Traktor Pro 3 and the New S2 and S4 DJ controllers

Native Instruments have recently dropped the announcement of new DJ controllers and the long anticipated arrival of the Traktor Pro 3 DJ software. Whilst I have been sat on the sidelines of traktortips.com for some months now, struggling to prioritize any motivation for contributing to the site, I could not pass up an opportunity to comment on this latest foray back into the scene by Native Instruments. So hello, it’s great to see you again.

What’s New

Well, despite my initial excitement, which still remains somewhat; there’s not all that much to report. Obviously you’ve likely read all the other DJ website musings and updates on the releases, and as we all know there’s no solid information on the software itself as yet. So we’re all a little premature for some proper reviews, but the excitement of new toys is guaranteed to get the juices flowing.

Software

As I say, there’s not much information available as yet, but the big question for me at least, is, “Will existing Traktor Pro 2 users get a free update?”

If you look on the Native Instruments website, they do say that if you were to buy Traktor Pro 2 now, you will get an emailed link to a free update. That’s exciting! I’m just wondering if they’ll honour this down the line too or if this is simply for new purchasers? We’ll have to wait and see. (leave a comment down below if you’ve heard anything on this.)

From what I have seen so far though, the user interface looks nice and clean, more modernized and sharper, but has completely maintained the design and layout so existing Traktor users should have no issue making the transition.

traktor pro 3 screen shot

 

Hardware

In a nutshell, the S4 and S2 hardware have had a much needed makeover and now look way more pro with nice pads, standard positioning of the pitch faders and bigger jog wheels. Comparing the new and old alongside one another; the looks alone will likely make you want to upgrade. The older units simply look incredible dated in comparison.

Kontrol S2 Mk3

Dig a little deeper into the S2 and we see that Native Instruments have removed the FX nobs. Now, this maybe a deal breaker for some, including myself. The old S2 has the effects controls built right into the unit and with that tactile control of the effects removed, this will likely deter people from the more compact 2 deck unit.

traktor kontrol s2 mk3

However, with the small “iOS” port on the back of the S2 we might be heading for an iOS interface for the effects. Time will tell, but my hovering over the “pre-order now” button ceased once I realized these effects knobs had disappeared.

They have included what I’d like to call ‘beginner effects’ to each channel though, so you can still twist a nob and look cool as the pre-set effect build is applied.

Kontrol S4 Mk3

So with the effect controls missing from the S2, it’s time to look at the S4, which does have the effect control knobs.

traktor kontrol s4 screens

Screens!

Yes! Now I think that’s a winning move. These little screens seem to display just enough of what we need to see during a mix.

  • Loop info
  • Time left in track
  • BPM
  • Key
  • Waveform
  • Track name

It doesn’t look as if we’ve been treated to a track browse view as yet, but this could still be a potential software update in the future. Or perhaps it does exist, but they are keeping that back as a surprise.

Larger Motorized Jog wheels

Haptic feedback is a cool new feature and will be a great learning tool for new DJ’s and will also assist in mixing without the need for headphones. Finding that first beat without headphones is now possible, great if you forget your headphones (yes you can mix without headphones) or if you’re doing a crazy ass scratch routine.

traktor kontrol s4 haptic feedback

Personally I’ve never been a fan of moving platters, unless there’s a vinyl record on it, but the new motorized feature might be a good tool for new DJ’s learning the trade with a view to transitioning to vinyl at some point in the future.  It could just be one more thing to go wrong, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

Mixer FX

As with the Kontrol S2, NI have introduced an in-channel software based FX knob on each channel. This is the ‘beginner effects’ option for applying quick effects, it is not yet known if this nob will be assignable to different effects within the software or if it is a fixed effect. I’m sure with some mapping skills you could set it to control whatever you want, but as for quick switching, we’ll have to wait and see.

traktor kontrol s4 effects

What’s Missing

Native Instruments are never going to please everyone, it’s just impossible. There’s definitely been a few upgrade request boxes checked in this latest iteration of their eco-system upgrade, but there’s certainly a lot of other potential features missing.

Aside from the missing effect controls on the kontrol S2, there’s still no simple way of transitioning DJ’s. I lean towards the idea of plugging in a USB stick from which to play your tracks. Pioneer have completely championed this idea with their latest controllers, allowing DJ’s to plug in two USB sticks making the handover super smooth.

For Traktor users to do this, the process is a lot more complex. Either setting up two completely separate systems is required, or the following DJ has to insert their music into the first DJ’s laptop to access their tracks, trapping the first DJ in place unable to remove their laptop.

There’s also the potential to link up two laptops, but this is not an option for beginner users who want a simple solution to DJ’ing back to back in the spur of the moment. This style of DJ’ing has killed the impulsive nature of yesteryear when a budding DJ could take his records to a party hoping for the chance to say, “Can I have a mix?” and step up for a few tunes.

It is yet to be seen how the “HUB” USB port on the rear of the unit will operate, will this offer a potential to connect two laptops? Let’s hope so.

traktor kontrol s4 USB HUB port
Hub Port now on the Kontrol S4

Price

So initially, I was pretty happy with the price of the Kontrol S2 $399  in Canada, until I realized it had no effects controls.

Then jumping up to the Kontrol S4 causes one to spend $800 Canadian more?! A jump that in my opinion is not warranted. Maybe the pricing in US dollars is a little more reasonable, but for those in Canada the pricing is certainly questionable, especially when for $100 more I can buy a shiny new iMac desktop computer. A device that undoubtedly has a lot more technology in it than a midi controller.

Conclusion

I’m sure these updates will be great for new comers to the bedroom DJ scene as they have the appeal based on looks and simplicity in working with a rock solid DJ platform like Traktor Pro. And for those Traktor fanboys and girls that just have to have the latest, they will want to make the transition to the latest software and a controller that works with it.

However, for the more advanced DJ who’ve been in the game for sometime, and using Traktor, there’ two potential outcomes. Either they’ll switch the software (maybe a free update) and assign their existing (non S2 / S4) controllers to it, or it’s time to abandon Traktor altogether and move to Pioneer, who are doing such an awesome job in reaching out to those cross-over DJ’s, transitioning from bedroom, to house party, to club.

I was personally hoping for a system that I could use without the laptop, similar to the Pioneer XDJ-RX2. I know Native Instruments is primarily a software company and so this maybe a pipe dream, but maybe one day NI will let go of their need to keep such a closed system.

For now though, we are simply stuck ruminating and partially dribbling over the soon to be released DJ candy.

traktor kontrol s4 layout

 

 

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