Is Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 any good? How does it hold up? Let us show you how exactly this device compares to the more recent DJ controllers, and what is likely next to come when we’re talking about the newest modern DJ equipment by Native Instruments. Let’s begin!
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As Always – First The Specs
|Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3
|Price & availability:
|Check on Amazon | Check on Ebay | Check on Guitar Center
|Traktor DJ (with DVS support).
|Motorized Jog Wheels:
|Yes, with haptic drive feedback.
|Yes, one high-res display per deck.
|2 x mic inputs, 2 USB ports.
|2 x phono / line inputs, 2 x line inputs, 2 x main outputs (RCA / XLR), TRS booth output and 1/8 / 1/4 headphone outputs.
|9.46 pounds / 4.29 kg
|November 1, 2018
The Feature Set – How Does It Hold Up?
My main reason for writing this article is pretty simple. Recently, while at a local club I saw a DJ rocking out on a brand new Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 (and doing a pretty good job too), and it really threw me back to the times I first laid hands on this sleek device. But it also made me wonder: how relevant is this device these days, a few years after its release back in 2018? Here is what conclusion I’ve come to in the end.
The performance pads are not missing any modern features and give you the ability to control hot cues, loops, remix decks, stem controls, samples, and they also have RGB backlight allowing you to color code all of the pad functions.
Overall, the pads feel pleasant to use and there is enough space in between them so that you’re not risking any accidental presses. Nothing more to say here really.
Audio FX Controls
When it comes to audio FX, the Traktor DJ software is among the best of the best. The Traktor S4 Mk3 gives you access to two FX units, one of top of each deck with 4 FX control knobs and buttons – an FX control scheme much similar to the one you can find on Pioneer DJ controllers with layouts designated for Serato DJ.
Personally, I find this type of FX controls much more fun to use than the single Beat FX strip present on most newer devices from Pioneer DJ.
Another great way you can control FX on this device, is by selecting an effect and assigning it to the filter knobs on the mixer. By default you can choose 4 different effects to be controlled like this. It’s a perfect way to have some more creative freedom when mixing, and begin totally honest pretty much a must in modern DJ controllers.
Motorized Jog Wheels
The 5.5 inch jog wheels on the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 are fully motorized and they do feature interesting haptic feedback functionality which lets you feel where exactly your hot cues and cue points are placed when moving the platter. Yes, it can be turned off if you want to do that.
You’re able to fully customize the feel of the jog wheel in terms of its tightness, and the reverse mode is reflected by the platter moving in the opposite direction. The start and break time are also freely adjustable. No trouble with scratching on this device!
Overall, for a controller of this size, the feel and overall design of the jog wheels is pretty much on part with the larger and seemingly more popular top-notch Pioneer DJ controllers.
Each of the jog wheels has a guide light indicator on its edge, which rotates alongside the platter, and changes colors depending on whether one of the virtual decks 3/4 have been chosen.
Track title, BPM, track key information, full waveform view with loop and cue point indicators. This is what each of the two deck displays is able to show you during your live mix.
The displays are also used for controlling remix decks, track stems and tweaking some of the controller’s settings.
While these displays certainly aren’t big, all the info is visible without any troubles and the image is crystal clear with good viewing angles.
Connectivity – Inputs & Outputs
In front of the device there is a microphone input in the form of a standard Jack/XLR combo plug, and a double headphone output for both small and large jack connector headphones.
On the front part of the S4 Mk3 there are a few switches that allow you to assign different channels to different sides of the controller affected by the crossfader. A nice feature to have on hand.
What about the main inputs and outputs you can find on the back of the device you ask? Well, not one type of connector is missing from the device which offers you a full set of club standard XLR, RCA master outputs, Jack booth outputs and RCA line inputs for each of the mixer channels. Nothing to criticize really.
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Standalone Mixer Capabilities (!)
When the Traktor S4 Mk3 was first announced, it didn’t yet have standalone mixer capabilities. This has since changed, and the standalone mixer mode is available for you to use.
