Upgrade your Kontrol S4 with the Innofader (Innobender)

When Native Instruments released the Kontrol S4 last year it quickly set the standard for all digital controllers that came after. Today the S4 continues to offer a substantial amount of functionality and unmatched integration with the Traktor platform. There are however a few trade-offs, one being the somewhat limited MIDI customization opportunities in the S4 along with hardware omissions such as booth output and a replaceable crossfader. In this article we are going to show you an option for solving the crossfader issue using the Audio Innovate Innofader.

For the scope of this article you will see use of the “Innofader” and Innobender interchangeably. Innofader is the overall product line and the Innobender is the specific edition of the Innofader for the S4 (amongst others). If the whole subject of faders is new to you, be sure to check out  Fader Technology: A Primer.

Disclaimer:  If your Kontrol S4 is still under the manufacturer’s warranty this upgrade will void that warranty. If you have purchased additional third party coverage, check the policy before undertaking the upgrade referenced in this article. DJ Techtools is not responsible for any damage or warranty issues that may result in this upgrade. Ok, that’s the lawyers dealt with, lets get on with it.

IS THIS UPGRADE FOR YOU?

The Innofader upgrade is squarely aimed at those who know they are going to push their crossfader to its limits on a regular basis, namely scratch DJs. For DJs using the crossfader primarily for mixing this upgrade might be worth considering but it won’t be as much of a game changer.

THE S4 STOCK CROSSFADER

The S4 is clearly aimed at the “Digital DJ” and “Controllerist” market and the stock S4 crossfader performs pretty well for the large majority of that demographic. Just a quick scan through NI’s catalog of promotional videos and you can see that most of the turntablist action is executed with one of the units in the Audio range rather than a controller like the S4. The S4’s crossfader starts to feel less ideal when you plug in a set of decks and begin hammering through a variety of crabs, chirps and flares. The fader lacks that “buttery” quality most scratch DJs look for and there is no option to adjust the cut-in and curve management in Traktor preferences which doesn’t make it as usable as it cold be.

 THE AUDIO INNOVATE INNOFADER

The Innofader has found fans across the board due to its performance, the ability to adjust cut-in, curve, tension in the unit itself and its durability (you won’t be replacing this unit any time soon). You won’t have to clean the Innofader anywhere near as regularly as many other faders on the market. So, it’s win, win, win for the Innofader, as long as you don’t mind the $160-$170 price tag. For some, this may be an upgrade that is just financially tough to justify, after all, it does represent nearly 20% of the cost of the entire S4. On the flip side, you can convert your beloved MIDI controller into a fully equipped scratch unit without needing to invest in a new mixer. Value for the Innofader is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

What we like:

  • Performance
  • Configurability
  • Durability
  • Low Maintenance
  • Technical Support and Expertise From Elliot Marx

What we don’t like:

  • Online Instructions/Documentation for Installation
  • Bewildering Array of Installation Components
  • Price

MORE ON THE S4 WARRANTY

If your S4 is still under NI’s warranty then you will need to weigh up the pros and cons of this upgrade as there’s no getting away from the fact that you are on your own once you pierce the sticker to get that screw out.  Many S4 buyers have also purchased additional coverage from third parties such as the retailer they bought the unit from. Third party coverage often differs from NI’s standard warranty so be sure to read the fine print carefully. You may be covered for accidental damage but that’s unlikely to help you if you damage the unit taking it apart. I did contact Guitar Center’s Pro coverage hotline here in the US and asked them if they would honour the warranty on a unit where the crossfader had been replaced. The response was essentially “we don’t know”. So, if you have ANY kind of warranty on your S4, proceed with caution and understand the impact of opening your unit.

DO YOU HAVE THE SKILLS?

Replacing the crossfader in a mixer that supports replaceable crossfaders is normally a straight forward process; remove all the knobs and fader caps, remove the face place and swap out the crossfader unit. The S4 is also surprisingly simple given it is not marketed as having a replaceable, or at least “user replaceable” crossfader. The process only requires you to assemble some fitting and insulation components to the Innobender itself, remove 20+ screws from the underside of the S4, 2 screws for the cross fader and maybe the application of some electrical tape for those inclined.

