After years of rumors, NI finally entered the fray and released their own dj controller to match the popular Traktor software. While many had hoped for a all-in one DJ controller like the NS7, NI disappointed some and pleased others by instead addressing a clear need in the compact controller range. Is the Kontrol X1 a smashing success? Lets dive in and take a closer look.
THE GOOD: This is the best built controller in its class and size range. As a sidecar controller to Serato or Traktor Scratch Pro, its very popular and useful. The plug and play integration with Traktor makes it very easy to use and set up. The high quality encoders, knobs and buttons all have a professional feel.
THE BAD: The screen printed buttons are great for people that like the standard mapping but bad news for those that want to change it. Serato users can take advantage of an included overlay but the printed buttons labels wont match the re-mapped functions. Requires a mixer or turntables to really be useful.
THE BOTTOM LINE: As a stand alone controller, the X1 cant quite offer everything a DJ needs to control traktor pro. If, however, you have access to a mixer and turntables- the X1 makes an excellent companion to most DVS systems. NI has intelligently worked the X1 into the club environment aesthetically, ergonomically and functionally making it an solid option for pro DJs.
The X1 comes with Traktor LE, the most basic dj software native instruments offers but in order to really use the controller, you are going to want to jump up to Traktor Pro ($139 upgrade) or purchase Traktor SCratch pro for vinyl control ($500). The X1 is natively supported, which means just plug and… play. The buttons all work as labeled and the 2 way communication between the hardware and software is very tight (this is done over HID, not MIDI). All of the basic functions are going covered including looping, track browsing, 2 FX channels, and some basic transport functions. I was somewhat disappointed in the actual mapping itself, as it left some things to be desired and made a few counter-intuitive decisions on placement and function. One example is the tempo adjustments and pitch bend buttons, which are critical functions to DJing and require easy access. These are buried behind beat jump, and loop in and out, which in my experience are rarely used. To make matters worse, the shift button you need to access those critical functions is tucked away between 4 encoders, making actually using pitch bend or tempo adjustment a slightly awkward task. To be fair, if you’re using turntables (and thats the crowd this controller was designed for) then these 2 functions are less important, so the mapping probably makes sense. For the controller only crowd however, some aspects of the mapping will be less intuitive.
The X1 is built with a molded plastic chassis and an aluminum top plate, all in a sleek flat black finish. In some cases, plastic can look cheep but in this context they have managed to pull it off in a very professional manner. The potentiometers and encoders have a solid feel and certainly wont fall apart with regular use. The Knob caps are double injected with rubber which provides a soft grippy feeling that is easy on the finger tips. The buttons are a tad small, and not really suitable for serious beat juggling but they are well constructed with excellent back-lighting. The buttons also find the perfect balance between being easy to press, while at the same time having a clear click so you know when the function has been activated.
NI developed a very professional looking carrying case that will protect your controller from the elements. The $40 optional case doubles as a riser, so the X1 will feel right at home next to standard turntables and mixers, which its best used with.
Reviewed Unit: Native Instruments Kontrol X1
Price: $199 (Optional $40 Carrying case)
Specs: Self Powered Midi over USB, Class compliant.
Ships With: Traktor LE