That’s one small step for DJ hardware, one giant leap into the post-PC era.
Native Instruments today has updated their integrated hardware for Traktor DJs, the 4-channel Traktor Kontrol S4 and 2-channel Traktor Kontrol S2. But while the updates are nice, the biggest transformation is that you can watch a DJ working with these controllers alongside either an iPad or a Mac/PC laptop – and it really doesn’t matter which they’re using.
Oh, sure, the laptop is more flexible when it comes to storage, and NI’s iOS software still lags on some of the nice features of the desktop version, like added effects. But, if anything, the iPad is starting to look like it could someday have the edge. It’s smaller, it’s more focused on the task at hand, and its touchscreen excels at manipulating digital waveforms of the music being played. It’s both screen and interface in a way no other hardware or computer can be.
In fact, the one show-stopping problem I have with Traktor DJ on the iPad – the fact that it’s too easy to accidentally switch off a deck with your finger – is resolved by having dedicated hardware.
On the other hand, laptop users benefit from this flexibility, too. If you still prefer the more-powerful features and expanded storage of a desktop, that iPad now serves as an adequate backup system. (Beer and MacBooks don’t make the best combo.) And furthermore, you’re no longer purchasing hardware for a dedicated system; the Traktor gear will work with desktop and mobile, NI’s software but also anything that supports MIDI. (I’m rather keen to hack these, in fact.)
As to the “small-step” incremental updates, they’re nice, too:
- Updated design
- 8 color-coded RGB buttons for triggering (as part of NI’s march to turn everything into RGB buttons)
- High-resolution jog wheels NI claims send better data, with “aircraft-grade alumnimum plates”
- Dedicated controls for Flux Mode (on iOS) and Remix Decks (on desktop)
US$799 / 799 € buys you the S4; $499 / 499 € the S2.
I’ll say this, too. Apologies to those of you in comments who think CDM should be trashing NI’s new hardware. But I find the designs to look and feel terrific, and I keep hearing good feedback from the folks using them. (Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not keen for some software updates – Maschine, Reaktor, better third-party controller support in Traktor, and so on being high on the list.)
But – let me say this again – the big news here is that this could well be the announcement when it was clear that iPads and perhaps other tablets would be on equal footing with laptops.
(Oh, and PS – because it is class-compliant for iOS, this also makes this controller more hackable for other solutions. Just sayin’. Come on, you know this is still CDM.)
Music technology is built as tools for humans, so it really only becomes interesting (or not) once you put a person behind this hardware. And NI chose well – Mad Zach. This talented musician and contributor to DJ TechTools does turn digital DJing into an instrumental skill. He’s a justification for the term “controllerist” if ever there was one.
The NI kit is nice, but this is as much an ad for Zach’s unique virtuosity, too. And the setting is perfect: it’s the abandoned control room of the power plant at Kraftwerk, the space above Berlin’s club Tresor. (Dear NI: please find a way to shoot a video relating to Reaktor there. Obvious, no?)
If you’re in Berlin, you can catch him on the 27th of September at a stupidly-affordable 3-hour workshop. I wish I could be there; I’ll be in Hamburg for Reepberbahn Festival, but I hope someone takes good notes for the rest of us.
And for anyone who routinely complains at this site for focusing on vendors, that’s not what his workshop is about – it’s about developing your musical chops, not any one product.
Looks great – details on the blog of Barb Nerdy’s Wedding, Berlin party collective:
DJ Tools workshop with Mad Zach [Support Your Local Ghetto]