The Traktor Kontrol S2 offers new DJs an entry-level controller with a lot of features. It’s priced affordably and has excellent integration with the iOS App Traktor DJ 2. Let’s check out what it has to offer.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is the flagship entry-level controller from Native Instruments. With a selection of excellent features, it’s an excellent choice for beginner DJs. It’s also great for DJs that are looking for a compact iPad compatible controller.
With a range of quality features at an affordable price, the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers a lot. Let’s dive into the details of each section.
The main mixer section of the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is impressive. Entry-level controllers present a limited set of features. But the S2 Mk3 gives new DJs everything they need to master the fundamentals of DJing and more.
The Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers DJs two channels with faders and a crossfader. Each channel has a 3-band EQ for full control over the Low, Mid, and High frequencies. Each channel also offers dedicated gain controls. Level meters are present for each channel but there is no master output level meter.
The Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers DJs a refined yet fully-featured central mixer.
Above these meters are two buttons for cueing the selected channel to your headphones. Dedicated headphone volume knob along with Cue/Mix knob allows you to properly prepare your mixes. Above these knobs is a Sampler volume and Master volume control knobs. On each side of the Master volume control knob is a Quantize and Microphone button.
The mixer section also offers an FX section with access to 4 FX and dedicated filter knobs. This knob doubles as a control knob for FX but more on that later.
It’s logically laid out and spacious considering the compact nature of the controller.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 comes with a full version of Traktor Pro 3. It’s capable of handling DJ tasks from small to large. Many beginner controllers offer intro software. It’s always an added benefit to having full version software as it saves you having to spend more. It also allows you to explore all the features and when you do want to upgrade controllers you’ll already have the software covered.
The free Traktor DJ 2 app is excellent. It’s a capable and refined app that allows you to DJ on the go with your iPad. With excellent integration, the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 gives you the best of both worlds. A solid piece of professional DJ software for your laptop or PC. Plus, access to a quality mobile app for DJing on the go.
Keep in mind that the Traktor ecosystem is a closed environment. You won’t be able to use the controller with other software without exploring extensive MIDI mapping options. Something I do not recommend for a new DJ. If you do end up wanting to move onto gear from other manufacturers you’ll need to go through a new learning curve.
Entry-level controllers are more compact and as a result, the jogwheels tend to be small. I’m happy to see decent sized jogwheels on the Kontrol S2 Mk3. At 5.5 inches they allow for comfortable control. Response and feel are great for a beginner controller. You can execute scratch routines without any difficulty.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 has great jogwheels that feel good to use.
Reverse and Flux Modes are available via the buttons on the left-hand side of the jogwheels. On the right side is access to library browsing controls. You can also use the jogwheels in Grid mode to adjust misaligned beatgrids. Much easier than using the keyboard or mouse.
As with many beginner controllers, the pitch faders are on the shorter side. Thankfully they are accurate and precise. While I always prefer longer faders these are good enough for accurate pitch adjustments. Beatmatching by ear is still comfortable without huge jumps in speed from the slightest of nudges.
Above the Pitch Faders, you’ll find the Sync button if you want the software to match your beats. A keylock button is also here to maintain the Key of the track regardless of how much you slow or speed up your music.
There are 8 performance pads per deck on the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3. You can assign and recall up to 8 hot cues. The only other pad mode is the Sampler mode. Deceivingly simple but it does offer some fun creative mixing options. You can set a group of samples in the software to decks 3 or 4 and then access these samples with the performance pads. Useful for one-shot samples but also for remixing on the fly.
Beyond that, there are no other performance options. Other entry-level controllers do grant you access to more pad modes.
Connectivity options are minimal but still a lot more than other entry-level gear offers. The Kontrol S2 Mk3 has a high-quality 24-bit soundcard built-in. There is an RCA and TRS master output option. This little unit can deliver excellent quality audio. Two Master Out choices also gives you good flexibility for connecting a range of different speakers.
For an entry-level controller, the Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers a good range of connections.
A ¼ inch microphone input is also available with a dedicated gain control knob. A USB connection will allow you to connect the controller to your laptop. The other connection point is a dedicated port for iOS devices so you can plug in your iPad.
On the front panel, you’ll find a ⅛ inch headphone option. It would have been nice to see both ¼ and ⅛ inch supported but you can always get an adapter if you do have a ⅛ inch set of headphones.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 takes a different approach to FX compared to other controllers. There are no dedicated FX controls at the top of the unit which is common with other controllers. While this is different it does give the unit a more refined and polished look.
