Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 Digital DJ Controller Review
The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is the new and second iteration of the original Traktor 4-channel Digital DJ Controller that was released a few short years ago under the Kontrol S4 name. The new Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 has a few hardware updates that will complement the new updates that the Traktor Pro 2 software has received over the last few years. The Native Instruments DJ controllers have an outstanding history in respects to the way they always match up to their Traktor software perfectly. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is now available for $800 at retail and our full Video review will let you know if its worth the investment. Please see our review of the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 for the details on the two-channel version of this same DJ controller by Native Instruments.
Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The new Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is the new 4+1 deck Digital DJ controller for Traktor that controls four decks simultaneously, while the S2 MK2 is the new 2+1 deck Digital DJ controller to control up to two decks at a time. All of the original features of the S2 and S4 are still present in the new MK2 editions including the internal Traktor DVS-capable soundcard which resides inside the S4 MK2. Some of the new updates to both new controllers will include new RGB Multi-color backlit buttons for Cue points and remix deck control, upgraded hi-res aluminum metal plate jog wheels, Flux mode buttons, and plug-and-play compatibility with the Traktor DJ iOS app. There is also a hint of better construction overall with more "reinforcement" for the knobs and chassis. Please be sure to check out our review of the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ controller which adds is the compact two channel version of this same controller.
The body of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is made up of mostly thick plastic with a metal top surface over the deck/jog wheel sections and a shiny polymer material over the mixer section. I originally complained that the first iterations of the S2 and S4 were plastic, but my durability fears have been put to rest as they’ve been proven to hold up under very harsh DJ conditions over the last few years. All of the knobs have a plastic post underneath and I would have liked to see metal reinforcements in this area, however, the jog wheels now have a metal push style surface at the top. Overall the build does feel better than the first iterations of the hardware and they feel like they will last just as good as or better than the originals. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 still has the same footprint as the original S4, meaning that all the bags and cases that were created for the original will also work for this controller. Even though the build quality is good, I would still recommend purchasing an additional bag or carry case if this controller will see a fair share of travel during usage.
This is an all-in-one DJ controller which comes bundled with the FULL Professional edition of Traktor Pro 2, so the user has everything they need to get started right out of the box. The user only needs to supply the computer and music files to start spinning. Inside the box, there is a small sheet that lists the Hardware and Software serial numbers so that the user can go online and download the full software. After the software is installed on the computer, the DJ can then connect the Traktor controller to the computer using the supplied USB cable and the software is ready to go. The user can then simply connect the outputs and inputs as necessary to start getting busy. The process is very easy and simple as the new Traktor software already has the drivers installed for the S2 MK2 and S4 MK2. When using the controller with Traktor DJ and iOS devices, the user simply has to connect the supplied iOS cable to the iOS device and launch the Traktor DJ App. Again, the process is simple plug and play to get started. On a side note, the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is also a MIDI controller like the S2 MK2 which means that it can be customized with a mapping to other DJ software of their choice when using the controller editor.
The inputs and outputs on the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 consist of a ¼-inch headphone output on the front, ¼-inch microphone input on the back (with volume knob), RCA (unbalanced) output, ¼-inch (balanced) output, and a USB and power cable connection. The ¼-inch output has a small toggle switch next to it which allows the user to assign the ¼-inch output to either the Master volume control knob on the face of the unit or the recessed volume knob on the rear. This is a nice update to the original as the user can now have two independent outputs with volume control for monitoring or recording. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 also has an RCA Line or PHONO switchable input for input Channel A and Input Channel B. This allows users to easily connect two CD or Vinyl decks with ease. Furthermore, these inputs are software DVS Soundcard inputs (4-in/4-out) that when connected will allow DJ’s to pass timecode signal through the inputs for Digital Vinyl or CD timecode control for Decks C and D. This was a standout feature on the original S4 and it’s great to see that they’ve included the same feature on the new iteration, that way it’s easy for users to add external decks to the mix when they want to.
There is also an old-school round MIDI IN and MIDI OUT connection on the back along with a ¼-inch footswitch input for advanced controllerist techniques. The Traktor S4 MK2 comes with a power plug but it doesn’t have to be connected in use. The USB connection to the computer is enough to power the unit, but the lights are dimmer and the volume output was also slightly affected as the volume dips just a bit when the main power is disconnected.
The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 still has most of the features and functions that a Traktor Pro DJ would want for mixing, beatmatching, and everything in between. All of the knobs (EQ’s, Effects, etc.) have a nice rubberized coating to them and they allow for adequate adjustments that always line up perfectly with the Traktor Pro software. These are the same knobs that are in use on the other Traktor Kontrol devices and they always make accurate adjustments. The EQ knobs towards the middle of the unit have enough space for my bigger fingers and aren’t cramped together which makes them really easy to adjust on the fly. The three-band EQ knobs are FULL-KILL when completely turned down and they sound good overall. In the middle of the entire unit, there is an oversized grey Browse knob for file navigation and library navigation.
