Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 — complete with haptic spinning jogwheels

Wow — busy day around here, and for Native Instruments too. But the eons of waiting for any word on Traktor activity is over. We’ve covered off Traktor Pro 3 and the new entry-level focussed Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3. Now we have one last one for the GAS sufferers — as expected, the Kontrol S4 MK3 is here, and with it comes something we hadn’t expected to see – motorised jog wheels with actual haptic feedback. Yes, it’s like PlayStation controller and smartphone touch feedback.

PR follows — it’s the same release for all Traktor products, but for clarity and focussing of discussion, I’m splitting it into different stories:


TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 introduces a world-first with Haptic Drive™ – high-torque, motorized jog wheels that provide performers with haptic feedback in three modes: Jog Mode, Turntable Mode, and Beatgrid Adjust Mode. DJs can now feel cue points and loops when scrolling through tracks, and enable Turntable Mode for natural-feeling beatmatching while nudging and stalling the jog wheels. Interfacing software and hardware within Haptic Drive™ technology means that its functionality can be expanded, and will grow over the course of future updates, giving DJs even more ways to interact with their music.

The S4 places vital performance information on the hardware itself, keeping everything DJs need to know front and center in the booth. High-resolution displays on each deck display a waveform strip, track title, loop length and activation, key, and BPM, as well as Stem and Remix Deck components when performing with Stems and samples. Further visual feedback is provided by RGB light rings surrounding each jog wheel, which visualize deck selection, tempo, and track-end warnings.

An integrated, pro-grade audio interface with inputs on each channel provides support for DJs using timecode vinyl, as well as room for expansion for hybrid DJs who want to incorporate drum machines and synths into their set. Built for the demands of the club, the TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 features rugged industrial design with all-new Carbon Protect faders – inverted carbon strips that better protect against dust and other substances. It also comes with multiple microphone inputs, as well as a much-requested stereo booth output.

Pricing and availability

TRAKTOR KONTROL S4:New Haptic Drive™ motorized jog wheels transmit cue points, loop markers, and more directly to DJs’ fingertips, while RGB LED rings and high-res color screens provide vital performance information.

Available November 1, 2018

899 USD, 899 EUR, 99800 JPY, 719 GBP, 1,249 AUD, 1,199 CAD, 6999 CNY

Mark’s Take

It’s fun to assemble the pages while others write the words. Having put all of our stories together today, I’m pretty much all out of words. And considering Dan and Ray’s takes that follow are lush with detail, I find that there’s less pressure on me to fill in the gaps, because there are none.

Obviously people want to hear my thoughts. I will add some commentary about the haptic jogwheels. Obviously the addition of comparatively small rotating jogs is a very bold move for NI. While not the first motorised wheel, it’s certainly the first jog wheel that I recall. Everything else has had a piece of real vinyl sat on top. So time will tell if this is going to pay off or not. I hope it does.

The real innovation is with the haptic feedback. It’s the buzz or resistance you get from your smartphone or games controller in jogwheel form. When you first use it, it’s what I can only describe as a bit of a head fuck. You mind races as this alien feel suddenly translates into real uses. And speaking personally, and having a better half who works for a music charity that in part provides music therapy for children in all kinds of challenging circumstances. The very concept of something that stimulates sense not normally associated with DJing is quite amazing. Not really a money maker, but bugger me if it won’t impact onto the lives of a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to engage. Very impressive stuff all round NI.

For me it’s the combination of what Traktor Pro 3 and the new hardware can do. As I’ve mentioned previously, this is a first announcement, and more detail will follow as the bigger picture and longer road map are released. Now for some longer commentary from the team.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 haptic controller (18)

Dan’s take

Looking at the new controllers, they look like solid updates to some of the longest selling we’ve seen.

There’s not much to say about the S2, as it doesn’t exactly break the mould, but offers a solid entry point for new users. It is basic, but modernised with NI’s new industrial design, and even lets you quickly switch the pads to control samples. Airhorn galore!

