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Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Review

by Matt · 5 comments

in DJ Equipment

This Traktor Kontrol S4 review can help you sift through the hype and make a decision on the controller you want.

There’s a massive buzz on the web about Traktor Kontrol S4. I thought I’d wait to get better product feedback from real DJs before posting my review of this digital DJ equipment.

I cut through the BS to show you what’s really important. For me, this boils down to user experience and sound quality. These are what sets good controllers apart from average ones.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review

I prefer seeing the production model tested by real pro DJs first before giving an opinion.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review – Full integration

You know that Apple make both the Mac hardware and software for Mac home computers right? You may have heard that this is one of the reasons why the Mac is meant to be so stable when compared to a PC. Everything in the software is optimized for the hardware.

The Traktor Kontrol S4 by Native Instruments is similar in that it’s also a fully integrated hardware and DJ software solution.

It’s a great size for a DJ controller. Not too big to transport easily (unlike the Numark NS7) and big enough to look cool.

It also appears to be scalable enough for both beginner and pro DJs to use with confidence.

What advantage for you? Stability my friend. The last thing you want is for your DJ mixing software to get stuck in a set and embarrass you, leaving you red faced and having to reboot everything. With everyone laughing and pointing at you.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review – 4 decks to mix with & 4 channel mixer

Many of you won’t mix using 4 decks to start with, but after a while you’ll start to see why having 4 different audio sources can be interesting.

Using 4 decks isn’t for a casual DJ who plays out once a month and rarely practices. It’s for the guys and girls who want to add some creativity, splice new sounds into their mixes, mix 3 or 4 tunes together (yes people can do it) and basically let rip on the sounds.

Traktor Kontrol DJ software

I do like their 4 channel mixer function. That is Kool & the Gang! Good, sturdy knobs and buttons give you close control.

Having 4 audio sources also is great for when a new DJ has to hit the decks running with no dip in the beat.

Imagine you play for 1 hour, everbody’s dancing, then another DJ comes on, or your buddy. You have to keep them on the floor!

He or she can seamlessly plug their audio source into the Traktor Kontrol S4 and play away without either of you sweating!

Just the dancefloor will sweat. You’ll head off and get a nice cold beer of course, happy with your set.

Customized features and fast response

You can manipulate the user controls, map new functions and change buttons to do perform new functions.

This isn’t really much different from other controllers.

What is good is the precise jog wheel response. If you beatmatch using your ears (which you should be doing) then this will appeal to you.

But what I don’t really get is Traktor talking up their amazing beat sync function and the precise jog wheel. If it’s so cool at syncing, why bother so much with the jog wheel?

I guess Native Instruments are trying to appeal to both experienced and beginner DJs here.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review – 24 bit Sound Card

For me, this is more important than anything.

Give me a basic controller with a high performing sound card over anyadvanced console mixer with a normal sound card any day.

If you think the sound quality isn’t important then think again.

It’s the most important feature. When DJing, you should venture out of your booth and listen. If the sound isn’t right, then you need to fix it.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review

You should avoid playing MP3s of old tunes that are of low quality. On big speakers, this won’t sound right and people’s ears may hurt.

Of course, what a 24 bit sound card can do is give you warmer, richer sound. Even those MP3s which you weren’t so sure about can sound better.

Regardless of whether you use 192kbps or 320kbps audio files, the experience will be more positive not only for your listeners or your dancefloor, but more pleasurable for you with a good sound card.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review – Upgrade to Scratch?

If you like to Scratch then you’ll need to get the Traktor Scratch version.

I’m surprised you can’t actually scratch and be a turntablist with this version of Traktor.

The scratch version is out in April 2011.

Traktor Kontrol S4 review – the verdict

Pros

  • This controller is great. For me, it’s the fact that the DJ will enjoy him or herself and not get stressed and lost with the controls.
  • Having the 4 channel mixer is a massive plus.
  • I do think having a 24 bit sound card is a must and you should only be considering digital gear which has at least that.
  • It also looks extremely cool.

Cons

No scratching

I think that if you’re a turntablists, you should consider using Serato as Traktor seem to be less adapted for turntablism. This isn’t a problem for those guys mixing EDM, retro or indie as they’ll never be scratching.

Price isn’t for everybody

The price is not low, but $899 (£800, €850 due to it costing more in Europe) gets you good, high end material with reliable software that’ll last you for the next 5 years at least, and probably more.

Have a look at it, see the user reviews and decide for yourself if it’s really for you.

Read more reviews and compare prices for Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 on Amazon.com 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Josh T August 12, 2011 at 7:29 am

This is the baby I’ve been using, along with a VCI-300. Yes, some of us DJs use 2 different controllers depending on our mood 🙂

And I do like to f**k around scratching as much as the next man in some of my gigs. When I do, I take my VCI-300 (The Buick) . When I mix EDM and whatever, I roll out the Audi – AKA the Traktor S4.

Reply

2 C-Mack September 11, 2011 at 8:15 am

I have owned an S4 for a few months now.. and cant seem to find a roll on function for the loop tool. Can you reduce the loop gate but then roll straight on so the tune continues to play in the right “live” spot?

Reply

3 Matt September 11, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for your comment – I think you’re talking about either setting cue points or simply coming out of a loop, is that right?

You can use the loop function as you know and shorten your loop, cut it in half, whatever you like with the S4, no problem. Then, to come out of the loop (roll straight on) you end the loop or you set a cue point to directly go to the desired part of your track.

I hope this answers your question 🙂

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4 Jeff Man Power September 12, 2011 at 3:20 am

This machine is a beast, I got one and haven’t looked back since. Forget scratching, who does that anyway? What?

Reply

5 Matt September 12, 2011 at 4:32 am

You’d be surprised how many DJs scratch Jeff. Scratch their arses that is!
Really, there are plenty of guys out there who like mixing hip hop and funk for which scratching is part of it.

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