The Mixage is a brand new compact, budget DJ Midi controller which is reviewed here in its interface edition (ie with a built-in sound interface), but which is also available in a controller edition for those who already have or wish to use an external sound card.
Reloop has been producing some interesting gear recently, with the well-received Reloop Contour single-jog full-size DJ controller turning heads, and its soon-to-be-reviewed-here Digital Jockey 3 causing waves at the upper end of the market. But with the Mixage, the company is directly targeting the bottom end, where currently the Numark Mixtrack Pro dominates. But is the Mixage a contender? We find out in this extended review and video talkthrough…
Unboxing and first impresssions
The box contained just the unit and a USB cable in with our pre-release review sample, but the final units will, according to the spec printed on the side of the box, also ship with a mains power supply. I would imagine you’ll get the usual printed quickstart guide, starter software CD (it will ship with Traktor LE) and stickers too.
The first two things that strike you about this unit are that it is compact, and it is heavy.
The first two things that strike you about this unit are that it is compact, and it is heavy. At 14.5 x 10.1 x 1.8″ (368 x 257 x 45mm) yet weighing in at a beefy 5.3lb (2.4kg), it is pleasingly well-built and sturdy. The unit is finished in Reloop’s favoured colours of black and dark grey with white and red trim, and while due to its size it simply doesn’t have as many knobs and buttons as some DJ controllers, those that it does have are well-spaced.
The knobs are mainly plastic but feel good; the large library selector push-to-click knob is in the same shiny brushed metal as that used on Reloop’s more expensive controllers (as are the audio faders, of which the crossfader is nice and loose, the other two offering more resistance).
The pitch faders are short-throw which is not surprising seeing the size of the unit, but there are four well-spaced circular transport buttons for each deck, which it is immediately apparent double up as four cue-per side (it’s printed on them).
The rubber/metal jogwheels are small but big enough, again well spaced, solidly attached, spin practically silently and smoothly with good weight behind them, and immediately inspire confidence.
Both the chassis and the top plate are metal, and the limited number of connections, switches and adjusters on the front and back edges nevertheless include a microphone input with level, jog sensitivity (nice) and LED dimmer control (really nice).
Sound output is limited to twin RCA unbalanced, and there is a Kensington lock at the back-right. There is a little plastic trimming, which isn’t screwed at the sides and poked out just a little on the review unit, although it’s not a big issue.
Setting up involves installing Traktor LE (which comes with the prerequisite mapping), and if you’re a Windows user, installing the ASIO driver. A separate mapping is available for Traktor Pro which is also compatible with Traktor Pro 2; I downloaded this stuff from Reloop’s website but presumably it will all be on the CD when production units hit the shops. I tested it with Traktor Pro 2. A few clicks in the configuration section of Traktor and you’re done.
This is a two-deck controller. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else; there aren’t switches to layer each deck between decks one and three, and indeed Reloop suggests you could buy two Mixages and enter “battle mode”, with two units controlling one four-deck copy of Traktor Pro. Now there’s creative marketing for you! To be fair, you can indeed switch the Midi channel on the back so this would be perfectly possible. But as it stands, it’s a two-deck DJ controller.
Accordingly, I switched Traktor Pro 2 into two-deck mode (of course, Traktor LE, the supplied software, is only two deck) and accepted that this is one of the limitations of the controller. With probably 90% of DJs still perfectly happy to DJ with two decks, it’s no great shakes to miss the bells and whistles of higher priced set-ups in this respect.
Loading a track involves scrolling through the current folder with the big “trax” knob; pressing this knob down toggles the view between normal and full library mode, which is quite a nice feature. Two buttons (one for each deck) allow you to load your track. Holding down shift lets you select from your folder tree.
Once the song is loaded, you’re going to want to use a jogwheel to find a cue point. Here’s an overview of how the jogs work:
When a deck has a track loaded but not playing, the whole jogwheel scratches through the track, ie acts similarly to moving a record with the needle on it quickly. This lets you find the place you want to start at audibly, in order to set a cue point.
Once you have a track playing, however, the jogwheel becomes a nudge wheel: moving it clockwise slightly speeds up the track, and anti-clockwise slows it down. The faster you do this, the more the track deviates from the tempo. This progressive nudge is what allows you to keep two tracks in time easily and is similar to the way vinyl DJs do it.
However, if you press the small button with a record in it above the jogwheel, you enter vinyl emulation mode. This gives the jogwheel a dual use: The metal top-plate allows you to scratch (ie gives you the same function as when paused), but the rubber edge allows you to nudge (ie slow down/speed up the track).
The jogs were tight, fast and on the point as far as response goes…
Finally as far as the functions go, pressing the button with the magnifying glass on it above a deck enters scrub mode – from here you can scroll very quickly through a song (a whole song in less than one revolution of the wheel) in order to go fast to the end, back to the beginning, whatever. You can’t hear this; however, if you do this when a track is playing, as soon as you remove your hand from the wheel, the track continues playing where you got to.
This is by and large well realised: I’m pleased to report that there was no audible lag or immediately apparent “spongy” feeling; the jogs were tight, fast and on the point as far as response goes.
Indeed, the scratch function was too sensitive for me: I’m not talking too sensitive in that you only have to touch it really lightly to get it to work (this is the sensitivity that the little control round the back alters, and works fine), but rather that by turning the jogwheel, say, a quarter of a turn in scratch mode, the music is scratched far more than it would be if you scratched a record a quarter of a turn. This means your scratching has to be done in tiny movements to get close to what vinyl feels like.
Also, while scratching is progressive (the faster you do it, the quicker the scratch), it is not smoothly so, altering in speed in broad jumps, and if you spin the wheel fast for a vinyl spinback effect, the wheel slows down and stops before the sound does!
One niggle was that when in vinyl emulation mode, the nudge function is no longer progressive…
One niggle was that when in vinyl emulation mode, the nudge function is no longer progressive (as it is otherwise); no matter how fast you turn the jog anti-clockwise or clockwise, the tune only slows down or speeds up very slightly. As such, this function is not very useful in this mode and means if you want to effectively scratch and nudge, you’ll need to keep switching modes.
None of these issues are dealbreakers, unless you’re a scratch DJ or an ex-vinyl DJ looking for spot-on vinyl emulation, though, and I’ve seen far worse on controllers – but with the current mappings/firmware, the Mixage’s scratching ability is only average.
There are four big round buttons under each jogwheel, for sync, cup, cue and play/pause. The sync button needs no explanation. The cup and cue buttons drop a cue point on the track if the track is paused, or jump to the previous dropped cue point if it is playing; the difference between them is that cup continues to play the track when your finger leaves the button, and cue doesn’t (hence the latter is good for stuttering).
All of these buttons are backlit, being red apart from the play/pause button which is a rather nice shade of yellow. They’re well-spaced and therefore fun to use.
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