Review & Video: Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ Controller

Review Summary:

The S2 is truly portable, having the right balance of features rather than everything possible crammed in. It wisely strips hardware features back to doing the basics well, only throwing in the "essentials" from the bells and whistles available to you in the software. This keeps things innovative, but relatively simple to use. If you were tempted by the Kontrol S4 but felt it was too complicated, large or expensive, look closely at the Kontrol S2 - it could be just what you've been waiting for.

Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ Controller
Smaller, lighter, more streamlined... the Traktor Kontrol S2 is the little brother to the popular Kontrol S2. Does it offer better value, though?

Smaller, lighter, more streamlined… the Traktor Kontrol S2 is the little brother to the popular Kontrol S4. Does it offer better value, though?

Review: Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ Controller

On the surface, the new Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ controller strips away a lot of the features of the company’s all-singing, all-dancing Kontrol S4, leaving a leaner and more conventional controller.

In part because of this, as well as because of its reduced price and size, the Kontrol S2 squares itself up for battle where most of the business happens in pro DJ controller land – the mainstream mid-market. It is therefore probably the most important DJ controller Native Instruments has launched to day. But will you end up wanting one? And is it really good value? Let’s find out…

Unboxing and setting up

We had a pre-release unit so it didn’t come in the retail packaging, but judging by the S4, you’ll get a printed, two-sided colour feature map to visually help you learn the unit’s controls, alongside a USB cord and a Traktor 2.1 CD. There will be a power supply too – it’s not essential although it is advisable to use this (not least because there was a high-pitched hum I couldn’t get rid of when using just USB power on the test unit provided to us, that disappeared as soon as I plugged the power unit in).

If you’ve never installed Traktor before, installation involves getting your drivers up and running (for Windows users), then installing the software and registering it by setting up an account at Native Instruments. From there, actually getting the unit working is really easy; Native Instruments has made sure that – at least when Traktor is used with its own controllers, such as here – everything “just works”.

The only thing that wasn’t particularly intuitive was that the software told me I had chosen to use an “English keyboard”, when my keyboard is actually Spanish; I had never selected such an option, and clicking “back” gave me no option to change this. This may come back to bite me later down the line when keyboard shortcuts don’t do what they are meant to, but as the whole point of a controller is to avoid using the keyboard as much as possible, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this at the moment.

The unit itself is, on first impressions, a great little controller. It’s big and austere enough to look like the real deal, but small enough to be properly portable. It basicially looks good, while retaining what I have always seen as the main advantage of DJ controllers over modular or installation equipment: a small footprint.

Differences between the S4 and the S2
Unlike the borderline-portable Kontrol S4, then, this is easily small enough to tuck in a backpack or flight bag and move around. The high-tech plastic construction makes more sense at this size, and while it’s only a few inches narrower and shorter than the S4, those inches make all the difference. If you ever looked at the Kontrol S4 and frankly felt a bit scared by how complicated the thing looked, this may well appeal to you more.

Traktor Kontrol S2 vs Kontrol S4

The smaller size, while only a few inches, really does make a big difference.

While it ditches many of the controls of the S4 (at first glance: no default filters per channel, no loop recorder, no snap / quantise / master buttons, no loop-length readout) it actually adds a few new functions: Pitch reset and mic on/off may appear minor, but a booth out is a major improvement. The booth out works by letting you switch the RCA-outs to either booth or main (the 1/4″ TRS outputs always being main), and there’s a booth out volume on the back too. So no XLRs, but I’d say this is enough for a small DJ controller. Well done, Native.

Not so good, though, is the immediately obvious omission of any external inputs bar the microphone. While I
don’t really see the purpose of having a DJ controller that can also act a flightdeck for plugging in everything from decks and CD players to the washing machine and next door’s house alarm, I do think having an emergency-through is a good idea.

Systems can and do crash, and more than that, the flexibility of being able to have something else plugged in (iPod for emergencies, or the output from another DJ’s system, for example) is sometimes important when playing in the real world, ie outside of the bedroom. For the sake of a couple of extra RCAs (or even a stereo 1/8″ jack) this is to my mind a curious omission on a “serious” controller.

Sample decks
What of the sample decks, though? Well, before booting up and getting stuck in, it is clear that samples are still there (there are sample buttons, although now they share the same buttons as hot cues), but that they have their own channel – there’s a sample volume knob bang in the middle of the mixer section, with sample decks A and B activation buttons.

This is the hardware evidence of the “2 + 1″ feature described by Native Instruments in the marketing blurb – two channels plus an “extra” channel for samples. On first encounter, this seems like a sensible compromise. We’ll finds out how well it works later.

There are lots of other little differences – the tempo faders are shorter throw; some of the knobs are a little shallower; there are no Midi in/out or footswitch sockets round the back; there’s are no mode change buttons for view or effects modes; and the pitch offset buttons have been replaced with pitch reset buttons – but it’s minor and predictable stuff.

In use

If you are coming to this review having used the Kontrol S4, there’s little to report about the feel of the hardware – it’s stripped down, but the same build quality is there. However, if you’re here afresh, you’ll want to know a bit more, so let’s talk through it. Those familar with the S4 may want to skim this section to quickly pick up on the differences.

Loading and playing tunes

Traktor 1200x800

As the library is practically invisible on a 1200 x 800 screen (click to enlarge), it is pretty much essential to use library view to select tunes.

