S8 Initial Impressions / Feature Requests

Discussion in 'KONTROL S5/ KONTROL S8' started by gmint, Nov 10, 2014.

  1. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    I posted this preamble in a previous thread, but I think it probably makes sense to preface this post with the same info. So, first, a little background about me. I purchased the S4 the day it was released and used that for many, many gigs until the day the S4 mk2 was released after which I subsequently used that unit until the day the S8 was released. So, let's just say I'm not what you might call "new" to this whole Traktor thing. I've had a chance to play with the S8 at home and at my club a bit but prior to today, I haven't had an opportunity to do any serious work with it. Today I finally had the opportunity to play a four hour gig with it and I have several initial impressions of the unit. Here they are:

    A number of people have asked me about the S8. What I've generally reported is that it seems clear to me that NI's goal with the S8 was to make a controller that essentially allows you to DJ without really ever needing your laptop (it's pretty explicit in some of the promo videos, so I don't think I'm reaching here) which I think they see as a way to further legitimize the controller as a professional alternative to the CDJ. The S8 isn't really about breaking new ground in terms of what you can do with Traktor (at this point at least) since the feature set of the S8 is pretty roughly the equivalent of an S4 plus an F1 (which is what I was running before). After using the S8, even for a short period of time, it is clear to me that they have succeed with respect to "eyes off the laptop" goal.

    After the first 30 minutes of playing with the S8 and without even thinking about it, I realized that I'd really never looked at my laptop. With the S4, the controller was always a companion to the laptop, the S8 really is THE entire package with the exception of searching for tracks. By and large it's very comfortable and natural to scroll through playlists on the S8 and there are some features (like selecting the sort criteria) that is even easier than doing it on a laptop. The down side is that since there is a HUGE amount of functionality built into the controller, some things aren't quite as readily accessible as they were on the S4 and I've made some suggestions below which I hope will be helpful in addressing that in some small ways. This is probably the one area where the jury is still out for me (and may well be for some time). Building muscle memory for things that are buried beneath two or three button pushes and knob turns takes time and there are a fair number of things that require such efforts. Whether this is something that will prove to be overwhelming or not remains to be seen for me. It's entirely possible that there are just too many functions crammed into too few controls, or maybe not.

    One thing that I've always been extremely pleased by is the apparent level of thought that went into the S4 and the S4mkII. There have been some points in NI's history where I would not have believed that they would have been capable of making such a solid controller (I really was more or less shocked with the debut of the S4) but they've proven that they can build really excellent hardware. And, the S8 is no different. Yes, there are handful of little things that I think are questionable design decisions, but those are vastly outweighed (at least as far as I can tell at this point) by excellent new additions. For example, the FX buttons are finally normal sized buttons which weren't apparently designed for a two year old's fingers. The true hardware mixer nature of this beast is also huge, for me at least. And that's certainly not the extent of it.

