Not all too long ago, Native Instruments announced a brand new controller to their Traktor DJ controller line, the Kontrol S3. Meant to bridge the gap between the entry-level S2 and professional S4, the S3 introduces 4-deck mixing in a simplified and accessible layout. This actually made me realize that there aren't really any controllers meant for the intermediate level DJ. Why that is could be for a multitude of reasons, but usually, DJs have to go with beginner level gear, or fork out a chunk of money for professional-level equipment and figure out the rest on their own. In this review, we'll be putting the new controller to the test, highlighting its key features and performance abilities.
What is it?
As stated, the S3 is a new controller designed for the intermediate-level DJ who's ready to take their mixing skills to the next level, without breaking the bank. It takes the best of the S2 and S4 controllers and puts them into a neat and accessible package. Visually, it resembles the S2 controller more than the S4 and features similar sturdy build quality.
The biggest feature is the inclusion of four channels, which allow for 3/4-deck mixing. The user can switch between the decks with the press of a button, and, as per the other controllers, can browse tracks, loops, stems, and samples all directly from the controller.
A feature carried down from the S4 is the inclusion of full-sized ins/outs such as a MIC input, XLR outs and 1/4" booth outs. As a bonus, the MIC input doubles as a line in, allowing you to plug in external gear such as synths and drum machines. While the S2 does have RCA out, the XLR outs make for a better and more robust sound.
Each deck has 8 beat pads, which you can use to punch in Hotcues, save loops, and launch one-shots and samples when using Remix decks.
Like the S4, each deck has on/offs for the fx, something that the S2 did not have.
What do I think?
Like I said earlier, I found it rather interesting that there aren't (m)any controllers aimed at the intermediate DJ. One reason could be that there isn't too much of a market for controllers like this, or maybe there are, and Native is about to take over. Either way, I think they did a pretty good job with this controller. When you're at the stage where you're ready to take things up a notch, there is, at least, for the most part, a certain balance of enough features to help you push forward, but not too many to overwhelm you. You need to get out of your comfort zone, as it's the only way you'll progress, but if you've got too many bells and whistles, it usually hinders your progress.
I think the winning feature of this controller is its simplicity, but for the price, I would have like to have seen more features carried over from the S4. One such thing, although relatively small, would be the same knobs as the S4. DJ controllers are tactile experiences, and if I'm going to be paying $650 for a controller, I want it to feel that way. That's not to say that's true for the rest of the controller, as the faders, pads, and jog wheels feel great, which also raises the question as to why they skimped out on the knobs. Will any of this affect your performance? Most likely not, but we are honest people around here.
In terms of size and weight, it's easy enough to carry around anywhere, although it's a bit too big to fit in a regular backpack.
Is it worth the money?
That depends on what you are looking to do, and your definition of worth it. If you are willing to play the long-game, and really develop your skills, without spending $1000, I would say that this is most certainly worth checking out. Learning how to mix on four decks is not easy, but cutting out the clutter and allowing you to really focus on it will certainly be an advantage.
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