- Over the past 14 years, Native Instruments' Traktor has wrestled its way to the top of the digital DJ software pile. While Traktor Studio and various early versions laid the groundwork for the popular software, it was Traktor Pro in 2008 that revolutionised the approach of both the software itself and NI's own DJing arm. The bespoke hardware that soon followed redefined the controller market for digital DJs. Ranging from affordable and portable units like the X1 and F1 to all-encompassing mammoth controllers like the S4, the vast majority of users now opt for NI's own branded units, making Traktor's sometimes complex custom MIDI mapping a welcome thing of the past.
But that doesn't mean the search for the perfect controller is over. No size will fit all, even when designed by the company who've made the software. And though the smaller units are affordable enough to bolt on to a larger setup, no matter how many knobs and sliders you add, you only ever have two hands to tweak them with. Portuguese company Imaginando looked at Traktor's 32 effects and, seeing potential beyond the current limitations, created TKFX.
TKFX is an iPad app that connects to Traktor over Wi-Fi, either ad-hoc or via a router. Running a middleman app called TKLINK on your laptop, TKFX can communicate with Traktor as a MIDI device. Once the downloadable TSI file is loaded via the Import function in Traktor's preferences, everything is mapped as it should be. Select your computer as the link on the iPad and send MIDI clock from Traktor (for sync-based effects like delay), and you're ready to start tweaking.
The premise behind the app is that you map one effect parameter to the X-axis and another to the Y-axis. Then, along with the dry/wet control, you can be much more expressive and creative with a single finger than you could otherwise. The release function is similar to the release on a synth—when your finger is lifted from the (virtual) pad, the release time defines how long it takes for the dry/wet to return to completely dry. This is a nice touch and adds to the smooth flow of the effect, though dry/wet and release are both global. It'd be nice to be able to set both separately for each effect unit and bank.
If you're not already familiar, Traktor's effects work in single or group mode. In the former, there are three parameters available for one effect, while in the latter, three effects are available with one carefully chosen parameter for each. With up to four effects units available, it's possible to have up to 12 effects active at any one time. TKFX takes it a step further, offering four banks of four units, meaning you can have up to 16 units loaded and ready to tweak.
This is a great function and worth downloading the app for alone. Even if you continued to use your current controller to tweak parameters and used TKFX to cycle through banks of effects, it's a worthy addition to your setup. However, even with a potential 16 effects at your fingertips, it's still only possible to assign one parameter to X and one to Y. I'd like to see the ability to add multiple parameters from different units and banks to each axis and even scale them accordingly. You could end up with an extremely powerful effects controller that goes way beyond any other hardware device. Right now, with only two parameters at a time, TKFX only matches what you can already do on any other controller, with the added bonus of hot-swapping effect units.
Activating all four banks and decks, all effects and their units and parameters and all function buttons will cost you £0.70 each. It's a total of £4.20, and it's very likely you're going to want all six activated. So although this app is listed as free, you'll need to spend to get more than the most basic control out of it—though at under £5, it's not a lot of outlay for the potential.
Apart from the limited axis assignments and the lack of individual dry/wet and release for each bank or unit, it's hard to find fault with TKFX. There was very little latency even via a Wi-Fi router (rather than ad-hoc), and the release function can smooth over any minor timing issues. I tested TKFX alongside NI Kontrol S2, and although you have to import Imaginando's third-party TSI, the S2 operated completely as expected with the last MIDI message received taking priority. In testing, I found that using the standard S2 effects controls for effects decks 1 and 2 and assigning 3 and 4 to TKFX worked best to avoid any conflicting MIDI messages. There were a few times when Traktor's GUI got confused and stuttered as multiple MIDI messages were sent at the same time from different sources, though the audio was never affected.
In the end, it comes down to how comfortable you are relying on wireless connectivity in the booth. TKFX will not work over wired USB, and although I didn't have any issues in testing, there is still a sense of trepidation around wireless control for DJing and live performance. That said, in conjunction with a dedicated hardware controller, TKFX is a simple but effective solution for extended Traktor FX control.
Ease of use: 3/5