Review: Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 and S2 MK2

In the three years since the original Kontrol S4 dropped, Native Instruments added Remix Decks, Flux Mode, and the Traktor DJ app to the Traktor lexicon. The Kontrol S4 MK2 and S2 MK2 refresh the series to keep up with the software’s progression. Is all that growth worth a shrinkage to your bank account? Judge these beautiful new controllers for yourself.

(editor’s note: the units pictured in this review have Chroma Caps on them – not the default knobs. All Kontrol S4 MK2s + Kontrol S2 MK2s in the DJTT Store are sold with Chroma Caps.)

Reviewed: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 and S2 MK2
Price: S4: $699 (MSRP) S2: $399
Communication: MIDI over USB, with high-resolution jog wheels
Ships with: Traktor Pro 2, power supply, USB cable, iOS 30-pin cable, keyboard shortcut chart.
Weight: S4: 7.5 lb. (3.4 kg); S2: 5.7 lb. (2.6 kg)
Dimensions: S4: 19.7 x 13.3 x 2.8 inches, S2: 17.2 x 12.1 x 2.6 inches

The Good: Dedicated Flux Mode buttons. New multi-colored backlit pads for Remix Deck control. Plug-and-play support for iOS Traktor DJ. Same great 24-bit/96 khz audio interface and build quality as before.

The Bad: Some noise on the audio output when using USB bus power. Not working with iOS 7 yet at the time of publication.

The Bottom Line: The Kontrol S4 and S2 were already excellent options for Traktor users. The new features catch the hardware up to where the software has been going. They may not attract massive throngs of new converts, but they undoubtedly make two really nice controllers even better, and for the same price as before.


Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 (left) S4 MK1(right)

The S4 MK2 and S2 MK2 have been slightly refreshed, with the same great build quality with aircraft-grade aluminum face plates and the same audio interface features with NI’s renown 24-bit/96 khz sound quality and high output levels. There’s a little more spit-and-polish to the design: shinier jog wheels, updated surface finishes, etc. The size dimensions and weight are nearly identical to the older versions, and the layout of controls looks just about the same, as well, with a few important distinctions.

Want to catch up on the original units? Read our reviews of the Kontrol S4 and Kontrol S2.

A visual facelift

The first thing you notice that’s different about the S4 MK2 and S2 MK2 are the fully backlit RGB LED buttons. They not only look more beautiful than the old partially lit buttons, but they also stand out visually much better, whether in the dark or in daylight conditions. The restyled buttons give better visual feedback for the color-coded Remix Deck samples that they can launch.

While the original Kontrol S units didn’t have direct access to the Remix Decks, the S4 MK2and S2 MK2 were built for it. That’s what the slight refresh of these units was about: providing better access to some of the most important recent Traktor features. That’s also why the new units come with USB-to-iOS-30-pin cables and work with Traktor DJ on iOS of the box.

The new aluminum jogs (left) are almost twice as heavy as the old ones (right).

The S4 and S2 MK2 both sport redesigned jogwheels that are now topped with aluminum instead of plastic – they’re just heavier enough (see image above) to allow their use to feel signifiantly more solid than the MK1 platters ever did. Traktor is clearly responding to some of the praise around the jogwheels Pioneer’s DDJ-SX and making their own jogs feel more significant.

Flux Mode, engage!

Finally, both new controllers have crucial Flux Mode buttons above the pitch faders of both decks. These Flux Mode buttons replace the Reset button from the S2 Mk 1 and the S4 MK2 replaces the old Offset ± buttons with Flux Mode and Reset buttons. Flux Mode is a recent Traktor addition that lets you fiddle with performance features like loops and hotcues while the song continues playback in the background. When your fingers come off the controls, the song picks up at the spot it would be at if playing continuously. The dedicated button on the new Kontrol S units makes it so easy to jump into Flux Mode and start playing away on spontaneous loops with the Loop Size/Set push encoder.


S4 MK2 VS. S2 MK2

Kontrol S4 MK2 + Kontrol S2 MK2

As before, the S4 MK2 sets that flagship standard for NI’s Traktor Kontrol series. It’s a full-fledged 4-deck controller, while the S2 MK2 controls 2 decks along with some limited access to the Remix Decks C and D.

Above and beyond the S2 Mk2, the S4 Mk2 has two additional channel strips; dedicated center-detented Filter knobs for all four channel strips; vital Snap, Quantize, and Master buttons; a very handy Mode button in both FX decks for toggling between Single and Group effects; a dedicated Loop Recorder section; and four extra Remix Slot buttons for launching clips from a Remix Deck.