Traktor does not make massively effective use of its screen real estate, so on a 1280 x 800 screen, you’ll want to use the useful library view function. By pressing the big, stepped browse button bang in the middle of the controller, you knock out most of the controls, leaving you a big browser section to search through your tunes.

Small A and B buttons let you load your chosen tune onto either of the decks, then you set the cue point using the jogwheel and cue button, with “play” doing exactly what you’d expect (play/pause), and “cue” jumping you back to your cue point when playing or setting a new temporary cue when paused. The transport controls have small strip LEDs in them, which is a stylish touch.

To navigate through a tune, the “move” knob quickly moves through the track by the amount the current loop length is set to (more on loops in a second), allowing you to scrub easily and on the beat. Of course, the jogs allow you to scratch through a tune too, using the microswitched top-plate, the edge of the jogwheels being for nudging. Because the jogs are big and chunky, it’s no problem that “scratch” is always “on” – you’ll not hit this part by mistake as you would with fiddlier, smaller jogwheels.

Note that there is no hardware access to decks C and D, which are intended to be used as sample decks with the Kontrol S2 – you can still use Traktor in four-deck mode if you like, but you’ll have to use those decks via the keyboard (or get mapping), and you’ll lose sample deck functionality – it’s an either/or.

Hot cueing and looping
Cue points are simple to set by pressing one of the four “cue” buttons – they light up to show they’re assigned. “Shift” and a cue button deletes that cue point. If the track is paused, the cue buttons are momentary, if it’s playing, they trigger and leave the track running. Pressing play while holding the cue button turns a momentary cue into continuous play mode. Note there are only four cues, not eight; this is to my mind going to be enough for most DJs.

You can set a manual loop by using the “in” and “out” buttons, but the loops you’ll use the most are of course beat-and-measure-matched loops. You set such a loop’s size by turning the size/set knob to choose loop length, and activate it by pressing this knob. You can alter the length of the loop on-the-fly by then turning the knob, and you can move the loop by its own length forward or back by turning the loop move knob (or move it by a beat by holding “shift” and turning this knob). Finally, the “move” button activates the currently set loop but doesn’t jump to it.

While more advanced loop functions are of course available in the software, this is the extent to which you can manipulate loops from the hardware.

Sync and tempo
Sync works with Traktor’s master sync logic, that makes sense across multiple decks but I find a little complex for just two – but not overly so. (Of course tunes need to be analysed first on addition to your library, as with all DJ software.)

Looping and samples

The stripped-down button section at the front of the decks still has room for four big sample/cue buttons.

Basically you can assign a deck as the “master” and sync to that deck. Shift and “sync” does this for you, or you can just let Traktor’s sync logic sort it out for you (we carried a video recently that goes into this in more detail).

The tempo controls, while shorter throw than on the Kontrol S4, are still accurate – it is pretty simple to make 1/100th of a BPM changes to track tempo, which is plenty good enough for convincing and accurate manual beatmatching.

The mixer section
The mixer is simplicity itself – two lines with gain/hi/mid/lo and a crossfader. Crossfader curve can only be adjusted in software, and there are no filters per channel like with the S4, which is no big deal because you can assign one of the effects as a filter anyway if you wish, or use a tweak in the preferences that makes the gain controls function as such.

The master level is top middle, but the booth level is tucked round the back, along with the microphone levels. A small “mic engage” button on the front turns the mic on and off, and a small microphone light in the middle of the mixer indicates how this is set.

The only other controls on the mixer section are for the sample decks, comprising a volume knob that turns decks C and D (ie the sample decks) up and down together, and A and B buttons for activating either or both sets of four sample decks.

The sample decks
If you’ve not come across sample decks before, they’re an innovative feature of the new version of Traktor, that first appeared on a hardware product with the Kontrol S4. While you can load samples (up to 45 seconds) into each sample deck, the best thing for me about them really is that you can grab one-shots or loops from currently playing tunes, and reconstruct music on the fly using them.

Software-wise, you can now have keylocking on sample decks, meaning you can preserve the keylocked state of a sample when lifted from a tune that was itself off-pitch and keylocked, and you can also headphone monitor your samples, which is new (for more new features of Traktor 2.1 which comes with the S2, see below).

However, hardware-wise, you’re tied to more basic controls – you’ll be resorting to the keyboard shortcuts or your mouse to control the deeper intricacies of the sample decks. We discussed sample decks more in the Kontrol S4 review. The only real detail missing is the lack of loop recorder, which in the Kontrol S4 lets you sample your own voice (for instance) and then drop it into a sample shot if you wish.

Virtual DJ has had sample decks for eons, although it just calls them “samples”, which have much of the same functionality, and Serato ITCH 2.0 now has a sample player too. The difference is that this controller (alongside the Kontrol S4) gives you access to the samples via hardware. No ITCH controller can do that, and only the odd Virtual DJ one can (I’m thinking of the CNTRL-7 from Gemini, but we’ve not yet reviewed that so can’t currently report back on how well samples are integrated into the hardware there).

Effects
Traktor has awesomely complex effects, but on the Kontrol S2, sensibly they’re by default set up to be nice and simple to use out of the box.

Effects are as usual assigned to a channel by pressing the appropriate button on the mixer section, and can be assigned to the sample decks on an individual basis too. There’s more about how Traktor handles effects in the aforementioned Kontrol S4 review and our Traktor Pro 2 review – suffice to say the majority of what you’ll need is directly accessible via the hardware.

Default effects can be assigned in the Traktor Kontrol S2 preferences page – see below for more info on this.

