Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

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Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by Daniel Osakwe

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Lots of new features
  • Durable

Cons

  • Setting the device up might take some time
  • Not really suitable for beginners

Reviewing a controller is a lot like writing a book review. You have to assess the product in its full context, including all the other tools you have at your disposal. What does it do? How does it compare to other controllers? And is it worth the money?

The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a new addition to NI’s DJ controller line, aimed squarely at the professional DJ crowd. It has a few key features over its predecessor, including the ability to record your performance to a USB drive, and to a computer or other device. It also has a headphone out, which allows DJs to monitor their performance and a USB port for connecting to your computer for backing up your tracks.

The new Kontrol S2 Mk3 is an update of the Kontrol S2 Mk2, released some years ago, but it has a few new features.

OVERVIEW

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a two-channel Traktor Pro 3 device. There are a lot of new features even though it lacks the Haptic Drive jog wheels, onboard screens, and numerous FX knobs of the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3. The S2 is excellent as a gateway into Traktor.

Anyone who purchases one is likely to keep it for life because it functions flawlessly as a second or backup Traktor controller, regardless of how serious or skilled the DJ is. That’s a lot to say about a device that, with software, costs just under $300.

SETTING UP AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • Classic design
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Setting up might take some time
  • Software installation takes some time also

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

It’s possible that the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is the most significant controller Native Instruments has ever produced. Because it is an openly entry-level product that only costs $299 for the controller as well as a complete edition of Traktor Pro 3, this is the fact. Actually, this makes Traktor’s first major option for a novice DJ.

This is significant because a lot has changed since the release of the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk2 years ago. Since then, small, affordable, functional DJ controllers have sold in vast numbers (including the Numark Mixtrack series, the Pioneer DDJ-SB and RB series, the current Pioneer DDJ-400, as well as even more straightforward but wildly successful controllers like the Numark Party Mix).

This means that in order for the revitalized Traktor platform to maintain and increase its market share, it must appeal to the same people whose introduction to DJing was precisely through the use of this kind of equipment. That is obviously what the S2 is made to achieve.

It honestly feels fairly nicely made for a $299 controller. Although the box is made of plastic and is lightweight, it has just enough weight to feel substantial. When you perform the traditional “diagonal bend” on it, it doesn’t creak, and the jog wheels are somewhat larger than you might anticipate and have the ideal amount of weight. Overall, it is simple, but in a good sense; consider minimum as opposed to inexpensive.

Traktor Pro 3 is still not the simplest software to install, but things have gotten better over time, so as long as you are diligent and follow the correct steps, everything should go smoothly. For now, let’s take another look at the device itself before we look more closely at the software elsewhere.

Except for the two sets of eight-colored rubber performance pads that “click” in a satisfying manner while in use, all the buttons and knobs are made of plastic. The decks are arranged in the increasingly popular non-symmetrical manner, while the cue and play/pause buttons are large, square, and in the now-standard vertical position. Each deck contains a button that can be used to slip and reverse.

To make room for the enormous jog wheels, the pitch faders are tucked to the right of the performance pads, making them quite short.

The mixer uses the standard configuration of a crossfader (sufficient and fairly loose), stiff-up faders, gain/hi/mid/low controls, and one-knob FX, which has five levels, to handle the two available channel decks. There are separate knobs for sampler volume, master volume, headphones volume, and headphones mix; there is no booth output in this setup.

Each channel has a modest six-bar cue VU and buttons to change the keylock and sync. Although the hot cue and sample options available on the performance pads are quite rudimentary, looping performs better thanks to encoders for loop size and loop motion per channel, something Traktor has always excelled at.

Around the rear are two enigmatic mounting points, possibly for an iPad stand, along with RCA outs, and power in. On the front, there is only one single 1/8″ headphones socket.

According to first impressions, the controller is a satisfyingly simple piece of equipment that is confident in who it is intended for and isn’t attempting to be something it isn’t.

