Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2 Controller Review

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2 Controller Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Native Instruments says its modular controller lets you control Remix Decks and Stems. You may be attracted to this unit if you enjoy the look of the deck section on the S8, but do not want an all-in-one controller (i.e., if you have your own mixer already, or if you are mixing in a club with limited space). However, it is quite expensive, especially without an audio interface on-board, so it is clearly aimed at professionals.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS / SETTING UP

Native insturment

Traktor Kontrol D2 takes Native Instruments’ vision for DJing on a modular route that is more affordable in terms of price and size, but is it any good? Read on to find out.

It looks exactly as I described it, like an S8 deck surgically removed from an extremely large unit. It comes with four feet designed to raise it to the height of a standard mixer (such as a Pioneer, Allen & Heath, or even the Kontrol Z2). There are also four-deck select buttons on the top-right.

However, the audio interface hasn’t made it across, so this is solely a Midi interface. In other words, while Native Instruments calls it a “deck”, it is not a “deck” in the sense of a record deck or a CDJ, which has an audio output and can be used with a mixer as-is. If you want to integrate Traktor with your existing system from scratch, you’ll also need an audio interface (or a mixer that has one built-in, like the Kontrol Z2).

I reviewed the Traktor Kontrol S8 a while back, and basically, everything I said about the deck’s piece of the controller stands here, too, so feel free to read my Traktor Kontrol S8 review for a refresher.

For daisy-chaining Traktor D2s and other devices, the Traktor D2 comes with a built-in two-port USB hub. Due to its lack of an onboard sound card, it doesn’t have any audio connections.

In addition, there is a USB hub. Native Instruments is promoting a pro setup consisting of two of these, however, since they take a lot of power, you cannot simply daisy chain two of them together via USB connector; their power must be redirected via a separate proprietary power splitter cable. For plugging in lower-current Midi stuff, a two-socket USB hub would be sufficient.

IN USE

One of the most attractive features of the Traktor Kontrol D2 is its onboard screen that displays information related to what controls you are touching.

My review of the Traktor Kontrol S8 pretty much remains the same. There will never be a place for you if you think you’ll miss the jogwheels, although the touch strip does a reasonable job of simulating manual control. It’s a good screen, but not good enough for involved library work and searching, especially since you can’t control what columns the library shows, so you still need a laptop nearby unless you’re more organized than I am with your playlists when it comes to library use. Due to the relatively unintuitive pitch controls, manual beatmatching is still a challenge it.

However, if you’re already something of a Traktor fan and you play electronic music with beat grids, there’s a lot to like here: Excellent pads with all the modern deck features, and an excellent screen, despite the limited library integration.

A touchstrip replaces the jogwheel on the Traktor Kontrol D2 for pitch bends and track seek. Eight performance pads are also included, as are transport and loop controls.

The upcoming arrival of the Stems format (and the S8) may actually make or break this unit (and the S8), though it has nothing to do with the hardware. In the uninitiated, this is a new file type of music that has four “stems” instead of a single, completed recording. By using the four faders and other controls on the D2, you can control all four parts differently – for example, only to use effects on the vocal, get instant acapellas/instrumentals, etc.

In the case that Stems take off, this unit would be a perfect controller, and in the product publicity on Native Instruments’ website, Stems feature far more prominently than Remix Decks – Native Instruments is re-rolling the dice.

The move may be a wise one, given that people may indeed want more control over their music in this digital age than vinyl or even CDJs allow, but the Remix Decks were a step too far for most DJs to handle. Time will tell, but the idea of having a professional DJ set up with two of these and say some CDJs for Track Deck HID control within Traktor alongside that does sound promising; the DJ can then bring two D2s, use the club’s CDJs and mixer, and mix “straight” tracks and Stems tracks to make an exciting performance with little extra gear and setup hassle.

CONCLUSION

Although you can control all four decks with just one Traktor Kontrol D2, it’s more intuitive to have a pair of them in order to avoid having to switch between four decks in a live setting, which can be very confusing.

First of all, Native Instruments continues to push the envelope with its hardware and software approach. As a product, this gets into DJ booths much more than the S8, providing control over some of Traktor’s undoubtedly cutting-edge features, alongside traditional gear and methods.

As a result, it currently lacks any “killer punch”. There’s no audio interface, so you’d have to fiddle with an audio interface in order to add it to an existing set-up as a Traktor deck. Although the screen is built into the controller, they are still not really a laptop replacement (and, of course, you do need a laptop – sounds silly, but many people start questioning that when the screen is built-in). Despite all their promise, Remix Decks and Stems are still not convincing many DJs that they are necessary.

The Kontrol D2 reminds me a little of the Apple Watch (which I have been using to review two DJ apps for the Apple Watch, Pacemaker and djay). Even though the Apple Watch is well built, expensive, and quite desirable, it doesn’t do anything better than the phone on which it relies, at least for now.