It seems that not a month goes by these days without a new controller being released — along with the promises of changing the way DJs perform — from the various marketing departments trying to get a foothold in this crowded arena. But the days are long gone when a mediocre product could trick our senses whilst not delivering to the hype that had been built up around it.
With so many truly great hardware controllers on the market, any newcomers had better be very special indeed to stand any chance of competing for DJs' hard-earned cash, yet alone attention. So it is with this heavy weight upon its shoulders that the latest wannabe steps into the ring in the shape of Reloop’s Terminal Mix 4 controller for Serato. Will it make the grade, or is it destined to be a footnote in the history of controllers that left with a whimper rather than a bang?
The Terminal Mix 4 is a four channel hardware controller built with Serato in mind, with a four channel mixer, two jog wheels and an internal soundcard that puts it in the same category as the Vestax VCI-400 or Native Instruments' Kontrol S4. It comes complete with Serato DJ Intro as well as Virtual DJ LE, but has been optimised for Serato’s Itch software even though it has not been fully sanctioned for Itch by the guys at Serato.
The Terminal Mix 4 is a full-sized controller roughly the same size as Native’s S4, but a damn sight heavier. The control surface looks professional, and the layout of controls won’t be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with similar products on the market. The control sections are laid out logically and the controls are reasonably spaced. On the whole the build quality is good, but there are a few little niggles that need to be mentioned such as the faders used on the pitch controllers, plastic sides rather than full metal construction, and the rubberised buttons which are used for the transport controls — these are not on par with the rest of the high-quality feel of the control surface. This is a personal issue rather than a massive product failing, and to be honest other DJs might not care about any of this at all.
This aside, there are many plus points to the Terminal Mix 4 — one of these is that the sound quality is excellent. Another area worthy of a mention are the jog wheels, which are just great. When buying a controller with jog wheels, clearly one of the most important factors to sway a DJ's decision to walk home with the unit is how they feel and how they perform, especially for scratch DJs. The Terminal Mix 4 has managed to get its jog wheels just right. From the rubberised top that gives fantastic grip to the smooth action and high resolution pick-up with the software, the quality is there and will be appreciated by any DJ who manages to get their hands on this controller.
Another aspect worth picking up on is the crossfader, which glides across with the gentlest of force applied and is absolutely perfect for scratching up a storm.
In the middle of the Terminal Mix 4’s control surface, right bang in the centre of all of the action, lies a fully functional four channel mixer complete with all of the faders, knobs and buttons one would expect from a high-end DJ mixer. Each channel has a three-band EQ, gain control knob, a filter control knob, headphone cue button, the obligatory channel up-fader, and a button to load a track into that channel. The master section sits in the centre of the mixer in line with the gain and EQ knobs with additional knobs to control master volume, booth volume, headphone level and the cue mix.
Below the master section sits a nice big silver encoder dial to take care of track browsing and selection. This is complimented by buttons for crates, view, back and prep along with a knob to control the volume of samples. The quality and layout of these knobs and buttons are excellent. Everything looks and feels great, and despite the slightly unusual master section layout this mixer is very easy to use and feels just great in the mix.
Each of the platters is surrounded by a nice selection of controls to take care of effects, loops and samples as well as lovely long pitch-control faders. Transport controls are found at the bottom of the platters, along with buttons to toggle control between decks 1/3 and 2/4 when using the Terminal Mix 4 to control four decks. At the top of the platter control section are three FX control knobs, each with a backlit button to engage the effect and a beats knob to select the beat timing of effects, with a tap button to set the BPM manually sat neatly below.
Hot cues have four dedicated backlit buttons: these sit above another bank of four buttons for triggering samples. Loop control length and loop moving are taken care of by two knobs and two buttons in an arrangement that works well, without being too fussy.
While the Terminal Mix 4 is being marketed heavily as a Serato controller, it will in fact happily take control of Virtual DJ or Traktor — in fact, any DDJ software. However, because the Terminal Mix 4 is being marketed as a Serato controller, it will stand or fall on how well it works with Serato’s software. This is where the problems really start for the Terminal Mix 4, because it doesn’t perform particularly well with Serato DJ Into. For starters, there is only two-deck control available with Serato DJ Intro, which means that despite vague promises of updates to come from Serato, at this present time DJs are limited to just two-deck control if using Terminal Mix 4 with Intro. A bit of a bizarre combination that makes the four-deck control useless and effectively puts it in direct competition with Vestax’s proven VCI-300, which is a truly excellent controller and nearly £200 cheaper! Okay, this is not a problem if using a version of Serato’s Itch with has four-deck control, but it's a bit weird shipping the product with a cut-down version of the software that doesn’t utilise all the great features the controller has to offer.
Overall, the Terminal Mix 4 is a decent enough controller with a few annoying quirks based around the fact that it is shipped with Serato DJ Intro, and not Itch. Forgetting about Serato for a moment, as a Traktor Pro controller it works quite nicely; the design of the control surface works well, complimented by the high-quality components used in the buttons, faders and knobs. However, there are better equipped controllers for less money for Serato DJ Intro and there are some truly outstanding controllers for Itch providing full four-channel control available for a similar amount of money as the Terminal Mix 4.
|Ease of Use||8.0|
|Value for Money||6.5|
Full-sized four channel controller for Serato with high quality components and lovely jog wheels that just beg to be scratched.
There is only two channel support with Serato Intro, and some of the buttons on the control surface do not work with this version of the software.
A controller that manages to be almost great, but is limited by the choice of pairing it with Serato DJ Intro and not Itch as standard.