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Two To Tango

Native Instruments’ new compact controller for Traktor, the S2, gives DJs ultimate portability with a sweet-as-candy price

There’s a lot of truth in saying that size doesn’t matter — especially when we’re talking about the new Traktor S2 controller. The boys in Berlin have been hard at work once again down at the Native labs, this time making more additions to the Traktor Kontrol family of DDJ controllers.

The new smaller S2 may be the younger sibling of the mighty Kontrol S4 which took the DJing scene by storm, however don’t be fooled by its size — the S2 has a few tricks up its sleeve that should keep new users entertained.

The influx of digital DJ equipment being offered to us is amazing and Native Instruments are at the top of their game when it comes to innovation. Since setting the standard with the S4 — their first ‘proper’, heavy duty Traktor-integrated controller — they have been constantly looking to raise the bar and push the boundaries to bring us more and more quality equipment. So what kind of life has been intended for the S2?

Straight away, let’s get down to the basics. The S2’s purpose is clear: a unique 2.1 channel DJ system and portable controller — perfect for laptop DJs who want full Traktor integration — in one unit. Plug the S2 straight to your laptop via the USB port at the back, and voila — full hands-on control of the lethal new Traktor Pro 2 Native Instruments flagship DJ software which is included in the box. Life just can’t get better! The S2 is the only controller of its size to be shipped with Traktor Pro 2, and not with any old LE cutback version either.

Like its predecessor, the S2 is quite an easy unit to use.  Although compact, the S2 is dummy-proof, offering seamless integration that can only be achieved when both hardware and software are created in unison. This is definitely an advantage that Native has, considering that both products come out of the same factory.

GEMS

The Kontrol S2 packs the usual controls found on other controllers these days (plus some added gems), with two basic channels and an additional channel for introducing samples from the sample decks into your mix. The clue was in the name 2.1: the Kontrol S2 is actually a three-channel mixer — two channels for the standard virtual decks and the third channel (as explained) for the sample decks. Three-band EQ, Load and Browse controls, high-resolution pressure-sensitive jog wheels and an FX unit all adore this little wonder. In addition to this, it comes fully equipped with a built-in audio interface for high quality vibrant sound, so you can ditch the added baggage (interface) from your set-up and still rock the discothèque with no worries.

The control panel design has been taken straight from the Kontrol S4, and to be honest they do look very similar except for the size. The S2 comes in the now Native standard, stealth-like black plastic casing with pretty responsive sliders and faders.

FUNCTIONS

Whilst the S4 is a portable option — DJs can either throw it in the rather cool flight-case that adds a lot more weight to the equation, or use one of the many custom-made soft cases — the S2 is king of the hill when it comes to lugging it around, as it is easily small enough to be tucked into a backpack or reasonably-sized DJ trolley.

The stylish black plastic casing is the same as the S4 but makes more sense at this size, as those few inches less in both width and height make all the difference. If you’ve ever been put off by the amount of functions on the S4, then the S2 will appeal to your desires more, although — at first glance — some of the favoured functions that we saw on the S4 are not present. These include: default filters per channel, loop recorder, snap and quantize functions. The S2 actually adds some new functions to the mix: pitch reset, mic on/off and booth out, with a dedicated booth out volume knob on the back too — a fair amount of added extras to address the balance.

SYNCING

The S2’s layout consists of the now-standard two decks and a mixer layout. Each deck slot has a pressure-sensitive jog wheel, standard transport controls: cue, play, sync, and a shift button that activates extra controls. The mixer section comprises of the two deck channels, and the mid section houses the sample deck control knobs. Each deck channel has three large rubber EQ knobs, but one mighty omission is the dedicated filter sweep knob as found on the S4. I loved this for fine tweaking the mix and wish the S2 had them included too — alas, not to be.Selecting your tunes is easy. Pressing the big ‘Browse’ button bang in the middle of the controller knocks out most of the on-screen controls, leaving you a big browser section to search through your tunes, whist the two small A and B buttons let you load your chosen tune onto either of the decks. Simple.

The beat detection in Traktor Pro 2 is a massive step up from Traktor Pro. Syncing and looping all behave admirably, letting DJs mix freely over a wide range of genres. If you’re not familiar with Traktor’s syncing capabilities, you’re in for a treat! Basically you can assign a deck as the ‘master’ and sync to that deck, giving effortless yet seamless mixing. This is always handy when moving through genres or for quick beat-mixing. Some call it cheating, others a helping hand to free up other performance options such as adding FX etc — a debate to be contested for some time to come.

CUEING

There’s a nifty little section on the S2 purely for looping and cueing. Cue points are a doddle to set simply by pressing one of the four cue buttons just above the transport control section. The cue buttons light up to show when they have been assigned. These cue points can be easily deleted by holding the ‘Shift’ button and the desired cue button. All of this can be done off the S2 whilst the track is playing, without any interruptions.

Looping is simple too. Two very responsive Loop in and out buttons enable you to manually punch in the start and end point of your loop, whilst the other two knobs ‘size/set’ and ‘move/active’ allow the loop to be moved around in the track, and the loop length can be altered ranging through from 1/32 to 32 beats with pure ease. This is great for really mashing up your tracks.

If you’re new to Traktor DJing, and this is your first controller, then you’ve come in at the right time as never before has so much been offered with a controller of this size and price. The Kontrol S2 is a great pairing for Traktor Pro 2, which has some wicked new features. The only question to be asked is: what one to go for, the S2 or the S4?

Price   £499.00
Contact   native-instruments.com
Build Quality
  9.0
Ease of Use   9.0
Features   9.0
Value for Money   9.0
Sound Quality   9.0
Hype   Traktor and controller working in perfect harmony. The S2 has a lot to offer at this end of the market, and looks lethal too.
Gripe  

Jog wheels a tad too small perhaps and no dedicated filter knobs, but that’s personal preference.

Conclusion  

If the S4 is too much for you to handle or you simply cannot afford one, don’t settle for anything less then the S2. It has enough in one box to get both newbies and veterans mashing it up both at home and in the club, and at this price you’re getting a serious amount of kit. Spot on!

Overall Score   9.0/10
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