Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 Review

November, 2019

Edit – NI Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is currently unavailable but we recommend the newer MK3 version as it is just as good or better!

If you have a home-studio, chances are that there is a Native Instruments product in it. Whether it is Guitar Rig for your guitar effects, Kontakt or Traktor for your mixing and mastering work, this brand is deeply integrated into the music world. Their first Controller, the MK1, made a huge splash in the DJ environment by being unique in many ways and more importantly – super affordable. It is cheaper than almost all 4-channel mixers and beats models such as the Roland DJ-808 simply for that reason. It is also ideal for beginners with a little more cash on their hands since it gives you everything you will ever need in the initial stages of your development but also provides professional tools for the later stages. 

Our Verdict: After the release of the popular S2 controller, the introduction of the S4 created a lot of buzz. Pro-quality all the way, this controller is top of the line and features intuitive controls that even the beginner will feel comfortable experimenting with. We love how this model’s controls are laid out, the realistic effects, and the smooth jog wheels. We’d definitely recommend this model to pros and aspiring DJs who want a versatile controller they can truly get creative with. Click here to see if it’s still available…

Now let’s dive into the features of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 and see what sets it apart from its predecessor and other competitors.

Product Overview And Features

A little on the pricey side, this controller does offer the type of performance that will make you feel as though you got your money’s worth.

First, since we all know why you are all here, let’s start with the comparison between the older model (MK1) and this new one.

Right off the bat, you see a multitude of colors all around the controller. It has RGB buttons which are covered in a rubber-like material making them smooth to the touch. With the MK1 there always was the issue with the buttons getting stuck when pressed down. Here there is no such problem. These new buttons feel very tactile and are super responsive making you want to play around with them a lot. The cue controls are vastly improved from the MK1 as well.

The issue we had with the button’s colors and lights is that they aren’t particularly visible in daylight (when powered via USB). When plugged in an outlet they are just barely visible during daytime and are nicely illuminated in the dark. It is meant to be played in the dark, so that really isn’t a big issue and the brightly colored appearance combined with the aluminum jog wheels makes for a very cool look once you set it up in the club.

One thing that is important for the previous MK1 users is that their power supply won’t fit here.

The Jog Wheels

As we said, the new ones are made from shiny polished aluminum on top. The top part is actually the only one that differs from the previous model. Everything else in the jog wheel construction remains the same.

When scratching the new wheels feel nicer and are far less clunky when pushed down to engage scratch control. It feels great mainly due to the new silicone dampening and the magnetic brakes Native Instruments use. For people used to the old ones, these won’t take than a few days to get used to.

Other Differences

Unlike the previous model, there are TRS outputs here which can be switched between booth and main output. For the booth mode there is an individual volume knob.

There is additional control features over your Remix Decks which give you a lot of customization and adjustability options. With the MK2 you can map third-party controllers if you need more options so don’t worry if the built-in ones don’t feel enough.

The MK1 couldn’t control the famous Flux feature unless you mapped it to a button of your choice. Now, there are two buttons just for that located next to each jog wheel.

The button you used to toggle in and out of your browser before is now mapped to playing the track you highlighted in the preview player. If you hold it down you can use the “browse” knob to find a track and check for its breakdowns and levels.

Find out our other top 5 contenders in our Full Buyer’s Guide. There you will also get tons of information and professional tips.

Now that we’ve gone through some of the major differences, here are some more unique features of the newer MK2 model…

Sound Quality Redefined

The 4-channeled 24-bit (@96kHz) integrated sound card pretty much raises the MK2 to professional levels rendering it a great choice for any DJ who wants to up his game. The sound is great for the money and there is little to no distortion or noise no matter what power source or cables you use.

Another thing which stands behind your sound and multitude of controls is the Traktor Pro 2 software. This software is one of the market leaders and is a product of over 15 years of work and innovation. Native Instruments is basically the company that created this niche of DJ softwares and carved the way for newer and smaller companies. The levels of control you get with their Traktor software is matched only by other programs such as Ableton or Serato DJ Pro.

Speaking of Ableton, your system will be compatible to the bone with that particular software as they worked alongside with NI to create the MK2. You can use your Traktor 2.11 with Ableton Link. The best part is that this is a free update for the new users (and unfortunately paid one for the ones who have the older versions).

Inside your bundle there is a lightning cable which allows quick connection with any iOS device. There are iOS apps for Traktor Pro 2 and the Traktor DJ version.

Performance

On the controller you’ll notice that the effects section is equipped with a mode switch, however, the process of assigning a switch to a bank isn’t straightforward. If you want to use four effects banks you’ll only be able to assign a single bank to a deck. If you want to be able to route a deck to other effect banks then you’ll need to purchase an external controller, otherwise doing so is impossible. The inability to have multiple effect routings can be a major drawback for users and seems somewhat limiting.

Additionally, you may be disappointed that this controller lacks a USB hub which could add to the model’s usability and versatility.

The controller’s layout is similar to what you’ll find on past models by Native Instruments, but with this newer model the manufacturer has included a Flux button located over the pitch fader. The Jog wheels have also received an upgrade that gives them a more pro feel thanks to the new metal caps.

This model also gives the user more control options via the controller manager and remix decks, and offers a more user-friendly setup compared to the S2 model Native Instruments produced in the past.

Basically, in terms of performance, the manufacturer still needs to go back to the drawing table for certain features such as the limitations with effects banks, but overall, if you’re someone who’s searching for a control that offers plenty of great plug and play options, this is your go-to model.

Before we conclude this review, let’s check out some of the interesting and most notable pros and cons of the S4 MK2.

Advantages

  • Visually stunning (especially in the dark)
  • Amazing sound quality for the money
  • Super cheap compared to other 4-channel mixers
  • Comes with Traktor Pro 2
  • Works flawlessly with Ableton Link
  • Compatible with all iOS devices through the iOS app
  • Sturdy construction
  • Lightweight
  • Professional-grade jog wheels

Disadvantages

  • Lights are too dim during daytime
  • Lacks a built-in display
Final Words On The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2

Djequipped.com Product Rating Updated November, 2019: (4.5/5)

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 DJ Controller

Whether you’ve owned controllers in the past or this is your first model, the S4 is a true pleasure to use and experiment with. The manufacturer continues to produce bigger and better controllers year after year. While the S4 does feature several similarities to the popular S2 model, the upgrades are obvious and can make a world of difference in terms of usability and performance.

The S4 MK2 by Native Instruments is a thing of beauty but the good things don’t just end with the looks. The amount of controls you get, the great integration with Ableton, the free Traktor Pro 2, and smooth-feeling jog wheels is what will guarantee an amazing user experience. Native Instruments have also vouched to keep updating the OS for years to come without charging its customers. This means that buying the MK2 is a good investment and will by what we’ve tested over a long period of time, it won’t give you any headaches ever. For the solid construction, professional level of controls but the lack of built-in displays we gave the MK2 a four and a half out of five stars rating.

Edit – NI Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is currently unavailable but we recommend the newer MK3 version as it is just as good or better!
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