Native Instruments has been producing quality software and hardware for musicians and DJs for over two decades. In that time they have solidified a reputation for high quality and innovative products especially with their newest DJ controllers. In this guide, we check out the best controllers for Traktor.
Traktor Kontrol S3
An excellent and refined 4 channel Traktor controller. It also offers a logical layout and good quality jogwheels.
Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3
Another great 4 channel Traktor controller with additional FX controls. Great for scratching but not as affordable.
In-Depth Review Of The Top 4
Traktor controllers are all from the range that Native Instruments offers. While other controllers are mappable to Traktor the best way to get into Traktor is by using these dedicated controllers. Let’s check them out.
Traktor Kontrol S3 Review
The Best Traktor Controller
- 4 Channels – The Kontrol S3 gives you access to 4 mixing channels. This allows you to layer several tracks at the same time for more creative mixing.
- Long Pitch Faders – Full-size pitch faders allow you to make the finest of adjustments. This makes beatmatching easier to learn and master.
- Plenty of Connections – The S3 offers plenty of options for outputs. This includes the all-important booth output for performing DJs. Having both options for headphone outputs is another nice inclusion.
- Quality Jogwheels – Solid and robust jogwheels. Great for scratching and track skimming.
- Lacking FX Controls – No dedicated FX controls. But, you still have access to Mixer FX offering access like filters and reverb.
The Traktor Kontrol S3 is a fantastic controller from Native Instruments. It contains all the most essential features. It is much cheaper compared to the S4. It’s an impressive controller with plenty of features included at this price point. Solid build quality and an excellent redesign from the previous generation. This controller is perfect for both new and experienced DJs.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S3
Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 Review
Excellent Traktor Controller For Scratching
- New Jogwheels – Large motorized jogwheels. This allows for precise and accurate scratching control that emulates vinyl. Haptic feedback allows you to feel cue points and loops for an instant tactile response. LED ring illuminates based on rotation and speed for more visual information when mixing.
- Display Screens – Small Hi-Res screens that display information like Track Title, BPM, Key, waveform, and more. This results in less time looking at your laptop.
- Pro Layout – New layout now mimics what most DJs will find in a club environment. While a departure from how NI used to handle layout this is a change in the right direction.
- FX Controls – Extensive FX controls with dedicated FX knobs. Plus Mixer FX is also included. This offers full flexibility in crafting unique transitions.
- Not Budget-Friendly – There is plenty of value in this controller but it is on the more expensive side. Premium quality but at a premium price.
The Traktor S4 Mk3 was a breath of fresh air after the previous generation of NI controllers. Jogwheels make a welcome return. This time with haptic feedback and motorization. Excellent features and a large range of connection options set the S4 up as a premium controller for fans of Traktor.
Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review
Perfect Traktor Controller For Beginners
- Portable – This small-sized controller is perfect for a mobile DJ. Also, perfectly suited to a small home studio. At a lightweight 2.36kg it’s easy to transport to parties or a friend’s house.
- Full Software – High-quality Traktor Pro 3 software. This is excellent for new DJs that don’t want the added expense of upgrading the software or using less popular software.
- iOS Port – Mobile-ready with a built-in iOS port. This lets you mix without a laptop by using the Traktor DJ 2 app.
- Clean Design – A subtle and professional looking controller. No garish colors or oversized text components. The choice of backlight colors on the pads also moves away from overly bright colors.
- Not The Best Knobs – While the build quality is excellent the plastic knobs are not as nice as rubberized knobs.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is an excellent entry-level controller. It maintains the build quality you’d expect from NI while still delivering on the features. This controller is well suited for new DJs. It’s also great as a backup Traktor controller for DJs that already have more expensive DJ gear.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Traktor Kontrol Z1 Review
Affordable And Compact Traktor Controller
- Tiny Footprint – This controller is the definition of compact. Having access to a mixer with such small dimensions allows you to mix practically anywhere.
- Built-In Soundcard – The Z1 has a 24-bit high-quality soundcard built-in. This means you can output the best sound quality to your speakers.
- Full EQ – full 3 Band EQ for accurate control of your mixes. A filter knob is also included for Filter and FX options.
- Robust Construction – At only 0.65kg you’d think the Z1 may be fragile. Luckily that isn’t the case. It feels solid and the components like the knobs are high quality.
- Intro Software – While it does include an upgrade voucher there is still extra you’ll need to spend to gain full access to Traktor Pro 3.
The Traktor Z1 is a traveling DJs dream. You can practice and prepare mixes with this compact controller. It’s also compatible with the Traktor DJ 2 app. This tiny controller is also a budget alternative for new DJs that want the bare essentials. You can then expand your options by adding more components like the X1 performance controller.
Traktor Kontrol Z1
Our Expert Buying Guide
When stepping into the Traktor ecosystem of products there are some things worth considering.
