• Price: $1999 approx.
  • Rating:

Rane Four Controller Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 3 February, 2023

5631

The Lowdown

The Rane Four is a high-end, four-channel DJ controller designed to offer ultimate control over Serato DJ Pro software, for performance-focused DJs. With fixed platters and a four-channel mixer, it is not a scratch unit like the Rane One, although you can scratch great on its 8.5″ platters. Instead it focuses on features such as pro-standard hardware FX, deep Stems compatibility, and public performance smarts like dual laptop USBs, dual mics, and external inputs. It’s not perfect, but it’s still probably the best performance controller for Serato there is.

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Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

The unit is classic Rane. The colour, the styling, the components… all scream quality. It’s solid metal, and one of the few controllers we can think of with a proper removable top plate so you can easily get to the faders for service and repair. It’s built to last. That said, it is very much not traditional Rane in one way: It has fixed (ie not motorised) platters. They’re 8.5″, so full-sized, but it will get a few raised eyebrows for this reason.

Mixer

The mixer is compact, but not cramped – and although it has four channels, it is laid out similarly to a scratch mixer.

The mixer layout is like a hybrid between a club mixer and a scratch mixer. It has the paddle and FX area you see on Rane controller mixers, but it also has four channels, and selectable filter FX. It is compact but doesn’t feel cramped, and has everything you’d expect, including a split cue button on the headphones section. That section is situated around the front, along with crossfader assign and contour controls, and the controls for the second mic (the controls for the first being on the mixer itself up top).

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The back of the mixer has the balanced and unbalanced master outs, balanced booth out, inputs for two (not four) external channels switchable between line and phono, two USB inputs for computers, and an IEC power socket (no cheap 12-20V power brick set-up here).

Decks

As well as those lovely 8.5″ platters with internal displays (that show waveforms, key info, time elapsed, BPM, position in song plus a digital “sticker” for scratching), the two identical decks have huge RGB rubberised pads, gorgeous OLED mini displays that feed back info on pad selections, and big, “clicky” plastic play/pause and cue buttons.

The pitch sliders are long and smooth, and there is a great beat jump section per deck, with a size selector knob and left/right buttons. Basically you find all the controls you’d expect including loop controls, slip/censor, library navigation, pitch bend, key adjust and so on.

The decks are large, featuring full sized pads, full sized jogs with internal displays, and unique controls for Serato’s Stems.

Meanwhile, the pads control all of Serato performance mode, with the addition of Stems there’s full stems control via a dedicated pad mode, but also “always on” acapella and instrumental buttons.

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In Use

The unit is designed to work with Serato DJ Pro 3.0 and above, which is what gives you control over Stems – one of the big selling points of the Rane Four. You download and install the Serato software, and when you plug the unit in, it unlocks it.

Read this next: DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 3 Tips For DJing With Stems

Note that for this to function well, you need Serato’s Pitch’n Time Expansion Pack to get high-quality key shifting – luckily this is provided. I have to say that in this day and age, any Pro software that doesn’t have this as standard needs to take a long, hard look at itself – come on Serato, bundle it for everyone!

Stems

Let’s start with a full look at the Stems implementation. We’ve reviewed Stems comprehensively elsewhere on the site, but here we have some unique features.

Firstly, those Acapella and Instrumental buttons, that give you instant acapellas and instrumentals from anywhere, whatever the pads are set to. The sound quality you’ll get varies depending on the source material and is often far from perfect, but is nearly always usable, and sometimes impressively good.

Dig deeper by going to the Stems pad mode, and you can isolate or remove vocals, melodies, bass and drums, and you do that by tapping the top four performance pads for the deck you’re working on. Tap the bottom four, though, and you get various pre-programmed effects – for instance, “vinyl braking” the music while the acapella continues, removing the acapella with a nice echo cut, and so on. They’re very easy to use, and sound great.

Stems Split is a unique feature to this controller, and takes stems DJing to a whole new level.

Unique to this unit is “stems split”. This is like instant doubles, but here, you can be playing a track, hit the Stems Split button, and it puts the acapella on one track, and the instrumental on the adjacent channel. Now, you can use the channel faders to adjust, and add FX, EQ, filters and so on to each, just as if you were literally playing two versions of the song on two channels – which effectively, you are.

You can ever manipulate them independently, for instance, loop one, scratch the other and so on. It’s mind boggling, insanely fun, and currently unique to the Rane Four.

Depending on the power of your computer, you can set stems up to do all the work ahead of time, or on the fly – we did it on the fly with a streaming service and an M1 MacBook Air, and still it only took a few seconds per new track to be ready – pretty impressive.

FX

There are three types of effect; Serato channel FX, Serato main FX, and Rane hardware main FX.

