Reloop’s new Terminal Mix 4 in its smart black livery is big, weighty and pro-looking. Being the size of the Kontrol S4 but with distinctly larger and superior jogwheels, it certainly gives the impression of meaning business.
It comes with Serato Intro (more on this later), but it also comes with Virtual DJ LE, and there are Traktor mappings available too (ditto the four decks, although you’ll have to buy Traktor separately). Confused? Fear not – we’ll do our best to unravel the mysteries in this, our full Reloop Terminal Mix 4 review.
First impressions and setting up
This is a standard-looking but impressively built controller. It’s standard in that everything is laid out where you’d expect it to be, and it’s impressive for a whole number of reasons.
Firstly, it is an imposing size. It’s pretty much exactly the same size as the Traktor Kontrol S4, but it’s a notch higher in build quality, being appreciably heavier and using much more metal in its construction.
Singularly the best jogwheels on any DJ controller…
Next, it has singularly the best jogwheels on any DJ controller apart from the Numark NS7′s or the Denon DJ SC3900′s motorised jogs, which are a different breed entirely. They’re big but low profile, beautifully engineered in aluminium, and have a nice textured top surface that just feels right.
Everything else feels expensive, too, from the long-throw, hi-res pitch controls to the extremely loose crossfader, to the damped, weighted library knob dead centre of the unit, to the rubberised transport controls at the front. It’s a pro-feeling DJ controller, without a doubt.
Indeed, it very much borrows the look and feel of the Numark NS6. While it is deeper and narrower than that controller, the colour scheme, feature set, feel of the controls, even the main colour of the VU meters are similar.
It is not quite as nicely constructed or as expensive-feeling than the NS6 (except the jogs, which are better), but it’s very close. (It also falls short against the NS6 in a couple of other areas, but we’ll come to those later).
Reloop’s controllers have always been metal and reasonably well constructed (notwithstanding cue button reliability issues on earlier models) but they’ve improved over the short number of years since the Digital Jockey models first hit the scene, and this latest controller – alongside the Terminal Mix 2 which we also first saw at the Musikmesse show this year – is the company’s most accomplished build standard to date.
Setting up depends on what operating system you have, and does not deviate from nearly every other DJ controller out there. You install ASIO audio drivers if you’re using a PC (no need if you’re using a Mac), then go ahead with the software. And here’s where it starts to get challenging for the beginner…
The strange world of DJ controllers: A primer
DJ controllers, dear readers, are a combination of Midi control surface (layman’s term: controls that makes bits move on the software display, like knobs, faders and jogwheels) and, nowadays, audio interfaces (audio circuitry that is used instead of your computer’s built-in sound, that allows you to hook up external sources, and more importantly, have multiple outputs, like headphones and speakers – pretty important for DJing).
How controllers behave depends then, on the software you use with them – pretty much entirely. It also depends on what are called “mappings” – configuration files that tell the hardware what parts of the software to control.
With something like the Traktor Kontrol S2 and Traktor Kontrol S4, or Serato ITCH-branded controllers, you really don’t need to know anything about any of this (you plug in, and everything works). But with most other DJ controllers, this one included, you most definitely do need an understanding of what you’re buying.
So later on in the review, we’re going to look at this controller from the point of view of someone who wants to use it with each of the three programs it either has in the box or has company-provided mappings for – Serato DJ Intro, Virtual DJ and Traktor. First, though, we’ll take a tour of the features. Just be aware that exactly what you have available to you will depend on the software choices you make.
Jogweeels and transport
Let’s start with the jogs. We’ve already mentioned how good they are in passing, but let’s reiterate this: They’re very good.
There’s no sideways “give” in them; they are weighted, so when you spin them and let go, they carry on for a few seconds, slowing down convincingly; they’re completely silent; and they have a choice of scratch/nudge or just nudge (for replicating vinyl/CDJ or just CDJ behaviour). The jogs also offer a track search function. There’s no tighten/loosen control like on the Vestax VCI-400 (for instance), but I didn’t miss it.
The only thing that jarred with me was the semantic mismatch of using a real cup as the logo for the CUP button…
Across the front of the jogs are the transport controls. These are in a translucent, red-backlit rubber material and are round. They’re really nice to the touch; the only thing that jarred with me was the semantic mismatch of using a real cup as the logo for the CUP button (CUe Play). As well as CUP, there are the usual play/pause, stop and sync.
The fine (14-bit Midi), long-throw pitch faders are nearly as smooth as those on the NS6, but a bit scratchier, and you also get range adjust and keylock buttons to alter the behaviour of the pitch controls.
Moving to the front of the unit, there’s a single 1/4″ mono TRS microphone input, which has level and tone controls. As with all such controls on the front, these push in to make them more flush with the surface, in the same way they do on the Traktor Kontrol S4.
There’s a level control for the auxiliary input too (more later). There are also small switches for choosing whether you want the microphone and auxiliary inputs to be routed through software or hardware. What this means is that you could put your microphone and some external source through your DJ software (to take advantage of effects, for instance), or choose for them to go through the hardware avoiding the software entirely.
