Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 Digital DJ Controller Review
Overview: The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is the new and second iteration of the original Traktor 2-channel Digital DJ Controller that was released a few short years ago under the Kontrol S2 name. The new Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 has a few hardware updates that will complement the new updates that the Traktor Pro 2 software has received over the last few years. The Native Instruments DJ controllers have an outstanding history in respects to the way they always match up to their Traktor software perfectly. The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is now available for $500 at retail and our full Video review will let you know if its worth the investment. Please see our review of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 for the details on the four-channel version of this same DJ controller by Native Instruments.
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Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The new Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is the new 2+1 deck Digital DJ controller for Traktor that controls two decks simultaneously, while the S4 MK2 is the new 4+1 deck Digital DJ controller to control up to four decks at a time. All of the original features of the S2 and S4 are still present in the new MK2 editions including the internal Traktor DVS soundcard which resides inside the S4 MK2. Some of the new updates to both new controllers will include new RGB Multi-color backlit buttons for Cue points and remix deck control, upgraded hi-res aluminum metal plate jog wheels, Flux mode buttons, and plug-and-play compatibility with the Traktor DJ iOS app. There is also a hint of better construction overall with more "reinforcement" for the knobs and chassis. Please be sure to check out our review of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 DJ controller which adds a few more decks of control and a few other features as well.
The body of the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is made up of mostly thick plastic with a metal top surface over the deck/jog wheel sections and a shiny polymer material over the mixer section. I originally complained that the first iterations of the S2 and S4 were plastic, but my durability fears have been put to rest as they’ve been proven to hold up under very harsh DJ conditions over the last few years. All of the knobs have a plastic post underneath and I would have liked to see metal reinforcements in this area, however, the jog wheels now have a metal push style surface at the top. Overall the build does feel better than the first iterations of the hardware and they feel like they will last just as good as or better than the originals. The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 still has the same compact footprint as the original S2, and it can easily fit into an average sized controller bag for easy storage and transport. Even though the build quality is good, I would still recommend purchasing an additional bag or carry case if this controller will see a fair share of travel during usage.
This is an all-in-one DJ controller which comes bundled with the FULL Professional edition of Traktor Pro 2, so the user has everything they need to get started right out of the box. The user only needs to supply the computer and music files to start spinning. Inside the box, there is a small sheet that lists the Hardware and Software serial numbers so that the user can go online and download the full software. After the software is installed on the computer, the DJ can then connect the Traktor controller to the computer using the supplied USB cable and the software is ready to go. The user can then simply connect the outputs as necessary to start getting busy. The process is very easy and simple as the new Traktor software already has the drivers installed for the S2 MK2 and S4 MK2. When using the controller with Traktor DJ and iOS devices, the user simply has to connect the supplied iOS cable to the iOS device and launch the Traktor DJ App. Again, the process is simple plug and play to get started.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is also an all-out MIDI controller which means that it can be customized with a mapping to each button, knob, and fader to be configured just the way the DJ wants to the software of their choice. DJ’s can also switch back and forth from MIDI mode to standard mode on the fly by pressing both SHIFT keys simultaneously. It’s a great feature to have for DJ’s who want a more customized and complicated setup than what is provided out of the box.
The inputs and outputs on the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 consist of a ¼-inch headphone output on the front, ¼-inch microphone input on the back (with volume knob), RCA (unbalanced) output, ¼-inch (balanced) output, and a USB and power cable connection. The RCA output has a small toggle switch next to it which allows the user to assign the RCA output to either the Master volume control knob on the face of the unit or the recessed volume knob on the rear. This is a nice update to the original as the user can now have two independent outputs with volume control for monitoring or recording. The Traktor S2 MK2 comes with a power plug but it doesn’t have to be connected in use. The USB connection to the computer is enough to power the unit, but the lights are dimmer and the volume output was also slightly affected as the volume dips just a bit when the main power is disconnected.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 still has most of the features and functions that a Traktor Pro DJ would want for mixing and beatmatching. All of the knobs (EQ’s, Effects, etc.) have a nice rubberized coating to them and they allow for adequate adjustments that always line up perfectly with the software. These are the same knobs that are in use on the other Traktor Kontrol devices and they always make accurate adjustments. The EQ knobs towards the middle of the unit have lots of space and aren’t cramped together which makes them really easy to adjust on the fly. The three-band EQ knobs are FULL-KILL when completely turned down and they sound good overall. In the middle of the entire unit, there is an oversized Browse knob and a Load A and Load B button for file navigation and for loading new tracks onto the decks. At the top and in the middle lie the Master Volume knob and the Remix Deck Volume knob along with the A and B buttons to activate the Remix decks. The Cue/Mix and volume headphone controls for headphone monitoring are found on the front face of the S2 MK2 along with the headphone quarter-inch socket and the microphone on/off button. Under the EQ knobs for each channel are the two headphone CUE buttons that are used to pre-listen to decks A and B before mixing live.
