Review & Video: Behringer CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller

Review Summary:

Offering excellent value for money, the spacious Behringer CMD Studio 4A digital DJ controller has lots of LED feedback, a decent built-in audio interface and plenty of hot cues. It lacks gain and mic though, and has average jogwheel performance with the supplied Deckadance LE software, so it's not a resounding winner - but still, it's hard to fault it for the price.

CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller
  • CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller
  • Rating: 3.5
  • Manufacturer: Behringer
  • Price: $199
  • Reviewed by:
  • On July 1, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014
Behringer CMD Studio 4A

A decent size, big jogwheels, long-throw faders, and all in a unit that costs little more than the very cheapest controllers out there: the Behringer CMD Studio 4A is making a big play for the budget end of the controller market. (Click to enlarge.)

Review: Behringer CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller

Full Behringer CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller Review: Behringer has always had a reputation for making music gear that's exceptionally well priced, and also came up with a couple of the very first DJ controllers many years back, the B-Control BCD2000 and BCD3000. However, the company has been totally quiet in this area ever since then, while other brands have taken centrestage. But to say Behringer is back would be an understatement: It has just simultaneously released seven new controllers: several modular devices, a micro all-in-one, and the device we're reviewing today, the Behringer CMD Studio 4A.

First impressions

The unit is quite large (about the size of a Traktor Kontrol S4, although not as deep, and slimmer), and also like the Traktor Kontrol S4, it is made of plastic, but with a black metal faceplate which means it feels nice to touch and use, while still being quite light. Compared to other units under $200, it looks extremely professional.

Because of its size, it is not in any way cramped, and the extra space has also allowed the designers to incorporate large (6") jogwheels, really long-throw pitch faders, long line faders, eight hotcue buttons per deck, decent sized buttons everywhere, and lots of spacing between the EQ and FX knobs. With the cue/master mix and headphones volume knobs moved to the front side of the unit (along with the 1/4"-only headphones socket, the only items on this part of the controller), all of this means a very user-friendly control layout overall.

The actual layout contains no surprises whatsoever; it's totally standard, eschewing the current trend for big pads and sticking to hard plastic "click" buttons, all backlit in various colours. The FX are channel assignable, and big A/B/C/D buttons let you controls four software decks, the scratch/nudge behaviour switched again by nice big buttons (the only round buttons on the whole unit in this case).

One pleasant surprise is the "kill" buttons (not often seen any more) in the mixer EQ section; however, I'd like to have seen the eight hotcues per deck be bigger and easier to press; cue juggling would be just about possible on this but they're no way as good as many controllers nowadays. Worth noting here too that there are no external inputs at all; not even a microphone-through.

Behringer CMD Studio 4A back panel

No inputs and two sets of RCA outputs plus USB and power; this is simple stuff, especially as the two RCA pairs carry exactly the same signal. (Click to enlarge.)

The back panel is very simple, with a USB socket for the computer, a DC-in (power transformer is provided), and a pair of RCA stereo outputs. The outputs are identical; both are controlled by the Main volume control on the unit, so in other words the "second" output is neither a booth output with its own volume control, nor a true "record" output (that bypasses the Main volume control).

The jogwheels have some weight behind them so they will spin freely for several seconds once turned, something I like because it potentially allows for more fun "vinyl" effects when DJing; however, when you push down with a little force on the edge of the jogs, they grate against the plastic casing underneath them, which gives a cheap impression. It won't affect performance, but it doesn't feel very nice. The knobs Behringer has used throughout, on the other hand, are really nice: kind of chunky, rounded and rubberised. Overall, the controller feels pretty good, and certainly isn't far off the build quality of something like the Traktor Kontrol S4.

Setting up

There's a very simple instruction manual in the box, and an important card containing details of where to go online to download Deckadance LE, the provided software, as well as ASIO drivers (needed if you're using it with a PC rather than a Mac), and the all-important serial number.

It's actually not quite that simple; to get the software you have to go to an Image Line hosted website (Image Line being the makers of Deckadance) and go through a long-winded and unclear process of registering (I hate giving across all my personal details just to get some software needed to make something I've already paid for work - I want that to be my choice), then downloading the software, then downloading a special file to get the software to work, then loading that file into it, then restarting it... it took me 15 minutes and I do this for a living. This could be made much easier.

Anyway, once you've managed all of that, you're ready to go. The CMD Studio 4A comes with a power supply and power is indeed necessary for it to work at all, so you plug in the power supply, connect the controller to your computer via USB, launch Deckadance and you're all ready to play.