    As I said before, I haven't used the S8 for what I would consider any time at all (a few times at home and one four hour gig that didn't require a whole lot of actual DJing) so I'm sure my opinions will change in some regards, but so far I am, at least in theory, pretty happy with the S8. I also have a few minor requests based on my experience thus far which I hope will make me (and others) even happier:
    • Master tempo knob resolution. Let me preface this by saying that I fully realize that the S8 is very much designed to be a controller for electronic music. Traktor itself has pretty much always leaned heavily towards that paradigm and I have no problem with that (quite the opposite, in fact) However, my personal mixing style doesn't always see me setting things at 128 BPM and leaving it there. As such, I've noticed a few things. The first is that the resolution of the master tempo knob is too fine for my taste. Does anyone really need to adjust the BPM in increments of .01 BPM? I can't imagine that. I really feel that the default behavior of the knob should be swapped and (i.e. the level that is currently seen when pressing shift and turning the knob and the shift behavior should be the fine adjustment). I hope others agree with me on this or that this could be changed in a mapping.
    • Tempo offset on the S8 displays. Again, given the paradigm in which this controller exists, I understand that this might not be useful to a lot of people, but I would very much have the ability to see the current tempo offset (e.g. - 8% from the original BPM) on the S8 itself.
    • Master tempo reset. I really feel like this one has just been overlooked. The master tempo knob is clearly a push knob however pushing it does nothing. It seems to me that it should reset the current master track to 0% tempo offset. I use this feature A LOT and it's very cumbersome to go into a menu and hold the back button to have to reset the tempo of a song. Again, I hope that this could be addressed to be the default behavior of the controller or, at the very least, in a mapping (although preferably the earlier since right now pressing the knob does nothing)
    • Loop Move with knob. One of my very favorite features of the S4 was the ability to hold down shift and move the selected loop by one beat. This doesn't exist on the S8 and I sure wish it did. I don't think this would need to replace any current behavior so it would be nice to see this come back as the default behavior.
    • Toggle between single/group effects. Don't get me wrong, I like the onscreen display for selecting effects, but I do find it somewhat slow to switch between single and group effects. I generally load up different effects in the group and single banks and then switch between them very often. Going into a menu, turning a knob, pushing a button, etc. is just too slow, so I propose the following solution. What if pressing Shift + FX Select toggled between single and group FX? Again, there is no function currently assigned to that combination, so I would love it if that could be the default behavior or again, if this could at least be configured in a custom mapping.
    • Waveform colors on the S8. I know others have requested this elsewhere, but I'd love to have the waveform colors on the S8 mirror the colors on the computer display. It's a nice display, I can't believe this isn't in the works.
    • Display configuration button, WTF?. This isn't a big issue or anything but it's a bit of a head scratcher to me. We've really got TWO buttons dedicated to entering the menu to change the color balance/brightness of the display. Couldn't these be put to better use and this function be buried in a menu somewhere? I just can't imagine ever using this in a live environment enough to necessitate TWO buttons to access this setting. I can, however think of about 100 other settings that I'd much rather access from that button...
    • Track Played Indicator. Maybe my memory is just worse than most but I'd love to be able to see which tracks I've played on the S8

    So there it is! All in all, I'd have to say NI continues to do an excellent job on the controller front with the S8!
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. Vm3100

    Vm3100 NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    46
    Excellent first impressions and very helpful for me as I'm considering this unit,but will experiment in the coming months with my z2 and 2x f1 set up as I need to workout my preferred workflow before making the leap. Thanks for taking the time to make this post Gmint.
     
  3. AKIRAx34

    AKIRAx34 Forum Member

    Messages:
    46
    Good input!

    And since you, as I, have used S4, dont you also miss the ability to preview a track in browser mode? Or was that not a function you used alot on the S4?

    AKIRA
     
  4. deejaysoul

    deejaysoul NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    76
    Today was my first time using the S8 for a gig, I agree with everything you wrote. I'm hoping these things will be addressed in the next update.
     
  5. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    @AKIRAx34, I personally don't use this feature but I know that my brother does use this feature and feels similar to you. I guess the preview player is kind of a personal thing and it seems to me that there ought to be a way to bring it back. Perhaps shift + press in the browse mode?

    Oh also, I'm going to update my initial post to reflect this, but deleting the .tsi file as suggested by NI seems to have addressed my first issue. I can't say that with 100% certainty yet, but in my initial testing, that seems to be the case.
     
  6. Damien Sirkis

    Damien Sirkis NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    153
    You mean as opposed to shifting by en entire loop lenght?
     
  7. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    Exactly. I like the one beat move because it allows me to fine tune the loop.However, in reading what I previously wrote I realize that I am mistaken about the shift + turn behavior.
     
  8. DJ Tortoise

    DJ Tortoise New Member

    Messages:
    13
    +1 on all of this.

    - Prelisten
    - Moving loops
    - Display colored waveforms

    @deejaysoul - did you use the performance modes / buttons (loop/slice)? How was it?
     
  9. deejaysoul

    deejaysoul NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    76
    I haven't used the performance modes yet at a gig, Im still getting use the controls. I messed with the looping but just regular, not performance mode, that works well. I have messed with it at home briefly, they work well, the buttons make sense. Not sure if its a feature I will use heavily since my style of DJing isnt playing glitchy, but I'll mess with them in time.
     
  10. Dj Branco

    Dj Branco New Member

    Messages:
    4
    +1 for this

    "
    • Tempo offset on the S8 displays. Again, given the paradigm in which this controller exists, I understand that this might not be useful to a lot of people, but I would very much have the ability to see the current tempo offset (e.g. - 8% from the original BPM) on the S8 itself."
     
