Link: Reloop — Price: $799/€599/£525
While the turntable is the undisputed foundation of the DJ industry, in recent years it has been replaced with smaller, slicker, and more capable units better suited to today’s evolving workflows. It’s hard to know if the decline of vinyl has seen off the turntable or if the increase in controllers has. It’s a bit chicken/egg to be honest, but one thing is for sure — turntables just aren’t selling anymore. And when the daddy of the decks Technics can’t sell enough to stay alive, you know that the days are numbered. Or so I thought.
Be it wishful thinking or based on actual fact, in these times where vinyl sales are on the up (a small but welcome up), the industry is twitching with rumours of new or updated turntables on a regular basis. Tooling up to make a new turntable isn’t something to be taken lightly however, but Reloop is showing itself to be a progressive company willing to take a risk. So while I’ve been watching and waiting (and still am) for new turntables, I was pleasantly surprised to see the RP-7000 and RP-8000.
Is it a super OEM? Not really.
I know I’ve trodden this ground before, but it’s useful knowledge for our readers to have. Not every piece of DJ equipment is a unique design, or indeed the brainchild of a particular manufacturer. There are a handful of factories that make their own products, and rebadge them for other companies. Hanpin is one such factory, and the DJ-5500 is their off-the-shelf unit that many others have taken, and to varying degrees made their own. American Audio, Citronic, and indeed Reloop have taken the stock model and done varying levels of tweaks and put out their own versions. Stanton however went a step or two further and created an entirely new chassis and a straight arm version in the shape of the ST-150 and STR8-150, the latter generally being thought of as the natural successor to the almighty Technics.
And here we have the Reloop RP-8000, a turntable that is made by Hanpin, and indeed shares a handful common components with its super OEM relatives, but there the similarity ends according to Reloop. Indeed, they went to great lengths to tell me that these new turntables are considerably more Reloop than super OEM. A few components remain like the tonearm, feet and a few odds and ends, but the RP-8000 is most definitely standing on its own, distancing itself from its relatives.
NOTE: So far as I can tell, the only differences between the RP-7000 and RP-8000 are the MIDI element and digital display, so you can take this review as covering both turntables.
And as ever, read the manual before asking questions.
“It’s a Technics with bells and whistles” seems appropriate. But putting the obvious MIDI controls to one side for the moment, the RP-8000 appears to be the stock Hanpin model heavily modified with Technics in mind. But while it shares a small handful of the same components (feet and tonearm for example), the controls that remain are definitely made to give users a familiar experience, and indeed to make DJs feel like they’re actually using an updated Technics. It’s the detail like the recessed pitch fader and rectangular buttons that add to the overall feel, as well as the possibly faux hinge fittings.
It would have been quite easy to go curvy, space age and generally more modern, but with the Technics look and feel still being cool after close to 4 decades, it’s safer for Reloop to go down this retro route. But Reloop is quite adamant that the Reloop RP-800o is more of a distant relation to the super OEM and not a slightly tweaked update.
A common question being asked is the weight. The Numark TTXUSB comes in at 12.6kg, a tad heavier than a Technics 1200 MK2. The Stanton STR8-150 however hits a considerable 16.4kg, a weight that dwarves the RP-8000 at 9.5kg, which incidentally is identical to the Vestax PDX-3000. So it’s on the lighter side of things, but doesn’t seem to incur any unnecessary sound issues.
The base is a solid lump of moulded plastic, allowing the sides to be emblazoned with the Reloop logo. The top is metal, and given a metallic spray job. It didn’t take long for my Stanton STR8-150 to get seriously scratched and chipped, and I don’t even take them out anywhere, so I hope this finish is a little tougher.
Looking at the detail of the deck, even though the RP-8000 is 1200ised, the double buttons have been retained. These are especially useful for those who plan to use to the RP-8000 in battle mode, a mode that pushes the pitch fader to the rear of the decks. These buttons have been made into hard rectangular ones and do respond very well to touch. The 33 and 45 buttons are rubber and pressed together give you 78rpm. There’s also a reverse button too.
Thankfully, Reloop hasn’t slavishly stuck to the Technics blueprint, and has fixed a few of the things that irk today’s turntable users. Firstly, the RCA and power cables aren’t fixed, something that is a massive pain on the 1200s. Usefully the ports are recessed, so turning the RP-8000s into battle position means that you can butt the turntables up to the mixer, and is made even easier by Reloop supplying right-angled power cables. And there’s still plenty of room for the additional USB cables, which are also right angled too.
One thing to bear in mind — headshells aren’t supplied, which is understandable given Reloop’s own range of Ortofon based Concorde carts has just hit the market. I imagine that most people looking at the RP-8000s will probably be sorted one way or another anyway.
Pitch and torque controls
The purposefully Technics looking recessed pitch does offer more than its inspiration. The fader doesn’t have a centre click, but does offer a white LED with a 2-3mm zero zone as well as quartz lock. The rubber pitch buttons at the top of the fader give 8% and 16% ranges, and pressing both gives you 50%.
