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Hack Kontrol S8/S5/D2 Screens With Advanced Layouts

The Traktor Kontrol S8 and S5 are two powerful Traktor DJ controllers with screens. But their power is limited by what information is shown on the screen – and for some, the default display wasn’t good enough. Check out a project by some enterprising DJs to hack the screens on these controllers with advanced layouts.

Out With The Old (Screens), In With The New

Customizing your DJ setup is one of the most exciting parts of being a DJ. We love to find new ways to modify gear to make it our own. This can mean adding stickers, custom knobs, changing the software layout, building a unique DJ booth, or any number of other projects.

But with modern digital DJ equipment, there’s often a closed system that prevents modification on the digital/software side. This often comes when there’s a new big advance – like adding display screens to DJ controllers. Having a window into Traktor on the Kontrol S8, S5, and D2 is great, but what if you want to change what you’re seeing? Too bad – until now.

Playing With QML Files

QML is a markup language based on Javascript used for programming user interfaces. Native Instruments uses QML files to help tell Traktor Pro what information is displayed on the screens on the Kontrol S8/S5/D2. Owners of these controllers already know what these displays look like. But what if they could be changed?

Two different Traktor power users took on their own independent forays into making their own versions of the heads-up displays on these controllers.

Sydes Custom Kontrol Screens

First up is Sydes, a user on the Native Instruments forums who, in late July, started a now-popular thread on the topic of modding these screens. He writes:

I have always wondered why the display of the S8 are so dull and boring and do not provide the info everyone is asking for.  […]

I have rewritten the deckheader file completly from scratch, so it makes more sense and allows for easier modifications. [..] this is a first attempt at a new display format, showing lots more info then before, thus even further reducing to look at the PC screens. My ultimate goal is to completely remove the need for PC screens 🙂

His new heads up display shows substantially more information on the track screen:

1468996931590

As well as showing more details on the browser screen (I love that he has added indications for matching keys here with the four decks in the bottom right – green is one step away, orange is two steps away):

browser1

In addition to way more information overall, there’s Camelot keys instead of Traktor Open Key. Really handy for those of us who are used to looking at key one way on all tracks.

You can download the most recent (August 16th) version of Sydes’ deckheader here (installation instructions at the end of this aticle) – or read the entire thread on the NI forums to see if there’s something newer.

ErikMinekus’s Two Kontrol Screen Options

A second Traktor user also made serious forays into replacing the default screens on these controllers. ErikMinekus has his versions organized a bit better on GitHub, and there are two versions available:

erik-kontrol-edition
The Kontrol Edition maintains a similar layout as originally, but with a few minor changes for usability
  • Kontrol Edition: Default layout, but with spectrum waveform colors, and a lot of small annoyances fixed. See the readme for details.
erik-nexus-edition
The Nexus edition makes a few changes that make the Kontrol S5/S8/D2 screens look a bit less like NI gear and a bit more like Pioneer
  • Nexus Edition: Contains the same waveform colors and fixes from above, but the layout and features are inspired by CDJ/XDJ players.

Wondering what the functions and annoyances that have been changed are? Here it is straight from the read me:

Changes in appearance:

  • Camelot keys
  • FX overlay is always large
  • Spectrum waveform colors
  • Track deck header displays beats, remaining time, tempo and BPM

Changes in functionality:

  • BPM coarse and fine adjustment are flipped
  • [D2] Shift + Deck switches between deck A/C and B/D
  • Timings have been improved
  • Use the Browse knob to zoom in and out of the waveform
  • Waveform zooming has been improved so that more beats are visible

How To Install

Erik’s written up a great simple guide on how to install custom QML files with Traktor – this should work with any of the three projects above:

Mac:

  • Navigate to /Applications/Native Instruments/Traktor 2
  • Right click Traktor.app, then click Show Package Contents
  • Navigate to Contents/Resources/qml
  • Make a backup of this folder!
  • Replace the CSI, Defines and Screens folders
  • Restart Traktor

Windows:

  • Navigate to C:\Program Files\Native Instruments\Traktor 2\Resources64\qml
  • Make a backup of this folder!
  • Replace the CSI, Defines and Screens folders
  • Restart Traktor

We hope to see continued development of alternative display screens on all controllers – the more customization, the better! Maybe NI could even take a hint from these projects and allow users to customize their screens without having to mess around with QML files? 