The new software: Traktor Pro 2.1
If you’re new to Traktor DJing, and this is your first Traktor controller, the good news is that the combination of the Kontrol S2 and Traktor 2.1 is actually a decent leap forward and represents the most refined Traktor experience yet, with some of the more irksome things about the software ironed out.

Indeed, the new incarnation of the software – as supplied with the Kontrol S2, and indeed necessary for it to run – adds a whole host of refinements. Lots of these are under-the-bonnet stuff that just make the program work better, but the biggest ones you’re likely to encounter as an S2 user are:

  • Better setup wizard – It’s smoother and friendlier
  • The ability to increase audio headroom in the mixer – Basically makes it louder without distorting. Serato ITCH has this and it’s a godsend when plugging straight into fixed-volume PA systems, and also for sneaky system boosts when the manager’s back is turned. Not that I’ve ever done that ;)
  • Better main VU level meters – They now have an “orange” section between the “green” and “red”. Anything that helps DJs to gain stage is good
  • Keylock on samples – This was a bugbear with the previous software, and basically means that however you use keylock in your DJing, samples will sound as you’d expect

The biggest thing missing which has always inconvenienced me as an iTunes user is that I can’t correct tune details in the browser when I’m DJing from iTunes playlists. So if I have a playlist for tonight’s set, ready to use in iTunes, and I open it and start playing, there’s no way of clicking the ID3 info and correcting a typo, or adding a quick comment about the tune. Native, loads of us use iTunes – can we have this please?

The preferences page
This is a good time to introduce the Traktor Kontrol S2 preferences page. Here you can set what effects you have set by default, as well as usefully choose to have the gain knobs work by default as channel filters (whichever of these functions you choose to relegated can still be accessed by using shift and gain).

S2 preferences

The preferences: Simpler than the S4’s equivalent, but better than non-NI controllers by a long shot. (Click to enlarge.)

Top marks for this – saves a mapping hack for a rather obvious option (setting auto gain and using the gain knobs as a filter is something I suspect many DJs would have done otherwise by doing just that). One preference that you’re given is the ability to use the VUs on the Kontrol S2 itelf as either PGM or master monitors, meaning they can be set to monitor individual tracks or the master output.

I am not sure why this is necessary; it would be more intuitive to do what many other systems including hardware mixers do, which is simply to allow them to monitor individual decks (for gain staging) when the “cue” button is pressed for that deck, reverting back to master monitoring if not. It’s a small thing, but to have this as a third option here would be nice.

Sound quality
We always leave sound quality to the end with today’s DJ controllers, because frankly it’s not a major concern to 99% of DJs, as practically all gear sounds great nowadays.

With Native Instruments being famed for the quality of its Audio range of sound cards, you won’t be surprised to hear that the Kontrol S2 sounds as good as the Kontrol S4, which is to say excellent. The addition of variable headroom in the preferences is a bit of icing on the cake here. No complaints.

Conclusion

The Kontrol S4 was an awesome controller for Traktor and got nearly everything right – no mean feat considering it came alongside a pretty major upgrade of the Traktor program too. It came at a premium, but then so do Apple products. No big deal. It deserved its success. But for many, it was too much, and for those people the Kontrol S2 will be plenty. To some of those DJs who “play records” rather than pull stunts (I wager that’s most), the S4 may have felt like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Less is definitely more, and while there are fiendishly creative people no doubt doing wonderful things with the S4, most DJs, well, just spin for a living. Beatmatching, the odd effect – sure. But not much else.

Because of this, for those DJs, other factors come into play in their choice of a controller: Portability, having the right balance of features rather than everything possible crammed in, weight… and in all of these areas, the S2 come out well.

It’s a good size (the S4 is a little too large for me – try getting one on to a budget airline flight as hand luggage); it’s a more realistic price than the S4 (while still not being particularly cheap); and while Traktor remains a behemoth of a program, with nearly every feature you could possibly imagine crammed into its complex interface, the S2 wisely strips hardware features back to doing the basics well, only throwing in the “essentials” from the bells and whistles available to you in the software. This keeps things innovative, but relatively simple to use.

Inputs and outputs on Kontrol S2

A booth output option (great!) but only a microphone input option (not so great – where’s the emergency line-in?)

The booth output is a good addition and will be welcomed by mobile DJs, although tucking the microphone volume round the back won’t be. I also think it is curious that the unit doesn’t have an audio through for an emergency auxiliary music source – that’s the omission that puzzles me the most.

So how does the Traktor Kontrol S2 fit in with the non-Native Instruments competition? As far as Traktor controllers go, it doesn’t really have any competition, as it offers the best control over Traktor 2 of anything (it actually comes with the full software, unlike all of its copmpetition, for starters). It is the only controller with convincing sample deck control; it is the only controller with properly mapped jogwheels. For these reasons alone (and the fact that it has its own preferences page in the software), all other Traktor controllers now look decidedly clunky against it.

Other controllers to consider
The closest controller to this, though, would be the Vestax VCI-100 Mk II, which should certainly be considered alongside the Kontrol S2 – especially as Vestax is promising a sample deck-enabled mapping soon. Reloop’s Jockey 3 should also be considered: although it’s bigger and heavier, it’s a quality piece of kit for two-deck DJing.