Each of the channels also has an FX1 and FX2 button to activate the two effect bank modules onto that particular deck. There is also a shared Gain and Filter knob all the way to the top of each channel. The knob is normally used for Low Pass and High Pass filtering, but when the Shift Key is pressed, the knob then works as a gain control for the associated deck.
The Crossfader in the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 feels somewhat similar to those that were used in the original S2 and S4 but they now feel more accurate than ever before. It still feels a bit on the plastic side, but the crossfader has a loose quality to it and a really short (less than 1mm) cut-in distance which makes it ideal for scratching and pulling off some hard fader trickery. The option to adjust the crossfader curve lies within the Traktor Pro 2 software and it was great for scratching in the sharpest cut setting and just right for mixing in the softest setting. The Line faders have much more resistance to them and they are good enough for good and accurate mixing. There are also LED VU Line Level Meters in the middle of the line faders to make sure your music is at the correct levels. It’s great that a two-deck controller gives the DJ’s the options of both full LED meters and Gain knobs to get the levels just right, but Traktor Pro 2 does a good job of getting most of the levels even from the start.
One of the new welcomed improvements from the first S2 to the new S2 MK2 is the inclusion of multi-backlit RGB buttons for the transport and Cue/Remix buttons. The illumination of these new pads is VERY bright when using the controller with wall-power. It’s bright in direct light and at night which is a nice overall improvement. There are eight rubberized performance pads found below each jog wheel which work great for live performance button-mashing and drumming. These pads feel exactly the same as the pads on the F1 or on the Traktor Z2 mixer with a nice tactile feedback and an audible click can be heard when they are pressed. The bottom four buttons are used for transport controls including Play/Pause, Cue, Sync, and Shift. The top four pads are used for launching hotcues, loops, and the top four positions of a remix deck. Even though the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 only looks like it has two decks of control, there is actually a third hidden channel in the form of a Remix Deck Volume control knob and two buttons (A & B) that activate the two additional Remix decks that are layered under each normal deck. When the Remix button A or B is activated, then the four RGB backlit HotCue buttons become the four top slots in the Remix Deck C or D. When the buttons are deactivated, the four buttons return to HotCue buttons for deck A and B once again. The color of these buttons also indicates what type of HotCue/loop is stored in that position.
Directly above the Cue/Remix pads is the loop section. There are manual Loop In and Loop Out illuminated buttons for manual loop creation. On the outsides of the Loop buttons are two endless encoders that are responsible for editing and moving loops (left knob), and growing or shortening the auto-loop length (right knob). The Loop length knob can also be pressed to start auto loops and loops can be saved in the HotCue pads or remix slots once they are captured. The knob on the left also allows the user to jump through the song (forwards or backwards) in the bar-length that is set by the Loop length knob.
Towards the outsides of the deck controls are the tempo adjustment faders. They both are found towards the outside edge of the controller for easy manipulation without accidentally touching other controls when trying to ride the pitch for perfect beatmatching. The tempo sliders are a bit on the small side, but they are accurate and smooth (0.1% increments) and they work well for accurate beatmatching.
Above the tempo sliders is the new FLUX mode button which activates Traktor’s new FLUX Mode. When the FLUX button is pressed and the FLUX mode is turned on, the DJ can then play a track and press cue points, scratch, or activate loops any way they wish and as soon as the cue point, scratch, or loop control button is released, the track will continue to play where it would have been if the track wasn’t manipulated at all. It’s pretty hard to explain but it’s just like Pioneer’s CDJ Slip-Mode feature and its very fun to use.
