Traktor Kontrol S3 Gets Lukewarm Reception… But Is It Really So Bad?

Last updated 17 October, 2019

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Normally a new controller from any company is greeted with positivity, at least by the brand’s fans. But the announcement of the Traktor Kontrol S3 – a brand-new model number in the Native Instruments controller range for Traktor, to sit alongside the S2 Mk3 and S4 Mk3 – has been greeted online with an unusual mixture of resignation and hostility (check out the YouTube video comments, for instance).

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At any other time and for any other manufacturer, it’d be fine: It’s basically a four-channel S2 Mk3 with a few welcome additions, such as booth and balanced outputs and the wise addition of an aux in. It fills the gap between the beginner-focused S2 Mk3 and the “serious” but appreciably more expensive S4 Mk3, costing US$649 – about US$300 more than the S2 and US$300 less than the S4.

People will debate whether it was wise for this unit to drop the FX controls above each deck, and whether the build quality looks up to the job (we’ll have to wait till our review to let you know about that) – but it makes sense and on paper should appeal to the segment of the market NI is going for.

S3 close
Dropping the full FX controls means this is more likely to appeal to beginner DJs. The LED rings around the jogs are a nice touch for more intuitive four-deck control.

Right controller, wrong time?

So why the collective “meh”? Maybe it’s because it’s likely to be the last controller we see from Native Instruments for a long time for Traktor, after the 20-30% staff cuts this year. Maybe the “pro” end of the market was hoping for something a little more innovative, and a little more aimed at them. Or maybe it’s because ultimately this unit doesn’t even pretend to offer anything innovative.

Native Instruments is having a hard time at the moment and this was clearly planned before the recent layoffs and upheaval. I am sure the Traktor team wouldn’t have chosen the S3 as its big “comeback” announcement. But it’s done now – it’s out there. It’s what happens next that will prove crucial to the health or otherwise of the Traktor brand. You, our community, have not been short of suggestions. If the Kontrol S3 puts some money in the bank to spend on innovation, that’ll be good for all Traktor users.

As I write this I am at ADE in Amsterdam, the biggest dance music conference and festival in the world, and am attempting to get a meeting with the Traktor team to see if I can glean any more details. We’ll keep you informed if we find out anything new.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a four-channel Traktor controller but don’t need the built-in screens, DVS compatibility or motorised jogwheels, the Kontrol S3 may be just what you’re after – full details over on the Traktor website.

Promo Video

• The Traktor Kontrol S3 is available for pre-order now. It arrives in November for US$649 / £499 / €599. Check the Native Instruments site for more details.

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