Like many all-in-one digital DJ controllers, Native Instruments’ Kontrol S4 offers an array of knobs, sliders and a pair of oversized rotary encoders to enable the digital DJ to control most (if not all) aspects of their performance, plus all (or most) of the needed I/O to get sound in and out of the computer and its software.
And speaking of software, NI has made a fully-functional copy of Traktor Pro an integral part of the Kontrol S4 package—and has even enhanced its feature set for the special “S4” edition. Thus, with the Kontrol S4, all you need is a pair of DJ headphones, a laptop or other computer to run it on, a music collection, and you’re off and running.
If you intend to control a full four decks’ worth of digital, the brain strain can become a bit taxing, since the mixer section supports four decks easily—but the control sections on either side allow control of only one virtual deck at a time. Switching back and forth between the A and C decks on the left, or the B and D decks on the right, is a button press away, and there are backlighting color cues to make it obvious which deck you’re controlling.
It took practically no time at all to get to a point where I competently performed a straightforward DJ set using the S4 setup.
I’ve made the comparison before, but it’s a bit like stepping into an unfamiliar rental car for the first time; spend a bit of time in the parking lot to find the seat adjustment, the location cruise control and headlights, etc.—so to speak—and you can safely drive off to your destination. But just like that time you took the luxury upgrade at the rental car counter, it’s hard not to want to start playing with the cool sat nav or checking out the rear view video display on the dash—all that stuff you never get with the affordable compact you normally rent.
And so it is with the S4.
It sort of seduces you into playing with those things you’ve never had at your fingertips until now, and I suspect it’s what Native Instruments is aiming for here. The combination of Traktor Pro S4’s toolset, and the Kontrol S4’s control of those tools, could very easily be a stylistic game-changer for adventurous club jocks who want to keep the audience on their toes and fully engaged.
With the S4, there’s a whole suite of capabilities that blur the definition of DJing by letting you easily construct and perform mash-ups, and literally on-the-fly remixes. Traktor Pro S4’s sophisticated audio effects are part of that (also available in the regular Traktor Pro), but new with the S4 are Sample Decks (which are promised for other Traktor Pro users in a future upgrade).
Essentially, the Sample Decks let you load small audio files—percussion loops, for example— for playback and looping into the main mix. (A sample library even comes with the S4 kit.) Of course, you can use loops from a running deck, too, or utilize Traktor Pro S4’s new Loop Recorder for even more capability. With practice, I could easily envision myself turning out some truly amazing sets with loops and samples and tracks in multiple decks, and effects adding their twist to the energetic result.
Read Wesley Bryant-King’s full review in next month’s DJ Times…