Review Traktor Kontrol S8 DJ Controller

Traktor Kontrol S8


Ever since Native Instruments marginally updated the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk2 over a year ago, people have been speculating as to what the next “real” step forward for the Traktor platform would be, especially of course as rival Serato has made such big leaps over the past year or two. Well, the Traktor Kontrol S8 answers those questions: An all-in-one DJ controller with built in screens and no jogwheels, that works with the newly released Traktor 2.7 software on PC/Mac.

The versatile and innovative Traktor Kontrol S8 brings control over more of Traktor than ever (which itself at v2.7 has some new features), and perhaps most importantly makes some bold statements of intent as to where Native Instruments sees Traktor going. We’ve had a long weekend getting acquainted with it, so here’s our full review of the Traktor Kontrol S8. Native itself has been calling it “the future of DJing” – but is it the future of your DJing? Let’s find out…

First impressions

Traktor S8

It’s large, and it’s well built. In short, it means business. Better built than the Kontrol S4, the Kontrol S8 immediately stands out through having two 4.7″ screens (they’re not touchscreen, by the way), one for each deck. Somehow the addition of screens makes one think of Pioneer’s CDJs; these “decks” are slimmer and less chunky but also at least as well built as CDJs, if not better. Of course there’s another area where the “deck” parts of the unit differ from CDJs as well as practically all DJ controllers: There are no jogwheels, the space where they used to sit being replaced by four mini faders, extra encoders and buttons, and those aforementioned screens.

The touchstrips right above the transport controls at the front of each deck are, of course, exactly where you find them on the Novation Twitch, the only other major jogwheel-less all-in-one DJ controller out there. A more standard set of four encoders and buttons at the top of each channel for FX give a note of normality, but overall, it all looks very futuristic. Nobody’s going to ask for a go on your “toy”; it doesn’t look like a toy, and most people wouldn’t know what the hell to do with it! This, I think, is a good thing.

The four-channel mixer again oozes quality. There’s a decent short-throw crossfader with plenty of room around it for scratch DJs to not feel cramped. The whole panel underneath the faders comes off for easy servicing. The front of the mixer section has crossfader assign and curve controls (flush with the surface), as well as 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone sockets. There are per-channel filters, with on/off buttons (great for cancelling a filter on a downbeat crisply), the usual three-band EQ, FX assign and cue buttons, and – hurray! – normal gain controls (not like the bizarre rotary encoders found on the S2 and S4). A central “channel” contains cue mix and volume, main and booth volumes, mic assigns, Snap and Quantise buttons for accurate cueing and looping, and a Master Tempo knob.

Round the back is actually pretty standard, and comprehensive. XLR and RCA main outs, TRS booth outs, four full line / phono switchable input channels with ground pole, two mics (XLR/TRS combo and TRS), plus Kensington lock, USB and power input/switch. A notable thing here is that Midi in and out have been retained; Native Instruments clearly wants you to think of this unit as part of a wider ecosystem of its products, current and future.