The Kontrol S2 could also be compared to the Novation Twitch – both are small (although the Twitch is smaller and lighter still), both are innovative in different ways, and both would appeal to the same kind of serious-but-pragmatic digital DJ. The Twitch wins in some ways – proper auxiliary throughs is a big one, and more innovative controllerist functionality brought about by dropping the jogs and bringing more hotcues, better looping, on-board beatgridding and the genuinely new “slicer” function to the fore is another. The Twitch is cheaper as well. However, Twitch misses a trick by not offering proper control over the sample decks of ITCH 2.0 (the Twitch uses ITCH software by default), and so suffers from the same issues that all other Traktor controllers suffer from in comparison to the S2/S4: less than optimal software/hardware integration.

Of course, in the Twitch’s case, your choice will also be led by the software you wish to use – if you like ITCH, then the S2 won’t even be on your radar, and if it has to be Traktor, likewise the Twitch won’t be top of your list (although it does come with a Traktor mapping and overlay, but I refer you back to my statement about how Native Instruments has got hardware/software integration absolutely nailed with its own products in a way no other manufacturer has, including Novation, with theirs).

Bottom line? If you were tempted by the Kontrol S4 but felt it was too complicated, large or expensive (delete as applicable), look closely at the Kontrol S2 – it could be just what you’ve been waiting for. Indeed, with a booth output it improves on the S4 (expect a Kontrol S4 Mk II soon, I’d say, if only to correct that). It is still not particularly cheap, but it’s substantially cheaper than the S4. And if you want a good basic Traktor controller that offers access to all of that software’s headline features, the S2 is pretty much unparalleled.

Don’t want sample decks? Not bothered about Traktor?
If you don’t know what software you’re interested in, then your choice is harder – especially if sample decks aren’t really important to you. Then, there are lots of good two-deck controllers available that can do n adequate job with Traktor, most of which will let you control all four decks more easily than the S2 does: out of these, the Vestax VCI-100 Mk II, the Reloop Digital Jockey 2, and the Reloop Jockey 3 are all worth considering. For ITCH, the Vestax VCI-300 Mk II should also be on your list. The American Audio VMS2 is a shoe-in for Virtual DJ contender. All of these controllers are well built and up for the job, although the American Audio is at the more budget-build end of this group.

Traktor Kontrol S2 and Kontrol S4

With the Kontrol S2 joining the S4 (and the X1), Native Instruments has now got a controller for most DJs.

Overall, the most significant thing about this launch for Native Instruments is that the company now has its own controller on this particular part of the playing field. With its full range of the X1, Kontrol S2 and Kontrol S4, the company has created a coherent, balanced and professional range of controllers that carry its vision for its software through to DJing hardware, and will strengthen its grip on digital DJing.

Indeed, bearing in mind the disadvantage at which this puts all brands trying to compete with Traktor, I really wouldn’t be surprised if other manufacturers aren’t working on their own software in order to do much the same thing as Native has so successfully achieved with Traktor and the Kontrol hardware range. If one or more of the big manufacturers launched their own software to complement their controllers, things really would start to get interesting. Meanwhile, Native has just made an astute, market-share-strengthening move with the S2.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

The S2 is truly portable, having the right balance of features rather than everything possible crammed in. It wisely strips hardware features back to doing the basics well, only throwing in the "essentials" from the bells and whistles available to you in the software. This keeps things innovative, but relatively simple to use. If you were tempted by the Kontrol S4 but felt it was too complicated, large or expensive, look closely at the Kontrol S2 - it could be just what you've been waiting for.

Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ Controller

Video Review

Have you been eyeing the Kontrol S4 but have now decided to go for this? Or are you an S4 user who thinks the extras are worth having? How do you think the DJ market will play out with Native Instruments (it seems) now with an increasing stranglehold on both hardware and software? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Will Marshall says:

    How would you compare the build quality and “feel” to the Twitch? Obviously there are non-overlapping elements (jogs etc). I’m particular curious about how the mixer section compares: I found the line faders on the S4 too short for comfort (much prefer VCI-300 or similar faders).

    I had to sell my gear when I left NZ, and typically, companies keep releasing products I rather want.

    • Phil Morse says:

      Roughly similar. They’re both plastic, but the S2 is appreciably bigger and heavier. Twitch has a metal top-plate, S4 has a mix of metal/plastic on its surface. S4 has short-throw faders – Twitch’s are longer throw, and looser.

    • dj jeff says:

      I need help please,im new to this software and just bought the s2 but found out my laptop has the amd c50 processer instead of the amd 64,it plays on my computer but off and on the songs seem too slow down or drag when im loading up another song,on my laptop I shutdown my antivirus but was wondering if theres anything I can do too fix this without buying another laptop,thanks

  2. DJ Gerard says:

    Thanks for the review. It answers a lot of questions my imagination was brewing how this may be my next portable controller. Although I am very pleased it will fit in a back pack (my main complaint about other “professional” controllers) I may pass on this and give Pioneer a chance on the Ergo. Simply because of the lack of an analog input here on the S2. I am no Pioneer fan by far but they seem to have covered all the bases. A midi controller is a midi controller 0-127. Pioneer needs to watch their pricing on this one. The S2 will look more appealing if the price is right even with rebates. I will chance my system not crashing or pick up a very small mixing board instead if the prices are far apart.
    Thanks again. Keep it coming.

    • Phil Morse says:

      This is a very different controller to the ERGO. The ERGO frankly would look silly in a DJ box, with its consumer styling and flashing lights – this is the opposite of that. One is aimed at “pros” and “serious hobbyists”, the other at style-conscious DJing consumers.