All that extra stuff adds up to some extra size and bulk, but not all that much. The S4 Mk2 adds a few centimeters to the length and depth of the S2 Mk2 and weighs 1.8 pounds more. The S4 Mk2 can be a bit of handful both to carry and possibly to make room for in a DJ booth. However, all of its extra hands-on control can make a world of difference. The S2 Mk2 is a worthy compromise for anyone with size or budgetary concerns, or who simply won’t use all the bells and whistles of the S4 Mk2.


Remix Decks on the S2 MK2

The new controller versions basically swap in Remix Deck controls where the old versions had Sample Slot controls. The 1-4 pads on the S2 Mk2’s two decks can double as Remix Deck controls when you have Traktor Deck’s C and D set as Remix Decks. To switch the pads to Remix mode, you turn on the A and/or B buttons in the center Remix section. From there, you can either trigger any of the upper sample slots in the Remix Deck with pads 1-4, or if any of those slots are empty, use the buttons to capture samples from a live deck or load samples from the Library. The knob in the S2 Mk2’s Remix section controls the volume of both Remix Decks.

Remix Deck controls on the S4 MK2

On the S4 Mk2, the four dedicated Remix Slot buttons let you trigger samples from the top slots of Remix Deck directly from a track deck. However, you have excellent alternatives in the Traktor Kontrol S4 preferences to use the Remix Slot buttons as either Hotcue 5-8, Direct Loop or Beatjump buttons, all of which can be enormously useful.

No matter what behavior you choose for the Remix Slot buttons when on a Track Deck, when on a Remix Deck they will behave the same, which is to trigger and re-trigger the top four slots of a Remix Deck. Also while controlling a Remix Deck, the S4 Mk2’s 1-4 pad buttons work to mute/unmute the four Remix Deck slots, and the bottom row of transport control buttons work globally on all four Remix slots. Just like with the S2 Mk2, you can use the S4 Mk2’s Remix Slot buttons to capture samples or load samples to empty slots.


Traktor DJ for iPad + Kontrol S2 MK2

Native Instruments seems to be really taking the migration of DJing to iOS devices pretty seriously. Even if it launched its Traktor DJ app at first as a track preparation tool that also that you could also mix tracks with, making both the S4 Mk2 and S2 Mk2  compatible with iOS hardware and Traktor DJ should indicate some level of demand for real-world DJing with Traktor DJ, or at the very least it indicates that NI aims to create such a demand.

Though it may seem overkill at first to use the S4 or even S2 on an iPad app, it’s not so crazy once you try it. On one of the more powerful iOS devices with a lot space for music and processing power for the effects, loops, EQing, and cueing that you’ll throw at it, the Kontrol S units make a compelling case for Traktor DJ as a live tool. From the controllers you can:

  • browse and load tracks
  • set and launch cue points and loops
  • EQ tracks
  • mix in three effects per deck
  • use the dedicated Filter knob and Quantize button on the S4 Mk2.
  • control Freeze mode cuepoints

The iPads we tried it on using the included 30-pin cable recognized the controller right away and launched Traktor DJ for it, after which the controller provided a great audio output and separate headphone cueing with no problems. For newer iOS devices, an Apple adapter is required to go from the 30-pin connector to a Lightning connector.

Even though these controllers aren’t cleared for use with iOS 7 yet, we tried the S4 Mk 2 on an iPad running iOS 7 just out of curiosity. Everything was going great for a few minutes, until some particularly furious cue point tapping crashed the app. Keep an eye on DJ Tech Tools’ news for an update on when NI has these suckers ready for use with iOS 7.

The Kontrol S2 MK2


Like the Maschine Mk 2 and Kontrol X1 Mk 2 before them, the new generation of Kontrol S2/4s present a tough choice to current users. The new Remix Deck features, Flux Mode button, and Traktor DJ compatibility all present new value, and it might suck using your old unit knowing that there are Flux Mode buttons out there mocking you. But that still may not be enough for users to upgrade.

However, if you’ve been considering an S4 or S2, it’s all gravy for you. The controllers just got significantly better for the same price. Part of the that price includes the full Traktor Pro 2 software as well. Again, that’s more incentive for those just getting into Traktor, and less of a perk for current users already on Traktor Pro 2.

Markkus Rovito is the DJTT Tech Editor. Leave your thoughts, and find out what Markkus is reviewing or send questions to him in the comments or on Twitter.