Traktor Pro 3 Software
Native Instruments develops a range of software and hardware. From production minded software like Komplete 12 to physical gear from their Maschine range. This experience gave birth to Traktor Pro.
Each iteration of this software has pushed the boundaries of DJ software. This has created a dedicated community of DJs that swear by Traktor Pro software and the range of products designed for it.
Traktor Pro 3 is the latest version of its flagship DJ software. It is a solid and stable piece of software that gives DJs plenty of flexibility to adjust it to their preferences. It is also among the most popular software platforms.
Traktor Pro 3 offers several performance features to add unique elements to your sets.
New additions like the Mixer FX section adds easy options for new DJs to master. Meanwhile, the new audio engine is crisp. Time stretching tracks is at the core of DJ software functionality. Luckily this new sound engine does a great job of maintaining the audio quality of the song.
An updated and darker interface was another improvement from previous versions. I’ve always preferred a darker interface as it feels more natural and easier on the eyes. This becomes even more important in dark club environments.
Like most DJ software it can suffer from screen real estate issues especially on smaller laptops. This is where customization is important and Traktor Pro 3 does offer a range of layout options. The addition of parallel waveforms now gives DJs a choice in how they want to view waveforms.
I always recommend new DJs opt for parallel waveforms. It provides a clearer sign of phrases and mix-in and mix-out points. It’s little things like this that help new DJs with timing and transitions.
The latest Traktor Pro 3 is a great piece of DJ software and a big selling point if you are looking at choosing your first or next controller.
The latest developments in jogwheels from NI have been great. They went through a strange jog-less experimental phase in their second generation of controllers. I’m very happy to see jogwheels returning to their range of controllers.
Motorized jogwheels are becoming more popular in new generation controllers. I’m glad to see NI has embraced them. The visual feedback and feel of these jogwheels feel natural.
Not every DJ is a scratch DJ. But, even those DJs can appreciate the feel of motorized jogs when it comes to spin backs, track skimming, and adjustments.
Haptic feedback is another innovation that NI has embraced. It gives tactile feedback like if you were to run your finger over ridges or bumps. It’s another layer of sensation that can guide your mixing and scratching.
It also makes the jogwheels feel closer to vinyl platters. Once again this helps in improving the digital scratching experience. Check out the video below to see what you can achieve with these new jogwheels.
Mobile DJ Applications
Traktor DJ 2 is a free app for Windows, Mac, and iPad. There is a growing number of apps jostling for position in the mobile DJ market. Traktor DJ 2 is one of the leaders.
Several layout options help you make the most of the limited screen space. It includes the core features from Traktor Pro 3 allowing you to craft expressive and clean mixes. More importantly, it’s easy to use and intuitive.
With a growing range of compatible controllers, it’s an excellent alternative to having to take your laptop with you.
SoundCloud Go+ integration also gives you access to a deep catalog of good music. You won’t find all the big names and tracks on there. But, you can find plenty of hidden high-quality gems. For a new DJ on a tight budget, it’s a great way to practice and inject fresh tunes into your mixes.
Competition Is Great For DJs
Traktor has a large and dedicated fanbase. It provides an alternative to the dominance of Serato and the growing line of rekordbox DJ offerings from Pioneer. The innovation from Native Instruments has ebbed and flowed over the years. But, they continue to produce high-quality pieces of software and hardware.
But if you don’t want to enter the closed ecosystem of Traktor there are other options. A Serato DJ controller will give you access to one of the most popular and universal pieces of DJ software. Likewise, a Pioneer DJ controller will open up the world of Rekordbox and the line of pro-level Pioneer club gear.
Having companies like Native Instruments embracing innovation is positive for the DJ market. It forces competitors to continue to up their game and in turn forces NI to keep pushing boundaries. I’m a firm believer in choice and the range of Traktor controllers highlights this. While not all controllers will be a hit it’s great to see NI having success with their Mk3 generation of controllers.
The growing competition between the big manufacturers will continue to push prices down. Luckily the features included are also getting refined and expanded. That’s a win-win situation for both new and experienced DJs.
Can You Use Any Controller For Traktor?
Traktor Pro 3 works with all DJ controllers, but you’ll need to map the features and functions for non Native Instruments controllers. Often you can find these MIDI maps online for different controllers.
Which One Should You Buy?
The Traktor Kontrol S3 is the best Traktor controller. It’s the goldilocks of controllers. Packed with features but not overloaded and at a great price. Excellent build quality and fantastic software make it an ideal controller for all types of DJs.
The Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is a very close second. The only reason it isn’t the top recommendation is the price. If you do have more to spend it’s a great investment. The addition of screens, motorized jogwheels, and extra FX controls is worth the extra money.
Either way, if you’re a fan of Traktor there are plenty of great choices available.
Traktor Kontrol S3