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Can Gemini’s G4V four-channel budget DJ controller propel Gemini back to the top of the pack?

Of late it seems that hardly a month goes by without the release of a new DJ controller, whose raison d’être is to tempt the DJ community into parting with their hard-earned cash. Of course, more choice is always a good thing for consumers but as the market becomes ever more saturated, new products must offer something unique to escape the fate of being left on a shelf to gather dust in a lonely warehouse.

So what is it that makes the Gemini G4V something DJs should be bothered about? Well, for starters, this is a controller with a four-channel mixer, large jog-wheels, pad-style trigger buttons and an onboard 24-bit soundcard for less than £350! Now the price gauntlet has been thrown down, the big question is: can a controller this cheap cut the mustard when compared with the premium-priced competition?

Usually when buying a budget controller, the biggest compromise is features. Everybody knows more features means a higher price tag, right? Well as it turns out that adage, while right most of the time, has met the exception to the rule in the form of the Gemini G4V, which has all of the features one has come to expect from a premium-priced controller without the eye-watering sums usually involved.

The mixer section has four channels each with a three-band EQ, filter knob and gain as well as an assignable crossfader and the two controller sections. Both have nicely-sized jog-wheels, a long throw pitch-fader and eight pad-style backlit buttons. To top the package off nicely, the case is all metal construction and has a hefty weight, which adds to the favourable first impressions when it comes to build quality.

When designing the control panel of the G4V, Gemini did not try to reinvent the wheel. They've stuck to a familiar layout, with a mixer section sat in the middle of the control surface between two-deck control sections. The G4V’s control panel bears more than a passing resemblance to the Pioneer DDJ-SX’s control surface, which is not such a bad thing. The mixer section of the G4V is a very impressive affair indeed with four channels, each with its own five-segment UV meter, gain control knob, three-band EQ, cue button, fader and a large filter knob.

The main output meter, which sits in the middle of the faders, is a generous ten segment LED arrangement and there are both booth and master volume knobs with separate outputs for each on offer, too. Track browsing is taken care of via a push-button-equipped knob at the top of the mixer section, with a back button and separate dedicated track-load buttons at the top of each mixer channel to give a simple but effective workflow. The sound quality of the mixer is decent and does not reflect the price tag of the G4V but the lack of stand-alone mixer operation and the single auxiliary audio input without an EQ probably do.

The deck sections of the G4V are as feature-packed as the mixer section is and have some really lovely features that are a surprise to find on such a reasonably-priced controller. The tempo faders have a lovely long throw action that make them perfect for precise mixing, while the four knobs at the top of the deck sections make short work of adjusting loop positions, sample volumes and slip mode.

Keylock and FX can be turned off via their own dedicated back-lit buttons. The eight pad-style buttons are nicely sized and work well despite their slightly budget-feeling action. Buttons for engaging hot cue, auto loop, sample and loop roll modes round out a nicely designed and executed deck section. The jog wheels are a nice size and are very easy to grip thanks to vinyl style grooves on the top, and the heavy weight of the wheels will suit mix DJs well but the press to stop switches that have been used feel cheap and out of place on this controller.

While the feature list of the G4V is impressive and the price is not reflected in the way this controller looks, this is still a budget controller and the way Gemini have managed to keep the cost low is in the components they have used. This is most evident in the jog wheels that are nicely sized, well weighted and smooth but suffer from a rather clumsy-feeling top section that pushes down to stop the deck.

This rattles and wobbles every time the wheels are touched and is likely to leave DJs wishing for a proper Pioneer or Numark-style jog wheel every time they come to mix. Another bone of contention are the pads, which are perfectly serviceable but do not have a nice action and are mono-chrome blue as opposed to the lovely multi-coloured LEDs being seen on many recently-released controllers. While these issues are a possible source of annoyance, they do not have an overly negatively impact on the way this controller performs and are likely to be easily forgiven by those on a tight budget.

The biggest potential area of contention for some owners of the G4V is not a hardware fault but rather software related — namely, the choice of Virtual DJ LE as the focus of this controller. While Virtual DJ Pro does not have the same following in Europe as it does in the USA, it is a decent program that is more than capable of being used to mix up a storm in the right hands. However, the G4V is only shipped with Virtual DJ LE over what some would say are more popular choices as in Serato Intro, Native’s Traktor LE or even Mixvibes Cross.

An upgrade to the Pro version of Virtual DJ will add an additional £150 cost, which makes the cost of ownership of this controller a lot more expensive than it first seemed and brings it into line with controllers like the Pioneer DDJ-T1 (which is available for less than £500) once the price of upgrading Virtual DJ has been included. Thankfully, controller maps have been released for Traktor, meaning that G4V owners have the choice of taking the much cheaper option of buying Traktor Pro for £66. This makes it a more attractive proposition still at a relatively decent price.

All things considered, the Gemini G4V is a whole lot of controller for a ridiculously small amount of cash and offers incredible value for money for a specific niche of DJs. This niche will be made up of DJs who either already own a version of Virtual DJ Pro that will support this controller, or who are happy to stick with Virtual DJ LE and will not want to upgrade the software. Traktor DJs looking for a controller that offers serious value for money will also no doubt be very tempted by the Gemini G4V too — and with good reason. The build quality is excellent given the price, and the few disappointments on this controller are easily forgivable when the price is taken into consideration.