TOOLS FOR THE JOB

  • Your Kontrol S4
  • The Audio Innovate Innobender (note there are multiple Innofader models on the market)
  • A Phillips Head Screw Driver
  • A Hex Screw Driver or Allen Key
  • Something to cushion the top of the S4 as you work on it
  • Plenty of time, space and light

The time required to execute the upgrade will be largely dependent on your skills and confidence. I took a couple of hours which included a few minor missteps and plenty of fiddling around with the camera etc.

THE INNOFADER KIT

If you have watched any Innofader videos online you will know that Audio Innovate provide A LOT of different components with the fader. At first blush this can be somewhat overwhelming. The good news is that the S4 install process is one of the simpler processes and many of the pieces provided in the kit are not needed. Audio Innovate has however included some items that do show how much thought they have put into how their customers will use this product. For instance, you will find a tiny eyeglass style screwdriver that is used to change the tension, cut and curve settings. You will also find a small bottle of lube for servicing the fader in the future. In case you miss the note later on, DO NOT LUBE YOUR INNOBENDER WHEN YOU INSTALL IT. The lube is included for future cleaning and maintenance. More on this later.

INSTALLATION

Install the Innobender’s insulation and fitting components onto the Innobender itself. It’s worth checking out this awesome video walkthrough I made as well!

The black insulator card fits under on the underside of the Innobender.
 Securing the mounting bracket to Innobender also secures the insulator card

Connect the 90 degree attachment to the Innobender’s fader stem

Remove the underside cover of the S4.

Another "This will void your warranty" warning. You will need to take out the screw under the sticker in order to take off the cover.

Remove the stock S4 crossfader mounting screws.

Remove the stock S4 crossfader.

Once unscrewed, the crossfader lifts straight out. Don't throw away the original mounting screws.

Disconnect the stock S4 crossfader connector from the board connector.


Attach the S4 connector cable (provided with the Innobender)  to the end of the Innobender’s standard connector cable.

Connect the Innobender’s S4 cable with the board connector.

Mount the Innobender and screw in using the same screws for the stock crossfader.

Use the original crossfader mounting screws.

Leaving the S4 cover off; start Traktor & Set the Tension, cut-in and curve options to your taste

1. Cut-in 2. Curve 3.Tension (crossfader stem must be in the middle to expose the tension adjust screw)

Refit the S4’s underside cover.


Apply Innofader sticker and begin scratching like the world is going to end.


 PRO TIP: PUT DOWN THE LUBE!


Before undertaking this upgrade I asked Elliot Marx of Audio Innovate for his number one piece of advice. This was it:

“The only tip I could give you is don’t lube the fader yet, wait until it gets sticky and then use one drop – as little as possible – and work it in. You would not believe the number of Innofader returns I see that literally look like they were dipped into a deep fryer filled with lube. Overlubing just makes things more sticky and attracts dirt.”

This may be contrary to advice given on other faders but the Innofader is fairly unique in its design.

BUT I DON’T OWN AN S4

There are various Innofader products that are designed to be installed in a wide variety of mixers and controllers.  The Innobender version of the Innofader that we have used here has been tested for the S4, Vestax VCI-300, Pioneer DJM-400 & 350, Stanton m.207 and Mackie d.2 but that’s not to say it won’t work in your unit. There are several different versions of the Innofader so it’s worth checking Audio Innovate’s compatibility page here and if your unit is not listed, contact Audio Innovate directly. Generally you will be asked for some photos and measurements (of your mixer/controller) and they will let you know if there is a way to install one of the Innofaders. Audio Innovate is working on a smaller version of the fader again which may open up even more possibilities  (I’m thinking MidiFighter Pro).

A QUICK WORD WITH ELLIOT MARX – THE INNODADDY

Elliot Marx (left) with Troubl

You mentioned  the development of a mini-Innofader, can you tell me what you hope the next product accomplishes that the current product line does not?

We are developing the mini-Innofader because there are still many DJ mixers and controllers with replaceable crossfaders that don’t have enough space for the Innofader. The Innobender addresses several of these products, but there are still others which require a mini-Innofader. We also are developing the mini-Innofader as a lower cost part to make it easier for manufacturers to include it as a standard part in their products. Samples of this part will be available at NAMM 2012.

Which units are the most popular in terms of Innofader upgrades?