In use

The controller feels good on first play thanks to the spacing, size of the controls and the high level of LED feedback from the software - the latter due in part to the fact that it is powered from a separate adaptor, not relying on power from the computer via USB. Any DJ who knows what they're doing will pick up the basics almost instantaneously, and new DJs will find it a nice surface to learn on.

While it does what it does well in that respect, it is nonetheless a basic controller. The biggest omission for me is individual channel gain controls, but looping controls on the hardware are rudimentary too, and there's no hardware control over the software's sampler either. Also, lots of functions on the software have no mappings on the hardware; the software has filters per channel, but you can't access them without using the mouse. A "shift" layer could have added much more functionality from the software.

CMD Studio 4A

The layout of the controller - not cramped and with decent faders, jogs and knob spacing - makes it satisfying control surface to DJ from.

The VU meters are accurate and the headphones volume level is plenty loud enough. Indeed, the sound quality overall is very good - as frankly is the case with the vast majority of controllers nowadays, even the cheaper ones. The VUs also monitor cue level rather than just master, which is good, although the lack of a gain control somewhat negates the usefulness of this feature.

Those long-throw pitch faders are pretty tight - I managed about 1/20th of a BPM adjustments easily enough with them. They seem to be locked to +/-16% pitch, and while I'd say they are plenty accurate enough for manual beatmatching, they're not as good as those fitted to more expensive controllers, some of which have with shorter physical faders. The crossfader is a bit scratchy but loose enough, however I couldn't find a crossfader curve adjust (someone prove me wrong, but I did look hard!).

Jogwheels
I found the jogwheel mappings to be only average. You can easily confuse the jogwheel (for instance, putting it into a scratch spin and holding it to pause the track at the end; the trackp lays on ignoring your wishes - it's demoed in the video), and the jogs are woolly, even with latency set really tight.

They're not much worse than most Traktor mappings for third-party controllers (Traktor is only really mapped well to the Kontrol S2 and Kontrol S4), and Virtual DJ controller maps aren't perfect either - but Serato DJ Intro is, and with controllers like the Mixtrack Pro and Mixtrack Pro 2 in the budget price bracket coming with Serato DJ Intro and so having excellent jogwheel control, the bar has been raised. Also, as mentioned above, the jogs are a little "budget" in feel, due to scratching easily on the housing if you push too hard on them.

All in all, if you think you're going to want to scratch, this isn't the controller for you, at least with the supplied software. Hopefully a future mapping/firmware update can fix that. To be fair, the Traktor mapping (available from the Behringer site) improves on Deckadance, and apparently the imminent Virtual DJ mapping is even better.

Effects
The effects work like this: The first of the four knob/buttons is wet/dry, or the amount of the channel's sound that is effected, and the amount that's clean. The knob's button resets the knob to zero, which is a bit weird as the knob will still be physically set elsewhere. Meanwhile, the other three knobs control a single parameter of three effects that you can choose yourself from drop-down menus in the software (but not from the hardware). The effects are generally beat-synced, meaning turning the control knob speeds up or slows down the amount the effect cycles.

You get delay, flanger, phaser, lo-pass filter, hi-pass filter, autopan, transform (gate), bitcrusher, distortion and reverb. They range from OK to excellent sounding; for instance, while the transform doesn't cut cleanly which feels a bit strange, the delay and flange/phaser effects I found to be pretty convincing.

Filters don't work very well in this paradigm as they don't duplicate the filter effect most DJs want, ie real-time knob-controlled HPF/LPF intensity - these are beat-cycling only. Hardly surprising, as that function is dealt with in the software by dedicated filters, which as we know you can't access from the control surface. Overall the effects are pretty good but the way to controls are mapped I found a bit weird.

More about the software

They're not much worse than most Traktor mappings for third party controllers

Looking very Traktor-esque nowadays, Deckadance 2 is a major improvement on the previous incarnation of the software. (Click to enlarge.)

This isn't a Deckadance review, but to summarise, overall Deckadance 2 LE is good DJ software, with some novel features; it certainly holds its own, coming with DVS support, VST plugin capability, programmable macro "smart knobs" and "GrossBeat" permutations, and more. The LE version (LE means "cut down", basically) that comes in the box has some pretty crippling limitations, though (you can't record which is always the big one, and there's mo Midi mapping or editor for the "smart knob" and "GrossBeat" settings), which means that while it's perfectly good for starting to DJ with, you'd want to upgrade at some point, to the full version of this or some other software.

However, if you did decide you liked Deckadance - and there is plenty about it to like - in this instance the upgrade is US$49, which isn't a bad deal at all. The first thing I would do is start to map some of its features to a small external controller (the sampler would be an obvious choice) - maybe even to one of Behringer's new modular controllers.