You can plug external audio devices into the S4 Mk3 and use it’s mixer section to mix the incoming audio, even when the controller is not connected to a computer.
In this configuration, the filter knobs will still function, albeit only as a simple hi-pass/low-pass filter.
DJ Software Support – Just Traktor?
Besides Traktor Pro 3, the S4 Mk3 is also supported by Virtual DJ, albeit with a little bit changed feature set and no haptic feedback functionality, as well as no image displayed on the built-in screens.
Important note for all the people coming from the Pioneer DJ software ecosystem: the Traktor S4 Mk3 does not support neither Serato DJ, nor Rekordbox. Keep that in mind.
The Mixxx software also has its own S4 Mk3 mapping project going on as you can see here, which unfortunately also comes with a small set of drawbacks and missing functions.
What about MIDI remapping? Well, it gets a little bit weird here. Read on.
You might also like: Serato DJ Pro vs. Traktor Pro 3 – DJ Software Ultimate Comparison
MIDI Support on The S4 Mk3?
While both the S2 and S3 had native MIDI standard support and were able to be mapped to any other, non-Traktor DJ software without much trouble, the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3, does not support MIDI at all.
What this means for you, is that you cannot freely re-map the controller’s functions in any other software than Traktor Pro 3.
Software support communities such as Virtual DJ and Mixxx have reverse-engineered quite a bit of the HID interface communications with the S4 which in turn, as you’ve already learned, let them introduce support for the device in their DJ software.
While all this is not exactly a disadvantage for the device itself, as it functions perfectly with the stock Traktor Pro 3 DJ software, you have to keep in mind that the S4 Mk3 is not able to speak the MIDI language, so in other terms, it cannot be remapped with any DJ software other than Traktor (and to some extent, Virtual DJ and Mixxx).
While native MIDI support is certainly something I would love to have on the S4 Mk4 which might be coming sometime in the future (like it was present on previous Traktor devices), it’s also important to mention that the synergy of the device with the official Traktor software has not once left me wanting to switch to anything else. Just my two cents on that matter.
What’s Still Very Much Relevant
Pretty much every feature on the Traktor S4 Mk3 is still up to the current market standards, including the stem support, complete set of professional inputs and outputs, turntable & DVS support, motorized jog wheel platters and built-in info displays.
This makes this device a great buy even in the current year, and if you don’t want to pay the full price, you could always find a used unit on various online marketplaces. Just remember not to confuse the Mk3 with the previous Mk1 and Mk2 models when deciding to get your device on the second-hand market.
Lower Price Point
There aren’t really any features that are missing from the device when you compare it to the newer competitors both from the Pioneer DJ and Numark side, like the Pioneer DDJ-1000 or the DDJ-FLX series. It’s also a bit more affordable than the other options, to be perfectly honest (check the current price on Amazon here).
If you’re looking for a DJ controller that’s both compact, has all the functions that professional DJs make use of in their mixes, in my personal opinion the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is still as much relevant as it was back in the year of its release.
Will We See Traktor S4 Mk4 Anytime Soon?
Currently there are no strong rumors signifying a swift coming of a successor of the Traktor S4 Mk4. The S4 came out back in 2018, and to this day it still retains a great and up-to-date feature set.
It’s reasonable to think that we may expect a hardware update in upcoming years judging how much time usually passed between the consecutive iterations of the NI DJ controller S-series.
When a new DJ controller from Native Instruments eventually hits the market in a form of Traktor S4 Mk4, it will most likely be priced higher than the previous best controller from the series – the Traktor S4 Mk3. That’s yet another thing to keep in mind if you consider waiting it out.
If you’re set on getting the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk4, don’t wait around. DJ controllers retain their resale value for long years, and when the new Traktor DJ controller eventually comes out you will likely be able to sell your old one and get yourself a neat upgrade for a good price. That’s about it!