Native Instruments – Kontrol D2

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Marco Rodrigues enjoys the new Remix feature on Native Instruments’ Kontrol D2.

When so much of what we equate with the future is still rooted in past formulations, a lot of new products seem to take a 180 degree turn and focus on reducing the world of possibilities digital products can offer. Today, new developments in analogue mixers, synths and drum machines are helping break new ground for live performances and DJ sets, and this is something, back in the digital realm, which can be safely said about the Kontrol D2 controller by Native Instruments.

My first impression was the Kontrol D2 felt well built, looked elegant, is compact, and easily portable. It has a vibrant colour display and the image quality on the LCD screen is clear and impressive. The colour palette is fully customizable, the layout simple and, by condensing various layers of functionality into its main features, the Kontrol D2 later proved to be quite intuitive too.

Four truly is the magic number here. From the effects knobs and switches, its buttons at the bottom through to the rows of pads and the assignable faders below the display (and the deck selectors at the top right), everything seems to derive directly from the Traktor’s quadruple deck architecture.

The Kontrol D2, therefore, is more than just an improved gadget to use with Traktor. The controller, paired with its software, is a real expansion, enabling optimal use of innovative features newly presented by Native Instruments. Even for the less technically ambitious DJ out there, two D2s connected to a mixer allows for full control of four decks simultaneously, with looping, file browsing, effects and cue-point triggering capabilities at the ready without ever having to even glance at the computer.

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The absence of any traditional jog dial and pitch fader in the D2’s layout – the norm for DJs who prefer to beat-match manually – comes across as a bold move for a piece of DJ equipment this high tech. The D2 still allows you control the pitch manually, and with a knob that’s used for browsing, you can make adjustments to the placement of a beat with the touch-sensitive horizontal band that lies beneath the pads.

By pressing the FX Select button under the selectors you can choose which effect you want via the display. The Deck button on the bottom right switches between decks in the same pair we’re operating in – A and C or D and D – and the use of the Shift one on the bottom left, followed by one the decks in the selector area, will switch between pairs of decks.

The rows of fours pads work brilliantly and can be set up to serve different functions, such as setting up hot cues or locking into loops of different lengths. Looping length can also be changed in real time by the second main rotary knob on the right. But the truly ground breaking feature of NI’s Kontrol D2 has to be the Remix decks; these add a whole new creative layer to the modern DJs obsession with manipulation during performance. If, as a DJ, you perceive fixed arrangements to be limiting you’ll absolutely fall in love this feature.

Remix mode will split a normal deck into four separate tracks, and with the use of the newly launched Stems file format, containing information about distinct elements within a certain track, it means you’re suddenly capable, through the four faders above the pads, to bring in and out the various parts of a track as you see fit. Furthermore, each track on each Remix deck can be looped independently and affected with different effects, and a Remix deck can also be built from scratch by capturing portions of tracks for each one of the available slots. This creates perpetual power to transform, blend, arrange and layer in real time.

When used with the aditional commercial file format Stems, the new Native Instruments Kontrol D2 controller decisively pushes DJing into real time remixing, meaning this controller is one of the most powerful tools for digital DJing ever imagined. Perfect for those in search of a lot more than just synchronising records.

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Marco Rodrigues

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