Sturdy and neat, this cleverly designed and well made bag will easily and safely carry your larger controller and many other accessories (though maybe not a laptop stand), without adding much to the overall weight of your gear.
First Impressions / Setting up
Subtly styled and unmistakably UDG (I think it’s the white iconic logo and the orange internals that says “UDG” every time), this black nylon rectangular bag manages to be at once lightweight (for such a large bag, it is less than 4kg) and sturdy (underneath the outer shell you can feel very firm padding all around the main compartment).
It is very neat, with the two front/top (depending how you look at it) wide and shallow external pockets, and the laptop pocket cleverly tucked internally, but with an external zip for easy (and independent) access.
While a bag like this necessarily has to be large, and clearly also benefits from being rectangular and boxy (that’s the name of the game when carrying controllers that are, well, rectangular and boxy – especially big, relatively heavy ones), it still appears quality and purposeful. The understated branding and the way everything is tucked away takes care of that.
So the first thing I liked about it is the plethora of carrying options (can four be a plethora? I guess on a bag it can). There are vertical and horizontal carry handles for lifting it case-style (as a reinforced rectangular box, its design shares much on common with a traditional case). So far, so good. But where, may you ask, are the backpack straps?
Well, they tuck cleverly away in their own little flush zipped compartment. Unzip it and untuck them, and it’s two seconds to attach them with heavy-duty clips to two loops at the bottom of the bag, and there you go – a case is now a backpack. Similarly, another compartments hides a shaped shoulder strap, that lets you throw the thing diagonally over one arm for a more casual (read: shorter trip!) approach to hulking your gear around. This flexibility is smart.
The big, relatively shallow (but deep enough for headphones) main front compartment has a strongly elasticated section to hold four USB sticks or SD cards, as well as other features including a mesh stitched-in bag. No key loop as you find on some bags, though. Meanwhile, the long, thin top zipped compartment is perfectly sized for fitting a Kontrol X1, F1 etc in; there’s no padding externally though so you may want to put it in with the controls facing inward or better, pop a Decksaver on it. Alternatively, this would be a good compartment for your keys, wallet and so on.
So on to the main show, the internal compartment for the controller. Open it up, and the first thing you notice is the dark grey “egg box” padding on the roof of the compartment, for a whole layer of extra protection on top of the sturdy foam shell, underneath the subtly UDG-embossed orange lining. It’s definitely a safe place for a controller, even one as big and heavy as the models this bag is designed to carry.
Now, if a device rattles around in its bag, that’s clearly bad for its protection, but rather than go down the suitcase route of having belts or straps to hold things in, this case has a solution that’s becoming more common now with this type of bag, namely several (seven in this case) blocks of varying shapes and sizes, that can be velcro’ed internally to make the bag a snug fit for any type of compatible controller. That’s how it can claim rightfully to be able to fit the models already mentioned, plus several more (Pioneer Ergo-V, Pioneer DDJ-T1, Pioneer DDJ-S1, Pioneer XDJ-Aero, Numark N4). Just to help you out there’s a padding fitting guide supplied with it, if trial and error ain’t your thing.
Once you’ve adjusted the padding correctly and closed your controller off using the huge jumbo three-sided black zip, you’re all set for the road.
Clearly comfort-wise only anti-gravity magic cold make hulking around a load of heavy DJ gear truly comfortable, but the backpack straps are surprisingly comfortable, and the shoulder strap has a gentle curve shape so while it only fits your shoulder one way, that way is designed so that the bag feels “right”. The other carrying handles are thick padded and totally secure, and at least if you do end up having to carry your controller a long distance, you’ve got a choice of ways to do it!
What about your laptop stand? Well, if you have a small, thin laptop and a reasonably flat laptop stand, you could risk doing what I do in the video and tucking the laptop stand under the laptop bag/flap (it’s the big orange rectangular piece in the middle bottom of the main compartment); be advised that there’s no padding and only a thin piece of nylon separating the two, though, so if you want to do this, may be worth using a foam slip for your laptop first. Alternatively, you could put your laptop stand in the bigger front zip compartment, although this would probably mean putting your headphones in the mesh bag rather than the designated headphone compartment. A bit of experimentation should yield a solution here depending on your combination of gear.
What I liked about this, apart from the fact that it’s a decent quality design and build, is the four ways of carrying it. For throwing in the back of a car, moving around a venue, hulking up to an attic club, or popping on your back to walk or cycle to your local club, bar or lounge, there’s a method that suits. I like the fact that all the straps you don’t need can be tucked away too; it’s case that thinks its a backpack, or the other way around.
If you own one of the smaller controller on that list, you will be carrying a bag that’s slightly bigger than is strictly necessary, but that’s I guess a trade-off; otherwise, manufacturers would end up making bags an inch bigger or smaller here or there and they’d be prohibitively expensive. As it is, while this bag isn’t cheap (€199), if you’re putting an €800 or more controller in it, it’s a no-brainer, and even if you only own a relatively cheaper model like the Numark N4, if you gig with the thing, it’s only a matter of time before you bend or break something, or plain drop it, and then you’ll definitely see a $200 investment in a different light.
So, while a big, square, black case/backpack can only be so stylish, the quality, design and branding carry it off, and the UDG Ultimate Midi Controller Backpack gets our vote, especially for owners of the XDJ-R1, DDJ-SX and Numark NS6 (to name three more recent controllers than it carries) for which we found it to be the best fit. It just drops half a star for making you think about how to carry your laptop stand; as there’s no obvious custom space for this, you’re going to have to experiment a little.
Ultimately, though, it’s the main compartment that’ll make or break a bag designed to hold bulky, heavy gear, and this passes the test with flying colours; its very safe feeling, while overall the bag manages to not add much weight to your gear in itself (if you’ve ever carried plywood/metal flight cases of this size around, you’ll know why this is important). If you’ve got one of the controllers this is designed for, and you’re planning on using it away from your home, this should be on your shortlist.