Another area of improvement with the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is with the Jog wheels. The Jog wheels are actually the same size as those found on the first iteration of the S2, but these are now made of metal. They still have the same push-top style of operation, where they must be physically pressed down like a button in order to activate the top scratching surface. The new metal plated jog wheels have better weight to them and feel more substantial and durable than the last jog wheels in the lineup. They also feel just a bit smoother than the last jogs as well. The Jog Wheels still have very high resolution and perfect accuracy in terms of latency. They are perfect one-to-one in operation and we expect nothing less from the company that designs both the software and hardware. The jog wheels still feel more mechanical than digital since you have to actually press the top surface instead of having a touch-sensitive top. The top surface is metal with ripped-plastic sides which are used for nudging and slowing down the music for beatmatching. The Jog wheels can be in either Scratch Mode or Mix mode depending on the style of play that is favored. You can toggle between the two modes by entering the preferences menu within the Traktor Pro 2 software.
Since the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 comes with the full version of Traktor Pro 2, there is a very wide range of effects with two effect banks which can handle a total of 6 simultaneous effects. All the way at the top of the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is the effects Section with an FX Bank 1 on the left and an FX Bank 2 on the right. There are four knobs and four buttons per effect module. The FX knobs have rubberized coatings and they also have a center click so the user knows when they are in the middle of the effect parameter. The FX1, FX2, and FX3 buttons are used to turn on/off the effect and all illuminate to show the user what’s active at a glance. Then the FX1, FX2, and FX3 knobs are used to adjust the saturation of the effect. The last Dry/Wet knob adjusts the overall parameter of the effect module. When the shift button is pressed, these FX buttons cycle through the effect for that position and allows the user to change effects on the fly. When the shift button is pressed and the FX Dry/Wet button is engaged, the user can switch between a single effect module and triple effect module for that deck.
Traktor DJ App
The new Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 and Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 both come bundled with a 30-pin iOS cable to connect the controllers directly to an iPad or iPhone with the Traktor DJ App. The App can be purchased from the Apple App store and the devices are perfect plug-and-play in operation. If you have a newer iOS device with the smaller cable connection, then you will need to purchase an additional adapter to make this work. Although I don’t use iOS devices to DJ regularly, I am happy to report that main on-board control functions such as hotcues, loops, effects, filters and jog wheel control work just as good on the full blown Traktor Pro software as on the Traktor DJ App. There is also a Freeze and Slicer function that chops the beat up into various parts so they can be remixed and re-ordered on the fly as seen in the video above. This is truly a great professional DJ solution in a small package. The iOS device also charges as it is connected to the controller, but the controller must be connected to wall-socket power in order to function.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In conclusion, the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is a very welcomed improvement and update to the original Traktor Kontrol S2 and it’s still an excellent all-in-one two-deck controller with some remix deck control. The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is very compact and has everything necessary to start playing right out of the box including the full Traktor Pro 2 DJ software. The S2 MK2 is also a true MIDI controller giving it lots of versatility and even allowing it to be used in conjunction with a “bigger” setup that may already be in place. The S2 MK2 has perfect jog wheel and fader mapping with the software for low-latency operation. The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 also has all the extensive and advanced controls for DJ’s right on the face of the unit and its also plug-and-play with Traktor DJ iOS devices.
There were only two real gripes that I found with the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2. I am still disappointed to find that the new S2 has absolutely no additional throughputs or inputs aside from the microphone port. That means there is no way to play music from another source through the S2 MK2 in case of a computer breakdown or other software/hardware malfunction. I also found that the crossfader, although scratch-worthy with low cut-in distance, still felt cheap and plastic-like in construction. It would have been nice to include the same mini-innofaders found on the Traktor Z2 mixer or at least make the crossfader easily user-replaceable.
If you can get over these minor issues, the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is a very capable and compact unit that we will recommend to any professional DJ who wants a small but powerful Traktor Pro controller or a custom MIDI mappable controller to complement their existing DJ setup. We also recommend this unit to bedroom or beginner DJ’s since the controls are simple and the two channel setup is less overwhelming than the other four channel systems that are out there on the market today. If you are a Traktor DJ who is looking for a two channel DJ controller to compliment the software, then the S2 MK2 should definitely be at the top of your short-list.
Pros & Cons
- All-In-One 2+1 Channel DJ Controller w/Traktor Pro 2 Software
- Fully Mappable Midi DJ Controller for any software
- Ultra Low-Latency Jog Wheel, Fader, Button, Knob Mapping within TP2
- Extensive Advanced Features: HotCue, Loop, Remix Decks, FLUX Mode & Effects
- Booth & Master outputs w/separate volume control knobs
- Excellent Compatibility with Traktor DJ App for iOS Devices
- No Additional Inputs/Throughputs for Emergencies
- Crossfader is Non-User-replaceable and has a Plastic Feel
Written by djblaze on 10/10/13
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