Ever since it first arrived on the scene, the Traktor Kontrol F1 has maintained its status as the absolute best solution for controlling the Traktor software’s remix decks. This is due largely in part to the fact that the Kontrol F1 has historically been the only hardware option for taking full advantage of the remix deck’s functions. However, now that controllers like the MIDI Fighter 3D (also firmware compatible with Remix Deck control) have hit the market and the folks at Native Instruments have unleashed expanded MIDI mapping capabilities for the Remix Decks in their latest Traktor update, does the Kontrol F1 still hold up? I think so, and here’s why:
Two things the Kontrol F1 definitely has going for it are its build quality and aesthetics. While that doesn’t at first seem like too much of an excuse to pick the Kontrol F1 over its competitors, with the sheer amount of MIDI controllers on the market today which all offer a high level of ergonomic control, looks definitely matter. If they didn’t, no one would buy CDJ-2000s! Like most hardware released by Native Instruments, the Kontrol F1 has a rugged metal casing and a sturdy faceplate casing and a sturdy faceplate, topped with grippy rubber knobs, smooth faders, and an array of sensitive pads backlit by multicolor LEDs. One thing I’ve definitely not seen on a controller of this size is the LCD readout, which helps you determine what exactly you’re controlling at any given time. The overall look is consistent with other products found in the Kontrol family and with the Traktor software itself, meaning that an all-Native-Instruments DJ setup would look very slick indeed.
With Native Instruments’s Kontrol series, integration is the name of the game – and the F1 is no exception. The ability to plug and play with a MIDI controller this complex is just something competitors will never have. Even though Traktor makes controller mapping fairly straightforward and even more so with the availability of mapping files online, this still takes time and a fair amount of decision making, and you’re likely to be bending over backwards to adapt your third-party controller for the Remix Deck’s control scheme. With the F1, you have a product designed specifically to accomplish one task: offer full control of the Remix Decks in the most efficient and ergonomic manner possible. Another cool feature is the ability to tweak controller options and calibrate knobs in a separate tab of Traktor’s options menu.
You might think a $199 price tag shouldn’t be a bragging point for a compact controller whose function is generally relegated to one realm of the DJ experience. I beg to differ. First of all, the Kontrol F1 currently comes with a $49 e-voucher to use toward Native Instruments software including, but not limited to, Traktor Pro 2. Second, the Kontrol F1 can be used for much more than its intended function, as it has an open MIDI mode allowing for use in a variety of different software as a DAW controller, drum pad, or a scaled down APC-like Ableton controller. While many other controllers suit these functions, none of them match the quality and looks of the Kontrol F1. Last, even if you’re only using the F1 for Remix Deck control, think of the possibilities that have been unlocked for you. You’ve essentially been granted the prime functionality of Ableton Live (multiple simultaneous clip launching over groups of four channels) within your favorite two- or four-deck traditional DJ software! How cool is that?
Sure, the use of the Remix Deck is no longer limited to the Kontrol F1, but so far this mighty controller has shown no viable competitors. For now, if you find yourself interested in Traktor’s Remix Decks, the Traktor Kontrol F1 is your best bet – you will not be disappointed.