Vestax PMC mixers are by far the most popular units for Innofader upgrades. With the Innofader Pro the Rane TTM-56/57 and Pioneer DJM-800 are also popular mixers for Innofader upgrades.

Other than not over-lubing what other tips do you have for the long term maintenance of an Innofader?

No other tips frankly, the Innofader is designed to require minimal, if any maintenance. We’ve had DJs use it for years without even adding lube.

THE BOTTOM LINE

There is no denying that the Innofader is in a class of its own and much of what you are paying for is the research and development that goes into the product rather than just the sum of the parts.  While this is a relatively expensive upgrade, it is certainly more cost effective than buying a new mixer in order to get superior scratching capabilities. If  you decide this is something you want to do, be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of any warranty loss and get some help if you aren’t confident in taking things apart (and ideally putting them back together).

  • who wears rings when they are working on electrical equipment….#electricalshockbreaksS4

  • Thanks for this article and tutorial. I upgraded my S4 today, and have to say the feel of the innofader is awesome. Love it! My old S4 fader was a bit sticky, the innofader is super smooth and feels much nicer.

  • dj wonky womp

    I was going to trade in my S4 when I picked up my full mixer/tables setup but I think I may just do this upgrade and keep it around for house parties and small spaces!

  • Geust

    I have a apple.

  • What a coincidence! Just installed one of these in my TTM 56. I had head for years how great the Rane faders were, but that never really matched my experience. I always had preferred the feel of a Vestax to the Rane. Still tweaking the Innofader to my preferences, but the feel is great and was a worthwhile mod. 

    I will echo the author and say that the installation instructions aren’t very clear, especially when it comes to setting the cut-in points and curve. So, be prepared for the frustration and to block off some time for installation.

  • Anonymous

    make one for the vci 300 please !

    • The Innobender kit also works for the VCI 300.

    • The Innobender already works for the VCI-300 🙂 We added holes to the adapter plate above to fit either the VCI-300 or S4.

  • DJ Young Machi

    Alright, so you can’t use a DJTT fader with tis, correct?

  • emarx
  • emarx

    Smitten – really nicely written, I’m sure others appreciate the work you went through showing how to do this.

    I really think it’s illustrative if you see these posts about the Rane Magnetic vs. the Innofaderhttp://www.skratchlounge.com/index.php?/topic/9535-inno-fader-pro-in-a-ttm-57/http://www.skratchlounge.com/index.php?/topic/9664-rane-and-innofade-users/page__hl__%2Binnofader+%2Bttm__fromsearch__1http://www.skratchlounge.com/index.php?/topic/8537-innofader-vs-rane-fader/page__p__76956__hl__+innofader%20+ttm__fromsearch__1#entry76956

    One way to distinguish the Innofader from other faders is try sliding the fader while pressing it perpendicular to the rail. Almost any scratch fader will feel smooth if you move it right along the rail, but they’ll all feel different when you do this perpendicular pressing, with cheaper faders getting completely jammed. The Innofader feels just as smooth when you do this. I’m not a scratch DJ myself – many find this hard to believe 🙂 – but I do know that this difference is what makes the Innofader feel “satisfying” and “easy to control”. With all of the upgrades, model changes, etc. this is the one thing we will always keep the same!

    Elliot

  • Jay

    Since when has anyone on here cared about scratching ?!?! Stick to you midi arcade buttons because scratching isnt creative MANNNN!!! Stupid fanboys you cant sync your scratches to your track anywyas dumb hipsters….

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant work by SmiTTTen… Gonna do this very soon myself.

  • Dood, you can totally adjust the curve in your traktor settings. I keep it super sharp and in the middle. 

  • Rukks

    One important thing that you should note when dealing with any circuit board and taking apart screws is that the board should be grounded properly. I have seen many boards get fried due to improper or lack of grounding.

    Just a thought for future mods similar to this.

  • Rusty Stanberry

    Could the photo’s be a little darker next time? KTHANXBYE

  • proben

    “With the Innofader Pro the Rane TTM-56/57 and Pioneer DJM-800 are also popular mixers for Innofader upgrades.”

    This surprises me about the Rane mixers; those magnetic faders are simply the best crossfader I’ve ever used.  I can’t imagine being able to improve upon it so much as to justify a fader that costs 1/3 the price of the unit (in the case of the 56).  The only problem I have is keeping it clean and lubed but taking the fader out and cleaning it every couple years does the trick.