      • Orinocofl0w says:

        Hi, Phil! Why do you think that ERGO is just a stylish christmas toy for beginners, while it provides more functionality than S2 for the nearly same price? I mean dedicated filter knobs, cue and sample sections and analog input. And what do you call “flashing” lights? Pioneer added only blue pulse control lights, which could be turned off, I guess..but the other buttons are just RED)

        • S2 comes with pro software, ERGO doesn’t. S2 can be switched to auto gain and then have the gain knobs as dedicated filters from within the software. S2 has dedicated sample decks which are more flexible than Virtual DJs. It’s true the S2 has no external inputs, not even an emergency through, which I have acknowledged big flaw with it.

          Also, I haven’t reviewed the ERGO yet as Pioneer has yet to supply us one, so you don’t have my full opinion on that unit. However, having used one and seen it, it is one of the most garish controllers I’ve ever seen, and indeed it flashes like a Christmas tree! The whole design is consumer-focused, something Pioneer pushes in its marketing.

  3. Great review thank you. I have one of these on order arriving in the next couple of weeks and really looking forward to it. I already have an X1 so I think between the 2 devices I will not miss any of the features of the S4 with some creative mappings.

    • Will be interested for you to let us know how you end up mapping the pair of them – what functions etc.

      • Oh certainly, I will tell you what I have in mind.
        – Remapping 1 side of the effects knobs on the X1 to control the loop recorder.
        – Map the other side of the effects knobs to control sample deck parameters such as looping, changing between one shot and loops, possibly add a shift function to load to specific sample deck.
        – Turn the encoders to something funky like possibly control multiple effects at once.

        Those are just a few things but will have a better idea once the S2 arrives and can test out the work flow. Will let you know how I get on!

  4. Great job, Phil!

  5. Hello Phil,

    Great review, seen the vid 3 times but i love to read the reviews you post on the site even more!

    Now to business, well sorta…
    I want to step it up a notch, been DJ’ing a few months now on an Ion iCue with unmark cue le. And it’s not really all that challenging anymore…

    I want to get either the S2 or the hercules 4-Mx, i hate the fact that it’s hard to delete cue’s on the 4Mx.
    Also i think that when i want to go and do some gigs and hopefully grow further Traktor is the way to go.

    Please tell me what you think, I get the feeling you’re the most unbiased per on in giving feedback on these subjects I have seen.

    Thanks in advance!

    Greetz, Jimmy

    • They’re both good controllers, the S2 is more “respected” but it depends on price and features. If it were me, I’d go for the S2 out of those two because of the sample deck support.

  6. Hey
    What would you choose between S2 and Denon MC6000? price almost the same, size almost the same but Denon is 4 deck with standalone option?

    • They’re very different – S2 works best with Traktor but you have far less inputs on it.

      • Dereck Dunn says:

        I was just thinking about the S2’s input issue. I bought an S2 recently as my first DJ controller, and im still in the process of getting comfortable with it, and the techniques u shared in your Digital DJ Fast course. But anyway getting back to the topic at hand. Even though the s2 has no inputs incase your PC fails wouldn’t you still have a viable backup by disconnecting the S2 entirely and just use your iPod with a $10-$20 cord that allows it to be played through anything with a Red-white input

  7. This is really a great review. You helped a lot. Thank you very much.

  8. DJ TonyOK says:

    Hey Phil as for no emergency inputs (which sucks). You think you can plug an iPod in the MIC input?? In case of an emergency and you need to reboot yr laptop.

  9. Phil,

    I think maybe I have misunderstood but does your review mean I can not switch between different effects from the controller?

  10. James Edgington says:

    Hi there firstly thanks for the great review. Ive just recently got my S2 but I’m new to computer DJing. In your video you mention that the gain knobs can be used as filters. Would it be possible for you to explain what I have to do, to allow the gain knobs to act as filters? I presume I have to alter some of the Traktor preferences?

    Thanks James

  11. Hey Phil and the rest of the crew.
    In sum what is the best:

    The NI Kontrol S2 or the Reloop Jokey III ME

    I only need 2CH’s.

    What you guys think about this fight

    Cheers

    • Kontrol S2 is lighter and will always be the tightest mapped to Traktor as it’s made by NI who also make Traktor. The Jockey III is heavier but has more features. Kontrol S2 is good if you want to use Traktor’s sample decks because it’s laid out to take full advantage of them, but the Jockey III is mapped to control them fully too. I prefer the jogwheels on the Jockey III and also think it offers more for the money.

  12. DJ RoSS E says:

    Hi Phil,

    I have just bought an S2, one of the reasons was your great review, so thanks for the advice. I thought I might share some of my initial thoughts with the community.

    First some background, I am a semi pro (I have a 9-5 job and play in bars and clubs on Saturday nights in the UK). I have been playing for 10 years, so I have used vinyl, CD and now digital media. I was using a Vestax spin and Djay alongside CDJ’s and decided that if I was going to go the digital route I needed to upgrade, so I decided on an S2.

    Overall I am delighted with my purchase. The sound quality out of a decent PA system is excellent, the build quality appears to be robust and the Traktor software is powerful enough to be creative when using it. I would recommend it to anyone considering buying a controller. Although as someone new to Traktor (I believe the term is Noob) I am having a few teething problems setting it up.

