Coming out almost ten years ago, Native Instruments finally released the much asked for and heavily rumoured Traktor Kontrol S4. They’d already set off down a path of doing their own hardware with the previously covered Kontrol X1, so in the hearts and minds of their users, they were onto a winner.
At the time of launch, controllers were a very long way from a new thing. The Vestax VCI-100 drew the blueprint, and a string of openly mappable controllers from just about everyone else followed, all of which to some degree were either officially mapped to or directly designed with Traktor in mind.
And then the very first foundations of NI’s walled garden ecosystem appeared with the Kontrol S4. For me, it was a slightly confusing unit. Traktor’s thing was raw power and the ability to do some deeply clever things, provided you knew how to wrangle stuff under the hood. But here was a pretty conventional four channel controller that did a lot, but still felt like it did only enough.
It wasn’t until the Kontrol S8 came out that I felt that the real power of Traktor in Kontrol hardware form had been realised, but by this time it was too late. The walled garden that none shall pass was well and truly built, ironically a structure that five years later is being systematically demolished.
The Kontrol S2 and Kontrol S4 range moved forward, reaching v3 last year and gaining a Kontrol S3 sibling in the process. These units however have shifted much more towards appealing to a wider range of DJs, something that for a number of reasons hasn’t really proved that successful. Even the advent of motorised jog wheels hasn’t seen Traktor fans flocking towards them.