Previewed online in November 2009, this slender panel of rubberized knobs and LED-backlit buttons revealed Native Instruments‘ New Year’s resolutions in more ways than one. The Traktor Kontrol X1 (MSRP: $199) shows its German parent company finally resolute in offering, well, native hardware support for its premier digital-DJ software. Plus, the USB-tethered unit operates on proprietary NHL high-resolution protocols to rival MIDI in precision of bi-directional response with visual feedback. Coupled to Traktor Scratch Pro 1.2.4, this plug-and-play, hot-swappable dualdeck controller instantly maps to intuitive track selection, cue assignments, and filter-triggering settings.

The northernmost potentiometers offer customizable mid-points for comfortably adjusting multiple parameters of dual FX channels (activated as three pre-chained effects or a single one selected from the banks by a tab-forward function). In the mid-section, two firm push encoders scroll smoothly through tracks to assign the A/B channels. And the lower two knobs plus 16 buttons access/edit loop and transport functions. The shift button expands each button’s functionality—to toggle multiple cues, beat/pitch effects, etc.—and a second assignable MIDI layer exists for the presetphobic.

Ultimately, the X1 best suits gear-augmented live remix artists (the kind likely to already have NI’s Maschine, M-Audio’s Trigger Finger, some Allen & Heath, etc.). It’s not a complete solution, as there’s no mixer, EQ, or actual audio interface (though knowing Native’s style of integrated suites, it’s likely more custom boxes will follow). But the X1 does offer a stable, seamless extension for tweaking Traktor, coaxing traditional in-the-out DJs further out into a more active element.