Native Instruments have been working hard recently, not only to reduce the collateral of a leak on the DJ Tech Tools forums, but with the actual design, conception and release of their latest Kontrol series controller the Kontrol s8.
I was informed of this latest piece of DJ equipment on September 9th 2014, but decided to be a gentleman and not release it to the masses. A quick google search for traktor kontrol S8 did however uncover some interesting pictures. (Update: October 13th is the official announcement, shipping October 30th)
What’s new on the Kontrol S8
The S8 seems to combine technology from different Native Instrument controllers, the F1, the Z1, the Z2 and Maschine Studio. It is a mass of buttons, knobs and faders, and at first glance, it resembles the kontrol S4, however there’s one very important and severe change: the jog wheels having been replaced.
No More Jog Wheels?
Correct, you heard me right. Native instruments have taken the very bold move to remove jog wheels from their flagship controller. This is a topic that has been discussed for many months now and there are certainly very mixed opinions on the matter, with some being extremely reliant on their jog wheels and others not so interested.
This is why removing them is such a bold move.
Native instruments stand to lose a large following through the removal of these jog wheels, but then they are setting the stage for a shift in the art form of DJ’ing.
Built in Screens
Many avid users of the jogwheels, might however be swayed by the beautiful looking screens. The screens look to be of high definition, with colour, showing a range of controls and information, and is something many of you have been calling for in your controllers, but more on the screens in a moment.
Kontrol S8 Layout
Initially it appears that Native Instruments have put two kontrol F1’s either side of a mixer and added screens, but on further inspection, it appears to be more than that.
So let’s work down from top to bottom:
The effects controls seem pretty much the same, but now will have larger, rubber back lit buttons to replace the small round LED’s. They have also introduced an effect select button, so now we won’t have to press shift to move through our effects library. The encoders seem to have a small orange outline to them, but at the time of publishing, it is not known if these are LED’s, or simply markings.
The gains section has received some new buttons. These buttons appear to be the same as those used on the Kontrol Z2 for swapping between internal and external. Another addition, is the buttons labelled ‘1’ and ‘2’, just above the word ‘mic’, which to me feels as if there’s either two mics, or two outputs that can selected. It could also be a way to apply effects to the entire mix, rather than simply one channel?
The mixer section has received a few nice looking updates too. The EQ meters have been moved up alongside the EQ knobs and each channel has been given a dedicated filter button and knob for instant High Pass or Low Pass filters, something that will appeal to many DJ’s.
Effect select buttons have now been moved to the top of the channels and display arrows instead of the numbers ‘1’ and ‘2’.
The cue buttons have been given a softer blue colour, it is not know if these colours are customizable at this stage.
The headphone mix controls have been moved up from the front of the controller onto the centre of the mixer, to join a new ‘Booth‘ control and a larger ‘Tempo‘ encoder. Which I would guess will control the overall master tempo. As this is in the same place as the existing browse button, it might initially cause a few errors with those DJ’s converting from the S4 to the S8.
Moving these controls to the main mixer section has freed up some space on the front of the controller for two headphone jacks, one 1/8″ and another 1/4″. Another great feature for those times you misplace the headphone jack adaptor. Also on the front is the introduction of a cross fader curve adjustment and switches that appear to offer the ability to select different inputs for each channel. This, to me, indicates that the S8 will be capable of being used as a stand alone mixer.
Going back to the top of the controller, the most outstanding feature, and one I think will please most, is the inset screens.
These screens appear to show the wave form, cue points, the deck information and even cells of the remix decks, including their waveforms and settings. This is a huge leap into the future of DJ’ing and will please so many people that have been asking for this feature. At the very bottom of the screens is a small section that seems to offer the parameters of each remix deck channel. The small arrows to the side of this section seem to allow the user to move between the remix deck channel parameters, or maybe allow the selection of different effects?
I am excited to see the capabilities of the screens as there appears to be many different functions to the buttons set in the screen, including scrolling, browsing and even a settings button.
The four encoders, buttons and faders below the screens are likely there to control the remix decks, but alongside this section is the most intriguing part of the Kontrol S8.
The cross-hatched section on the far sides of the kontrol S8 contains; ‘capture’, ‘edit’, ‘hotcue’, ‘loop’, ‘freeze’, and ‘remix’ buttons along with an illuminated mystery encoder. Due to the light surrounding this encoder, I will suggest it is used to indicate that something is live and thus may be linked to a sampler section, or be used to control the editing process of samples, such as the start and end points of a remix cell. This encoder may also be linked to looping and when illuminated, tells us that there is a live loop in the mix.
The ‘hotcue’, ‘loop’, ‘freeze’ and ‘remix’ buttons are likely selector buttons that make the main 8 pads under the faders switch between each type of operation.
Under this section is a ‘Flux’ button and a ‘Deck’ button, both of which are self explanatory.
The standard transport controls sit at the bottom, just below a touch strip, similar to that found on the Kontrol X1 mark 2. The question remains however, is the touch strip enough compensation for the missing jog wheels?
At the time of writing, I have not been able to see an image of the back of the S8 and as such am unable to comment on various inputs. But I feel it’s safe to say that the Kontrol S8 will not have a USB stick input for laptop free DJ’ing, but I stand to be corrected.
As I write this prior to any official release information, I am likely missing a lot of the features that will be exposed at the official time of release of the kontrol S8, but one thing that I did see was the price tag of $1199.
Given that there are 2 screens built in, a bunch of touch sensitive controls, an audio interface and a copy of Traktor Pro 2, this is not a bad price.
I feel though, that we are losing the essence of what DJ’ing is, at least for me, and it is the simplicity of mixing music together. The introduction of screens is amazing, but the loss of the platters for me might be too much of a shift for me to handle. I never want to lose the skill of mixing by ear and the touch strips just won’t feel as tactile as a platter.
As we introduce more and more buttons and more and more options, things start getting a little too complex for my liking. When I look at the Kontrol S8, I feel excitement, yet an underlying feeling of anxious confusion.
Perhaps after I have been allowed access to one for a period of time my stance will change, but that won’t be happening anytime soon, unless Native Instruments decide to send me one for testing purposes.
Whilst I am sure this controller will change the face of DJ’ing, in some way, and will provide countless hours of fun and excitement for many enthusiastic new age DJ’s, I will be sticking with my Kontrol S4 mark 1 for the time being.
Feel free to discuss this article with me on twitter or send me a message. I would love to know your thoughts on this latest offering from Native Instruments.
(Edit October 13th 2014 – Native Instruments finally announce the Kontrol S8