  • Kahlil Gibran Robinson

    any chance of getting either one of these with Traktor open key for those of us traditionalists?

  • Tony Miles

    Does anyone know if you can get the screen to work on Rekordbox DJ?

    • Erik Minekus

      No, the screen functionality is handled by the software, not the controller, so other DJ software will never support it.

  • Schennis Dönwälder

    Is it possible, to change the position of the playmarker on the display aswell?

    • Erik Minekus

      I’ve tried, but it looks like the playmarker is hardcoded in the middle, unless it’s in slicer or beatgrid mode.

  • Anthony Alonso

    Would love to be able to replace artist with label, genre, and comments.

  • Keynote101

    can someone make a stacked layout for decks A and B? I would love to see both waveforms on a single d2 screen

    • Erik Minekus

      It’s not possible to have deck A and B on a single D2, you can only have A/C or B/D. And the screen is not really tall enough to have track info and a large and small waveform for two decks, unless you design it like the XDJ-RX or something.

  • CUSP

    Bought an S8 on Black Friday, looking forward to customizing my screens.

  • killmedj

    Can’t wait to try this! Thanks!

  • MiQ

    I just installed the Nexus Edition screens. There’s one thing that doesn’t work. The 4 yellow boxes which counts the bars. Doesn’t do anything.

    Any ideas ?

    Other than that, fantastic job. Quite why NI have set them in the comparatively crappy way they have is for another thread entirely.

    Pity you can’t zoom in that far into the waveform on actual CDJs.

    • S. Doherty

      My experience with the Nexus screens is that the 4 bar counter on the deck set as Master doesn’t do anything. It’s just the deck(s) that’s not the Master, where the 4 bar counter shows the bar progression.

      • MiQ

        That was my problem. I use the clock as the master deck. Cheers.

  • Dj Mysterio

    Hey there, anyone know what field the camelot key is being read from? For some reason the key is not showing for me. Any help would be appreciateed. Thanks!

  • karamel

    Hy. First of all excuse my english , i am not native. Second i would
    like to thanks to ErikMinekus for the nexus edition. Third i would like
    to ask him the next thing: is it possible to change the beats to cue to
    look like this: 6.4.4 then 6.4.3 then 6.4.2 and so till (let’s say)
    4.4.4 then 4.4.3 and so on till the cue? In preferences/transport i have
    beatcounter set to 4 and it looks as i explained. Tks in advance

  • Ajayabc

    This is really amazing work @Erik Minekus!

    Quick question, for the camelot keys, what field is this looking up in the MP3 file? I am pretty sure I am saving my camelot keys to the key text field, but its showing up as undefined.

    How do I get this part to work?

  • Kevin Basher

    Awesome Job @erikminekus:disqus
    BUT now we need a new version for Traktor 2.11 – it does not work anymore 🙂

    • S. Doherty

      @Kevin_Basher:disqus: Did you apply the files to Traktor 2.11? It’s a new application, so the whole process of adding/replacing the files needs to happen again.

      • Kevin Basher

        I replaced the files in the new installation.

        After that, my D2’s are not beeing recognized by Traktor anymore.

    • Erik Minekus

      Correct, NI made some small changes which make the 2.10 QML files incompatible with 2.11, plus the step sequencer is still quite buggy, so I won’t be updating them until 2.11 is released.

  • S. Doherty

    @disqus_NYFcR6x609:disqus How can everyone keep up to date with your progress and changes? Will you be making a Github page for your project, like @erikminekus:disqus?

  • Tony Miles

    This is fantastic!!!
    I wonder is it possible to get the screen to work on Rekordbox DJ? I’ve mapped my D2 but obviously the screen doesn’t display ant waveforms

  • Dj Polymath

    This is awesome!!!!!!! I’m so stoked to try this out. I can code so I’d love to contribute. Didn’t think anyone had taken a shot at it yet. ???

  • Anthony Alonso

    Thats pretty awesome. Cant wait for someone to figure out how to just use them as external monitors. Would love to blow the dust off of my D2’s and use them with rekordbox.

  • S. Doherty

    My experience is that Sydes’s layout is not optimized for the S5… but, still works, mostly.

    ErikMinekus’s versions both work very well on the S5. Thanks!