In addition, the RP-8000 comes with dedicated start/stop and torque controls. The start/stop is combined and gives you up to 6 seconds. The torque works from “classic” (1.6kg) to high (4.5kg), classic being very sensitive to touch and making instant start/stop a lot less than instant. The start/stop also isn’t as linear as I’d like — it seems to spin down slowly and then stop rapidly. It doesn’t do this at the full 6 seconds. Also, if you want to use the power off control as a spin-down, it does actually speed up before it spins down. These things probably don’t matter to most people, but we like to be thorough. And debunking the rumour, the sound doesn’t cut off when you use the start stop or power off control either.
The digital display is something that Technics definitely don’t have, and shows an arbitrary torque readout from 60 to 100, though in reality most users will go by feel than trying to tally this to a number. I turned it to full and left it there. This display also shows that the pitch has a resolution of 0.02 at 8% and 16%, and 0.2 at 50%, numbers that people used to give a damn about, but since sync and beat grids, nobody has ever asked about. And for completeness, wow and flutter is stated as 0.01%, the same as Technics.
About the tonearm
The supplied tonearm is the stock Hanpin factory one, and as such is an S arm with the usual anti-skate, height adjust and weight adjust up to 4 grams. As an established OEM based turntable, there seem to be no outstanding issues, bar the odd loose screw (which this didn’t have) and operates as well as you might expect.
I understand the decision to use the S arm over the straight arm. Reloop wanted to appeal to the majority, as well as make the RP-8000 look as Technics like as possible. But I wish there was a straight arm option as well. I’m used to the complete stability of TTXs and STR8-150s, and did struggle a little getting used to the RP-8000. I don’t give much weight to the S arm vs straight arm doctrine about sound quality and wear, and given the DVS specific nature of the RP-8000 where DJs are likely to use relative mode to eliminate skipping, a straight arm would have been my preferred choice, and if I’m honest is the major thing stopping me from ditching all of my turntables and fitting out the studio with nothing but RP-8000s in the future.
That said, while I may have taken some time to adapt to an S arm, experienced Technics users managed to put out some solid scratching on real vinyl at the recent DJWORX Session with zero skippage.
The MIDI Stuff
The primary reason for the RP-8000 to exist is MIDI, and it’s driver-free class compliant MIDI as well. Vestax dabbled with MIDI in the PDX range, but it never really captured much attention outside of a few hardcore turntablists. But now DVS has become a massive thing, with loops, cues, and samples being classed as entry level features. Because of this, devices like Korg Nanos and Novation Dicers have got wide adoption in the market, as well as mixers getting these controls to some degree too.
But rather than have a growing choice of small controllers, it does make sense to build these key features right into the turntable. It would have been easy to graft some Dicers into a regular deck, but Reloop decided to rethink the whole idea and do something more with the space available. Thus 8 pads were implanted along with 3 mode and a user button to give a more complete and linear experience, as well as a very useful rotary for track navigation and loading.
The mode buttons quite logically offer cues, loops, and samples. Pressing each gives you access to corresponding controls in Scratch Live (or whatever software you choose to map). There’s also the clever option of splitting the buttons by pressing 2 modes at once, essentially splitting the pads into 2 x4 banks. Each mode also allows you to hold the respective buttons down to offer s secondary function such as hot cue delete or sample stop. The user button is there for your own control mapping.
Serato‘s is the only mapping right now, if only because Reloop and Serato are partners. But being MIDI, the buttons can be mapped to whatever you want. The manual has a more complete description, and it’ll only be a matter of time before maps appear for the other DVS software package. It should take someone at Reloop half a day to create and test them anyway. I don’t know why a Traktor one hasn’t appeared already.
It’s a turntable, and one that is loosely based on a tried, tested, and generally approved super OEM platform. So if you’ve used other Reloops, Stantons, or one of the other Hanpin derivatives, then you’ll be on familiar and safe ground knowing that as a basic turntable, it works exactly as expected. If a manufacturer can’t make a decent turntable by now, then why bother at all?
The obvious issue is how well the buttons perform. From a responsiveness perspective, the buttons perform exactly as you would want. Granted, they’re not MPC buttons but neither are Dicers. So in my general bashing around, I found them to be perfectly fine. The only thing that takes some getting used to is having 1 row of 8 buttons. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the single row of pads. You soon realise that rows of 4 buttons makes a lot more sense musically and logistically. From a design perspective, I might not have recessed them, or at least removed the front lip to give slightly better access. But I’m sure Reloop had their reasons for not doing that.
I have read questions asking if you can hear thumping when using the buttons, and if you’re playing through, then the obvious answer is yes. But when are you ever need to hit buttons when playing through? When using a DVS however, there’s no thumping at all, again obviously as you’re not hearing what comes directly from the needle.
The one thing to be very mindful of is position the decks on a stable base. I tried the RP-8000s on my very stable workstations in the worxlabs, and even when beating them hard, the tonearm didn’t skip. This however will change proportionally with the stability of the environment, something I found out when I used one on the less stable bench at home. Regardless of tonearm weight, hitting too hard resulted in instant skips, and no amount of weight on the tonearm would stabilise it.