    Upside:
    – It is brilliant fun and I am having a blast learning how to use it, I am constantly seeking out tips and tricks. I am going to get the Traktor bible you recommended.
    – My friends love it and want one, no mean feat for a controller. Most of my mates them are dedicated followers of pioneer CDJs.
    – Effects are familiar in most cases and interesting in others, they are also easy to apply and change on fly.
    – Looping is fun and easy to use
    – Software is simple to get started but appears to have sufficient depth to stretch your average DJ.
    – It looks the part in a DJ booth.

    Niggles/things I haven’t worked out how to do:
    – I was surprised that I couldn’t get it to work using my internal laptop speakers while using my earphones, I had to plug in some external speakers. Sometimes I just like to practice mixing without the hassle of plugging in speakers.
    – I am finding ‘beat gridding’, slightly baffling and a bit of a chore, how essential is this? Do you have any advice on this?
    – I am struggling to work out how to get sample decks to play out of the speakers, they are fine in my earphones, I thought this would just work as part of the initial set up.
    – I think that Snap and Quantize should be enabled as default, I thought the Sync button and looping weren’t working at first.
    – Analysing tracks direct from iTunes didn’t seem to work, I have had to import playlists into my collection libraries and analyse that way.

    I thought it would be useful to share my initial impressions, I have had my S2 for 2 weeks now, so apologies if some of my points are not those of an expert user.

    DjRossE

    • Beatgridding is a replacement for manually beatmatching, but often you don’t need to do either as the software will correctly guess. Nine times out of ten, if you use beatgridding to just tell your software where the first beat of your track is, that’ll solve any issues.

      Traktor doesn’t play particularly well with iTunes at the moment, it’s an area they can definitely improve in over some other software systems.

      Glad you’re enjoying your S2!

  13. hi phil
    1st of all, great emails every week. makes me feel like part of a new family (digital djs) i love them. second of all I just brought the s2 and for me its the best thing since sliced bread. i am currently a cdj dj with pioneers and quite frankly compared to the s2 they are dull and boring. i am on the other hand still a bit scared of using the s2 on the road because the lack of cd folders, sometimes its a life saver to flick through your cd folders and find something great, I’m sure all djs can appreciate that. Non the less i can’t wait to get this amazing machine on the road thanks to your great review. top job! keep up the good work phil

  14. hi i got traktor s2 and also hercules rmx is any chance get
    Virtual DJ Kontrol S2 Definition and 2 Deck Mapper to used vdj and play on traktor

  15. I actually just recently sold my S4 and bought a S2. The S4 was actually my very first DJ gear/controller and my introduction into the world of DJing. And though it took me a while to get used to it and to mix properly, like you state in the review, I just play good House & Trance music and add the odd effect here and there, so there really was no need for all the features of the S4 for me, plus the big size was also a factor in my decision.
    I did however started my own show and podcast in the S4 which I encourage all the lovers of Deep/Proggy House to check out.
    Cheers
    Ric

  16. I read this review and got S2.
    For smaller then 600$
    It is very good price in my area.
    Thank U for review!
    Just little bit do not understand FX unit 3,4

    How to control FX 3,4 on Traktor Kontrol S2?
    wich button to use on contoller?
    Need remapping or what to do?

  17. Hi Phil! I am a new owner of a kontrol s2. I can say that the all system is well build and works almost great with Traktor.. Do you know maybe, how can I control sampler deck from the controller?

  18. Quick video feedback – instead of lifting and putting down the controllers, have some sort of stand set up so you can show the face of the product at all times and just point as you go, unless you’re actually going to run them and do a demo or need to turn them over to show a port or something. I enjoyed the look, may well be that one of these will magically appear at my place, while money equally magically vanishes from the wallet. Still debating the S2 vs S4 merits.

  19. Dj Cktoledo says:

    where I can find tips to make better use Kontrol functions s2

  20. How do i adjust the sensitivity of the jog wheel pitch bend? I find it too sensitive right out of the box.

  21. Craig Williams says:

    Deciding between the s2 or the ergo, want just for hobby always wanted to play around with music, which would you recommend?

  22. Well to push people on decision making:

    traktor is currently offering a very nice discount, making the controller only 399 euros instead of about 600-700

    shame it is only a limited time offer…

  23. Love the review. I am a newbie to the S2, loving it so far but there is one issue I have with it.

    There is no way of changing the default mapping which bugs me.. Ive edited what effects I’d prefer to use and every time I re open my setting go back to default. Ive looked for custom mappings but it seems they are no where to be found.

    I wonder why NI have made it so you can’t customize the default mapping. Sort of a let down..

  24. I really need mapping for virtual dj for the S2.
    The place that i work wants me to play video clips.

  25. I bought the S2 after doing a lot or hardware research, software testing with demo versions of several software packages, looking at Phil’s reviews (Thanks Phil!), speaking with manufacturers and discovering that there are conflicts with certain processors and software/hardware combinations. Native Instruments was the only company that guaranteed that their controller had no software or hardware conflicts. The S2 has a very professional feel without the need for metal decks, the controls do not fell cheap or “sag” with pressure and are well supported, sturdy, and well spaced. The audio quality exceeded my expectations with a good dynamic range and no distortion. It was worth the 4 month wait. One tip to remember is to stop firewall and antivirus services, automatic updates, and temporarily disable the wireless so no other activities or programs eat up system resources when you need them most. Regardless of what type of DJing you do, this is a very good choice. I mainly deal right now in remixing for podcasting, live radio shows, and radio drops for a neighbor’s show to the Philippines. This is my ideal controller supplemented with my NI Komplete Audio 6.