The Kontrol S4 MK2 and Kontrol S2 MK2 are both available now in the DJTT store.

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Comments (71)
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  • dattrax

    I’ve had my S4 for over 6 years now and with no problems,except year one where I had to get if fixed under warranty.

    These new changes might be good for a new user, but not enough for me to upgrade. If they made the pitch faders tight and not loose like a toy + make them longer, that would make a huge difference.

    The pitch faders are 1/3 of the length of vinyl turntables and super loose with zero resistance.

    And if the jog wheels had motorized resistance, that would be amazing.

    Right now my S4 feels like DJing on a toy.

    Thankfully, I just bought vinyl turntables, so use the S4 as a mixer and interface to Traxtor on my laptop, with vinyl timecode records – most fun to play on! The tactile feel of vinyl with the S4 mixer knobs which are great and their EFX top panel knobs playing digital house tracks.

  • Dionysus

    It’s a pity Native Instruments aren’t acknowledging that there is a serious fault with these Mark 2 devices that cause them to freeze /crash, particularly when the jog wheels or knob tweaking are used.
    NI were unable to fix the problem for me and I’ve had no alternative but to return my S2. Alas, all style no substance in this case. Just not good enough!

  • Dionysus

    It’s a pity Native Instruments aren’t acknowledging that there is a serious fault with these Mark 2 devices that cause them to freeze /crash, particularly when the jog wheels or knob tweaking are used.
    NI were unable to fix the problem for me and I’ve had no alternative but to return my S2. Alas, all style no substance in this case. Just not good enough!

  • Robert Nimons

    Should I get the Z2 with a F1 or (and) a X1 mkII? Or a Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 then Add?

  • Robert Nimons

    Should I get the Z2 with a F1 or (and) a X1 mkII? Or a Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 then Add?

  • dondehb

    Is there a way to get Traktor DJ with an S4 MK1 going?

  • kavera

    Is Freeze mode only usable on ipad APP? or i can use it in my mac with S2 Mk2?

  • Mariano Perez

    Any Black Friday deals on the S4 Mk2 or the S2 MK2?

  • Helpmeee

    How can solve the noises on faders like pops or clipping
    It sound when use the usb bus power

  • Guy Williams

    The deal-breaking issue I have having been with traktor since it’s introduction, and owning basically every piece of associated hardware as well, lies with the output of these controllers!
    Why would NI create what they call a professional controller with non professional industry standard output levels?
    The outputs may be acceptable for mobile DJ’s or home use, but fall way short in output for pro/club systems when running the unit stand alone.

    Just for example, the Denon MC600 has a FAR BETTER sounding and pro level output, but the controllers integration with Traktor is lacking!
    NI PLEASE create a controller that has PRO level outputs!!

    • Bryan Miller

      by MC600 I believe you mean 6000 right?Anyways the s4 soundcard is 24bit / 96khz the denon is at 16 bits and 48khz. by the numbers the s4 is technically better. Now technically you only hear up to around 20khz, so 44.1khz is all you need for filtering and such. Does the added sampling add to the sound quality? brief answer, there isnt much scientific evidence saying much above 44.1khz is noticeably different and 16 bits is what regular audio cd’s use. The part where a higher bit rate is useful and audibly different is when you slow down a track, more sampling points allows for more transients to be picked up. Perhaps there is more coming from the actual outputs, of course over short distances balanced vs unbalanced isnt that huge of issue, so unless you are sending the audio directly from this mixer to a sound system further than 10 feet, I doubt you will hear much difference. perhaps I am missing something, but as from what i can see, besides a wider array of inputs and outputs, I dont see how the denon is better?

      • Guy Williams

        Bryan, to clarify…. I have heard 2 different stories on the sampling rate of the Denon. However as you stated, it really makes little difference on playback.

        I work for in las vegas as a resident DJ at several of their venues. We used to use Pioneer DJM800 as the standard mixer in all venues and have now migrated to the Nexxus 900. When possible I like to run straight into the system excluding the pioneer mixer. When I was using the denon it drove the system noticeably better than the DJM800.

        However the integration between the hardware of the denon and trakto, leaves a lot to be desired, and have switched to using the S2 first generation as opposed the the unreliable S2MK2. In order to run the clubs systems as a pioneer does I was forced to incorporate a Radial J+4

        The lower levels have absolutely NOTHING to do with cabling type or length.

        My old Audio 8 soundcard did a better job at driving a pro system.