  • botelos5

    I have already installed and running perfect. thank you very much

  • CUSP

    This article *RIGHT HERE* is why I belong to a community of enthusiasts. I’ve been riding the fence about picking up an S5, but I think now that I know I can mod the screens, I’m doing it soon.

    • Joe

      Absolutely! This community is about doing cool stuff with hardware and this article is definitely qualifies as cool stuff. Now if we could only change the mapping on the S5.

  • Sydes

    Hi Dan, Thxs for featuring ErikMinekus and my work in your article. Indeed as ErikMinekus said it would be great if we get more people involded in this :).

    Just one remark, I saw the link in your article refers to an update that needs to be installed after the qml files as attached to a post on the 14th of august (post #24 on NI forum). The files mentioned in your article are just updates to 2 of the files.

    • CUSP

      You did everyone a service. Thank you for that.

  • Erik Minekus

    Thanks for featuring my screen mods! I also hope this is a start for other people to create their own screens.

    • Sydes

      Nice 🙂

  • Treadway

    If only you could do this with the Traktor app interface. I really do not need the effects stacked. (and a thousand other things)
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f41a5db1af8c8456435c3a0286743d384412ecb61319b3ddd6d168f14ab09b4a.png

    • ShiftFunction

      Exactly! Why must I have pages up top when I’ve got the screen real estate to have everything showing at all times

    • CUSP

      Yeah, when DJ programs first came out, they were a lot more customizable. You could move modules around and change skins, etc. I’m not sure why they dropped user customization. It seems odd to me. Good job here though.

  • Ralf S

    Great stuff. I have followed the discussions and instruction in the NI forum. I changed the the key sorting to Camelot and BPM coarse. I have am Mac and used 010 Editor to edit the QML files. Don’t use some of the built in editors from OS X ! Now my S8 works how it should be from default. I will give the other QML hacks a try. This article shows how flexible Tractor is I you know where to turn the screw.

  • Jörg

    Sydes Custom Kontrol Screens
    I put the files “DeckHeader.qml” and “DetailsFooter.qml” in

    Contets-Rescources-qml-Screnns-Views-Deck

    The layout is fantastic with all the information on the screen but the waveform is still blue-white. The article only describes the installation of “ErikMinekus’s Two Kontrol Screen Options” Any suggestions?

    • Sydes

      Just download the zip file from post #24 on the forum first. Overwrite the files in the installation directory of traktor. (BACKUP FIRST). Then download the updates (few posts later) and overwrite again. I will post an updated “complete” package soon on the NI forums (in a few days)…

      • Jörg

        Hey Sydes, thank you for responding. I still have blue waveforms but your layout of the screen. After download and replacing the Screens folder of comment #24 I put the update files of comment #32 in Screens-Views-Deck (DeckHeader.qml) und DetailsFooter.qml into Screens-Views-Browser

        Did I do anything wrong?

        Thanks for your help.

      • S. Doherty

        I’m excited for the ‘complete package’. I posted on the NI forum a suggestion to make the most recent ‘complete’ package attached to the #1 post (sticky).

  • Scott Frost

    NICE!

  • Dubby Labby

    It could be possible access to the screens outside traktor? It will be useful for bootload the system and travel with nuc making it pseudo standalone…

    • Dubrifle

      good shout! would be amazing!

  • Ztronical

    Woot!
    Funny I saw this thread on the Traktor forum, and thought it was someone explaining what NI needs to do, I didn’t really give much attention looked it over and stopped reading thinking “wow this would be cool but NI will never do it.” I even thought that this write up was just going to be another wish list, what if?
    I had no idea it was legit.
    I’m about to set it up and check it out on my S8! Nothing was mentioned in the article above about any cpu(gpu?) stress or anything negative, which is also a first, that said of course I back up everything.

    • Rob van Erp

      Just try them en make a solid backup of your current qml files, so reverting back is easy. It works for the D2’s 🙂

    • Sydes

      Hi Ztronical. In my setup there is no negative influence on cpu stress. Hope you enjoy the mods from both ErikMinekus and myself.

      • CUSP

        You did everyone a service. Thank you.

      • Odium

        This is amazing! i love it !
        On the nexus one the beats counter is off by one beat for example instead of it being 16.4 its 15.4 anyway i could get this fixed 😀