Native’s ever-popular controller gets an update – we take a look in our Traktor Kontrol S2 MkII review
Native Instruments has been at the forefront of DJ software technology since the very beginning. Its Traktor package was one of, if not the first truly professional solution for the DJ working with a computer.
Since then, Traktor has built upon its reputation for power, stability, features and flexibility, and Native has expanded its catalogue with a range of tailor made hardware controllers for the software.
The S2 and S4 in particular have proved to be insanely popular, providing ‘hand in glove’ integration with Traktor, in a robust, intuitive and great-sounding controller.
Now, the Berlin software giant has updated these controllers to ‘MkII’ versions. We take a critical look at the ‘little brother’ in our Traktor Kontrol S2 MkII review.
So, what’s new in MKII? Bright lights…
Before we talk about what’s new in the S2 MkII, here’s a little summary of what the original was… Put simply, the S2 was a high quality 2-channel DJ controller with built-in high quality audio interface.
The new MKII version is the same, at its core- but what’s new? Plugging in and firing it up reveals an altogether more colourful experience. The four hot-cue/ loop/ sample trigger buttons now bear resemblance to the trigger buttons on the excellent F1 sample deck controller. A sample deck level controller effectively turns it into a third channel.
No surprise, perhaps. The new, multi-coloured, LED lit buttons are very welcome, however, with colours coordinating with the colour set for a sample within Traktor.
The jog wheels/ platters have also had an update. Gone are the plastic models, to be replaced with a new design featuring and aluminium top. They remain as tight and responsive as their predecessors, however.
Flux mode is now featured on each channel (aside from the sample deck channel) via a button above each tempo fader. If you haven’t used this before, this allows the user to move the jog dial for cuts, scratches, spin backs or other effects, whilst the track continues to play ‘in the background’. So, when you stop scratching and take your hand off the wheel, the track will play from where it would have been had you just left the track to play.
A booth output has been added, meaning that there’s now a pair of RCA outputs and balanced jack outputs.
The other big addition is that the S2 Mk2 is now iOS compatible, integrating with the Traktor DJ app.
Aside from this, NI say that tech specs such as dynamic range, output level, and cross talk have also been improved.
Using the S2
If you’ve used the original S2 model before, there’s little to bewilder you here. The new jog dials are very nice, with a more reassuring feel when depressed. In addition, they seem (to me) to be slightly more responsive and accurate. Making tiny moves just seems to have a greater sense of precision than before, something that could be said, in fact, for all of the controls on the S2 MkII.
In terms of construction, the S2 has a slightly more robust feel. Rotary controls are a bit more solidly placed, as is the chassis. The faders have new slimmer caps, and the grey filter knobs are a nice touch.
A big deal has been made on Internet forums about the new remix deck buttons (or lack of them) on the S2 and S4. I guess the speculating public always tends to ramp expectations up to levels where the finished product would never match it. Adding more of these buttons would have made the unit more expensive and bigger. Plus, for many people, 4 (or rather 8 in total) is more than enough, so why make the majority pay for features they won’t use?
Plus, if you really need more, you can always add a Kontrol F1 and get the maximum possible control over the remix decks.
The new S2 sounds great, too. Subjectively, there is a punchier, more dynamic quality to the audio reproduction. The new booth output is a very welcome (if not timely) addition.
The new remix deck control is great, and the RGB lit buttons are very cool. These are perfect for dropping effects, loops and other simple samples. However, if you are aiming for true controllerist mash-ups, then you’ll probably need the F1, too.
Flux mode is another very welcome addition, giving the Traktor packages cutting edge scratch control. For those dipping their toe into the world of scratching, this makes things a whole lot easier.
Using the S2 with Traktor DJ on iPad really demonstrates the power of this inexpensive app. Firstly, the performance is incredibly tight, and way ahead of any other DJ app. It also removes the need for synched, tempo locked performances.
Combine this with the fact that the hardware removes most of the need to navigate, or operate functions via the iOS device, and suddenly, the whole set-up feels decidedly more ‘pro’.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 MkII may seem ‘evolutionary’ rather than ‘revolutionary’, but the new features that it incorporates are the kind that might well change how you DJ forever. The sample deck control places even more creative options at your fingertips, and the iOS compatibility provides the potential to use an incredibly portable platform. In addition, the unit is built better, sounds better and looks better.
This is all at the same price point as its predecessor (before clearance price drops, of course) with a full version of Traktor Pro. For this money, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better specified, more versatile controller- never mind one produced by an industry leader.