  26. Mindfloat says:

    Mine arrived today,gonna be a long testing night for sure..at first look it feels great,seems well built and the whole layout is exactly what i was looking for,neat and clean,no gimmicks,focus is on the essentials..looked at almost all controllers and ended up with the S2 because:Traktor is made by Native Instruments,so is the S2,nuff said..i don`t wanna get headaches again like with my reloop digital jockey2 and its awful mac drivers..will write my opinion on the S2 in a few days..

  27. which do you prefer?

    s2 or VCI 300mk2? mainly for scratching.

  28. Hello Im thinking of getting an S2 and I have a Maschine. It seems that the S4 can be synced with Maschine but I cant get any concrete proof that it’ll sync with S2, does it? And if so what are the advantages?
    Cheers
    Craig

  29. Murfy911 says:

    Hi phil. Excellent review. Quick yes or no, Will this work with the Traktor X1?

  30. Hi Phil,

    First of all, thanks for the reviews, very helpful and really has helped me start to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
    Have only really mixed with vinyl before but am quite familiar with digital music in one form or another, having started with the original cubase on atari and a roland W30 in combination with vinyl, moving on to VST, Cakewalk and Reason. so I see moving to full digital as opening up a new dimension in DJing.
    However, I’ve been out of the game for a while and am rather overwhelmed by the selection. I’m a great believer in making the most of what’s infront of you so am not neccessarily looking for an all singing all dancing solution, my main issue is the fact of latency, I want that same feeling of instant control that you get from the 1210s, otherwise what’s the point of the jog wheels? It seems that this device doesn’t suffer with that, maybe because it creates the software in house too, is that a correct assumption? From other reviews I’ve gathered that at the cheaper/lower level of controller latency is a real problem but would be interested to know at what level or which manufacturer it is no longer considered a problem.
    The Kontrol S2 definitely seems along the lines of what I need but would be interested to know of any others at this level that would be worth considering. Ideally I want a compact and light weight controller, as moving out of the country and want to take it with me, at a reasonable cost with no latency issue, is this possible?
    sorry if dragged on a bit but would be most grateful for any input/recommendations

    • Traktor controllers (2s/S4)have good jogwheel-to-software “immediacy”, only marred for me by how unnatural the wheels feel compared to vinyl (ie no “weight” behind them; when your hand leaves the wheel, they stop spinning very quickly). Other Traktor controllers vary from very good to average in this respect.

      I have always been impressed with Serato ITCH responsiveness with Vestax jogwheels, which is why I recommend such controllers to people coming from vinyl – the VCI-300 and new VCI-380 have the same vinyl-like feel couple with instant responsiveness from superior mappings to Serato ITCH software.

  31. Thanks for the great advice, the vestax does look a very nice bit of kit, the 380 seems the obvious way to go but the price is just too much for me. I’m hoping that I might get some gigs at some point but I’m not banking on it so I guess I’m looking more for a toy, but a serious toy which I can build professional sounding sets with and possibly use at parties and gigs without looking too much of an idiot.
    Shame as if the VCI380 was a similar price to the S2 I would definitely go for it but am now thinking maybe the Twitch is worth a look, I’ve seen you rave about it on here and it looks good fun and fits more comfortably in my price range although I have seen some criticism about it’s sound quality.
    It really is a mine field out there and my main worry is getting stuck with something unresponsive, I’m not a scratch meister or anything, more chicago/detroit techno, acid, house and some old skool jungle break beats. so maybe to forget the jog wheels and concentrate on the mixing and set building would be a better option for me.
    thanks again for the advice, really helpful! am slowly narrowing down the options, only a few weeks until I head off so I’ll have to take the plunge soon…

    • Nothing at all wrong with Twitch’s sound quality, don’t worry about that.

      • Nice one! I’m definitely leaning that way, mainly due to the price. Not sure I could find a similar priced controller with jog wheels of the kind of quality and accuracy I would want, along with all the functionality the Twitch seems to offer.
        I might find a way to justify the cost of the VCI380 yet though!

  32. Phil good review of the s2 I’ve been a dj for many years and have been about to retire many times …. But over the years gigs have still been around after using pcdj years ago and being slated for it I purchased a numark mixdeck for my show on Internet radio… Kept it for a year upgraded to traktor pro 2 ….. Then tried a numark n4 which I’ve kept cant get it to work with vdj ( 4 deck ) works ok with intro….. Then the price drop with the s2 .. Got the unit works well with the software no problem at all I’ve now used this setup over the last 4 months at many gigs very stable no drop outs/problems at all would say if you are in the market for a controler/software traktor is the way to go even for an oldie like me ….

  33. hey,,,,i just wanna know,,,can you mix videos with traktor s2 ? thanks.

  34. djkashford says:

    Really stuck between S2 or S4 – can anyone point out advantages or disadvantages of either?

    • If you want to eventually add F1s to control your remix decks, the S2 is probably a better bet as it is smaller, lighter and cheaper. But if you want to DJ with four decks from the off, the S4 makes more sense.

  35. Hi Phil good review!! I have a question about the difference on the S2/S4 on samplers, S2 has the option to make samplers and to load them easily? the S4 im sure it has that option, I apologize in advance if you have said it, my English is not so good.

    For example, I would like to make loops and load them in a song.

    Thanks!

  36. Phil, I asked this question on your youtube review as well, but to the best of your knowledge, is there *any* way to connect a turntable to the S2?

