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Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review

NI’s entry-level controller is now more portable than ever

  • £269
  • $339
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 photographed on stage
(Image: © Native Instruments)

Our Verdict

The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a well-designed and easy-to-use DJ controller with a lot to offer casual users.

Pros

  • Works seamlessly with either a laptop or iPad
  • Well laid out and easy to use
  • Mix directly from SoundCloud with Traktor DJ

Cons

  • Mixer FX sacrifices depth for simplicity
  • Not enough compatibility between Traktor Pro 3 and Traktor DJ 2

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review: What is it?

Seeing as it’s lacking the fascinating ‘haptic’ technology of the Kontrol S4, it’s easy to dismiss the NI’s latest entry-level Traktor DJ controller - the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 - as just another budget DJ device. However, taken alongside two updated versions of the Traktor software, there’s actually a lot to like about this latest mixing tool.

The core feature set of the S2 Mk3 is similar to that of the Mk2; as before, it features two jogwheels flanking two mixer channel strips. As is standard for modern controllers, below each jogwheel sits a bank of performance pads used for working with cue points, samples and Traktor’s Remix decks. There are updates from the previous hardware though: the

jogwheels themselves are bigger (though not motorised), and the deck layouts are now identical, like a set of CDJs, as opposed to the mirrored layout of the previous incarnation.

The bank of effect rotaries has been removed from the controller’s top edge too, replaced with a pair of Mixer FX controls. This is a noticeable step down in complexity terms – the

Mixer FX lack any real customisation, instead offering simple ‘one knob’ tools designed to be used in any situation. While more experienced users will find this limiting, beginners and those looking for a quick tool to play house parties and small events will appreciate the simplicity.

It’s this latter category of user that the S2 is clearly aimed at. The Mk3 is smaller and significantly lighter than its predecessor. It’s also designed specifically to work cross platform, and is fully compatible with both the full version of the recently-updated Traktor 3 (a licence for which is included in the price) and the new free Traktor DJ app that runs across PC, Mac and iPad (with an Android version in the pipeline).

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review: Performance & verdict

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 controller on a white background

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

Use with both versions is seamless. One nice touch is the USB input for iOS devices, so you can connect an iPad via its standard cable, rather than requiring a specialised lead from NI. Traktor DJ also boasts integration with SoundCloud Go+, meaning users can mix streamed tracks on the fly, which works pleasingly smoothly. Traktor DJ adds a track recommendation feature that will, again, appeal to beginners and casual users. 

The main drawback to the S2, however, is that it’s currently caught between these two applications. Traktor DJ works great with an iPad but it is a free app and, as you’d expect, lacks many of the advanced features of Traktor Pro 3. While Traktor DJ can be used crossplatform, it seems pretty silly to use it on PC/Mac when a licence to the Pro software comes bundled. 

Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough compatibility between these two versions right now – but the option to seamlessly sync libraries, metadata and cue points across both versions would resolve this. Failing that, it feels like NI should fully commit the S2 to Traktor DJ by

adding an expanded pro version for hardware owners.

This quibble aside though, as a highly portable, seamlessly usable controller for casual DJs, the S2 is a great option at a keen price.

Rear view of Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review: Hands-on demos

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Sweetwater

Noisegate

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review: Specifications

  • Key features: Controller for Traktor Pro 3 and Traktor DJ 2; I/O: 2x Stereo output, RCA & 3.5mm jack. 1X 3.5mm headphone out, 1/4-inch mic in; 2x USB: host computer + bus power/iOS; Dimensions: 486 x 265 x 59mm
  • Contact: Native Instruments