Traktor DJ for iPhone and iPad showed that Native Instruments could bring a strong DJ experience to iOS, but the apps were inherently limited by the complete lack of physical controls. To try and answer that concern, the company is launching the Traktor Kontrol Z1 — it's a small, physical, two-channel mixer that works with the Traktor DJ app and lets you free up the screen of your iOS device to focus specifically on manipulating the "waveform." (Traktor DJ’s visual for the songs you have cued up replaces the more traditional virtual turntable similar apps use.) Once you’ve set up your iOS device with the Kontrol Z1, you can use it to manipulate faders, filters, effects, and the EQ without having to change the interface on your iPad or iPhone. In this way, the Kontrol Z1 really lets your iOS device act as the "turntable" while the Z1 handles all the duties of a mixing station.
The hardware itself will look familiar to anyone who has spent time with a full DJ setup, though the Kontrol Z1 was definitely designed to be a highly portable device. There are some nice touches included — it has a built-in 24-bit soundcard that NI says can boost the output of your iOS device to "club-ready" levels. It also charges your iOS device while you play, so you won’t have to worry about dropping out because of battery concerns. And if you’re a user of NI’s Traktor Pro 2 app for Windows and Mac, the Kontrol Z1 will play nice with that software as well. Lastly, for those who haven’t purchased any of NI’s software, the Z1 will come with Traktor LE, the company’s entry-level mixing software for Mac and Windows. At $199.99, the Kontrol Z1 is a much bigger investment than simply buying one of NI’s iOS apps — but it should prove to be a useful addition for those more serious about their iPad DJ rig.