Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 hands-on
Putting it simply, the F1 is a 4.7-by-11.5-inch box with a standard 16-pad interface that should be familiar to anyone who's encountered an MPC-style interface. Surrounding the grid are a host of operational effects that modify playback of sounds in the corresponding rows, or in other cases, of all the sounds currently playing back in a column: sync, quant, capture, stop, type and size. These also serve secondary functions in shift-mode (pitch, speed and color) to further shape the sound. Above each column sits a slider generally used for column volume control and a filter knob. A single Traktor-standard rotary encoder is used to adjust parameters. Those candy-colored lights -- each hue customizable via an embedded LED -- communicate which type of sample is loaded in the corresponding slot in software. The grid also serves as a 16-pixel animation display, so you're constantly treated to a deeper look at how the interface is triggering or navigating through each individual sound.
Traktor 2.5 software, now with Remix Decks
Where previous versions of Traktor used decks mostly in the traditional sense -- to play back and manipulate a song-length file -- version 2.5 expands the previously-introduced 4-sample deck into a 64-sample deck (that's four "pages" of 16 samples each). With direct hardware access to those samples as a core service of the F1, it becomes very simple to treat individual sounds in more of a song-like way, synchronizing playback and compartmentalizing effects to allow greater control over smaller amounts of sound. A typical use scenario finds the user with discrete parts of the song mapped to each of the sample slots, which they can then use to either augment or generate on-the-fly remixes of the track playing in a traditional deck. A capture mode also allows new samples to be generated in real-time. Once they're in place, sounds can be sync'd to the master tempo for (hopefully) trainwreck-free placement in the mix.
Mixing it all together
Our all-too-scarce minutes with the Traktor Kontrol F1 weren't enough to get any significant production work going, but we did manage to get a feel for what might be possible when it tags along with our existing Traktor setup. In the past, working with samples felt like something of an afterthought, or a gimmick (see the perennial "airhorn" or "nuclear bomb drop" sounds for reference). This box forces the DJ to give samples more attention before the action starts and while the performance is happening. While beginner DJs will want to stick to full songs to get their bearings, more experienced users will find that with a good amount of dedication to selecting, laying out, and learning sample banks, their mixes will become significantly more involved, and a lot more fun to work with. There are obvious parallels to Ableton's system-wide timestretching/syncing capabilities here, but Native Instruments doesn't seem to be playing catch-up here. Traktor has always, at its core, been about precisely curating pre-recorded sound, not generating it from scratch, as production-based suites tend to be.
We can see lots of other capabilities lying just beneath the surface here: re-imagining the grid as an effects workstation, a sequencer of sorts, or as an animation platform. But we get the feeling that having such a purpose-built sample manipulator will free up and inspire a lot more sonic capability than we gathered at first blush. And, it's just a fun thing to be around, much like the Tenori-on or any number of simple iOS music apps. And, come on! It's kind of hard to go wrong with such an over-the-top dose of colors and physical controls.
The beta software we tested wasn't perfect, but it was well on its way to being relatively bug-free. We're confident that by the time it's released this spring (at $279) the F1 and Traktor 2.5 will find themselves at home in quite a few workstations, eventually working Traktor into a more musical-performative space than it's been regarded in the past. It's still a tool built with the DJ first in mind, though, and we can't wait to spend a ridiculous amount of hardcore geek time with it in the near future.
In the meantime, have a look at what Native Instruments' resident DJ Shiftee has been able to come up with in his geek time with the F1 (actually, two F1s, and MC Greg Nice, and a lot of After Effects). We'll keep you posted.
and TRAKTOR PRO 2.5
New hardware controller with multi-colored LED pads to access the
new Remix DecksTM in TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 software
Berlin, March 14th, 2012 – Native Instruments today announced
TRAKTOR KONTROL F1, a pad-based, USB-powered hardware controller
built to control the advanced Remix DecksTM in the included TRAKTOR
PRO 2.5 software. TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 provides 16 multi-colored,
touch-sensitive LED pads, an advanced global control section as well as
an ergonomic mixer section including four volume faders and dedicated
filter knobs. Designed specifically for DJing, the KONTROL F1 offers a
DJ-centric workflow for launching clips in an intuitive way, allowing users
to switch between up to 64 tracks, loops and one-shot samples on each
TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 includes the full version of the TRAKTOR PRO
2.5 software, also available as a free update to all users of the TRAKTOR
2 generation. Version 2.5 introduces the innovative Remix DecksTM,
giving access to a powerful loop suite made up of 64 slots, each able to
hold loops, one-shot samples or even tracks. DJs can control up to four
Remix Decks at once and save their work as an entire Remix Set with its
respective beat grids, BPM and key information in a new file format that
can be comfortably imported into a track deck via TRAKTOR's browser.
TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 was designed specifically to control the Remix
DecksTM and provides full and tactile control over the new feature,
benefiting from seamless bi-directional software-hardware integration and
offering full visual feedback through the multi-colored LED pads.
Advanced parameters such as Punch mode and FX assignment can also
be comfortably changed from the KONTROL F1 and four smaller pads at
the bottom of the matrix stop or mute a group of samples. Controlling
Sync, Quantize, 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
Each regular track deck within TRAKTOR PRO 2.5 can be switched to a
Remix Deck, thus offering 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 was designed to integrate perfectly into any
TRAKTOR DJ setup. With the same form-factor as TRAKTOR KONTROL
X1, KONTROL F1 fits neatly alongside standard DJ mixers and the all-in-
one DJ systems TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 and S2. The TRAKTOR Bag
provides reliable protection for the KONTROL F1 during transport, and
also doubles as a solid stand, elevating the KONTROL F1 to standard
mixer and turntable height.
Pricing and availability
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.
Further product information and press material
Additional information on TRAKTOR KONTROL F1 and TRAKTOR 2.5
is available at www.native-instruments.com/f1
A digital press kit including picture material is available at
International Press Contact
Public Relations Manager
Phone: +49 (0)30 - 61 10 35 – 1600
About Native Instruments
Native Instruments is a leading manufacturer of software and hardware
for computer-based music production and DJing. The company's mission
is to develop innovative, fully integrated solutions for all professions,
styles and genres. The resulting products regularly push technological
boundaries and open up new creative horizons for professionals and
Native Instruments opened up the fascinating world of real-time sound
synthesis on standard computers in 1996, and today offers an extensive
product range for musicians, producers and DJs. The company currently
employs around 250 people in its two offices in Berlin and Los Angeles,
and works closely with more than 40 international distribution partners to
ensure its future growth and success.