While we're bigging up Deckadance, you have to feel some affection to any DJ software whose makers describe it like this: "Deckadance has everything you need to elevate your DJ performances to the next level. Of course, if you suck as a DJ you will still suck, even using Deckadance, but you will suck better, faster, harder and more creatively than ever before."

Conclusion

You can't fault the value. For this price, the beginner is getting a decent-sized controller, some pretty powerful software (even in its LE version), and the chance to learn to DJ on something that isn't massively far removed from models costing several times the price.

It has its shortcoming - no microphone or aux input, missing gain controls, no booth/rec out even though there are enough sockets there, average jogwheel performance - but again, for the price you have to expect compromises. Throw in the extra $50 to fully unlock the software, maybe as your skills grow add one of Behringer's modular controllers doing a bit of remapping to customise stuff to your style, and you'll have one seriously good value for money DJ set-up that's also nice and powerful.

I am sure quickly enough decent mappings for Traktor and Virtual DJ, at the very least, will appear, although as always with such mappings the acid test is how good the jogwheel response is, but such mappings will hopefully give buyers of this the choice as to what software they want to run with if Deckadance isn't for them.

Competition-wise, I'd say the Mixtrack Pro (if you can still find one) and Mixtrack Pro 2 from Numark are still strong contenders with their excellent jogwheels, albeit with less buttons and backlighting than you get here; also consider the highly underrated (but more expensive) Denon DJ MC2000, which is appreciably smaller but well-built and a good performer.

Ultimately, I feel that if Behringer had bundled more tightly mapped software (such as mappings seen with budget controllers running Serato DJ Intro), it would have been game, set and match to them - not so much with Deckadance, due to the average jogwheel mapping. Even so, if money's tight and you want to punch above your station, you should look very closely at this. You can always pair it with Traktor or Virtual DJ due to the alternative mappings that are out there (at extra cost, of course), and as Behringer offers a three-year guarantee on all its gear nowadays, you don't have to worry about reliability. Bottom line is you're getting an awful lot for your money here - and that ought to mean the unit will sell well.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

Offering excellent value for money, the spacious Behringer CMD Studio 4A digital DJ controller has lots of LED feedback, a decent built-in audio interface and plenty of hot cues. It lacks gain and mic though, and has average jogwheel performance with the supplied Deckadance LE software, so it's not a resounding winner - but still, it's hard to fault it for the price.

CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller
  • CMD Studio 4A DJ Controller
  • Rating: 3.5
  • Manufacturer: Behringer
  • Price: $199
  • Reviewed by:
  • On July 1, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Video review

 

Scratch settings demo video

• To get free scratch training - sign up here!

 

Well, it's been a long wait: What do you think? Good controller for the cash? What would you consider instead at this price range? Does it do most stuff right, or are there things here that would put you off buying this unit? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Unfortunately I have had quite a few problems with Behring in the past (and not all THAT distant past at that). Both build quality and sound quality not being up to par.

    I have understood they stepped up their game somewhat and I am guessing that they just source a 24-bit audio interface from somewhere. With the laptop/computer performing most of the other tasks, I’d say there isn’t too much that can go wrong.

    I am sure that Deckadance is nice software, but definitely not in the top 3 or 4. And thus, with lots of people wanting VDJ or Traktor, the availability of decent mappings is crucial for it’s succes.

    To hear that the jogwheels grate on the housing sends shivers down my spine. Not just because of the grating (which in itself is enough for me to shy away from this unit, especially with viable alternatives available with way better jogs), but because of the potential that the jog doesn’t go straigt up and down, but tilts a little. This would put extra strain on the mechanism under the jog that actually translates the jog movement to an electronic signal.

    It will be interesting to see how they hold up in the hands of some of our younger, eager, uhm … dynamic DJ here after prolonged use.

    The other thing that doesn’t appeal to me is that most all the backlit buttons are the same color. I personally would have liked to see some more color groups, making it easier to distinguish buttons, even if you can’t read what is on them.

    I am not in the market for a low end controller, but I do get asked to give advice on them from time to time from young guys in the neighborhood who want to start DJ-ing.

    With your review in mind, I think I will stay on the safe side for now and keep recommending the Numark’s or the Denon (which has the same jogs as it’s way more expensive 3000 and 6000 sibblings, I think).

    Greetinx,
    C.

    • KingCast says:

      I made a quick rebuttal video in response to digital dj tips review that addresses a couple of your concerns.

      • Thanks! However, you misunderstood our second point (we demo it in our video so you’ll see it properly if you watch that), it is nothing to do with us accidentally having effects on, it is to do with the Deckadance software not noticing the hand is holding the track paused.

        I want to make another clear point here: We review gear as beginner users will use it. If it doesn’t work properly out of the box, that is how beginners will experience it. Using beta maps of different software to fix problems is hardly something we can expect new users to have on their radar. I know we review hard, but we need people to be confident that we’ve shown them the user experience they’re likely to have out of the box.

        Luckily, all the software problems should be able to be fixed – we always update reviews when we are informed of corrections and improvements, and the “last updated” info in the summary box indicates that last time a review was changed.

      • KingCast says:

        Thanks Phil, I’ve always had the utmost respect for you and your reviews. I knew what you meant in your review and I just wanted to make sure that all interested parties as well as those in the market for a new dj controller can make the most informed decision possible before casting it off as problematic.

        I have used many controllers that ended up working better on software it didn’t come with, but that’s our job as a community to keep pushing the limits of what these controllers can do and to not be satisfied and accept the limitations of a controller out of the box. I almost feel like a separate review should be done on Deckadance so the uninformed understand it has nothing to do with controller. Either way thanks for watching!

        • No worries. The thing is, i think nowadays it’s not enough to have good hardware but software issues, or the other way around. Something should ideally work out of the box, because when people buy something that’s what they expect. That’s why I try and highlight problems with stuff that comes in the box.

    • KingCast says:

      Well put sir, thanks for commenting!

  2. Mike Graham says:

    Definitely true Behringer has reputation for poorly built products. I too have had issues with Behringer products build quality in my studio in the past. I would like to add that a Behringer dealer told me recently Behringer now has an amazing 3 year guaranteed warranty on thier new products now. Something goes wrong within 3 years they will replace or repair no questions asked. They also do it in a timely fashion. Thats a good selling point imo.

  3. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    I’ve just been ask to quote a price for doing a live gig for a 4-man band at an event with 2.000 visitors in september. Apart from the usual bits & pieces on the rider, at the bottom it says (in bold print): Under no circumstances offer Behringer equipment.

    Not trying to put them down, just saying how long a bad reputation can haunt you, even if you have picked up your game in the meantime.

    Greetinx,
    C.

    • Your mileage may vary. For example, the Behringer X32 mixer (as well as supporting gear – like the P16 system) was just installed in the Whiskey A Go Go and the Viper Room – both venues that are famous for hosting live bands. Your point is valid, but brand perception is highly variable.

      • from my experience as a live engineer, behringer are the best for disposable gear. Why spend 200$ on a Roland or Radial DI, when I can get 6-7 behringers for the same price? After all, the vocalist will stumble and kick them and the guitar player will spill his beer on it. Remember, there is a lot of wear on live gear, and buying in bulk can help you because like it or not, most gear will not survive more than a few months, the road is hard man.

        My belief is that redundency is the path to a smooth show. a monitor fries? send it to the trash and jug a fresh one instead. Every piece of gear that I know someone else but me can handle/touch/ breath next to, will be a behringer, that way every problem becomes no problem, just replace the broken behringer with a new one, the show goes on, I get paid, everyone’s happy.

  4. one very important thing about Deckadance 2 it has no midi out mapping so mapping a controller to the other functions as the sampler or grossbeat you will have no visual feedback from the controller. I bought the full version and started mapping it to my DDJ SX but just gave up as it was pointless

  5. Any time you have an equipment rider they often knock things off they’ve had bad experiences with or they consider sub par. I’ve seen Mackie, Behringer, Peavey, Bose and many other brands specifically stated as being ‘unacceptable’ for a rider.

    That being said… I think this controller may be interesting and I’m curious to find out if the grating is unique to this unit or on all the units.

  6. Robert Wulfman says:

    What get lucky remix was that?

  7. Are the other modular pieces available to purchse yet?

    • They’re all available to purchase now, but it might be hard finding them depending on where you live. We’ve shipped the first major shipment out to retailers, but they have their own logistics to deal with as well. Places like UniqueSquared in the US and Thomann in Europe are a good bet to start.

      • Craig,

        Just gotta say, good job stepping up Behringer’s game here. You revolutionized DJ MIDI controllers and put the other brands on notice, and you did this targeting the value market. IMO the CMD line ought to go into the hall of fame when the history of DJ MIDI controllers gets written. It’s gonna be fun watching the other brands react.

        -Tom

  8. With no mic input and no individual gain controls the unit becomes, for me, not even worth considering. Both are essential for a working mobile DJ and that’s what this has to be targeted at as it is not for in house or studio production. I do like Behringer, particularly their powered speaker line, but not including a mic input and individual channel gain should be cause for firing the designer. Maybe fun to mix with but don’t take it out of the house. And with RCA out not XLR we know this is not aimed at working pros. Shame. $25 dollars more in the build and it could have been a rocking controller.

    • I think they are aiming at beginners not mobile DJs, and as you say, for home it’s not so crippling. Also for $200 I don’t expect balanced outs on a DJ controller. I do agree that gains are a questionable omission though, but again that omission is not exactly rare at this price point (Mixtrack Pro/2 are the same).

  9. Mauri Moore says:

    plastic “click” buttons is the worse thing in a controller .

    I have 1 CMD PL 1 and i can say is a really bad unit

    • Why? Hard plastic with a decent click can be extremely responsive (such as Denon’s choice of play/pause and cue buttons on its high-end pro decks). On this controller, the only buttons that I found not so great were the cues, as they’re too small to easily cue juggle, but the rest I thought were fine.

  10. Hey Phil,

    What tune were you playing in the video?

  11. Hey Phil,
    Will you be reviewing any/all of the modular controllers? Those are the ones I’m really interested in!

  12. Mike Silence says:

    There is already a Traktor TSI on the Behringer Website…

    http://www.behringer.com/assets/STUDIO_4A_TSI_v1.0.zip

  13. Jam-Master Jake says:

    Sadly, this is typical Behringer: a half-assed product that’s sold for cheap. I will NEVER EVER purchase another Behringer product due to my past experiences with them. Pity, too…if they’d just get their act together, I’m sure they’d make quality products.

    No thanks, I’ll pass on this one.

  14. Hello Phil and all the other reviewers on the response thread! Would anyone know for certain if the Behringer CDM Studio 4A controller is capable of .01 or 1/100th pitch resolution increments? I’m sure many are dying to hear about this. Thanks! :)

  15. I have a large amount of Behringer gear, including an X32, amps, speakers, monitors, crossovers, mics, effects units and DJ controllers etc., and have nothing but the utmost praise for the company.
    There is now a UK based service facility where you can get spare parts within 24hrs, should you need them.
    I have just purchased a Cmd studio 4a, and whilst it is true that there are no gain adjust encoders, it is a simple task to use the scratch button as a modifier to re-map the high, mid and low adjust encoders for each deck to become gain adjust, filter and key adjust encoders for the associated decks.
    With a little programming, this controller really has no restrictions at all.

  16. Hi, I liked the review so as the product.

    I started mixing with mouse and keyboard and now I wanna take it more srly, that being said as your experience, what would be a good controller to continue learning: Pioneer DDJ Wego or this Behinger CDM?

    Thanks a lot!

  17. Great review. I am in the market for a new controller to replace my 3 year old Hercules RMX. My right pitch fader is wearing out on the Hercules RMX. (Sticks and grinds even after cleaning and lubrication on the slider rail.) Also I am finding the RMX is a dated controller (No dedicated fx section and lack of 8 hotcues) Even though I have made a functional 4 deck map with some fx control I still find it dated for Traktor. Unfortunately I am in a bad financial situation and can’t afford a high end ccontroller. Even this controller at $199 is a stretch for me it is possible to afford it. Your review has helped me on deciding on this controller as an option.

    • I purchased a CMD Studio 4a on Oct 31. I am unhappy to say my unit had damage to the right volume fader and the right jogwheel right out of the box. The unit does look nice and professional but after my experience I feel the actual overall build quality is terrible.

  18. My own review: I bought that controller after i readed this review and comparisons to the Mixtrack Pro II. But now, after 3 weeks and one gig, i will send this controller back. You ask why?

    Virtual – too less functions, not working fine
    Traktor – some mapping failures, not working fine
    Deckadance – works fine, but software is absolutely crappy
    Serato – Doesn’t work at all, no mapping!

    I don’t wanna spend time to write an own mapping, so i totally regret buying this one. The support either couldn’t help me, so after 2 weeks, spending hours to solve this problems, million times reinstalling all the software, i will take again 200€ to buy a Traktor S2 or something else.

    The controller itself looks wonderful, the big wheels are awesome for this price region and i loved the Scratch-function. Also the quality looks fine, but the white marks on the crossfader were gone after only 1 week, so i have no lines left for the crossfader -_-. Normal colour on aluminium doesn’t hold for long.

    Greets from Germany

  19. Anyone want to check the price on Amazon and post it here? I have checked this controller on their site several times and suddenly the price has jumped $60.00, from $199 to $259. I’ve heard rumors that if you go to and item’s page several times Amazon hikes the price.

    Thanks in advance to anyone willing to check this out.

  20. Hi,where would u find the midi mapping for virtual dj?

  21. leonardo agoesta mahendra says:

    how to reset or restart behringer controller studio cmd 4a?

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