  11. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    2.8.1 Update / Issues

    A couple of revisions of Traktor have come and gone since I initially posted this thread and with the exception of the processor load (which was definitely the most significant issue, to be sure) unfortunately none of these items have been addressed, at least so far as I'm aware. Moreover, I've had a couple of new issues which I've seen with 2.8.1. I've reported one of those here:

    https://www.native-instruments.com/...th-those-in-mac-software.257830/#post-1400075

    The other issue that I've run into a couple of times is that I'll go into a playlist on the S8 and it will be completely empty despite actually having tracks in it. The only way I've found to essentially reset the browser to correctly display the tracks is to use my laptop and search for something (or maybe something else, I can't remember because it happens while I'm playing and it's very annoying). I'd never seen this happen in 2.8 or previous, but it's happened to me multiple times on 2.8.1 and it completely destroys the ability to not use the computer during a performance, so I'd definitely like to see that addressed ASAP.


    Overall impressions after several months with the S8.
    I mentioned that I was a longtime user of the S4 and S4mkII prior to owning the S8 and after having spent some time with the S8, I have to say that while I generally like it, I'm still not in love with it. To be honest, I'd really expected NI to have worked out some version 1.0 kinks with the S8 by now, and it's kind of increasingly getting on my nerves that I'm still not as comfortable with the S8 as I was with the S4 because of some of these issues (see above). Some of these are really small fixes and while I do realize that NI isn't building this controller just for me, I've seen a lot of these things come up for other users as well. What it really boils down to is that the S8 is NI's flagship DJ controller and it ought to be damn near perfect. I always expect a few issues when I'm an early adopter, but I kind of feel like we should be beyond that point by now...
     
  12. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    One more thing that I've been meaning to mention (and it's one that I REALLY HATE). Let's assume that the goal of the S8 is to keep you from having to use your computer. As I've said before, I think it does a relatively good job of that IF, and only if, you're playing out of playlists. If you're searching for music (as I often do) then the S8 is MARKEDLY WORSE than the S4 because, so far as I can tell at least, there's NO WAY to load a track that has been selected in the browser from the S8. That means drag and drop, which I HATE, HATE, HATE. On the S4, it was simple: search, select, press the load button on the appropriate deck. Not on the S8.

    THIS ONE needs to be fixed ASAP!
     
  13. FloydB

    FloydB NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    78
    @gmint Are you searching in the Traktor Collection node or the Explorer node? If you expand the Traktor Collection node into it's various sub folders to search for tracks they CAN be loaded to the S8 from there.
     
  14. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    @FloydB I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Do you mean if I browse through the sub folders on the S8? If so, that's not what I'm referring to, I'm talking about searching by typing and loading the result... It's possible I've missed something (I still consider the S8 a very new device) so please let me know if you think that's the case.
     
  15. FloydB

    FloydB NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    78
    @gmint OK thanks for clarifying exactly what you are wanting to do on the S8. I now know that you want to type in the search bar to narrow down your search and then scroll and load a track, correct? If so you still need to expand the Traktor Collection node using the S8, then select: All Tracks, which will include everything that you have imported to Traktor. From there you can now type into the search bar to drill into whatever search criteria you need eg. Artist, Title, key, Bpm etc and then scroll and load the result using the S8. Hope that helps to explain it more clearly.
     
  16. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    @FloydB thank you for your description. It took me a while to verify that what you describe does work--sort of. I say "sort of" because once you hit return (which is pretty easy to do), Traktor defaults to the Track Collection which kicks the S8 back to the main screen. That's a subtlety that is pretty tough to grasp, especially when you're in a live situation.
     
  17. gmint

    gmint NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    1,795
    (Probably) my last S8 impressions post update...

    Ok, so I've had the S8 for almost eight months now and I've reached a few conclusions, and a big decision (more on that later) with respect to the S8. As I said in my initial post, I didn't expect the S8 to be perfect when I, knowingly, was one of the first purchasers of the S8. While the unit was good, I am somewhat surprised that NI hasn't addressed many/any of the issues I set out in my initial post. It's not that I expected NI to read my particular post and get right to work on fixing those things because I asked for them, but it seems to me that some of the things I mentioned (and which others seem to agree with) are kind of no-brainers. While 2.8 did introduce some changes to the S8, I was kind of surprised at the things that took precedence over things like colored waveforms (just an example). Moreover, and more importantly, when it comes down to it, every time I play a set, I still find myself feeling rather ill-at-ease with the S8.

