The flagship DJ controller in Native’s range is updated, but is it better? We find out in our Traktor Kontrol S4 MKII review
The updates to Native Instruments’ all-in-one DJ controller models (the S2 and S4) were big news upon launch. These two controllers are very highly thought of, and provide the closest control over the industry-leading Traktor software package. As a result, much was expected of their successors.
Of the two, the S4 is the ‘flagship’ model, offering four decks of control. How does this new update fare? We find out in our Traktor Kontrol S4 review…
Subtle aesthetic changes?
The first thing that struck me upon getting the Traktor Kontrol S4 out of the box is that it is remarkably similar to its predecessor (at first glance at least). Upon further inspection, there are several differences.
The trigger pads have now been switched from hard, opaque, plastic types, to rubber pads like those on the F1 remix deck controller. They’re backlit, too, but more of that later…
Other changes are subtle, but welcome- like the aluminium platter tops, slimmer fader caps and grey filter knobs.
Plugging the unit in and launching Traktor Pro gives the S4 an altogether more ‘neon’ look, however. The remix deck buttons change to the set colours for loaded samples (very nice indeed), and the other buttons are all far more brightly lit than the MKI version.
Rearranged Sample Deck section
As you may have gathered, one of the biggest updates to the MKII version is the revision of the sample decks to ‘remix decks’. Here, four remix slot buttons (per deck) allow the DJ to trigger samples from the remix directly from a track deck. With some preference tweaking, these can be mapped to other, very handy features (hot-cues, loop settings etc). They revert to standard sample trigger functionality when the deck is set to control a remix deck, however, with the buttons beneath becoming mutes.
The other big news with the S4 was the addition of iOS compatibility. Though, in this climate, some may say that this is inevitable, the launch of the Traktor DJ indicates that iOS is a significant part of Native’s plans. When used with the S2 and S4 MKII, it becomes very clear just how seriously Native is taking this platform. These controllers truly open up the performance of the app, with a responsiveness that is way ahead of anything else currently available.
*It should be noted that (at time of writing – 06/11/13), Traktor DJ is not fully iOS7 compatible.
Native have not hidden the fact that this is an update rather than a complete revision. Though some have lamented this fact, in my book, this is no bad thing at all. The in-built audio interface is of the same very high standard, the layout is very familiar, and visually, everything maps to Traktor closely.
The tweaks that they have made are significant, however. The extra weight of the platters is a big plus, and when depressed, there is a more satisfying feel. In addition, they feel (to me at least) to be more responsive and accurate than the MKI version.
Visually, everything is much clearer and better lit- even in the dimmest situations. The remix decks make a huge difference to the creative options available, particularly when preferences are played around with. Those who like to make their controllers their own will really love these.
The ‘flux’ buttons are another welcome addition. Flux mode allows a track to play in the background whilst the jog wheel is manipulated, or the track is scratched. When released, the track picks up at the point it would have been had it played continuously. This makes it really easy to try scratch effects without completely wrecking your mix…
The ‘booth’ outputs make the S4 a far more ‘pro’ proposition, too, and a new ‘preview’ mode (pressing the browse button down) makes cuing even more intuitive, too. Phew…
As you can see, with a few minor updates, The Traktor Kontrol S4 MII has grown considerably in stature. It could be said that the two controllers had to be updated, as in many ways Traktor software had ‘outgrown’ them.
However, to say that the updated features simply bring it inline with the software is to undersell it massively. For many, the new remix deck features alone will open up a whole new world of creativity. Flux mode provides a ‘safety net’ for DJ’s to try scratching, and get more creative with their mixes, too.
The iOS performance is excellent, too, really showcasing why Native is taking the platform so seriously. Response is excellent, and Traktor DJ even has features that Traktor Pro doesn’t. The inclusion of a connector cable in the box is a very nice touch, too.
Match this with the improved faders and knobs, the same excellent audio quality, and the inclusion of Traktor Pro, too, and the S4 really is something of a bargain. Highly recommended.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.