The Traktor Kontrol X1 is an exercise in minimalism, reducing the various uses of Traktor to a few encoders and buttons and a compact form factor. But while it supports MIDI for use with any DJ software, its “high-resolution” mode – as with Maschine before it – uses a proprietary protocol. The unit will sell for US$229 when it ships in February of next year.

The control arrangement of the Kontrol X1 fits a selection of essential parameters into its narrow form factor. The controls are divided in right and left into the two decks, with four sets of effects controls each. There are dedicated controls for browsing through tracks, and cueing and tempo controls. The case can be used either horizontally or vertically.

The strategy appears to be to focus on controlling loops and effects, while those who want to work with digital vinyl can view this as a consolidated mixer / browser interface.

There are some nice extras, too. The box itself comes with Traktor LE, meaning someone can get started with digital DJing for about two hundred bucks. And for another $49, you can add a custom stand and case – details too often left out of controllers.

We saw this controller in September, in use in Richie Hawtin’s set. On NI’s promotional site, Richie has something interesting to say about Traktor, which is that it isn’t necessarily getting used by everyone in the same way:

You can put ten people on a stage with Traktor, and each one of them will have a different way to be creative and bring out their personality through it.

My sense is that this hardware will be well-received, because it is focused on some clear functions, it’s compact, it’s cheap, and it can be used in different ways by different people. Those trends have proved successful in controllers of late. On the other hand, it seems that a generation of hardware controllers that could have employed an open, standard, high-resolution control protocol are doing anything but. Ableton has locked certain software features to certain controllers, and in its controllers uses only MIDI. NI uses higher-resolution data, but has not continued to actively develop OSC. That could mean that, while open-source and visual software continues to progress, we may have to wait years before commercial music software comes to support any standard for this kind of communication using anything other than low-resolution MIDI. The big question may be, is there any incentive to commercial makers to do otherwise?