The latter option means you’d miss the chance to process these inputs in your laptop software, but in theory, were this unit plugged in to the mains and the system crashed, you could still use these auxiliary inputs to keep the music going from your iPod, or at least to apologise on the microphone! But as there was no mains power adaptor supplied with the unit, we couldn’t test whether these are true standalone inputs – and as neither Serato Intro or Virtual DJ LE let us route through software, we couldn’t test that option at all.
Moving from left to right along the front then, next we come to two sets of two crossfader assign buttons, which decide if each of the four channels are assigned to the left side, the right side, or no side at all of the crossfader. Sat between these two pairs, direct centre, is a crossfader curve adjuster. Finally, to the right, two headphones sockets (1/8″ and 1/4″) sit next to a headphones tone control – the latter being a nice addition and something not usually found on DJ controllers.
The four identical lines each has a line fader, three-band “intelligent kill” EQs (I couldn’t work out what that meant, but they worked as expected), gain and, nicely, a filter per channel, similar in this respect to other roughly comparable controllers such as the Traktor Kontrol S4 and the Vestax VCI-400 (one up on the NS6 here).
There are individual cue buttons for headphones monitoring, load buttons for getting tracks from the library to the decks, and fader start where available in software too.
Most people new to digital or who are happy to trust autogain in software won’t miss this, but those used to using analogue gear certainly will.
Up the middle of the mixer are transport and output controls. As mentioned above, the library browser knob is really nice to use. It’s brushed metal, weighted, damped, stepped and better than that on (for instance) the Xone:DX, which although similar, sometimes jumps a step or jumps two tracks per step. This one, though, is spot on.
There are a whole host of volume controls here too. There’s a volume control for the sampler, and volume controls for the cue (headphones), master output and booth outputs. There’s also a headphones mix control (that decides if what you hear is your cue source, your master, or a mix of both).
One minus point is the poor VU metering. There is a single stereo VU meter in the middle of the mixer, but it only monitors the master output, so there’s no way of using it when cueing to get the individual track gains right pre-fader. Most people new to digital or who are happy to trust autogain in software won’t miss this, but those used to using analogue gear certainly will, and if you want to get your gain staging spot-on manually, this is a pretty essential thing to have.
Finally, there are two layer buttons for switching the decks between 1 and 3 and 2 and 4, and two shift buttons for accessing extra Midi commands.
FX, loops and sample controls
Al of the controls I’m about to describe are duplicated, one set for each of the two physical decks.
Unlike the Numark NS6, this controller has sample buttons right there on the pane. There are four sample buttons and four hot cues (actual usable numbers vary depending on what software you’re using). While this section is not as comprehensive as the wonderful sample deck integration with Traktor on the S4, for example, and is not as advanced as the touch-sensitive pads on the Vestax VCI-400, it’s nonetheless a decent number of buttons for you to be getting on with.
The looping section is standard, with manual and beatmatched loops, beat move and half/double (theoretically) available.
The FX sections comprise three adjusters and an on/off for each of the three available effects per side, plus a nicely intuitive “beats multiplier” which decides how fast the effects cycle from 1/8 of a beat up to eight beats, complete with a tap button for manual input of the BPM.
Round the back
A good number of outputs are available, with balanced TRS and unbalanced RCA for the master out, and unbalanced RCA for the booth out. Additionally, there is a single external input for one record deck or line input (ie a CDJ or your iPod), and a ground pin should you choose to attach your singular turntable up to the unit. Especially seeing as it has issues with using all four channels in software (we’re getting to that…), I think having two line/phono inputs would have been better.
There are a power on/off switch, a USB in/out and a Kensington lock fitting too (all pretty standard), as well as a shift lock button that turns the shift button behaviour (used to access another layer of Midi functionality) from on-hold to toggle.
Sound quality and other features
I was impressed with the sound quality from the unit. As usual I tested it using 320kbps MP3s that I know sound good because I DJ with them. Testing on Serato DJ Intro, Max Essa’s “Caress” sounded warm and summery, just as it should, with good bass, twinkling highs and convincing filter effects from the built-in channel filters. The headphones volume was plenty loud enough and overall I had no complaints.
In Virtual DJ it seems louder than Serato (it was easier to push the VUs into the red), and not quite as refined, with the well-documented lack of true bass kill (the bass EQ takes out a chunk of the mids too), but it was again acceptable.
I was overall impressed with the way the unit pumped out the decibels even on USB power, and that goes for the LED brightness too…
On the subject of volume, by the way, I was overall impressed with the way the unit pumped out the decibels even on USB power, and that goes for the LED brightness too; it seems to efficiently draw enough power from your laptop to be able to function well without any obvious shortcomings (unlike say the Novation Twitch, which is the quieter end of acceptable, and very dim in daylight).
That moves us on nicely to the firmware features. It s possible to adjust the aforementioned LED intensity by a simple firmware trick, and you can also adjust the jogwheel sensitivity by doing something similar. It is also possible to adjust the group of Midi channels the controller uses, to avoid clashes with any other Midi gear you may also be using.
So – all well and good on paper. What about when we get the supplied software all loaded up and take it for a spin?
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