Native Instruments has always been at the forefront of DJ controller technology, with their wide range of gear suiting any digital DJ's needs. Their S-series controllers, which include the S2, S4, & S8, have everything you could ever ask for in an all-in-one solution, ranging from simple 2-deck to advanced platter-free professional grade gear. In this review, we'll be looking at both the S2 and S4, which were recently upgraded to the new MK3 models.
What are they?
As stated in the intro, the Kontrol S2 and S4 are DJ controllers designed in tandem with Traktor Pro DJ software and allow of complete control of the app. The S2 is a 2-channel controller, and the S4 is four channels. Both come with built-in soundcards, however, the S2 is much more limited compared to the S4 due to it being more entry level. What the S2 does have that the S4 doesn't, is the ability to connect with Traktor DJ 2 for iOS devices. Both controllers come with two DJ-style platters, multiple channels, and a mixer section. The layouts are similar, but the S4 has many more controls for the more advanced user.
How do they work?
Earlier, I mentioned that the S2 was designed to take the best of the S4 and shrink it down to an entry-level format. Its lightweight design makes it a breeze to carry to your next party. The S4 is a premium level controller and features brand new "Haptic Drive" motorized jog wheels. Spin the jog wheels to speed up or slow down tracks while getting them in sync in Jog mode, or manually adjust a track’s beat grid in Beatgrid mode. Both units are connected to the computer via USB and act as both a controller and audio interface. The S4 even allows you to connect DVS setups to expand your range of playing abilities. Both units also have mic inputs, FX sections, and looping/beat pads. The S4 also comes with full-color LED screens that allow you to accurately see waveform, looping, key, and BPM information, track title, remaining track time, Stems, and Remix deck samples.
What do I think?
If I'm to be completely honest, reviewing DJ controllers isn't the easiest task. The reason being is because not only do you have to learn how to use the controller, you have to know how to use the software as well. I've said on past controller reviews that, while cool and allow for interesting and unique ways of performing, are not for me. That being said, one of my main judging criteria for reviewing a DJ controller is ease of use when unfamiliar with it and the software it's controlling. I've used Traktor a bit, but not enough to say I'm super comfortable with it. Basic functions on both controllers were easy to learn and understand, whereas the looping took a little bit to figure out. Of course, you could (and should) generally read the manuals of your new gear, but I made it a point to see how difficult it was to figure out how to use the features sans manual.
The S2 is obviously much easier to get a grasp of since it's much fewer knobs to learn. The S4 took longer, but the controls are much deeper. Both ran seamlessly as advertised by Native Instruments, which was expected. The Haptic Drive on the S4 is a really cool feature. It almost feels like vinyl in the way it vibrates when you cue up your track. The S2 obviously doesn't have this feature, but perhaps in the future, it might. The build quality on both is superb, as Native definitely puts a lot of effort into making both robust and durable. Looks wise, they both look great- very sleek and modern.
Should you buy one?
If you are looking for an all-in-one solution, and are a big fan of Traktor, these could be a great way to get more hands-on, depending on how much you want to spend. Or, if you want a simple controller to take to afterparties or just to travel with, the S2 could be a great option.
Overall, I'm impressed with both the S2 and S4. They work flawlessly with Traktor 3 and provide an enjoyable playing experience. It might take you a bit to fully understand the S4, as you are able to really dive deep into Traktor with it, which in itself will require time to learn as well. If you are looking to get a DJ controller to use with Traktor, that retains a club standard layout, I would say that these are your best options. The S4 is pretty pricey though.