The Serato channel FX give you filter, filter + roll, flanger and noise, controlled by the knobs under the channel EQs. They’re unsubtle! You don’t get to control any parameters of them, which I’d like to see added so you can fine-tune them.

The main FX – ie using the paddles, parameter knob, beat control via the joystick, and wet/dry knob – give you the choice of controlling Serato’s six FX units (spread across two decks), or Rane’s built-in hardware FX. The Serato FX are nothing new, but the Rane hardware effects are very new to this type of controller – indeed, unique.

The choice and flexibility of FX moves way past what you normally see on DJ controllers.

You have hands-on control over six, but there are 22 in total that you can cycle through, and you can save your favourites to the six buttons. Your choices will persist through power cycles, so you can effectively set it up how you want it.

We’ve demoed them all in the accompanying video (well, most of them): They’re a mixture between excellent, “out there”, standard, and “not to my taste” – which is normal when looking at effects. They are not quite up there with Pioneer’s effects for me, but that’s probably personal preference – they’re very good nonetheless. Choosing the scales for the pitch effects is, I have to say, a lot of fun.

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You’re helped by a small screen where you can see what you’re doing with the joystick, which is what you use to change beat values and manipulate BPM per deck. It feels a little like using one of those controls for moving your reversing mirrors on a car!

Worth pointing out that if you use the unit without a laptop and instead with, say, record decks plugged into channels 3 and 4, the Channel FX revert to filters only, but you can still use all the hardware FX. Also, when you do have a laptop plugged in, everything you do on the unit is sent up to Serato, including adding hardware FX to your inputs etc, so you can easily record or livestream your whole show.

General points

We loved DJing on this unit, because it is large, and has full-sized platters. The in-jog displays are bright, but we’d like to see a brightness adjustment control. One thing we did miss was a way of adjusting beatgrids from the unit itself, for those on-the-fly tweaks.

The front of the unit, showing the mic 2 channel, crossfader controls, and headphones options.

The mixer, while “busy”, didn’t feel cramped, and by and large we preferred using the hardware effects to the software effects – although we found the hardware reverb underwhelming. Overall though, the sound quality was excellent, as you’d expect from Rane.

One area where sound quality is variable is, of course, stems – it’s the same with all stems algorithms. The busier the track, the harder a time the unit has to separate the vocals, bassline etc. convincingly. This can only improve over time though, so while it is not up to production standards yet, you can usually DJ with the results.

Read this next: Which Is The Best DJ Software For Stems?

The rear of the unit. Note that there are only two inputs for “standalone” sources – channels 3 and 4.

A nice feature is the ability to adjust things like mic talkover and routing, crossfader cut distance, and so on, via the hardware – no need to plug in a laptop or open a settings utility. You tap the “hardware/software FX” button with Shift held, then use the joystick to choose things to adjust via a menu/sub-menu system, making the actual adjustments with the parameter knob.

Conclusion

This is a bit of a departure for Rane, being a “static” jogwheel unit and therefore not out-and-out “scratch”. It’s more aimed at performance DJs (think 3Style vs DMC), and so gunning for the Pioneer DJ segment of Serato’s user base.

To make sense of why this has been done, it is probably instructive to look at the family of brands in the DJ sector owned by Rane’s parent company, inMusic. You’ve got Numark (lower-end gear), Denon DJ (exclusively standalone DJ hardware), and Rane, which is now seemingly positioned as “pro software gear”. With that analysis, the Rane Four actually fits in perfectly.

Because it is definitely pro. Metal built, removable faceplate for the faders, impeccable sound quality, hardware FX, two mic channels, four channels (two “standalone”), cutting-edge Serato features… for anyone who looks at controllers and thinks “toys” – well, this ain’t no toy.

It is, however, bold, and not just as a brand departure. Stems is a feature but unproven in performance, and the actual sound quality is currently only “good”. No DJ would turn their nose up at acapellas of anything, of course, and the tech is clearly impressive. But will it catch on as a way of performing, or just for music prep? Rane and Serato have pinned their hopes on the former with the Rane Four, because those stems features are front and centre.

The Rane Four stakes a claim as the most fully featured performance Serato DJ controller out there. We’d argue that for event DJs, the Roland DJ-707M is still the more obvious choice – but for DJs thinking of the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT, for example, this offers even more.

If you’re looking for a high-end Serato controller, this one now joins (and surpasses in most ways) the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT, the Roland DJ-707M, and the (forthcoming) Reloop Mixon 8 Pro. Of course it’s priced accordingly – you won’t get much change out of $2,000, although final prices and availability are yet to be confirmed.

Overall, we’re impressed. If you’ve got the money and are sold on stems DJing, this is the one to go for.

Don’t forget to grab your FREE Rane Four technical specifications downloadable comparison chart.

See how this popular controller stacks up against the competition in its class with this handy chart comparing all the key features. Click here to get your chart now.

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