        So I am convinced that the inadequacy lies in the sound card design of the Traktor line of controllers with the built in sound cards

  • hildog

    hi. Does anyone know where i can get these red and blue custom caps? thank you

    • Tyler

      Youre on the only website that sells them lol

  • DNA

    It would have been an instant sale if they added kill switches. I think ill stay with my DDM4000 for now..

    • LiftedAndreaS

      No kill switches?? Wtf lol

  • Kutmaster TeeOh

    Worth the money? Nope

  • King Fader

    so, what’s the market gonna be for used S4/2’s I wonder?

  • ancymon

    I have to say… Yours, DJTTs, is a beauty!

  • Weaver2

    Having never once purchased an apple product, this upgrade seems wholly pointless for my particular market segment. If chasing iOS compatibility with minimal upgrades is what NI plans to be doing with Traktor for the next few years, I don’t think I’m going to stick with them.

    I’m still hoping that, like Maschine, we’re going to get an actual new controller soon. Like by Q2 of next year soon.

  • DJ Rob Ticho,Club mU

    I reallllly want NI to release a single deck controller. Something with a jog wheel and dedicated display. NI added a display to Maschine Studio and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a killer single deck contoller in the next year. Thoughts?

    • Weaver2

      I hope they do. It would really compliment the Z2 quite well IMO. Right now it’s a bit of an odd product with a very slim target audience.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        The Z2 fits well with Pioneer CDJ’s (as some of the Pioneer models will act as controllers eg. 900 nexus and 2000 nexus) and is shipped with Traktor Scratch as well as time encoded vinyl and cd’s. Not to be confused with an S4 which is shipped with Traktor Pro, but can be upgraded with Traktor Scratch to accommodate turntables and CDJ’s.

        • Weaver2

          Oh, I know it does; but I don’t know any CDJ or Vinyl holdouts who would want to or be willing to incorporate Traktor into their workflow.

          Again, I know these people exist; but in my personal (and I’ll admit small sample size) experience there isn’t a huge demand from “old format” types to hook everything up to a laptop.

          I still have my Tech 12s and some vinyl kicking around, but the cost of upgrading to a Z2 with a DVS system is pretty expensive for very little gain IMO.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            The Z2 is also a straight through mixer. No Traktor required.

          • Weaver2

            What CDJ or Vinyl DJ doesn’t already have a mixer?
            If you’re not buying one for Traktor integration there is absolutely no point to get one.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            I don’t know *shrugs*… tell that to all the DJ’s and clubs that have Rane mixers.

  • stefanhapper

    With the limited new features, I would even dare to ask the question whether it’s worth for new buyers to consider still the old MK1 – you get it on ebay for 40% cheaper than a new MK2

  • leavesremix

    The MKII’s look cleaner. I like it. Shouldn’t hardware be shipping with lightning connectors by now instead of 30-pin?

  • Robert Wulfman

    Couldn’t a mk1 user just remap their controller? I mean you wouldn’t get the improved build and ios compatibility but you wouldn’t have flux mode mocking you.

  • Greg4422

    disgustingly ugly…ijs

  • Doddstar

    I wish they would avoid showing reviewed products, that they sell, with Croma Caps on. Which they also sell.
    Conflict of interest.
    And it would be nice to see other branded products reviewed – like Pioneer; Numark; Rane etc. preferably of brands they don’t sell.
    Love the information in this site, and the general content, but the editorial integrity is biased to advertising way too much.

  • Doddstar

    I wish they would avoid showing reviewed products, that they sell, with Croma Caps on. Which they also sell.
    Conflict of interest.
    And it would be nice to see other branded products reviewed – like Pioneer; Numark; Rane etc. preferably of brands they don’t sell.
    Love the information in this site, and the general content, but the editorial integrity is biased to advertising way too much.

  • Grudge

    Didn’t NI make a new similar MK2 mapping for their MK1 users which also switches offset/reset buttons to control Flux mode on/off?

  • Aken

    Am I the only one that find this review totally sold to Native Instruments ?

    • Stephen

      no sir you are not

    • Flooter

      Didn’t Ean help design the original S4? Seems like a lot of praise for a couple lights and some metal jogwheels.

      • marquee mark

        Ean didn’t write this article. Markkus Rovitio, who is a pretty well-respected reviewer, did

        • Flooter

          I know Ean didn’t write it, I’m just saying DJTT probably wouldn’t be keen to be critical of a product they have a vested interest in.

    • ithinkmynameismoose

      When it starts by saying, “Judge these ‘beautiful’ new controllers for yourself” it’s pretty hard to believe it’s impartial.