At the top and in the middle lie the Master Volume knob and there are small level meters on each side of the knob to see where the volume levels are in the master mix. Below the Browse knob are the familiar Master, SNAP, and Quantize mode buttons that allow DJ’s to keep everything within the same BPM when mixing and manipulating the music. Below these buttons is the Loop Recorder section which allows users to record the live output and play it back as a loop on the fly. This presents even more layering options to DJ’s during live performances. The Loop Recorder section consists of a Dry/Wet knob, a size button, a delete button, a record button, a play button, and a preview button to pre-listen to the loop before making it live.
The Cue/Mix and volume headphone controls for headphone monitoring are found on the front face of the S2 MK2 along with the headphone quarter-inch socket and the microphone volume control knob. Under the EQ knobs for each channel are the four headphone CUE buttons that are used to pre-listen to decks A, B,C, and D before mixing live. Under each CUE button is a small window that illuminates to show the user which decks are currently playing and active.
All the way at the top, each of the four channels have a Gain knob and they also have an FX1 and FX2 button to activate the two effect bank modules onto that particular deck. Below the EQ’s of each channel are the oversized grey Low Pass and High Pass filter knobs.
The Crossfader in the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 feels somewhat similar to those that were used in the original S2 and S4 but they now feel more accurate than ever before. It still feels a bit on the plastic side, but the crossfader has a loose quality to it and a really short (less than 1mm) cut-in distance which makes it ideal for scratching and pulling off some hard fader trickery. The option to adjust the crossfader curve lies within the Traktor Pro 2 software and it was great for scratching in the sharpest cut setting and just right for mixing in the softest setting. The Line faders have much more resistance to them and they are good enough for good and accurate mixing. There are also LED VU Line Level Meters towards the sides of the line faders to make sure your music is always at the correct levels. It’s great that this controller gives the DJ’s the options of both full LED meters for each line and for the master level as well as Gain knobs to get the levels just right, but Traktor Pro 2 does a good job of getting most of the levels even from the start.
One of the new welcomed improvements from the first S4 to the new S4 MK2 is the inclusion of multi-backlit RGB buttons for the transport and Cue/Remix buttons. The illumination of these new pads is VERY bright when using the controller with wall-power. It’s bright in direct light and at night which is a nice overall improvement. There are twelve rubberized performance pads found below each jog wheel which work great for live performance button-mashing and drumming. These pads feel exactly the same as the pads on the F1 or on the Traktor Z2 mixer with a nice tactile feedback and an audible click can be heard when they are pressed. The bottom four buttons are used for transport controls including Play/Pause, Cue, Sync, and Shift. The top four pads are used for launching hotcues, loops, and for muting the top four positions of a remix deck. The top four buttons (which are a little smaller than the others) in this section are used for launching the top four positions of a remix deck. The color of these buttons also indicates what type of HotCue/loop/Sample is stored in that position.
Directly above the HotCue/Remix pads is the loop section. There is manual Loop In and Loop Out illuminated buttons for manual loop creation. On the outsides of the Loop buttons are two endless encoders that are responsible for editing and moving loops (left knob), and growing or shortening the auto-loop length (right knob). The Loop length knob can also be pressed to start auto loops and loops can be saved in the HotCue pads or remix slots once they are captured. The knob on the left also allows the user to advance the track by the same bar-length that the right knob is set to. You can see the set bar length via the LED indicator located above the loop length knob. This LED section also lets the user see the currently controlled deck, the keylock activation, and whether the deck is “On-Air” or in Remix mode.
Towards the outsides of the deck controls are the tempo adjustment faders. They both are found towards the outside edge of the controller for easy manipulation without accidentally touching other controls when trying to ride the pitch for perfect beatmatching. The tempo sliders are a bit on the small side, but they are accurate (0.1% increments) and they work well for accurate beatmatching.
Above the tempo sliders is the new FLUX mode button which activates Traktor’s new FLUX Mode. When the FLUX button is pressed and the FLUX mode is turned on, the DJ can then play a track and press cue points, scratch, or activate loops any way they wish and as soon as the cue point, scratch, or loop control button is released, the track will continue to play where it would have been if the track wasn’t manipulated at all. It’s pretty hard to explain but it’s just like Pioneer’s CDJ Slip-Mode feature and its very fun to use. Right next to the FLUX mode button is the Reset button that brings the tempo of the track back to absolute zero without moving the tempo slider.
