August 9, 2013

Traktor Kontrol Z1 Review

We could call this the year of the modular DJ controllers. There are only a handful of companies putting out new, all in one, DJ controllers because frankly there are very few design improvements that warrant making a whole new controller. Instead we are beginning to see more and more modular setups to accommodate a new era of DJ. A DJ that can show up to a gig with a couple of very small modular controllers and an iPad or small laptop. For the more discriminating DJ this may be seen as dark time for the craft, but for the more forward thinking performer this opens doors to a whole new level of possibilities.

Those posibilites are becoming much more streamlined as evidenced by the latest controller from Native Instruments with the Traktor Kontrol Z1. This two channel DJ mixer, soundcard, and MIDI controller can connect to your computer or iPad for control over the Traktor software or Traktor DJ app. Check out the video above to see what the features are all about and then read on to see what this modular DJ controller can offer for you.


The design is that of a typical DJ mixer with controls for gain and a 3-band EQ for mixing. You also have controls for master volume and headphone cue and mix volume. The large filter knob can also double as an FX parameter control. This works especially well when using an iPad and the Traktor DJ so you can manipulate FX with the control knob, as well as the X/Y FX control surface on your iPad. The volume faders and the crossfaders are plastic but have the same feel as their other controllers and mixer. Next to each line level fader are LED lights to give you a visual representation of your level. This is especially helpful when in a dark environment and using an iPad.

If you know NI's controllers, you'll know the buttons and knobs have a great feel.

If you know NI’s controllers, you’ll know the buttons and knobs have a great feel.

If you are a Traktor Kontrol F1 owner, you will recognize the compact and lightweight design of the Traktor Kontrol Z1. Its thin but not too thin to feel flimsy, and it is incredibly lightweight when considering you have a soundcard built into the controller.


It doesn’t matter if you are using the Traktor DJ App or using Traktor on your computer because as soon as you connect the Z1 you are ready to go. This is common knowledge for a lot of Native Instruments controller users, but for those not as familiar this is truly a plug and play system. You have a built in sound card on the Kontrol Z1 so you can get connected to a sound system via RCA. There is also a connection for a power supply because if you are using an iPad, the iPad will not have enough power to run the Z1. On the front of the controller is where you can connect your headphones via an 1/8 inch jack.

Get connected to your computer or iPad for your gig.

Get connected to your computer or iPad for your gig.


I really like what Native Instruments does with their hardware designs. Everything from Maschine to the Trakor Kontrol S4 are all well built and function incredibly well. This is certainly the case with the Traktor Kontrol Z1 as well as the new (and soon to be reviewed) Traktor Kontrol X1. If I had to find fault with the Traktor Kontrol Z1 it would be that there could have been a second FX control that could easily fit within this design at the expense of a smaller filter knob. It just seems a little excessive to have such a large filter/FX control knob on a controller that turns heads because of it’s small and compact design. One thing I also found to be a little strange was the only option for headphone input was an 1/8 inch stereo input instead of the standard 1/4 inch input. This may be less important to most because a lot of headphones have options for both connections. For me it seemed quite odd to break from that norm, but I guess Native Instruments are accommodating for the DJ that forgot his 1/4 inch adapter at home. If you think there is another reason for this, please leave a comment below to tell me what you think.

This is of course a rather minimal complaint about the Traktor Kontrol Z1 because I really like what Native Insturments have done with this new line of modular DJ controllers. They are ultra lightweight and portable, but without taking away from a desgin and feel that will keep any style of DJ very happy. If you are looking for a more portable rig or just something to play around with on the go, the Traktor Kontrol Z1 is a modular controller worthy of your time.

To pick up a Traktor Kontrol Z1 for yourself, be sure to visit us at our online store at



The Traktor Kontrol Z1 is a two channel mixer with a built in sound card. The Kontrol Z1 has the design and build quality you can come to expect from other Native Instruments DJ controllers. The entire unit is built of a hard plastic. All of the knobs and buttons are rubber and the faders are plastic.
On each channel you have gain control as well as a 3 band EQ. You also have a nice big filter knob which can also be used as an FX control. For volume controls you have a main volume knob at the top, and your headphone cue volume and cue mix in the middle. Below that are buttons to engage and disengage your headphone cue for the corresponding deck. You have LED lights next to the faders to indicate your line levels.
On the front of the unit is an ⅛ inch stereo input jack. On the back you have your RCA main output, a port for your USB connection, and a port for connecting the included power supply. Here is an example of the Z1 being used with an iPad and the Traktor DJ app.
To learn more about the Traktor Kontrol Z1 visit the blog linked below this video. To pick up a Kontrol Z1 for yourself, head on over to the UniqueSquared website. You’re watching