    As I also mentioned before, I've been on the S4 (with an F1) for a long time, and I have a lot of experience on those units. As such, I didn't expect to really feel at home on the S8 until I got used to it. However, eight months down the road, I feel like I should feel more comfortable and more at home on the S8 than I do/did on the S4. Unfortunately, I don't. I still have my S4/F1 and on occasion (e.g. when my brother is using the S8 for a different gig) I'll play on the S4/F1 and it still feels much, much more comfortable to me. I've thought about it for quite some time and what it really boils down to is two major things:

    1. Too many crucial settings are buried too deeply on the S8. Maybe everyone uses their S8 differently than I do, but it still seems inexplicable to me that the S8 requires going into a menu to switch between FX modes. I literally used to do this just about every song and the S4 has a dedicated button for this particular function. In fact, having to go into any menus to change settings on the fly is something that I just can't believe very many people use at all. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to develop muscle memory for this type of thing and I really think it's just a bad decision for this type of workflow. And it's not just one or two things that are buried like this, many functions suffer from this design defect. Take, for example, the tempo reset. I mentioned it before, but "Push and Hold" to reset?!? Are you kidding me? Yeah, I can really do that and reset the tempo right on a beat.

    The same can be said for the remix decks. I realize that there are space limitations to the size of the controller, but for me, it requires just too many button presses, knob turns, and remembering what context I'm in to use the remix decks in the same way as I can with a dedicated F1. I could go on, but I've listed many of my main gripes previously.

    2. I find myself using the keyboard, and worse yet, the trackpad more than EVER with the S8. If the goal of the S8 is to make the computer less necessary, as far as my workflow is concerned, it's not working. Now, if I do a set where I pre-program a playlist, it is possible to mostly stay away from using my computer (except for switching between FX modes, which is so damn slow I've had to map keyboard keys to do it) and just use the S8 for browsing tracks. However, in a scenario where I search for tracks with the keyboard (which I do most of the time, given that I actually tailor my sets to the crowd and pick things off of the top of my head), it's so kludgy that I'm actually dragging tracks into the decks WITH MY TRACKPAD. For the reasons that I mentioned in previous posts, there's basically no effective way to load a track that I've found using the search field from the S8 and that is just a huge issue for me. This is SO, SO easy to do on the S4 that I just can't fathom how NI could have made this unusable on their so-called "flagship" controller.

    The same can be said for the touchstrips. I'm not much for scratching (and when I do, I'm pretty terrible at it) and I do understand the space constraints that the jog wheels have, but the jog wheels are just better at everything. I rarely use the touch strips and almost always find myself reaching for the trackpad when I want to do something that I would have previously done with the jogs.

    Again, I get it. The S8 is made for a certain type of workflow for a certain type of DJ. And, maybe it works great for those people. However, it just doesn't work for me. Worst of all, it seems like the reason it doesn't work is more because NI just doesn't care about those things. Don't get me wrong, I think Stems is an interesting idea, but I'd much rather have my $1000 flagship controller work as well, if not better, than the unit that's several years older.

    Finally, because of all of that, I've made the decision to sell my S8 and go back to my S4 and F1. I feel like I've given it a good try with the S8 and it just isn't better in any way that outweighs the negatives that remain unaddressed by NI. That's certainly not to say that I don't like certain aspects of the S8, but ultimately I feel like the S8 is one of those units where there are too many things packed in too tight of a space and, as a result, the usability (which has got to be the paramount concern in something like a DJ controller) has suffered just too much. Maybe in a couple of software releases or when the MK2 version comes out, I'll give the S8 another go, but in the meantime, it's back to the setup that I've known and loved for many years.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  18. Brettski

    Brettski New Member

    Messages:
    15
    Hi
    I have moved from the S4 and S8 2 months ago and agree with all above comments.
    Another big one for me though is the "new" method of beat grid editing via the onboard screens rather than using the laptop interface. Whilst SIMPLE inaccuracies in Traktors analysis such as BPM and initial beat offset can be performed on the S8 ... it is not suitable for correcting tracks with wandering BPMs. Using the laptop interface to manually drop grid pins and move them with no retro effect to earlier parts of the grid is the only way to do this. Shame as one of the draw cards of the S8 was to minimise use of the laptop.
    All of this would be solved however if Traktor improved their grid engine to support varying BPM tracks (very common in older disco / soul tracks). I find that I have to put tracks like this through Ableton first which really adds to the workflow time.
    Thanks
    Brett
     
  19. TroyMichael

    TroyMichael Forum Member

    Messages:
    1,367
    Thanks for sharing your real world experience with the S8.

    Good info here for potential S8 buyers to consider as well as for NI to hopefully make improvements.