Another area of improvement with the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is with the Jog wheels. The Jog wheels are actually the same size as those found on the first iteration of the S4, but these are now made of metal. They still have the same push-top style of operation, where they must be physically pressed down like a button in order to activate the top scratching surface. The new metal plated jog wheels have better weight to them and feel more substantial and durable than the last jog wheels in the lineup. They also feel just a bit smoother than the last jogs as well. The Jog Wheels still have very high resolution and perfect accuracy in terms of latency. They are perfect one-to-one in operation and we expect nothing less from the company that designs both the software and hardware. The jog wheels still feel more mechanical than digital since you have to actually press the top surface instead of having a touch-sensitive top. The top surface is metal with ripped-plastic sides which are used for nudging and slowing down the music for beatmatching. The Jog wheels can be in either Scratch Mode or Mix mode depending on the style of play that is favored. You can toggle between the two modes by entering the preferences menu within the Traktor Pro 2 software. Above the jog wheel is a Deck change button to switch the jog wheel’s control to the other layered deck, and there is a Load button that will load the currently highlighted track into the active deck.
Since the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 comes with the full version of Traktor Pro 2, there is a very wide range of effects with two effect banks which can handle a total of 6 simultaneous effects. All the way at the top of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is the effects Section with an FX Bank 1 on the left and an FX Bank 2 on the right. There are four knobs and four buttons per effect module. The FX knobs have rubberized coatings and they also have a center click so the user knows when they are in the middle of the effect parameter. The FX1, FX2, and FX3 buttons are used to turn on/off the effect and all illuminate to show the user what’s active at a glance. Then the FX1, FX2, and FX3 knobs are used to adjust the saturation of the effect. The last Dry/Wet knob adjusts the overall parameter of the effect module. When the shift mode is pressed, these FX buttons cycle through the effect for that position and allows the user to change effects on the fly. When the Mode button is engaged, the user can switch between a single effect module and triple effect module for that deck.
Traktor DJ App
The new Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 and Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 both come bundled with a 30-pin iOS cable to connect the controllers directly to an iPad or iPhone with the Traktor DJ App. The App can be purchased from the Apple App store and the devices are perfect plug-and-play in operation. If you have a newer iOS device with the smaller cable connection, then you will need to purchase an additional adapter to make this work. Although I don’t use iOS devices to DJ regularly, I am happy to report that main on-board control functions such as hotcues, loops, effects, filters and jog wheel control work just as good on the full blown Traktor Pro software as on the Traktor DJ App. There is also a Freeze and Slicer function that chops the beat up into various parts so they can be remixed and re-ordered on the fly as seen in the video above. This is truly a great professional DJ solution in a small package. The iOS device also charges as it is connected to the controller, but the controller must be connected to wall-socket power in order to function.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In conclusion, the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is a very welcomed improvement and update to the original Traktor Kontrol S4 and it’s still probably the best four-channel controller for controlling the Traktor Pro software. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is very powerful controller with everything necessary to start playing right out of the box including the professional Traktor 2 DJ software. The S4 MK2 also has dual RCA inputs with an internal 4-in/4-out Traktor DVS Soundcard that is capable of passing timecode control for external Vinyl or CD deck capabilities. The S4 MK2 has perfect jog wheel and fader mapping with the software for low-latency operation. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 also has all the extensive and advanced controls for DJ’s right on the face of the unit and its also plug-and-play with Traktor DJ iOS devices.
There were only two minor gripes that I found with the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2. The first issue is that like the original S4, the new Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 doesn’t have XLR outputs. This may be a deal-breaker for some DJ’s but I personally found that the balanced ¼-inch output can easily handle the professional sound duties. I also found that the crossfader, although scratch-worthy with low cut-in distance, still felt cheap and plastic-like in construction. It would have been nice to include the same mini-innofaders found on the Traktor Z2 mixer for a smoother feel or at least make the crossfader easily user-replaceable.
If you can get over these minor issues, we will recommend the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 to any professional DJ who wants a powerful four-channel Traktor Pro DJ controller with the best control over the TP2 software. If you are a Traktor DJ who is looking for a four-channel DJ controller to compliment the software perfectly, then the S4 MK2 should definitely be on your radar.
Pros & Cons
- All-In-One 4+1 Channel DJ Controller w/Traktor Pro 2 Software
- Additional RCA Inputs w/Internal Traktor DVS Soundcard for External deck Timecode Control
- Excellent Compatibility with Traktor DJ App for iOS Devices
- Ultra Low-Latency & High Resolution Jog Wheels & Faders within TP2 Software
- Extensive Advanced Features: HotCue, Loop, Remix Decks, FLUX Mode & FX
- Booth & Master outputs w/separate volume control knobs
- No XLR Balanced Outputs
- Crossfader is Non-User-replaceable and has a Plastic Feel