You must remember that a turntable isn’t designed to be touched while playing, let alone hit hard, but Reloop have done a sterling job to get the pads to work as well as they do.
I do take my hat off to Reloop for the USB implementation. Just like Dicers, you only need 1 spare USB port to daisy chain up to 4 turntables and have complete MIDI control over them all.
Compared to the rest
I’ve used just about every turntable released since the industry thought they could make a viable alternative to the legendary 1200s. Some ape the original, while others walk their own path. While it’s fair to say that the 1200s are obviously excellent, I’ve never been a fanboy. In fact my personality compels me to avoid the obvious choices and try out the rest of the field, a method that normally allows me to see past the blinkers worn by others and find some really cool gear.
There’s also the issue of what a turntable does for me. In comparison to the rest of the market, the 1200 is limited, thus just about every other deck out the some degree or other offers straight arms, extended pitch, reverse etc. Thus the RP-8000 benefits from the Technics look and feel, but also includes key features like 50% pitch, digital display and variable torque among others. So if features are your thing over lasting 30 years, the RP-8000 has a head start.
Picking an RP-8000 over other decks is hard. A more suitable comparison is the MIDI-less RP-7000. Visually, if you want an updated Technics, this is the one to get. Features wise however, it comes down to other details. The Stantons offer a modern aesthetic, where simple wins over retro, and if a straight arm is your thing, then the STR8-150 wins over the RP-8000. But it lacks vari-torque and a digital display, something that the Numark TTXUSB does have, as well as a choice of S or straight arms. The case however doesn’t lend itself well to housing dicers, but does allow you to switch controls to have a more scratch friendly location for pitch. The Vestax PDX range is another variant with its own strengths and weaknesses, but equally good at playing and scratching records.
So you see, it’s not a clear-cut decision as to which turntable to buy. But when you factor in the whole MIDI aspect of the RP-8000, the decision becomes a lot clearer.
But there is a real danger for Reloop here. This idea of buttons down the side of the turntable is nothing new. Some of you with longer memories may recall Quickswitches, an idea that fuses all kinds of elements (including what looks like dicers before dicers were a thing) to make add-on controllers for turntables. I don’t know why this didn’t take off (where was Kickstarter when you need it?), but what’s to stop someone else making what would essentially be the Dicer 2 as an add-on strip that stuck to turntables? I know some people who could probably make prototypes in a week. If I were Reloop, I’d be making an add-on unit right away to fend off anyone else doing it.
Summing up the RP-8000
Given that turntable sales are at an all time low, you would have to wonder if Reloop have lost their minds to bring out not one, but two new turntables. As I keep saying, if even Technics couldn’t sell enough to stay in business, then how on earth can anyone else? But there is a growing revival in the old ways of DJing, boosted partly by the recovery in vinyl sales, but mainly because people are becoming less enthralled and frankly a bit bored of using controllers. That said, people still want the cool new things they’ve become used to, thus the RP-8000 is ideally placed to sit in the middle ground (if such a place really exists)between turntables and controllers.
We must of course talk about price. Unless you crave a shiny new Technics (and some do exist in the supply chain for obscene amounts of cash), the RP-8000 is the most expensive turntable currently on the market. It’s understandable — heavy investment in a lot of new tooling, as well as expecting sales numbers that aren’t likely to be at levels that turntables once enjoyed. But this is a slow burner — controllers have a life expectancy of less than 2 years now, thus the ROI period is much shorter, but the cost involved are still high. The RP-8000 however is likely to have a considerably longer shelf life. While I am expecting more models in the market place, the longterm validity of the RP-8000 is guaranteed. DVS isn’t going anywhere, nor are the millions of pieces of vinyl sat in IKEA shelving units. The RP-8000 will still be just as current in 10 years as it is now.
The RP-8000 is the post-controller revolution deck that people have been waiting for. It could herald a mini-revolution all of its own where whole sections of the turntable can be swapped out and all manner of different button configurations could be dropped in. Sadly, it probably won’t, but given that there is still a hunger for new turntables, the Reloop RP-8000 is currently the most interesting and capable turntable on the market.
Quality: Looks and feels as Technics like as it can, which should be enough of a sign of quality. It does feel like it’ll stand up to the rigours of your average scratcher’s beatings, but the long term outlook for things like the new motor remains to be seen. My crystal ball is broken.
Features: It’s a turntable and then some, with more features than anything else on the market. I think the best of what can be done with the RP-8000 is yet to come once skilled DJs get hold of them.
Value: Not cheap in comparison to the rest of the market, but there’s nothing else out there that can do what the RP-8000 does. Trust me — the price could have been much higher, but I think the price point is about right for what you get, and the likely years you’ll get from them.
The Bottom Line
Controller meets turntable, and they seem to hit it off nicely. If you’re looking to harness the power of DVS into a streamlined workflow, the RP-8000 is the turntable you’ve been hoping for.
Thanks to Reloop’s UK distributor Henley Designs for supplying the first pair that DJ Angelo so capably used in the Reloop showcase clip. And to Reloop for supplying a second deck for me to finish off the review. Here is that clip: