Best Choice for Serious iPad DJing? Letter From a Reader

I've made a few posts recently that touch on the idea of using tablets for DJing in a little more serious capacity, so Miguel's letter comes in at an appropriate time.

It's funny how much things have changed, lately.  Only a few years ago, the idea of a tablet PC was more of a gimmick or niche item than a useful device.  Now, tablets are a big part of every day life for many of us.

It's only natural progression for the DJ market to start taking a serious look at the mobile platform, and a few companies have started to step up to the plate.  Native Instruments' newly-revamped Kontrol S2/S4 is the most obvious current example, but is it ready for prime time?

Miguel writes…

Dear David,
After a careful reading on your article “BEST DJ CONTROLLERS 2013: The Ultimate Guide” I decide to send you this email to see if you can provide me with some support.  I am “part-time” club DJ (mostly eighties, hard-rock and once in a while, house music), I've worked with most of the DJ softwares available in the market and my two choices are Traktor and DJAY (by alguridum) to be easy to play with iOS tablets (like ipad).

I've tried some controllers already and I am to buy a Premium (really professional) all-in-one DJ controller. One that could connect directly to a pair of powered speakers – with no need for a PA between both.  I know that NI S4 and S2 (mk2) just arrived but, the reviews on both off them are not so nice – still no booth output, no XLR out between other announced issues (NOT SO PROFESSIONAL LEVEL ANYMORE???)

Could you please give me your best advice?  It will be most appreciated.

Thank you in advance,
Miguel S.

Hi Miguel!  Thanks so much for writing in.

So, a few things.  My honest opinion is that the updated Kontrol S2 (plus Traktor DJ) is the perfect weapon if your interest is in DJing seriously with an iPad (and you want an all-in-one device).  This is the first serious prosumer-grade controller that handles all the bells-and-whistles of your basic DJing needs and has iPad capability (and nobody's paying me to say that… just my opinion.)

I'm not sure where you read that there is no booth output in the updated models coming out soon.  The S2 always has had a booth output, and the updated S2 and S4 both have them.  Here's a screenshot:

Inline image 1

That knob  in the first white box on the left-hand side that's pointing at about the 1 O'clock position is the volume knob, and there's a switch that changes between “booth” and “main”.

Also, though you're right that it doesn't have XLR outputs, the 1/4″ ports are balanced outputs… making them essentially the same.  (In fact, on my “old-school” S4, I use a set of 1/4″ to XLR adapter cables to connect to my powered, non-PA speakers.)

The thing I'm not sure about is exactly how the output routing works… at first glance, it looks to me like you have to switch your 1/4″ outputs between booth and main.  To me, that means that if you're using booth output, your main output would have to use the RCA jacks.  I could be completely wrong on that and maybe they handle this differently, but I'm just pointing it out in the interest of completeness.

So, my honest opinion is that the (soon-to-be-released) updated S2 is the best route for serious iPad DJing (though you could go ultra-portable and get a Z1).  Of course, the other option is to use a laptop instead of an iPad, and get whatever controller/software combination makes you happy!

Hopefully that helps… I know that these kinds of decisions are tough.

So, to you, the readers: are you ready to take your iPad full-time?  Or does it just not quite feel right yet to use a tablet in the booth?  Post your thoughts in the comments below!