And I just want to take this moment to say how much I love Native Instruments’ hardware design. Even through the dark days of the Glossy Surface Generation, their all-in-one and modular controllers, as well as audio interfaces, have been pure workhorses. I’m fairly sure that even the Kontrol hardware that I’ve sold on is still going strong. Having had a play, this new generation of gear is no exception. Which leads me on to what really wowed me when I visited…

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It looks interesting on paper, but really has to be used to understand how awesome it is: the S4’s new motorised jogwheels. Native Instruments are calling it “Haptic Drive”, rather than motorised, which is an accurate name. Essentially, the jogwheels harness the same haptic feedback technology that we all take for granted in our phones. So not only do you get torque feedback from the rotation, you also get vibratory feedback that’s linked to what’’s happening with your music. Cue points and loops feel like bumps on the jogwheel when you pass over them. And I say this as someone who almost never uses a jogwheel, beyond the odd nudge here and there.

The technology is still in very early stages, and only on the jog wheels, but just like touch responsive encoders, could be applied to other controls, and as it matures I hope we see it in other areas like a touch strip.

Something I found interesting when I played with the S4, is how much smaller the screens are compared to the S8. In an era where everyone is racing to fit bigger screens, NI has worked hard to implement a smaller, but more useful, screen.

Both the S2 and S4 make use of Traktor Pro 3’s Mixer FX, too. They both have slightly different ways of working, but I suspect it’ll become a well-loved feature.

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The S4 MK3 is yet another thing the closed beta crew has been aware of for quite some time, and had to shut up about. Dan and Mark have seen the unit a while back – I myself have only been able to lay my fingers on it this Monday, taking the opportunity since I was in Berlin for Sample Music Festival anyway. Of course, the main focus of our write-up has to be the new motorized jogs. I don’t want to simply regurgitate what Dan said, so let me just add a few bits of info on top.

Besides allowing you to edit track grids quickly, the jogs function in the classic, CDJ-style “jog mode” as well as the new “TT mode”. Yes – that means they rotate. And they have some serious torque for a controller this portable. The resistance is easily adjustable, and they handle rotary acceleration in a way that just feels right, especially when you’re going for a spinback move. They’re also capacitive and mimic vinyl in a really interesting way. Touching the rubber sides of the jog will offer similar resistance to what you would expect when adjusting platter movement on a regular turntable – whereas touching the capacitive metal top will offer less resistance, similar to touching a record on a slipmat. Mind you: this is most definitely NOT a record on a slipmat – but as far as vinyl emulation goes, it’s as close as the industry has come so far.

The one thing you probably won’t read elsewhere is that the software doesn’t control the jog motors – it’s actually the other way around. This controller is essentially an all-in-one DVS unit with a new approach to jog wheels. Still, two tracks beat-matched manually won’t drift, as the motors are just that good in terms of “wow and flutter“.

The really interesting bit, however, is the haptic response on those things. A lot of that is still being polished, so it’s hard to make any definitive statement – but I’d like to invite you to think how much can be done with this technology. Haptic feedback is something DJ hardware hasn’t done up until now – but it offers, I dare say, an entirely new dimension of DJ-machine interaction. As Dan said, you will be able to feel certain things without looking, which compensates for the lack of an S8-size screen. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Think of tactile clicks indicating beats when juggling, maybe a general reflection of the amplitude of the waveform underneath. And let’s not forget that there are DJs who are visually impaired, and can’t really benefit from a controller having a built-in screen at all. The potential herein is vast, especially when you consider that the S4 MK3 is the first unit of its kind. Imagine for a moment where this technology can go over the next few years, and feel free speculate in the comments – I won’t take this fun away from you by spelling it all out.

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As to the screen, there is indeed a lot less real estate to work with here – but that real estate has been utilized to perfection. The screen offers you all the information you need – some of which (I suspect) will be configurable in Traktor’s preferences panel. While the waveform doesn’t zoom or scroll, you can easily see where you’re at in the track including all the hotcues and loops, and that’s enough. Track title, remaining time, loop size, key (and with key lock off, the key resulting from pitch changes!) – what else do you need, really? It simply does the job, and I’ll happily play sets on it when I can’t be bothered to bring my full setup (Allen&Heath Xone:96 + 2x Kontrol D2). I’ll still carry the Tweaker for effects control though.