The Traktor Kontrol S4

Native Instument’s Traktor Kontrol S4 has arrived at our warehouse and is now shipping.  There was a lot of hype around this unit and we were lucky enough to get our hands on it a few days early to give you the lowdown the day it dropped.  Check out the video above to get the overview on the Kontrol S4 and see parts of a routine from yours truly.  Read on to get my initial impressions on using the Kontrol S4:

The biggest difference between this and other controllers I’ve tried has to be the jog wheels.  As a turntable guy, I’ll preface my point of view on this by saying that I don’t think any controller will ever truly simulate what it feels like to scratch on vinyl.  Even if the controller market comes close just the action of playing on a smaller unit makes the user experience vastly different.  Where as other controllers rely on a touch sensitive surfaces to enable the scratch control in Traktor or ITCH, the S4’s jog wheel actually presses down like a button.  Depressing the top of the jog wheel to scratch seems like a more fail safe system over touch sensors, some of which I’ve found tricky on other controllers.  The wheel itself is raised with a rubberized rim much like a CDJ, so for those used to mixing on CDJ’s these jog wheels might hit closer to home. Vinyl DJ’s looking for a perfect turntable simulation wont find it here, but if you’re jumping into a controller setup these wheels are highly responsive and leave a lot of room for practice and improvement of your current scratch techniques.

Native Instruments has also introduced new features to a version of Traktor built custom to the S4.  In Traktor Pro S4 (ships with every unit) you can run four decks in traditional song playback mode, or put decks C and D into “Sample Deck” mode enabling you to load up to four loops or samples into each.  Once loaded you can launch these loops or samples from the cue point pads built in to the S4.  The pads themselves are a heavy rubber and definitely capable of handling some MPC style drumming.  The greatest feature of the sample decks is that they synch to your other tracks and you can scratch them with the jog wheel the same way you can a normal track.  In essence it’s like having eight Ableton Live style clips available within traktor.

Controls for the new built in loop recorder are situated in the middle of the mixer layout.  The loop recorder itself is an innovative feature that functions almost like a fifth deck letting you record a loop live from any audio source in your software or your analogue and microphone inputs.  Those loops can then be dumped into your sample decks and synched to your other tracks and preprepared loops.

The effects and filters are the same you’re used to in Traktor Pro.  The knobs on the S4 have a nice feel and the larger filter knobs are particularly fun to reach for in the mix.  The unit itself is solidly constructed and the black on black brushed metal and plastic is a mean look.  Quarter inch outs on the back ensure nice loud output and the sound card supports 24 bit playback for high quality sound.  Analog inputs let you run your turntables or CDJ’s into the mix as well.

Even having played on the S4 for only a short amount of time I can say this is not only the most comfortable controller I’ve played on, but also the one I see as most capable for developing advanced routines with practice and performance.  When approaching a controller I think it’s important to think about how you’ll DJ differently on it as apposed to comparing it to your current way of DJing.  It’s telling that Native Instruments has thought through not only the physical layout of this controller, but the software updates that come with it to really change the opportunities for DJ’s to create beats and remixes on the fly.  I think we’re sure to see S4 users embrace this unit and really take the live controller and performance game to the next level.

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