Native Instruments officially announced today its newest flagship controller, the Traktor Kontrol S8. Straying from the norm, the Traktor Kontrol S8 does away with jogwheels and platters completely, dropping in a variety of controls in their place as well as two high-resolution, full-colour displays.
Aside from being a DJ controller, the Traktor Kontrol S8 also acts as a versatile standalone mixer, with four switchable phono/line inputs for hooking up turntables, CD players, and other line level gear. Two microphone inputs are also included, along with XLR master outputs and even a 1/4″ TRS booth output.
While photos of the Traktor Kontrol S8 leaked last month and most everyone knows what it looks like already, not much was known about how it worked…until now. It seems that centre to the entire Traktor Kontrol S8 experience is the way the touch-sensitive controls interact with the built-in displays: The onboard screens adapt to whatever controls you’re touching, meaning they display data and options that are relevant to whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. There are also different types of screen views that you can access depending on what you’d want to do.
For instance, simply touching the browse knob switches the display into Browse View. Performance Panels appear on top of song waveforms whenever you touch a performance knob. In the Remix Deck View, loops and samples are displayed full screen, making it easier to mix with the onboard Remix Deck faders without having to look at your laptop’s screen. You can even edit beatgrids directly from the Traktor Kontrol S8’s displays with the Beatgrid View.
While all these forward-thinking features are intriguing, what made a distinct impression on me was this subtle addition to the package: The Traktor Kontrol S8 ships with a full version of Traktor Scratch Pro 2. Yes, scratch. While we’ve variously all been debating, lobbying for, or contesting the supposed “jogwheel-free” future for digital DJing, Native Instruments is here offering a neutral solution. It’s like they’re saying “OK, we didn’t include jogwheels here to make way for our technological vision, but if you really want to scratch or use platters for cueing and such, just hook up your turntables or CDJs. You have them anyway, right?”
What definitely excites me about the Traktor Kontrol S8, however, is that it has the potential to appeal to a broader range of professional DJs, a range that’s larger and more diverse than the one reached by its previous Traktor Z2 mixer and Traktor Kontrol S4 controller, despite the S8’s controversial lack of jogwheels. As well as controllerists and (via DVS) turntablists, the myriad input and output options also opens up this controller/mixer hybrid to the mobile DJ market, making it a highly qualified centrepiece for mobile DJs who need to integrate a variety of analogue and digital media formats in their performance while having sufficient output options.
The Traktor Kontrol S8’s blend of touchstrips and Remix Deck/pad controls give it a distinct identity that stands out in even the most platinum-gilded of CDJ/DJM-equipped booths without looking like a generic toy. Last but not the least, having screens onboard means you’ll potentially never have to look at your laptop again during a performance, which is something a lot of us in the digital DJ world have been craving for a long time.
While Native Instruments clearly sees the Traktor Kontrol S8 as the next logical step in DJ hardware progress, perhaps the #futureofDJing simply involves a scenario wherein all DJs will be able to use the tools that they want to use, thanks to all-integrating and inter-media compatible hardware like this…
• The Traktor Kontrol S8 ships from October 30 2014, at $1,299/€1,199 including Traktor Scratch Pro 2. For much more info, head to the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 page.
Do you think the Traktor Kontrol S8 is going to change the way other manufacturers think about their next DJ controllers? How so? And will the Traktor Kontrol S8 (or some lower-priced version of it in the future) finally bring turntablists, controllerists, and CDJ festival wizards together under a common hardware thread? Let us know what you think about this in the comments section below.