  • Wzrdskt

    Ive wanted this badboy on my djm for sometime now. But my fades still running strong so I’ve left it in. One step closer to my faux turntables controller I’ve waited eagerly for!

  • Miguel

    Is there any way to add Midi functionality to the DJM-350 with this innofader? It would be great, because the DJM-350 is not MIDI capable and adding at lease MIDI to the cross-fader is all that is needed for video mixing with Serato or VDJ. Can this be done?

    • SmiTTTen

      The Innofader itself has no midi capabilities. 

  • Lauti

    question for scratchers: Do you feel that the latency inherent to internal mixing with the S4 is noticeable? I mean, do you transform as you regularly do?

  • SmiTTTen

    More photos of the S4 Stock [Alpha] Innofader: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58365136@N04/sets/72157628220282211/

  • the dj ally

    @elliotmarx:disqus, or any of the AudioInnovate crew. . .

    a) amazing as always, i’m a long time fan.

    b) am waiting on a numark mixtrack pro, but will be purchasing s4 in the next couple of months. Does the innobender fit in this controller? Ideally I’d like to throw one in until such time as I can grab the s4.

    Thanks a million and keep up the amazing work!!!

    – the dj ally

    • emarx

      From what I remember Mixtrack Pro is too tight, but I can help you run through this

  • Great Article Smitten!

    I Sold my S4 for 2 main reasons, rigid map and un replacable cross fade that I felt would not last the amount of Skratching I was using it for. Then 2-3 weeks after cashing in on my S4 the Innofade S4 mod came out. Gutted would be a suitible word for how I felt. Alas the S2 was released, a far better controller for my own needs “but” I’ve read this S4 esq innobender mod won’t fit the S2, bugger!!

    So it really pleases me to read the mini Innofade is well on its way!

    @Elliot Marx and rest of the Audio Innovates team, keep up the sterling work!

    • SmiTTTen

      Do you have any idea what kind of space exists in the crossfader area in the S2? We should be able to figure out if the new model will work. I have the dimensions but Elliot has an anvil suspended over my head in case I speak. 

      • Carloatendido

        The S2 crossfader is hardwired to the motherboard from what Elliot told me. 

        • SmiTTTen

          Get that soldering iron out!

  • Baptiste

    Elliot Marks is the coolest company owner in the world. The innofader is the best fader in the world. Audio innovate has the best customer service I´ve ever seen. If you scratch, buy this fader, you will love it. Word.

  • Great article!

  • JSM

    Can we PLEASE see a side by side review with someone like Q-Bert. This thing still only controls the MIDI signal (not audio), I’d like to see a proper, quantifiable review.

    STOCK FADER v INNOBENDER.

    I agree in a traditional mixer, the innofader is the dogs danglies, I can’t see how it can improve MIDI response time though, for that you would need to adjust buffers, MIDI clocks etc.

    Thanks

    • good point i was scrolling at the bottom wishing to see some kind of video where we could see the difference… that would definitely show if this is a good buy or not

      • as stated in the article, this upgrade is only worth it for serious Skratch dj’s. Making a vid just to say it feels like Innofade inside an S4 is hardly worth it, don’t ya think?

    • Firstly watch this vid as you clearly haven’t seen it


       
      If there was ANY noticeable xfade latency none of the “very” technical skratching in that vid would of been possible.

      “I can’t see how it can improve MIDI response time though, for that you would need to adjust buffers, MIDI clocks etc.”
      It’s not about improving midi response at all (there’s no need to!) more about replacing an average/cheap feeling fade with something of beautifully weighted quality and upgrading to a fade that won’t die in a year. 

      Further more the S4 uses hi res code. not that it really matters any way, as when your skratching your most likely to want a sharp cut which is pretty much like an on/off switch, which really doesn’t need a great deal of messages. So in fade terms, midi is more than up to the job of being Skratch friendly.

      Most fades on traditional mixers you’ll come across don’t actually cut the audio them selfs, Take a ganders at this great article as I get the impression you haven’t read it, be warned tho, there’s no video 😉

      http://www.djtechtools.com/2011/11/01/fader-technology-a-primer/#disqus_thread

      • JSM

        I have seen the article but not the video. The video proves my point, well raises the same question.

