Reloop has been busy releasing interesting new digital DJ gear for the past few months, with its Contour and Mixage controllers adding modular and entry-level option to its existing and popular Digital Jockey 2 range.
But with the imminent Traktor Pro 2-ready Jockey III, the company has signalled its intention to be taken seriously at the pro end of the controller market.
Constructed in gun metal to a high standard, weighing in at a considerable 11lb (5kg), and easily one of the biggest DJ Midi controllers on the market, the Reloop Jockey III Master Edition is one serious beast of a DJ console.
It combines a two-channel/four-deck mixer and twin jogwheel approach with high-quality design and pro-grade bells and whistles (including full standalone mixer capability).
The Jockey III could be seen as a natural successor to that legendary workhorse, the Vestax VCI-100…
Plainly meant to live at the heart of a modern pro digital DJ set-up, the Jockey III could be seen as a natural successor to the legendary workhorse the Vestax VCI-100, its considerably more heavyweight feature set reflecting the way controller DJing has developed in the many years since Vestax blew the market open with that seminal model.
Alternatively, you could easily consider this alongside the Allen & Heath Xone range, or – with its Traktor Pro 2 sensibilities – as the first true Kontrol S4 competitor. Let’s take a closer look…
About the same size as the Traktor Kontrol S4, the Jockey III couldn’t be more different in feel.
While the S4 looks quirky and innovative, the Jockey III looks traditional and classic. While the S4 uses modern plastics and finishes to come across as a quality product, the Jockey III is of metal construction with a whopping, heavy chassis: it’s approaching the weight of a turntable, and easily the heaviest DJ controller we’ve ever tested. Imagine the Denon DN-MC6000 but half as big and heavy again and you’re getting there.
Only two physical channels?
If you’ve looked at the pictures you’ll have immediately noticed that this controller has a two-channel mixer, not the four-channel type as seen on the Allen & Heath Xone:DX, the Traktor Kontrol S4 and the Denon DN-MC6000. Of course, it can control four virtual decks (plus two external inputs), but it still has only two physical mixer lines, with a three-way toggle switch at the top of each line for input selection.
On learning this (if you have an opinion at all), you’ll probably either think “nope, not for me – I want four separate physical channels”, or you’ll think “great, keeping it simple”. I wouldn’t be surprised if you fall into the latter category: the truth is, most people still DJ with two channels in active use, using the others sporadically or (crucially in this case) for sample decks.
Reloop has obviously made the decision that most people will only use two deck channels most of the time, and opted to go for big jogwheels and space out those two channels in order to occupy the large surface of this controller.
Also, as we’ll see later, the mapping and controls mean that if you’re using Traktor Pro 2 in sample deck mode, this actually proves to be a bit of an inspired move from Reloop, keeping things simpler than with a four-channel mixer-equipped controller, while offering full control of the deck C and D sample decks.
A substantial level of control
So, with only two physical channels on such a large surface, the decks ought to really pack the features in, right? They certainly do. With eight knobs, a fader and 26 buttons on each side plus the ubiquitous doubling-up using the shift button, Reloop has used the space and relative lack of cost considerations against its own more price-sensitive consumer controllers to really ramp up the features.
There’s four-knob control over each channel’s set of effects, with infinity knobs with circular LED lighting indicating state, that also have push-to-click functions. Two infinity knobs allow full control over looping, including the ability to move a loop by a user-definable beat/bar jump step.
Beatgridding is possible from the controller’s surface, and eight cues can be controlled, although they are in two banks of four so (as with most DJ controllers) diehard beatjugglers will find this wanting.
There are individual filter knobs, and also pan knobs for each channel.
Reloop has always been good at multifunction jogwheels, and these are no exception, with library scrolling, scratching, scrubbing and nudge all available, selectable by pressing one of four small square buttons adjacent to the jogs.
Reloop has always been good at multifunction jogwheels, and these are no exception…
Like the Vestax VCI-300, this controller also has jog drag adjusters, allowing the weighted, capacitive metal/rubber jogs to be set for the right amount of drag to suit your style. The jogwheels are big and purposeful, while being relatively low profile (compared to the S4′s, for instance).