  37. Whats better the Traktor s2 or the Denon DJ MC3000….and which one is better for Scratching/ Battles too..which one is also more responsive scratch wize??? sorry that’s 3 questions lol….

  38. Barry fitzsimmons says:

    Really torn about getting this or the denon dj mc3000. Was sort of swaying towards the denon as I have denon dns1200 and the set up looks similar.

    what would you recommend that would suit for a more hands on dj experience (I’d that makes sense ha)?

  39. Kristen Davis says:

    I’ve been DJ’ing for over 10 years and this is a new favorite. Out of the box you’re ready to rock parties for hours. The second generation of traktor offers many improvements and the s2 is a perfect partner. I’ll be honest in that I didn’t read any instructions whatsoever as this was simply intuitive right out of the box. The jog wheels offer precision control while the high quality xfader glides back and forth. As a vinyl addict it’s hard to notice a difference and while your records won’t skip you still get a vinyl feel and total control over the pitch and tempo. Traktor allows more creative mixing as it takes alot of the beat match work away. The effects, EQ and filter within traktor are all quality. You’ve heard these effects over and over and not with the touch of a button you’re golden.

    I was a bit skeptical before purchase as I thought the s4 would be a better fit, but I’m more than satisfied. Besides a high quality sound you get a high quality experience. The hard part is figuring out what I am going to mix next!

    I found this on http://www.keepplayingthemusic.com/shop.php?c=MusicalInstrument&n=11965861&i=B005K2RYA2&x=Native_Instruments_Traktor_Kontrol_S2_DJ_Controller and for a really good price.

  40. Hi Phil

    Is there anyway to assign FX onto the mike channel?
    Its seems to be seprate from the traktor program and I really need to EQ my mic sound and add effects.

    I,m working off the S2 controler.
    Thanks for the help

  41. Hi Phil,

    First of all, great review.
    I’m new to this and I was wondering if S2 would be too much/advanced to start with?

    Thanks a lot

  42. Well I know i’m miserable but i’m fighting with it for an hour now… I can’t set the outputs properly to get master on the speakers and monitor on the headphones… I’ve tried every setup in the preferences.. using the kontrol as the audio device, as well as ASIO4ALL, REALTEK HD etc… I’ve searched 3 google pages and found nothing… I have integrated realtek hd, computer speakers and headphones. Can anybody please help me with this??

  43. The only thing preventing me from buying this unig is the fact that it hasnt got a aux in.

    With applications like spotify etc I need to be able to access music which is not fysically in my library.

    Maybe we’ll se an S2 update?

  44. HI, nice article, i Own an S2 buuuut i dont have the manual, so i pretty much have learned to use it by Youtube and some forums
    So my inquiry is if someone here can send me the user manual to my mail PLEASE! Jaaja

  45. Hey Phil great reviews,

    I am very interested in getting into djing and have had multiple practice sessions on my friend’s Numark N4 as well as long hours on my laptop practicing. I am looking into buying my first controller and am tossing up between the Numark N4 and the Traktor S2 due to their simplicity and low price range. Which one would you recommend?
    Thanks

  46. Hi. Debating wever to get the pioneer ddj ergo k or the s2. Which one is more “professional”? Which has a better build quality? And which would you buy? I’m 15 and currently use time code if that helps, thanks for any answer.

  47. Fernando says:

    Hi Phil,
    I have a job from 8 to 4 Mon-Friday,& I dj on Saturday’s only at a bar.I have Spotify Premium,Phil how do I sync Spotify to Traktor S4 to play music…

  48. Hi Phil.
    Great article as usual. Based on reading your posts, I have recently invested in a S2 and Laptop as my first foray into Digital DJing. I have been experiencing hum on my Mackie SRM450v2’s which I have eliminated with a Bringer Hum Destroyer but I have been wondering which output I should use from the S2, the 1/4 Jack or RCA’s, as I am not sure if the ohm rating would make a difference? i have been using the jacks as I don’t have RCA to Jack cables (to fit the Destroyer). Would you have any idea at all? Sorry to ask but I can’t find any answer on Google. Thank you for your time.

  49. Joe-Oconnell says:

    Hi phill, im 17 and have dj’d in a few local night clubs on CDJS. Was just wondering what you opinion on using the kontrol s2 in a club? Does it have good enough specs/build quality? Thank you for any answer.

  50. I ended up purchasing an S2 because of the reviews here at Digital DJ Tips .. been a great controller to learn on .. now with the release of updated version I’m wondering if I should upgrade the MK2 version, or the new S4? Looking forward to a review on the latest verson of this controller.

  51. Hi Phil,

    Learning how to DJ is something I have wanted to do for a verrry long time! Finally got enough dosh to invest in a system and brimming with excitement!

    Just came across this website with all your reviews and I’m very glad to have found you! Thinking about going for the Traktor Kontrol S2 – would you still recommend this as a leading controller or is there something else worth checking out?

    Also I’m slightly confused with the S2 MK2 model and the new S4 model…should I go for one of these or stick with the S2? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

  52. Hi Phil! in your summary you wrote some features was only available on the keyboard what features did you mean ?

    im kinda sure im going to buy the S2 in 2 weeks, but im a little confused.
    Is it better to buy the mk2 because of the jogwheel,flux button and the RGB buttons what do you think ?

    It’s my first controller so i don’t think that i would feel much different (jogwheel) but it does look very nice ! :)

    Thank you for a great website with the best tips !

  53. DJ Oshend says:

    Great review as always Phil!

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