It’s hard to make an impression on this old DJ hack these days. I’ve seen it all for almost 15 years, and perhaps for the last 5 or more have seen a steady slew of all too similar controllers. But when Reloop announced their VirtualDJ powered TOUCH controller, my attention was grabbed.
We managed to spend a little time with it at BPM 2017, enough to know that our interest was completely justified.
Firstly about the world’s first touchscreen controller claim. What they mean is that it’s the world’s first computer embedded screen in a DJ controller — think like the MPC Live can do. Essentially, the screen is a second monitor for whatever computer you’re running VirtualDJ on. And in this respect, it’s a valid if vague claim.
Regardless of PR claims, it’s amazing in practice. It was set up in a slightly deceptive way — the computer was hidden under the stand, leaving the Reloop TOUCH to appear as if completely standalone. And it was entirely convincing in this respect too.
My first impression of the TOUCH is one of simplicity. The controls are basic in comparison to its peers, but even with the unconventional layout, it all feels good to me. Many will have an issue with the symmetrical layout, but I’m cool with it, perhaps because of the ever-changing nature of my setup. As I don’t really see this unit appealing to turntablists, I’m even OK with the jogs being above all the controls. It’s not like you can’t scratch with them where they are, because you can, and enough for the target audience.
Despite the relative simplicity of the physical controls, the power is hidden in the screen and some more complex mapping. For a relative small screen, the programmers have done an excellent job of keeping things as simple or complex as need be. You’re offered multiple views — two and four deck modes, with expanded buttons and video views too.
Atomix went to great lengths to explain that unlike other similar controllers, you can customise the UI in an infinite number of ways through skins. This has been a key part of the appeal of VirtualDJ for years, and while there are some truly godawful creations, the power in your hands to tailor the TOUCH experience how you see fit.
The unit on the stand wasn’t running at 100%. There were some issues with the jogs, but the signs are good. Even though it might be found lacking by some, I like the hardware. But it’s the implementation of the software that I find most interesting. I’m keen to find out more.
The Reloop Touch feels a little like a toe-dipping exercise, as if Reloop is breaking free from Serato, and VirtualDJ is proving their worth as an alternative software partner for the industry. And if my first impressions are anything to go by, they both have a strong chance of doing it.