There are the usual four buttons for cue / cueplay / sync / play-pause under each jog, and the pitch control, which is long throw and high quality, is reminiscent of that on a Technics 1210 turntable (although it has no centre click or 0% light).
The mixer section has pleasing rubberised knobs that are well spaced; a browser wheel at the top with load buttons for each channel, and an input selector to switch between decks A and C / B and D, and the external inputs. The EQs don’t have push-to-kill, which is a shame, but they do have centre clicks (unlike the company’s entry-level Mixage controller reviewed last week). The crossfader is low resistance and replaceable, and twin 10-bar VU meters add to the overall pro feel of the unit.
Round the back
The back of the unit has twin RCA inputs for the external sources, and switches for line/phono for both of these, plus a ground pole; booth and master RCA output, plus balanced twin mono 1/4″ TRS master outs (but no XLRs); a second master thru (that being an 1/8″ stereo jack is meant presumably for iPod backup); and the usual power on/off switch and mains input (this unit needs mains power to work).
There are also three functions that Reloop is fond of in its designs, namely an LED dimmer to vary the brightness of the unit; a jogwheel sensitivity adjuster (it seems to adjust the sensitivity of movement, not touch, but more on that later) and a shift lock that means you can switch the shift buttons from momentary user to toggles.
On the front
The front of the unit has a 1/4″ mono TRS microphone input that has a small level control and a three-way switch to choose between off, thru-to-master and software routing. There is a similar small crossfader curve adjuster, and there are two three-way switches that determine whether the external inputs are fed through software, straight to the master out, or again, simply turned off.
There is a headphone jack for each size of headphone plug (1/4″ and 1/8″), and finally there’s a cue/master thru button which allows you to switch the headphones from monitoring the cue outputs to monitoring the master through sources.
So we’re not even plugged in yet, but the overall first impression is of a highly professional DJ controller designer for club-style performances, squarely digital but also with a nod to sitting at the heart of a bigger DJ set-up.
By the way, before we go any further, note that with the Jockey III, you’d have to buy Traktor Pro 2 separately, as the unit only comes with Traktor LE, which should of course only be seen as starter software.
Setting up and in use
The big question of course since Traktor Pro 2 was released has been: When and how will third-party manufacturers catch up with Native Instruments’ new software, and release controllers designed to take advantage of the sample decks and loop recorder that the S4 has stolen the march in exploiting? Well in Reloop’s case, the answer is: Now, and with the Jockey III.
DJ controllers, and especially complicated ones, to a large extent sink or swim on the quality of the mappings provided with them, and from the off, it is clear that Reloop’s engineers have spent a lot of time on making this mapping attractive to Traktor Pro 2 users.
When and how will third-party manufacturers catch up with Native Instruments’ new software? In Reloop’s case, the answer is now.
But first, set-up. To prepare the controller, you install the drivers, then launch your software and import the Traktor settings file as you would with any controller. Two types of settings file are provided: For traditional four-deck support, and for two decks plus sampled decks. Of course, the latter is the more interesting, so we opted to review the unit with this .tsi file.
Once the .tsi is imported, everything clicks into place as per the S4-esque Quick Start PDF, which is where you first begin to appreciate the work that’s gone into the mapping.
To start with, let’s get the basics out of the way. Suffice to say that everything that most controllers have – looping, FX, mixer functions, cue/play/sync, library functions and so on, is all present and correct here. Not only that, but it is all implemented to the nth degree; in short, this controller has everything you need and they’ve left nothing out, barring the tactical decision to go with two rather than four mixer channels.
The only thing among the standard controls that we didn’t like was the fact that the EQs aren’t total kills when turned all the way down; with the absence of kills anywhere else on the unit, this should be possible, because 100% kill one way or another is something we regard as desirable in a controller. Relooop has told us that it intends to implement his feature in an update mapping, so that’s good news.
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