  • DJblackjack

    How come djtt only reviews stuff from Traktor? i mean there’s loads of new Pioneer products and Numark is also launching the NS7 II

    • Aken

      The new S4-S2 are so poor that they weigh the jogs… will they weigh the jogs of other brands products ? Of course not its pointless. I mean lets be honest, the main purpose of this ad (not a review imo) is this : “the new units come with USB-to-iOS-30-pin cables and work with Traktor DJ on iOS of the box”

    • Oddie O'Phyle have been covering hardware from pioneer like the DDJ-SX and Keith McMillen QuNexus and Push as well as advancements in software like Serato and Ableton. I guess N.I. gear just takes a really good picture and makes you stop and to look.

    • Dan White

      We have upcoming Pioneer reviews (the SP-1), and we are waiting for Numark to send us our NS7II review unit.

      • DJblackjack

        thnx for the info 🙂

      • Kutmaster TeeOh

        I can write one for you, I’m an associate for Guitar Center and got hands on with it weeks before the release and been doing demos on it since.

  • efrazable

    I know you guys’ll think I’m crazy, but the Numark 4trak is, in my opinion, a way better Traktor controller than the S2 MK2 for the same price. Love my 4trak to pieces, which isn’t to say it’s not sturdy. Better build than the S2 MK1, at least.

    • Mark

      i have both the S4Mk1 and the 4TRAK, the 4TRAK is way better in everything except DVS access …. then I have to add an AUDIO8. I can use the 4TRAK with USB3 on win7, but not the Kontrol S4, yet under windows 8 it works …. and NI say it’s not their driver ….. Numark fix their problems, NI accuse their customers.

  • Michael May

    Any idea when it will work with OS X Mavericks? Form what I have been reading, Traktor is not compatible yet.

    • Gulli Johansen

      I have Traktor running as I type on Maverick so Traktor is compatible.

      • Michael May

        Are all of your cuepoints showing up? What I read what that that and the meta data would be missing

        • Gulli Johansen

          Yes for me everything is working as in Mountain Lion All Cue points are there and no messing up of meta data

        • Karsten

          Michael, you got it wrong. Only if you use Metadata SYNC (between Traktor DJ and Traktor Pro), the SYNC is broken. No meta data is missing, it just doesn’t sync up any more!

  • Oddie O'Phyle

    Visually stunning piece of hardware, unfortunately I won’t be buying 1 due to the fact that I own an S4 MK1. In this article I didn’t see mention of another one of the improvements that N.I. made to the MK2 models. From the reading I’ve done the output on the new units are +6db from their predecessors.

    • D.N.A.

      That +6 db may make a huge difference, the MK1 output sounds like mud compared to other audio cards imo.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        The MK1 is good enough for my needs right now. If I were to sell my current S4 for a MK2 I’d have to put in about $500, over +6db, I’d rather use that money toward my first CDJ or Mashine Studio. Right now I run it through an A&H ZED10FX, if I need the signal a bit hotter I can turn it up for there. Although playing out at a club or at the station, I’ve never had a problem (I always plug in my S4). Two of the essentials in my gig bag are an extension cord and power bar. The new S4 MK2 is definitely an improvement and shows progression. Other reviews I’ve read haven’t give it proper dues, it’s nice to see one that’s objective.

    • Wuce Brayne (the Bitman)

      You didn’t read about the Flux mode button, RGB LED buttons, or Remix Deck compatibility? The author of the article bothered to put the mentioning of those additions in bold.

      You might need to check your reading comprehension skills.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        Back at’cha… read the second sentence of my original post. The +6db was the improvement they didn’t mention.

        • Wuce Brayne (the Bitman)

          Touche, sir. And the F1 is life changing, I rock mine more frequently than I do my MIDI Fighter Pro.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            The MF3D looks like it would be a lot of fun, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on one. By the time I need to replace my MK1, I should be promoting again. My upgrade will be a pair of CDJ-900’s or 2000’s and a Z2 or DJM (depending on my budget), that way i can accommodate friends a bit easier.

      • English teacher

        and you need to go back to school ! “bothered to put the mentioning” …

  • khaiyin

    Does the Traktor DJ functionality mean that you can nudge tracks now? Or is it still very much a beatgrid/sync workflow?

    • Allan Humphreys

      You can nudge

  • sleeex

    wish i had the cash to drop of the s4. CMD4A, DV1, and a MF3D is doin the trick for now though, shit is dope!