Top critical review
14 people found this helpful
Glorified MIDI/Software controller. Coming from Pioneer DDJ/CDJ gear it feels a bit like a toy
on June 3, 2014
I had high hopes for the MK2 update of this controller. I thought the buttons would be more responsive and made of a harder type of rubber. Playing with the faders felt ok from a physical standpoint, but while I couldn't directly hear any major latency, I certainly sensed it and could 'feel' that I was not dealing with a set of analog faders. The Pioneer controllers like the DDJ-S1 (which I've previously owned) and the DDJ-SX (which I've decided to purchase instead of this controller) both have real analog faders and have "real" analog mixing in the device itself. I think this makes a huge difference and even is cause for one particular bug I immediately ran into upon initial testing: I had all the channel faders down all the way (except one playing a track) and tested the remix deck functionality and triggered a sample in another channel. Well, even though the particular fader was totally down and off and I had not touched it since starting the Traktor software, to my surprise the software must have registered it as up all the way at 100% because the loop began to play out of the channel that was SUPPOSED to be off/down/silent. This may be fine for many people, and easily fixed by touching each of the faders at startup to set the positions in software, but this left too much of a bad taste in my mouth for spending almost $800 for buttons I didn't like, a layout that felt foreign, and lack of true mixing capabilities I've gotten used to. The DDJ-S1 does it right and the SX is an improvement. It can even be a standalone mixer without the need for a computer. The retail price of the DDJ-SX is higher but I was able to get a Pioneer-refurbished one for significantly less than this new Kontrol S4 MK2. I think the Traktor software has a lot of merit, but Serato DJ (and even ITCH) is pretty good too. I have nothing against DJs who make good use of the S4, I've seen it plenty and I'm not nearly as skilled as most of those DJs. For me, I feel very comfortable with the Pioneer approach and I regretted in less than an hour purchasing the S4 , and packed it up for return in less than 3 hours after unboxing it. If there simply were real analog mixing taking place inside the unit I would give it 4 stars, and if it had solid plastic buttons for play/cue I'd consider giving it 5. The main thing I don't like about the DDJ's are the size. I would like to get as much functionality as I can in as tiny a package while still being versatile and close to "professional." I think the people who like these controllers haven't used Pioneer for very long, because Pioneer have been doing this for a long time and coming from that world I just can't tolerate the difference. I hope Native Instruments catch up to the Pioneer level of engineering, but this unit is a bit overpriced for being simply a midi controller of buttons and faders with a sound card. For around the same price (the DDJ-SX, if you look hard/get lucky/refurbished) you can get a real mixer and nice buttons and *still use Traktor* if you don't like Serato DJ. I so wanted to believe in this unit and give my support to Native Instruments, but there were too many quirks and funky things I didn't feel right about. I still am considering getting a Kontrol Z1 because I think it seems like a good value: a MIDI based mixing interface with a soundcard for $200 in an ultra-compact size.
I am a drum and bass DJ and I do online shows for fun that go for 4-6 even sometimes 8-12+ hours. I have used a number of DJing platforms but I don't consider myself an expert. I used to use Traktor before it was called Traktor Pro with only a keyboard and DJM-707 mixer with a decent soundcard. I used Serato and turntables for a few years, then got the DDJ-S1, then sold it to a buddy, and in 2012 got CDJs. I love advantages of each setup, but today I want a controller for the pure ease of being able to DJ effortlessly for hours on end. I was able to do that with traktor/sound card/DJM-707 back in early 2000's but only the DDJ made it as easy for me DJ for hours like I had done before.
I do think the sound quality was good, and I liked the overall size of the unit. Evaluating the Traktor software is a totally separate review, since a more capable controller would solve many of my problems I have with the Kontrol S4. I think the Traktor software has some advantages, but I intend to primarily use Serato DJ. I originally purchased this unit for size and cost, but felt that for a little more ($200+) I could get what I really wanted all along. I tried getting a white DDJ-SX but the vendor called me and advised that it turns out they only had the regular black ones, and that he would overnight one to me as a courtesy. Ha. I did some quick research and opted to save $400 by waiting for a refurbished one to be sent by Pioneer. Hopefully that works out, and I'm confident it will. I plan to lightly beat up on it and take it outside anyway. Placing the order through Pioneer was no where near as easy as Amazon and took two follow up phone calls and 3 credit card attempts before I finally resorted to giving them my debit card.
I was very pleased with Amazon's return process, as I'd never had to return anything before. It could not have been easier.