Native Instruments announced (with a lot of noise) last year ‘The Future of DJing’. Of course, such a statement was met with high expectations. When they finally presented the S8, a large majority of people were like, “Yeah, looks nice, but is that all”? However, along with S8, they also introduced the new D2 controller and announced the new STEMS format, which had everyone going “Hmm, will this change the future of DJing”? The D2 is now widely available, so we can finally have a look at this controller. The availability of the new STEMS format also makes the D2 really interesting for us!
My first thoughts when I saw the D2 was what to do with it!? I’d rather have my trusted X1 MK2 … Why? Because let’s be honest, having a screen is nice but you still need a laptop to run Traktor. Why not look at the laptop? It’s a lot easier with such a large screen, isn’t it? However, with STEMS, it all suddenly becomes a lot more interesting, because using the screen with it is just so easy! You can quickly look at what is running and what is not. Think for example of effects etc. How are my STEMS built up, when will the break-down start, and so on. The controller feels like you would expect from Native Instruments, simply great. It is not too light nor too heavy to transport, and just like it’s brothers, it can take a beating!
The Kontrol D2 enables you connection via USB to your laptop. Besides the USB connection, it also contains an USB hub, where you can connect multiple units like D2, X1’s or F1’s with each other. Of course you can also make the connection with your software. For each D2, you can connect two additional devices.
On the right you find a 15 volt adapter connection, because the D2 draws a lot of power, so he has to be connect to a power outlet. But no worries, with an adapter you can also divide the power to another D2 via the supplied adapter cable. This is a big plus for Native! In addition a on and off button and a Kensington lock at the back of the device. Because you will indeed be able to secure your gear properly.
The Kontrol D2 is a big unit, making it a little less convenient to carry. The X1 is a little easier, as it’s a good size that does not have quite so many bells and whistles. The D2 is truly a lot bigger, it has the same length as NI’s mixer, the Z2 and it is also a lot wider and a lot heavier than the Kontrol X1 … Please note, if you want to take this controller on the road never forget to bring your link adapter! You can link up the D2’s together, which is a big advantage, not just because you have less to carry around but also because it can still be difficult to plug in your equipment in at a club (so the USB hub also comes in handy). What Native has thoroughly thought about is that it has built in stands, to use it on mixer level or even at an angle, so you can use it exactly as you want.
The large screen really has its charms. You can take a quick glance at your settings, see how long you track will last, see what effects are active and how they are set. You can even directly change your beat grid on the D2, so yes, the screen certainly has its place. Okay, you could of course do it all right on your laptop, but when you’re on your laptop, looking at the Settings menu, you cannot see the decks anymore! Check out the settings via the D2, and you’ll still won’t see the decks.
You can by using the assigned button deck, switch between deck A, B, or C, for example, D. With this, you do not need to dive into the menu anymore. Very handy. It gives you the ability to switch quickly between two decks, so as soon as it’s activated, you can see an effect and whether a STEMS channel is active or not (and yes, that is certainly convenient in practice)!
The D2, like its big brother, the S8 has remarkably large pads. This is nice for the DJ who makes versatile use of these pads. You however need more workspace to enable your creativity sphere. Using an X1 or F1, you have way less space. While most DJs do not mind, I know plenty who take a Maschine with them purely as a controller, because of the great pads. For them, this is therefore a godsend. Of course these pads are illuminated and thus offer a higher level of light.
The D2 is developed as a real deck replacement. Basically, you use it differently to using an X1 in combination with e.g. your turntable or CDJ. But, as a full deck, it has everything, except for a physical pitch control that is. Apart from that, it can do everything, for example in comparison to a CDJ, but it also offers the screen with its additional value. You can directly, just like a CDJ, search for songs, load and view the waveform and as such, the D2 will not be used in combination with a CDJ easily, after all, just as a full deck solution. Perhaps as not just one but two decks, because you can very easily switch between them and have direct control over the effects of both of your track decks.
You can also add the D2 to a S8. That way your setup will have four full decks, where you will get four physical track decks! This not only looks great, but in practice should perform pretty well. You no longer have to switch between your decks on your controller but have an easy overview, because each D2 or S8 track deck is linked to a channel in Traktor! You can go even further, because you still have the ability to use four D2’s with a mixer of your liking. Sounds pretty awesome to me. Lets imagine you have four D2 in combination with the Rane MP2015 … That’s a thing I could get pretty excited about. 😉
Okay, the D2 looks pretty complicated, yet I think it is a convenient controller. The faders are striking, which we know from the Kontrol F1, with which you can control the volume of your remix deck. Of course you also can use the faders on the D2 with your remix decks. To that regard, there’s no difference with the F1, but the D2 was developed with the new STEMS format in mind, so now those faders are suddenly very logical because (like we said), STEMS are divided into four sub channels so you can individually control each STEM with these faders. You can give your mix an extra dimension because you create remixes live, especially when you simultaneously use STEMS for multiple decks. For example, you mix the vocals of deck A, bass from deck B and another deck for your kicks. Consider how you then can make a set where a lot of the limitations of hardware and music are gone and with your own creativity, can now do anything you want, as long as you know what are doing of course.
The D2 get assigned four FX knobs for all four effects channels that are available. For those effects, four buttons per deck have been assigned, which you can turn on or off the effect and intensity. It’s nice that you also can see the changes on the screen, which is ideal. The row of knobs directly below the screen are touch sensitive. Touch them and you will get immediate information about the values of the effects on your screen. If you let them go, the display goes back to deck mode. Underneath that, you find four sliders that allow you to adjust the volume, for example, of your remix decks or your STEMS.
These are eight multicolor backlit touch-sensitive pads, which can be used in four different ways. These are called: hot cues, walk, freeze and remix. You can toggle through four previously allocated buttons located directly along the eight pads. What do they do exactly? Hot cues seems pretty simple, here you adjust hot cues and you can trigger them. What seems also pretty obvious is you basically get eight preset loop lengths, among which, you can easily switch by pressing one of the pads and you can also play rhythms, especially if you use the quantize snap feature of Traktor. Freeze allows you to divide a selected loop under the pads. You can then play it on the music, by simply pressing them when and how you want to. Finally, there are the Remix Decks options, as you may be accustomed to from the Kontrol F1.
In principle, the Touch strip works about the same as you might be used by the Kontrol X1 MK2. You can quickly search through your tracks, as you would do with a platter. You can even adjust it so you have a scratch option. I don’t think that option is useful in a practical way, but anyway, you have the possibility. What you cannot do is use the Touch Trip in combination with the effects which I think is a real shame. I myself use it regularly with my X1 MK2.
As mentioned, the screen is one of the most beautiful things on the D2, because you can see pretty much all the settings instantly and modify them. To the audience, it doesn’t look like you are checking your email or Facebook instead of checking if you should change a setting or beat grid during your set. Isn’t this what we all want? To remain connected to the audience during our performance.