Traktor Kontrol S5 Review: The True S4 Followup?

Today marks the official in-store date for the new Kontrol S5 controller for Traktor, and we’ve already got a number of DJs who have picked one up in the DJTT store. Many of you had questions about the unit and how it works, so we’ve got a deep-dive review of the controller in today’s article. Read on and chat with us about Native Instruments’ latest DJ device!

  • Product: Traktor Kontrol S5
  • Price: $799
  • Availability: In the DJTT store now
  • The Bottom Line: A welcome addition to the Kontrol line – outclassing the S8 in many ways and giving Traktor users a very solid controller to access Stems and Remix Decks in an intelligent but simple workflow. 

Screens: The Biggest Win On The Kontrol S5

Having the ability to quickly reference exactly what’s going on in Traktor without looking at a second screen is fantastic. The screens are incredibly high resolution (just as on the Kontrol S8), allowing you to focus on the controller instead of the laptop (which you can hide away and turn off if you like). The best element is the easy reference of Traktor’s FX units – which are often difficult to see even with a well-placed laptop.

Same goes for Remix Decks and Stem Decks – having the full visuals for each makes these powerful tools more realistic to incorporate into your DJ set – as they both require significant visual feedback to use effectively.

The bottom line: you could play an entire night without looking at your computer at all, and that’s a major plus for a lot of DJs.

A Simple Control Interface

The S5 (left) has a much cleaner interface than the S8 (right, not to scale)

Let’s be honest here – the S8 is a lot of controller. It’s fantastic for technically-minded individuals and works well as a stay-at-home base of operations for a portable digital DJ rig, but it’s a bit of a beast.

The Kontrol S5 takes the more obvious one-to-one workflow of the Kontrol S4 and keeps the surface of the controller less cluttered and easier to navigate. A few drinks into your local DJ night in the dark booth, and you’re going to want a controller that you know well and can quickly find all of the basic controls.

In terms of portability,  S5 is very reasonable to carry around. It’s got about the same dimensions as a Kontrol S4, and while is a few pounds heavier still is a reasonable back pack carry.

About The S5’s Touch Strips

Yep, they’re not jogwheels. Once you get past that, it actually becomes pretty clear how powerful the touch strips are on the Kontrol S5 – they have a few different modes.

  • When a deck is playing, swipe left or right to pitch-bend, or if your tracks are synced, adjust phase.
  • Hold Shift on a playing deck, and you can scratch a track (you have to enable this in Traktor’s preferences).
  • When a track is stopped, hold the Shift button and you can move around in the track, needle drop style, and then fine-adjust the track with the Shift button released.

We will admit, touch strips will never appropriately replace spinning platters. Especially for open format DJs and those who are doing more standard 1-to-1 blends. For that camp, the S4 might remain a solid controller for years to come. However for anyone that is not scratching or doing heavy pitch manipulation, these will handle the basic beatmatching just fine.

Stems and Remix Decks On The S5

As noted in the video review, we found that the S5’s workflows for dealing with Stem and Remix Decks more than sufficient for easy control. A lot of people questioned the usability of the Stem / Remix decks without having individual faders like on the Kontrol S8, but in reality, being able to use the pads in combination with the loop encoders was just as easy.

The faders are more natural for levels, but I would gladly give up the precise control in exchange for a smaller/streamlined controller. Four Faders are already a bit to manage, but 16 is truly next level. Unless you are constantly adjusting Stem levels and dropping out parts in a musical way that demands fader control, the pad and encoder combo will work just fine.

Potential Drawbacks

A few notes here on things that you don’t get with the S5 – or what might be considered shortcomings of the controller to some DJs:

Sync-Dependent Workflow

Make no mistake, this controller is absolutely designed to be used with sync regularly. We actually think that because the Kontrol S5 (like the S8 before it) has such good integration with Stems and Remix Decks, it’s not “cheating”, but rather the best example of sync allowing you to do more when DJing. It’s more realistic to start chopping up loops into Remix Decks or playing Stems when you’re not worried about beatmatching.

Will it take a little while to get used to this from a traditional DJ set up? Absolutely, but once you do, the floodgates have started to open. Especially if you’ve never actually mixed more than two decks at a time, the Kontrol S5 could really open your eyes to how fun and effective it can be.

That being said, if your music material is not well beat-gridded and with correct BPMs, then you might be in trouble. The world of sync means it’s very easy to drop songs and mix them seamlessly, but it also requires more advance preparation – or a willingness to get good at beat gridding on the fly. If you are the kind of DJ that hates file prep, and just wants to drop a track and manually beat-match it up – then probably look elsewhere.