The FX section in the center of the mixer is where all the action happens. When there is no other FX activated you have access to a standard Hi/Low pass filter. To activate an FX you simply press one of the 4 buttons. These correspond to whatever FX you have assigned in the software. With 8 good FX options available you can set your favorites for easy access.
Once selected the Filter knob switches to FX control allowing you to adjust things like the Wet/Dry mix or intensity of the FX. One thing to note is that only one FX is active at a time. It would have been nice to be able to layer several FX.
For a beginner, this is more than enough to add some variety and interest to your set. They are fun to use and sound great.
Above the performance pads, you’ll find the looping controls. Native Instruments continues with the two-knob system for control over loops. While different from other controllers I’ve always enjoyed using them.
One knob sets the loop when pressed. You can then increase and decrease the size of the loop by rotating the knob left or right. The second knob adjusts the position of the loop. This allows you to move forward and back within the track while maintaining a loop. A useful feature that can save you from an awkward transition.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a compact and portable controller. It’s lightweight and easy to transport. If you plan on taking your gear around to a friend’s house or to parties you’ll appreciate the dimensions of the S2 Mk3.
The Kontrol S2 Mk3 is great for DJs looking for a portable controller option.
Build Quality & Design
The third generation Traktor controllers have taken a step in the right direction. After experimenting with no jogwheel controllers this new generation is a return to form for NI. Good build quality and components throughout the controller. While still plastic it doesn’t feel flimsy.
The updated color scheme is also great. The mix between blue and green looks slick and professional. The RGB pads are also color-coded to functions. The matte finish also helps prevent fingerprints.
The Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers a simple yet professional design aesthetic.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is an attractive controller that backs it up with great build quality. More importantly, it’s a controller that doesn’t look like a toy.
What Others Have To Say
There are plenty of people who are happy with the new generation of controllers from Traktor. While a lot of the praise is for the more expensive models they do share many similarities. People also like the new Traktor Pro 3 software which features some nice upgrades from the previous version.
How To Use Apps To DJ
With the growth of both entry-level controllers and the boom in smartphones and tablets a new segment of DJing emerged. For the longest time beginner gear required you to have a laptop or PC. All that changed with the introduction of DJ apps.
There is now a range of excellent DJ apps available. Gear manufacturers have taken notice and now offer compatible controllers.
You can play tracks without access to a controller using DJ apps. But, it can be fiddly to control and execute smooth mixes.
A DJ controller opens up direct control over key functions that make it easier to DJ.
With the new generation of controllers, you can now plug your phone or tablet directly into your gear. This gives you tactile control over the music and allows you to crossfade and adjust EQs more naturally.
It’s as easy as plugging in your phone and launching an app. From there you can manipulate the tracks on your device. There are also new features that allow you to stream music from popular music portals like Beatport.
If you don’t have a laptop or PC or need a portable setup there has never been a better time to get into DJing.
The beginner controller space offers plenty of options. Below you’ll find some of our other recommendations if you do want to explore alternatives.
Pioneer DDJ 200 Review
The Pioneer DDJ 200 is another excellent controller that integrates well with iOS apps. It’s also affordably priced. If the closed ecosystem of Traktor is deterring you this is a great alternative.
- Compatible with a range of DJ apps giving you freedom of choice.
- Full 3 band EQ mixer.
- It doesn’t contain a soundcard so the sound quality will be dependant on connected devices.
Pioneer DDJ 200
Traktor Kontrol S3 Review
If you like the idea of the S2 Mk3 but want more features the Traktor Kontrol S3 is a great alternative. With 4 channels and a load of extra features, it’s a big step up. Keep in mind it is more expensive than the S2 Mk3.
- Fully featured 4 channel controller with excellent features.
- Extensive range of connectivity options for maximum flexibility.
- Restricted to 2 channels if using the Traktor DJ app.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S3
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX Review
If compatibility with apps is not high on your list of priorities the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX is a good alternative. It’s a budget-minded controller that still allows you to learn the fundamentals of DJing.
- It offers long pitch faders and a full 3 band EQ mixer section.
- Metal jogwheels for extra durability.
- Expressive FX functions that follow a battle mixer design.
Read our full Numark Mixtrack Pro FX review for more detailed information.
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX
Should You Buy?
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is an excellent controller from Native Instruments. Affordably priced without skimping on the essential features that both new and established DJs need. Full version software adds to the value proposition.
The excellent integration with Traktor DJ 2 also makes this controller the best option if you want to DJ using your iPad. Add to that the lightweight and portable size of the controller and you have a winner on your hands.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3