First Time playing Around With The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 Test





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Published on Jun 7, 2012

First Time playing Around With The Native Instruments Traktor F1 Test

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What is a DJ? Everyone who considers him or herself one can probably give you a unique answer. Is everyone with a music collection and a sense for good timing a DJ, or does their music collection have to exceed a certain number of gigabytes or slabs of vinyl to be in the club (no pun intended)? Audio playback devices are certainly getting more plentiful and powerful on a large scale; anyone who's played with an iOS DJ app can tell you that. In the deeper end of the DJ pool, things aren't expanding at such a frantic pace. But every once in a while a new toy crops up that adds depth and breadth to the way music nerds play back music. Native Instruments' just-released Traktor Kontrol F1 is a blinking slab of rainbow-tinged hardware with an intense devotion to manipulating samples. While boxes from Roland and Akai have been defining genres for decades, this 16-pad add-on takes the sampling game to a new arena. Will DJ's want it? We feel it's safe to say they will. At $279, should they buy it? That question's a little more complicated.
The bottom half of the 5- by 11.5-inch F1 is home to a grid of 16 MPC-style sample cue pads, each around 3/4-inch square. Every translucent button houses an assignable 16-color LED. This eye candy will catch newcomers' eyes and, perhaps just as importantly, help the operator classify sample types according to his or her own preference. The pads also form a low-resolution display that elegantly aids in navigating tasks: scroll to another sample page, and a white bar "flips" the current page away kind of like an e-book. Four "stop" buttons bring sounds into or out of the mix.

Four pairs of filter knobs and volume sliders sit atop the box, offering individual control of each column. The function keys in the center are typical Native Instruments fare, offering precise control over each pad's settings as well as more general control of the columns and remix decks. The 14-segment LCD display and clickable rotary encoder will also be familiar to Traktor hardware users. Everything feels slightly more rigid than earlier hardware: sliders are more ratcheted, filter knobs offer more resistance than usual, and the pads themselves feel more spry than those on the drum-sequencing Maschine controller, another NI mainstay.

Like any good member of a commercial ecosystem, the F1 eventually tugs at your heartstrings to bring home a friend: although it's simple enough to switch between controlling left and right remix decks with one unit, we certainly couldn't help but wonder how much more we could get done with a companion to address both sides of the crossfader.

We're growing a little weary of NI's (very) standard design. The typefaces, coloring and weight will certainly match your other NI gear. But we'd prefer more diversity in the appearances of our setup, or at least the option to get something that looks slightly less...techno. Shift-functions of buttons have been drilled into gearheads' fingertips since Roland popularized them decades ago, but they are starting to feel antiqued in an era defined by multitouch interfaces. Until Colorware starts doing F1's, we'll make do with this: a hard-working black box that feels fine-tuned to the more performance-driven direction Traktor is marching in.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1
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