No Mixer Mode /  Timecode on S5

This is one of the few instances where we recommend upgrading to the S8 over the S5 – if you really need a mixer instead of just an aux input, the S8 has that ability. Same goes for timecode input, although if you wanted you could unlock that on the Kontrol S4 MK2 as well.

The #RealDJing Haters

It’s worth noting here that a drawback of buying any all-in one DJ controller these days are the difficulties of being a controller DJ in an era of CDJs and a mixer. There’s no denying that controller-only DJs get a fair amount of shade thrown at them at times.  We think if you have a controller that actually allows you to do more than a pair of decks (like playing a track, dropping the other elements and isolating ONLY the drums, mixing in a second song, and layer one-shots overtop of the whole thing) and any hate starts to become irrelevant in the face of raw creativity.

At the end of the day, don’t worry about what other people think of your setup – focus on having fun, mixing great music, and creating a unique sound. And a full dance floor never hurts. There are a lot of massive DJs that rock very respectable crowds with the S4, and now that the headphone outputs are at proper club levels, we would not be surprised to see even more on this more portable S5.

The Kontrol S5 is available in the DJTT store today for $799 – grab a unit while we still have stock

Edit: NI has released a series of great videos demonstrating the S5’s various features – watch with the below embedded YouTube playlist: 

remix decksReviews5screensstemstraktor FXtraktor kontrol s5
Comments (40)
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  • John

    There’s been multiple questions about connecting seperate decks to the S5. I have a NI Audio 6 soundcard (which I still use with my S1000s). I think in theory the soundcard could connect to the S5 and then connect 2 CDJs or TTs to the soundcard…could that be done?

  • Rayalon

    One small note: when the computer is connected you do not have to “sacrifice” one of your decks for Aux input. All you need to do is route the inputs to the Aux Input in Traktor, and then you can control it via the knob under deck B/D…no deck is lost 🙂

    A very underestimated Traktor menu preference.

  • Rayalon

    One small note: when the computer is connected you do not have to “sacrifice” one of your decks for Aux input. All you need to do is route the inputs to the Aux Input in Traktor, and then you can control it via the knob under deck B/D…no deck is lost 🙂

  • s.molinari

    With the stem controls, can you press more than one button at a time and control volume and filters over the stem track your holding with the buttons?

  • Edge

    Why aren’t they touch screens? Total fail by NI on that front. Your basically buying out of date technology if you get one of these.

    • Edge

      And no DVS that is just putting two fingers up to the customer

  • Teo DJ

    I agree with Quenepas 101%. No jog wheels + high price = S4 still rocks! Steams are nice but honestly: who is gonna use them live and why? If you plan your routine and set for a live performance you can do it all with F1…

    • Ezmyrelda

      Probably me.. I am the Percussion/Bass of a two person Witchpunk band. With a stem deck I can use my exported studio track converted to stems and a remix deck to do a flexible live version of our tracks that still has a lot of the studio quality and feel. All I would have to do is create a stem track that has synths/lead guitar on one stem and vocals on another. cut the volume on those two tracks and my partner can sing and play guitar over it while I am free to get creative on the F1 with the synth parts. I could do it all with a remix deck, sure.. but I can do it all and more with both.

  • champagne horizon

    One question, if anyone knows- does the “browse” knob/encoder work as a “loop move” encoder while an active loop is playing, like how the S4 has 2 encoders? I love having one knob for loop size and a separate one for position for some interesting effects on live loops, and the fact there is LED to show you the loop size (1,2,4,8 beats etc.)… I thought I saw in an S8 demo here on DJTT that it is just 1 knob and you push “shift” to switch the control… anyone able to confirm?

  • Tony Mitchell

    Scratch DJs need not apply.

  • Stan Thomas

    I need them to make a Unit with some Jog wheels Plz already lol

  • Quenepas

    I think it’s a pass for me. No timecode support away of a software license killed it for me :s and the S8 is a beast. Surprisingly the S4 and S2 are still holding extremely well on the face of these new controllers. I would not be surprised if a S4 mk3 makes it out, maybe with even bigger jogwheels like a CDJ, even better, a D2 blended with a CDJ modular thing? :p

    • Unreallystic

      Thinking on it, it would be a GREAT natural progression if the S5+ ‘lines’ became focused on STEMS & Remixes, while the S4- ‘lines’ focused on getting closer and closer to a traditional setup. I’d sell my S2 and buy a new one/S4 in a heartbeat if they improved the platters in size and feel (auto spin man…come on!).

    • Tony Mitchell

      You wont see another product from NI with jog wheels for a very long time if ever. Current management doesn’t care about turntable DJs

      • Ezmyrelda

        I don’t think that’s exactly true. Traktor Scratch Pro has DVS support and even if some of the skills translate to jogwheels, jogs are not turntables. Turntable DJs use turntables. But you are correct in that it’s unlikely that NI will put jogs on future controllers. They take up too much space and if a DJ wants jogs or tables they will likely just hook up a turntable or a CD deck.

