traktor 2.6 only need to download the Z2 driver on the Traktor website. This setup enables the Z2 to appear on the configuration panel.
Finally, manually configure the Traktor software to recognize the Z2. There are several pointers to guide you and tell you that you are on the right track.
Faders are at the core of every mixer, and the Traktor Kontrol Z2 comes with three faders.
All three are Mini-Innifaders with a fantastic feel. The crossfader has been cut to 1mm, is smooth and loose which makes it easy to pull off any scratching move that Dj’s love. On the other hand, the line faders have much more resistance and are not adjustable in whichever way.
They are, therefore, better used in mixing rather than for scratching purposes.
There is a seven-bar Master and Line level indicator strip located in the middle of the line faders. This strip is beautiful and detailed for the right control of volume.
The central indicators show either the C/D Deck volume level or the Master volume. Outside indicators show the A/B deck volume level. The other control buttons are the CUE A and B buttons which help preview the tracks on the decks through the headphones.
Above them are the headphone volume control knob and the Cue/Mix knobs. On the upper-middle side of the Z2 are the transport controls.
A Quantize button above the transport controls helps to keep everything in sync.
Since the Traktor Kontrol Z2 can operate on analog decks, each channel has its own over-sized High-Low Pass filter which means it will work with or without software control.
An FX1 or FX2 module button is located on each deck and activates various effects on either the left or right decks.
The Booth and Master Volume control knobs are located on the top right corner of the mixer.
Conclusion and recommendation
All in all, the Traktor Kontrol Z2 is designed to bring the top Traktor features to your fingertips.
It makes it fun to DJ on while producing great sound.
Previous users of Traktor will continue to have the same great experience while mixing as before while allowing you to plug that USB directly into your laptop. It will integrate well with your analog gear and sources.
Above all, the Traktor Kontrol Z2 is well priced.