        They were using a stock S4, and the cuts were spot on, does an innofader in a MIDI device sound that much better ? Are you able to cut that much better?

        That was the point of the posting.

        If you want to discuss MIDI signalling, 14bit or otherwise and it’s effect on noise injected into the signal, PM me.

        ta

        PS all my analogue mixers cut the audio via faders (or rotary on some of my older units), maybe I’ve been around too long. The newer digital mixers are different.

        • proben

          It’s not that it “sounds” better; it’s that it *feels* better and lasts longer.  In some cases it sounds better, if the previous fader doesnt have a T hardware curve (like the A+H mixers).  The other issue is the travel distance from “on” to “off” on the cut — some faders (e.g. on Behringer DDM4k mixers) have a 4-5mm space between the wall and the cut-in point; that’s a lot of distance to travel if you’re making quick cuts, and a lot more space for imprecision.  Other things are less obvious but still important, like how heavy the fader apparatus feels (the VCI-100 fader for example is notoriously light feeling, which makes precise cuts a bit more difficult) and of course how long the fader lasts and how smooth the movement is.

          • JSM

            Again, you have missed the point.

            The simple answer to this is to get someone who is acclaimed at scratching to record a demonstration on a Stock fader S4 (complete with NI’s 2 year replace it if it’s broken warranty) and a modified innobender S4.

            Have both posted without labelling them ..i.e. a blind test, and get the forum users to identify which is which.

            Then it’s up to the users to think is it worth dropping $200 and losing the support from NI …. just for the *feel*

            Do you think that Ean would have approved a design that was not functional?

            BTW, you didn’t mention Elliot’s other design masterpiece, the VMS4, simply the worst crap I’ve ever had the misfortune to own.

          • proben

            I don’t really understand what you will see on the video that you want to see.  Try the fader yourself if you’re interested and buy it if you like it.  Or don’t – if you’re happy with the S4’s fader, why waste your energy?  Nobody says it isn’t “functional.”  For people who like to scratch and who know the feel of a good fader, it is a big deal, but for many others it’s just not important.  But I don’t see the point of having video viewers guess which fader is which based on what limited information you can get from a video.  I don’t know anyone who would pick this fader for its looks – it’s really about feel and about what you can do with it.

        • RBX

          No mixer actually mixes the sound together inside faders anymore.  They control a voltage gate on each side of the resistor (fader) which in turn blends the sound together elsewhere in the mixer and NOT across the fader.  

          This isn’t new technology either, just about every mixer valued over at $100 in the last 10 years has this feature.  So unless you’re still mixing on something like the Gemini PMX 2200 from the late 80s, the chances are that you are already using a mixer with a voltage controlled fader system…

          • JSM

            I have been DJ’ing for 30 years, this year …so yes I have real analogue equipment, some of which used to be inside Maida Vale Studios, London. So of us are not “still wet behind the ear”, some of us know the difference.

      • Scoox

        Not looking to get an Innofader, but rather to repair a faulty stock faders. Does anyone have a part number for the cross-fader and the level faders?

  • Djzilch

    wow this looks surprisingly easy!!! i think im finally gonna decide on one – quick question though does it curve adjustment in traktor’s settings menu gonna change anything or everything is hard wired to the adjustments on the innofader itself?

    • SmiTTTen

      You can use both innobenders cut/curve setting and Traktor’s. The innobender will define the absolute limits of the fader but you could use Traktor to change the curve within those limits.

  • Love my innofader

  • Elliot is the most top notch fellow around!! I love my Innofader Pro

  • Quenepas

    YES! Thanks for this! This is what I was looking for a while! Instructions and a reviewish article about the Innobender! 😀 This should make the decision clearer since now we have proper instructions to do this. A word, on the “But I dont own an S4” paragraph the link provided shows an error of not found. Also a direct link to the Innobender page should save us a couple mouse clicks :p.

    • SmiTTTen

      good catch! Fixed 🙂

  • Jambajuice

    yo, this article is dope.  thx for posting it!

  • Jezza

    Spelling error! “(not there are multiple Innofader models ”

    Should that be “note”?

  • SmiTTTen

    There is also a video that accompanies this article at: http://youtu.be/953iM36O0Ew