  • Frank Dela

    even he seems unhappy just to talk about it.

  • Frank Dela

    should have just made another s4 with upgraded stem ability and screens in my opinion. this just takes out too much. seems like its just for stems.

  • qazen

    such a fail

  • here_comes_the_sheik

    Any words on build quality?

  • Autrelle Holland

    Native Instruments should make a modular MIDI jog wheel controller. Fuck the XDJ from Pioneer.

  • Chris Wunder

    Seems like they skimped out with the inputs for sure. Possibly to keep costs down and not to stomp on the s8? maybe it has to do with the limited space inside controller due to the screens?

  • julian

    After the S8 came out NI released the D2 which at first seemed to be the thing I was looking for…but in the end I don’t think I will really use the stems or the remix deck that much so I’m wondering if they will come with a side version of this S5 (maybe a control D1) and hopefully cheaper cuz the D2 are pretty expensive.

    I can see this thing (if it ever comes out) becomming THE big winner of this new trend of controllers with screens…

    • Geesus

      Idk. I love the S8 but own an S4 MKII. When STEMs showed up I really was interested in the S8 but that price. Along comes the D2 and bam. That’s all I needed. Technically I don’t “need” the D2 I have an F1 but I’d like to have some of the control the S8 has and that screen.

      So there is a market for the D2s if you already have a great controller like the S2/4.

      • Brian M

        I’ve been considering this controller but like some of the S4MK2 features like the additional inputs for my turntables and the platters.
        Did you say you got a D2 working with the S4 to get the display access? Any conflicts or issues there?

  • Gary MacGregor

    So wait, there’s physically no way at all to change the tempo on the S5?

    • Jay DrTraktor Dizzle

      Yes. Tempo button in the middle of controller

      • Gary MacGregor

        Ah, thank you sir.

  • 2manyjuans

    Does it have midi Inputs? because I was planning to buy this controller and integrate TR-8 beat sequencer, so that means I’ll use an AUX signal will it work the same though

    • The Rosskonian

      I’m curious about this as well. The S5 does not have DIN from the pictures I’ve seen, but I think Traktor can do MIDI over USB, which means you should be able to send a MIDI clock through USB to or from the S5 to the TR8. I have a TR8 and can confirm it can receive or send MIDI through it’s USB. Can anyone who knows about Traktor confirm?

  • Alan May

    Will you guys be doing a follow up review of the D2? Seemed a bit strange that the S5 got reviewed, but the D2 didn’t.


    So just to clarify, you CAN’T use timecode with the Kontrol S5? If so that a bummer as the S8 is HUGE lol

    • here_comes_the_sheik

      You can use timecode with the S5 but you will need an additional soundcard and a Scratch license


        I gotcha, ok. Is this limitation just because the internal soundcard doesn’t support enough channels to have timecode? It’s weird that the S4 MK2 would work but the S5 wouldn’t.

        • here_comes_the_sheik

          The soundcard simply doesn’t have enough inputs.
          Also remember that S4 Mk2 didn’t support timecode out of the box but you needed to buy an additional license.
          That’s one of the reasons why I think the S8 is a pretty nice deal. You get a fully fledged flagship controller, a full 4 channel standalone mixer and a traktor scratch license.
          But you are right… it’s just too big if you ever travel with it.

          I’ll be waiting for the X1 mk3 with nice screens and shit 😀

  • Ike Mash

    great review! as honest as it gets. was really curious as to how they all stacked up together, since I feel like there’s been a lot of overlap in NI’s products [lately], and seeing them compared/contrasted alleviates a lot of that confusion. thanks again.

    maybe stating the obvious, but I think NI would crush the market if they had a built-in OS in their controllers so that all you needed was to pop in a USB or SD card with your library; the screens are nice, but you’re still dependent on a computer input. think if Traktor became just a playlist arranger/exporting tool, and you had all the “playable” features on display on the controller!

    I’d say, ‘We can dream,’ but they hear our opinions and products are constantly modified to fit consumers’ tastes. there’s still hope for a good-to-go DJ controller — Novation’s some steps ahead in the production game with the release of the Circuit, eh

    • Titan

      “maybe stating the obvious, but I think NI would crush the market if they had a built-in OS in their controllers so that all you needed was to pop in a USB or SD card with your library; the screens are nice, but you’re still dependent on a computer input. think if Traktor became just a playlist arranger/exporting tool, and you had all the “playable” features on display on the controller!”

      So basically turn it into Rekordbox?

      • Jake Bergeson

        Yep. Dream no more. Go buy some CDJs! Haha

      • Chet Lakhani

        It’s coming.