PERFORMANCE

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

Jog wheels

It’s entertaining to utilize the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 controller. It’s partially due to the fact that the jog wheels seem “perfect” (they don’t wobble, and they’re a good size), and also because the area isn’t overly cluttered.
The performance pads aren’t particularly large, but that’s okay because they only control a few functions. Even though the pitch faders are set to +/-20%, they are of great quality and can easily be adjusted up to 1/100th of a BPM.
Even though the VU meters are modest and only monitor the inputs, not the master output, you probably won’t redline the master anyway if you don’t redline your individual decks. Channel gain meters are always preferable to master VUs in my book.

FX controls

Even though the unit is less cluttered because there aren’t full effects engine controls above each jog wheel like on some other DJ equipment (including the S4), the new mixer effects, which are controlled by the large knob beneath the EQs, sound great and will be more than sufficient for the majority of users.

More on those outcomes. The effects are set to filter when the FX Select button is not depressed. There are actually eight macro/mixer effects to pick from in the software, one of which is a long-requested noise effect, which is encouraging to see. Press any of the four FX Select buttons to replace the filter with another macro/mixer effect.

Although the “Rev” (reverse) button next to the Flux button appears to be a slip function, it is actually a censor function (think reverse plus Flux). Although pressing Flux while holding down Reverse would give you a “real” reverse, that makes sense.

Sampler

Even though it has two decks, this controller can be thought of as having “two decks plus eight sample slots.” It operates as follows: The software’s “Remix Decks” setting is applied to decks three and four. You insert a Remix Set into each of decks three and four. To make this process easier, you can see the decks on the screen. You check that the top “slots” of the Remix Sets contain the four samples you intend to use on each deck.

Press the “Samples” button first, then use the top four pads on each side to play the samples and the bottom four to mute/enable them. You may then stop, start, mute, and play those samples using the performance pads.

It’s quick and straightforward, and for DJ drops and idents, that’s all you’d need to do; however, for more inventive applications, you can also sync loops to the main decks. The upfaders for decks 3 and 4 have been replaced by a single volume control that is located in the mixer’s middle.

Again, looping is handled by two encoders per side and is straightforward but effective. The Loop encoder controls the length of a loop by doubling or tripling its value. Traktor’s Move encoder, a function that many DJs, particularly techno DJs, adore, changes the current loop as it is playing.

We also liked that pressing Shift then Sync freezes the tempo faders completely to prevent accidental nudges should you be mixing primarily using sync. Quantise and Snap have survived, albeit on a single button (you click the button with Shift to engage Snap).

Grid allows you to move the beatgrid forward and backward and pushing it starts a metronome in your headphones that is set to the master pace so you can hear how much the music whose grid you are editing is ahead of or behind that tempo. Traktor’s beat gridding requires improvement as a whole, has not advanced in years, and lacks the capacity to correctly grid tracks with naturally fluctuating BPMs.

Library Browse

Let’s talk briefly about how the library operates. The controller chooses to have a browse area for each deck, which may be one too many sets of buttons but makes browsing and choosing music simple. First, you hit a button to access the library view. This is crucial because Traktor is “busy” and your library doesn’t take up much space on the majority of screens in the “performance” views.

Your track is chosen by the encoder and pressing it loads the track. It’s fantastic that a second button allows you to add tracks directly from the unit to your prep folder. In the meantime, the software cycles through the tree items on the left or the favorites folders above the main library depending on the key combination you’re holding down while turning the encoder.

In some ways, the S2’s intelligent and restrained design “tames” the still incredibly sophisticated Traktor software. Combined with the good build quality and those fantastic jogs, the S2 is enjoyable to use and gives the impression that it costs more money than it actually does.

Conclusions

This is a really daring controller in its own right. It is risky for NI since it is blatantly entry-level, period. For the user, it’s bold due to the choices the designers made regarding what to keep and remove, as well as how they implemented many of the functions they kept—which, by the way, they did extremely effectively.

The S2 is excellent as a Traktor entry point. Anyone who purchases one is likely to keep it for life because it functions flawlessly as a second or backup Traktor controller, regardless of how serious or skilled the DJ is. That’s a lot to say about a device that, with software, costs just under $300.

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