New Traktor Kontrol S2: Native’s Answer To The Twitch?

Last updated 21 August, 2014

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The Traktor Kontrol S2
The Traktor Kontrol S2: A more portable S4 for two-deck controllerists.

Announced today, it ditches the four decks, shrinks the jumbo size of its bigger brother the Kontrol S4 to something more manageable, and throws in some innovative sample features to boot. We ask: Is the new Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 controller the company’s answer to the Novation Twitch?

First, take a look at Ean Golden’s excellent demo video to see where Native Instruments feels the innovation lies in this new controller. You’ll see sample decks have been brought right to the fore. In Native Instruments’ own words: “The two full-featured playback decks of the Traktor Kontrol S2 are complemented by the versatile Sample Decks of the latest Traktor Pro 2 software, which can add up to eight simultaneous one-shot samples or beat-synced loops to the mix.

“This effectively equips the Kontrol S2 system with a third channel that opens up a wide range of additional creative performance techniques beyond the typical two-deck paradigm in its product category.”

This will make sense for an awful lot of users who frankly don’t care for having four decks (and the extra size and complexity that brings to hardware), but who do care deeply about putting in innovative performances with the use of samples to mash things up. You only have to witness some of the radical DJing being done on tiny push-button and pad controllers to see that this type of big stuff can be done with small boxes. It’s often a case of what you leave out as much as what you put in that makes a difference – witness the innovation in the petite Novation Twitch controller, for example, a device which the S2 is closer to in concept than its bigger brother the Kontrol S4.

Leveraging hardware and software integration to the full

But just as with the S4, where Native Instruments has shown again that it has the upper hand here is with the tight integration between software and hardware. It is calling the sample deck control “2+1”, as in two decks plus a “third” channel of sample decks, and this works seamlessly with Traktor Pro 2, because of course it’s their software, their mapping and their hardware. Contrast that with the Novation Twitch plus Serato ITCH software. Almost as soon as the Twitch hit the street, ITCH 2.0 appeared, adding sample decks there too, which the Twitch – despite all its innovative features – currently simply can’t control at all.

Traktor Kontrol S2 review
It retains the build quality, backlit LEDs and jogwheel technology of the S4, but now has a two-channel mixer.

Out of all recent controllers, I think these two – the Kontrol S2 and the Novation Twitch – hold the most promise for controllerists, and this new launch has certainly given potential Twitch buyers a decision to make.

However, the jogwheels vs no jogwheels argument is still as legitimate as ever, especially as jogwheel control of FX is not possible out-of-the-box with the S2, unlike the S4 (the Ean Golden video uses a custom mapping), whereas the Twitch has jogwheel-esque FX thanks to its fader FX function. Apparently mappings have been made easier to customise on the S2 though, which with Traktor’s notorious fiddly remapping menu has to be a good thing.

The dedicated filters have gone too, there’s no loop recorder, and there are no external inputs any more (I couldn’t even see an emergency through, although I may be wrong) – but these are compromises that I suspect many DJs won’t really care too much about, especially as the most glaring of them – filtering – is still available in the main effects section.

Pricing and availability

Traktor Kontrol S2 will be available in October for a suggested retail price of US$669 / €599, which is certainly not cheap for a two-deck controller, but as the runaway success of the Kontrol S4 has shown, people are quite happy to pay for innovation and ease of use. Indeed, it will be fascinating to see how this impacts the success of the S4 on the shelves.

We’re looking forward to our review sample so we can give you the usual extended Digital DJ Tips review and demo video.

What do you think? Are you going to rush out and buy one of these? Do you think good effects and sample mapping are more important than four decks? Or is this a step backwards? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.