Things are heating up at the lower end of the DJ controller market. Only last week we looked at the Hercules DJ Control Instinct, which offers amazing value for money but maybe just a little bit too small and basic for all but the most casual of users.
Today we review the Reloop Beatmix, which at £160 for a bigger, better-specified controller than the real bargain-basement models out there still looks like excellent value for money. At this price point, the Numark Mixtrack Pro is the controller to beat. So the question is, can the smart-looking Reloop Beatmix do it? Let’s find out…
First impressions and setting up
It looks like a shrunken Numark NS6, thanks to the indented carrying handles left and right, the silver jogs (although these are lower slung) and the general black and red colour scheme. It’s made of plastic, breaking from all other Reloop controllers (which are mainly metal in construction), as befits the price point. Thus it has a lighter, more consumer feel to it, more akin to the Mixtrack Pro. However, it is slightly more compact than the Mixtrack Pro, and feel a bit better made, due to superior quality knobs, faders and its undeniably snazzy jogwheels.
As well as those cool aluminium jogwheels, the main panel has a nice, loose crossfader, slightly stiffer pitch and line faders, hard plastic backlit buttons (again, in the case of the transport controls, a break from Reloop’s normal rubberised style, and also they’re quite dim in daylight), and basic control over looping, effects and Virtual DJ’s built-in sampler.
There are prominent “shift” buttons under either deck and due to the relatively small number of controls, to access the full power of the controller you’ll be using them a lot for the double up button and knob functions.
Also under each deck are three cue buttons, and a shift button (holding shift the pressing a cue deletes the cue). This is a nice place to have cues, and it will encourage some basic cue juggling, so if you’re a budding controllerist, this ought to tick a box for you.
Front and back
On the front panel is a 1/4″ TRS microphone input with volume control and a switch to turn it off and on (it also has a “route through software” option which doesn’t work with the supplied software), and a 1/4″ TRS headphones socket.
Round the back are an RCA master output, an RCA booth/record output (fixed level, so more accurately this should be referred to just as a “record out”), jogwheel sensitivity adjusters for each deck, a USB socket and a Kensington lock slot.
Installing the software
The controller comes, as you’d guess, with Virtual DJ software on a CD. It’s an LE version of the software, which means “lite edition” – a cut-down version. However, it has all you need to get started, and many users may never want more. If you want to start altering the mappings, or incorporating better effects, or using Virtual DJ’s video capabilities, for instance, you’ll need to upgrade, at the hefty fee of US$249. (Once you’re upgraded, though, you do get free upgrades for life, but it’s a commitment for sure, doubling the cost of the controller.)
To get up and running, you install the drivers (PC only), install Virtual DJ, enter your serial number, and plug the controller in. Power comes from the computer, and there are no other adjustments necessary for the headphones, main speakers and mappings to all work as they should.
The software is nicely skinned to resemble the controller and provides a good workspace within which to DJ. It’s only two decks, so there’s room for everything to be laid out quite clearly, and the controls mirror those on the controller.
Library and transport
Loading songs is done with the big, weighted, stepped “Trax” knob using the shift button to navigate folders, and the big A and B buttons either side of it to load your chosen song onto the deck. Pressing the Trax button turns the screen into a full music browser, and pressing again returns it to normal.
The hard transport controls are responsive, and there are no surprises in the layout or function of them. The pitch faders are accurate to about 1/50th of a BPM, which is more than acceptable at this price point. The deck areas also feature CDJ-style pitch bend buttons, and buttons to alter the jog mode (nudge/scratch/library browse).
There’s normally a button for a keylock on DJ controller, but on the Beatmix it’s accessed by pressing shift then the play/pause button. (keylock holds the pitch steady as you change the tempo). Also down here is a fader start option, which automatically starts the track when you open the fader; this is on shift plus the cue button.
Jogwheels and mixer
More about the jogs. They’re good but despite their lovely look and feel, they’re not perfect. For most DJing, they’ll be fine, but they’re not true one-to-one control, as is achieved with the best controller/software combinations. Therefore for serious scratching and really confident vinyl emulation, they’re lacking. For instance, if you do a “spin forward”, the jogwheel carries on rotating when the music has stopped reacting to its movement. There is also a very slight lag overall.
As far as the mixer section goes, the EQs are very nearly full kill, and it’s nice to see a gain control which in combination with the VU meters on the screen (there are none on the unit itself) means you can manually gain-stage your tunes. However, the control over gain wasn’t smooth, jumping in pretty course steps as you put the control through its range.
FX, sampler and loops
The three knobs and three buttons at the top of each deck are where you control looping, effects and Virtual DJ’s sampler. That means they have an awful lot of controls assigned to them, so there’s a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the shift combinations, and control is overall a bit limited.
However, there are some nice touches: A permanent filter per channel (Virtual DJ’s filter sounds OK, nothing special), and one-button access to Virtual DJ’s beat mash effect both mean you can add flourishes easily to your DJing. The automatic looping is intuitive, with the option of setting the usual loop too.
Overall, considering the number of controls available, Reloop and Virtual DJ’s engineers have done a reasonable job of giving you as much as possible to play with within the limitations of the hardware.
I couldn’t find the actual sound card spec but I guess it’s 41 or 48kHz, 16-bit. I listened to music I know well through the headphones cue output on a pair of V-Moda Crossfade LP2 headphones, and it sounded great.
Thankfully, the days or truly ropey sound from DJ controllers look to be behind us, and at this price point and from that brief test, the sound quality here is more than good enough.
Because it is so aggressively priced, this controller should do well, assuming Reloop can get it distributed in enough numbers to where the demand is (we often hear of people, especially in the States, being unable to source Reloop gear).
For basic DJing, it has everything you need. It feels nice in use and offers just enough control over all the expected digital DJing functions (cues, loops, samples and effects) to make it ideal to learn and perform gigs on.
It is not good if you want to learn to scratch as the jogwheel control isn’t up to that. Remember too that if you want to start getting into more advanced digital DJing techniques including making your own mappings, video DJing, using four decks and so on, you’ll need to upgrade the software to pro, which has a hefty fee attached.
It’s about the software, stupid!
The choice between this and the Mixtrack Pro, which is its biggest rival, comes down to price (this is cheaper), and software: While the Mixtrack Pro nowadays comes with Serato DJ Intro, the Reloop Beatmatch is a Virtual DJ controller. Serato DJ Intro doesn’t have as many features as Virtual DJ LE overall, but there’s not much in it. Where Serato wins is in effects and jogwheel control, the former being limited but high quality and the latter being simply the best in the business.
The main places Serato DJ Intro falls short of Virtual DJ LE is in recording your sets (you can’t) and the fact that even if you want to upgrade, currently that’s just not possible (there is simply no upgrade path from Serato DJ Intro to anything better at the time of writing).
As always, our advice for anyone buying any DJ controller is: Pick your software and then your hardware. If you’ve already decided Virtual DJ is the software for you, the Beatmix offers a nice feel, reasonable standard of construction, an engaging (if necessarily limited) control surface, and pretty good performance – and all at a hard to beat price.
Do you think this is a true competitor to Numark’s all-conquering Mixtrack, at last? Are you a Virtual DJ user pleased to finally see controller being specifically made for your chosen software? Do you own this controller? What do you think of it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.