Friday, November 5, 2010

Native Instruments Kontrol S4 : Review!!

So i got the Traktor Kontrol S4 Today!!

One thing i must say : AMAZING! I feel like this is THE hardware incarnation of software, everything works in harmony with the software!

I actually sold my Traktor Scratch Pro set and my Kontrol X1 and put some money on top to get the S4, it was probably the best decision I ever made, if you love Traktor then THIS IS Traktor as it meant to be experienced! 4 Deck madness with 4 Dedicated Upfaders , 4 Sets of EQs and Filters on each decks!

Here is my comments on the Kontrol S4 unit:

Buttons/Pads: A little stiff, they are rubbery and decent sized, but they really are a bit stiff! perhaps in time they will get better as i wear them out (maybe??), but for now they need some pressure to register the press, trying to smash the buttons wont rapidly dont work too well! (If you think you will hate this - PLEASE try before you buy!!!)

Pots/Knobs: Awesome! Similiar to the X1, the knobs are really nice,  its good to have filters on all 4 channels, although the position of the filter kinda takes some time to get used to , i kept on thinking to lowest knob is the LOW eq!

Upfaders: A bit  Stiff! I suspect they will get smoother over time,  it could be good or bad, for me its good because i mix mainly on upfaders so some resistance is good for control, but if you plan to scratch with the faders maybe its kinda hard, then again this unit was not built for heavy duty scratching!

Pitch Sliders: KINDA SHORT - Nice smooth with a fair bit of resistance, no ZERO click (why???) - personally i like pitch faders to have that zero/center click so that i can neutralize the track (put it back to zero) without looking at it . For those who are used to mixing on cdjs - you will find the pitch slider a tad too short (compared to the standard cdj pitch slider length)

XFaders: Nice! INSTANT CUT on the sharpest curve! Woohoo! And the fader cap is very Rane TTM56ish! (me Likey!!) although its a shame it seems like it is not user replaceable?

Jogwheels: For scratching they are okay (kinda like the CDJ400 jogwheels - smaller and a little bit less responsive though) but the size means you wont be able to scratch as good as the full sized decks

BUT..... For pitch bending the jogwheels SUCK BALLZ!! Seriously they are too loose when pitch bending, when comparing the pitch bending with the cdj400/350 the S4 pales in comparison (even though they are kinda similiar sized) , i hope the future update can fix this!! If you grid your files properly and use sync, you probably wont need the pitch bending, but for some of use who actually like to do manual beatmatching, the sensitivity is really terrible!

4DECK Layout: Excellent: Apart from having to share pitch sliders, the 4 deck dual layout is pretty damn easy to get used to, when you switch the deck mode the writing DECKA or DECK C lights up, so if you are ever in doubt which deck you are controlling you can always very easily see the S4 for reference! This means controlling 4 decks with the S4 is pretty damn SWEEET!
Of course adding an X1 on top would probably work better, but if you can bear with working with dual layer layouts, the S4 is THE COMPLETE Package!

Overall hardware quality: Really nice! Not as heavy as i thought it would be, but feels really great and solid!

VERDICT: AWESOME!!! The Native Instruments Kontrol S4 is perhaps one of THE BEST midi controller at the moment, very few can compete with its Price/Features/Build Quality etc, and the portability is just awesome, although it is rather large, its not really that heavy at all so carrying them around wont be much problem.

-No midi mapping, just plug and play! (tested on a mac, 10 min installation and i was up and mixing!!)

-Awesome Audio Quality, as usual by NI products!

-FOUR DECKS! (Or two + 2 sample decks) and filters on each deck is a major plus, having dedicated filters on each deck is just SIMPLY AWESOME!

-Build quality is  great , as usual by native instruments, although the jogwheels can be a bit "fragile" as noted by some users who reported in forums that the jogwheels fell off during transport - in my case i had no problems whatsoever though?

-Awesome all-in-one solution , awesome hardware integration with all the new features

-Nice crossfader, for those scratch fanatics : The cut-in is nice and sharp!!

-Scratchable jogwheel (although its rather small!)

-Nice Pitch slider, a bit short but pretty smooth (and not too loose like the torq xponent!) If only they put standard length (ie cdj/technics length) pitch sliders with a zero-click then it would be perfect!

-Jogwheel sensitivity for pitch bending is terrible - too loose! (as of V1.01) - i hope this is fixable!

-Buttons are a bit stiff, they are responsive but they do need decent amount of pressure to be applied, i have to be honest with this but my Akai LPD8 pads are much more responsive than the S4's! Hmm.. perhaps its just my unit?

-No centre click for the pitch sliders, some may like it but i do like to now if my track is at 0%! Plus it would be great if they put longer pitch sliders for more controlled pitch adjustments

-Only two fx banks although im sure they can fit another two somewhere!

-Middle portion of the controller has a shiny surface, while it looks cool when brand new, very soon fingerprints, smudges, and dirty stuff is gonna ruin that shiny surface!

-Gain encoders take some time to get used to - they move in such a small increment that adjusting gain is kinda troublesome

-Faders are not user replaceable - you most probably have to send back the unit to Native Instruments if you need them serviced!

Who is it for?
-If you dont scratch and love having 4 full decks at your disposal , the S4 is the ultimate all in one solution! This is perfect for mixing 4 deck styles (hawtin style!) If you were one of those people running 2 X1's and an analog mixer with audio8DJ - this is basically the whole thing combined into one, it does everything!

-If you do skratch you will have to live with the fact that the S4 is no technics and have a small platter, while you CAN scratch on it, the performance wont be on par with a large spinning plate, but compared to any other midi controller at the moment (except for the VCI300MK2 and the NS7) - this is probably one of the best you can get for midi platters

-If you are switching from CDJ's to the S4 and are used to manual beatmatching: Keep in mind the jogwheel pitchbending sensitiviy has not been fixed as of version 1.01 and also the pitch slider needs time to get used to for manual beatmatching

Tip: if you are in singapore, Valentine Music Centre has them in stock and at probably the lowest price in SG!!!

Native Instruments Kontrol S4 Review by Ivan Zilch