This review has been written by DJ Pegasus aka Sean Pappalardo, who is the controller developer for Mixxx. Thus you’ll find comparisons to the open source Mixxx software in this review, which provides the fullest picture, as well as giving an alternative to the bundled Serato DJ Intro and Virtual DJ 7 LE software.
To this American, Reloop was an unfamiliar brand before coming to live in Germany. And even when I first got here, Reloop struck me as a European Gemini if you will, focusing on price-conscious lookalike products. But in the last year or so, Reloop has been producing higher quality products containing some of their own innovations, and making a fair bit of noise about it too. The new Terminal Mix 4 controller is their latest such offering and it’s a high-quality, intuitively laid-out unit that provides MIDI control over four decks, three effect parameters per deck, smart loops, hot cues and samplers. It is class-compliant so it requires no MIDI or audio drivers and shows up right away on Linux too, ready to go.
In the box
First, the glossy photo-covered box itself is impressive, and handily lists all of the key features on the side incase you’re comparing in the shop. Upon opening it, you’re greeted with a box-sized poster telling you to “CHECK IN AT TERMINAL MIX 4″ on a train-station style display. Cute. Flip it over though and you’ve got yourself a great quick-reference guide helping you get oriented very quickly. Nice touch! It even includes shots of the front and back panels, showing at a glance that it includes balanced 1/4″ and unbalanced RCA master outs, a separate RCA booth out, a single line/phono switchable input, and two headphone connectors, one 1/8″ and one 1/4″ so you don’t need to carry around an adapter for your pair of choice. We also see that its 1/4” microphone input (as well as the line/phono input on the back) can each be routed to the software for further processing or directly to the master output, which is of course handy if your computer messes up or you otherwise want to work apart from the computer. Also included is a full-size instruction manual in multiple languages, a 1-meter USB data cable (with ferrite bead to suppress glitch-inducing electrical noise,) a Reloop sticker, and a DVD containing both Serato DJ Intro and Virtual DJ 7 LE, an ASIO driver, and a sampling of LoopMasters loops. Color me impressed! My demo unit did not include a power adapter, but I had no issues without it, so I’m assuming that’s only needed if you’re connecting through an un(der)powered USB hub.
I found the included USB cable to be too short to place the Terminal Mix 4 to the right of my 14″ laptop, whose USB ports are on the left. A 2-meter cable would have been nice to alleviate this problem and allow for greater flexibility, especially if you work some distance from your laptop.
“Why grandma, what big wheels you have!” “The better to scratch with, my dear!”
The first thing I noticed in pulling the 10.4-lb (4.7-kg) controller out of the box is that the aluminum wheels are alot bigger than they appear in photos. They’re 5.5 inches in diameter, making scratching a much more pleasant experience than on smaller wheels. Go ahead, grab a ruler and some paper and draw yourself a 5.5″ (14cm) diameter circle to see for yourself just how big that is. Nice, right? The wheels move easily despite being metal, yet have a good amount of braking. I also really like the surface: it’s grippy enough to hang on to but not grooved so as not to dig into your fingertips under heavy scratching (a complaint I had with the VMS4’s grooved wheel surface.) They probably won’t work well with greasy fingers, but neither would vinyl. One possible downside is that the rings look to be painted on so I wondered about them eventually wearing off, but they were unfazed by being scratched hard with a fingernail so I’d say this is nothing to worry about and the rings should remain intact for years.
Proudly designed in Germany
The second thing I noticed is that Reloop is very proud of its identity. The logo is featured on every surface at least once including at the center of the wheels and even on the fader caps! The high-resolution (14-bit) long-throw (100mm) pitch faders are the exceptions and instead have concave edges as found on classic gear (like the SL-1200.) This doesn’t bother me any (in fact it makes them comfortable to manipulate precisely) but I’ve heard some people complain about this in the past so thought it was worth mentioning. The pitch faders have no center detent either which is nice if you’re mixing near 0%, but they do have a small dead zone, during which the center 0% LED is lit.
I pulled off a few of the knobs to see what sort of hardware we’re dealing with: the potentiometer stalks are metal and are nutted to the surface. High quality stuff!
Where the rubber meets the fingers
I like rubber buttons for transport controls, since I’m fond of bashing Cue alot and rubber is more comfortable to me for this activity. Thankfully, the Terminal Mix 4 has rubber Sync, Cue-Play, Cue, and Play/Pause buttons below each wheel. Since the controller is intended for the world market, the buttons are labeled with graphical symbols instead of text, so it’s not immediately obvious what each one does (other than Play/Pause since those symbols are universal.) One funny result of this is that Cue-Play (which jumps to the cue point and plays immediately,) sometimes abbreviated CUP, is denoted with a symbol of a coffee cup on the Terminal Mix 4. (I joke that with Mixxx’s controller scripting, you actually could map that button to an X10 device that turned on your coffee maker, or to page the club staff to bring you another drink.)
At first glance the cross-fader looked short to me, but it’s an optical illusion due to the empty space on either side of it because it is indeed 45mm like the channel faders (and the cross-fader on the SCS.1m.) It’s good and loose which I like, though there doesn’t appear to be a way to adjust it or swap it out easily if you happen to want it stiffer*. The channel faders on the other hand are quite stiff (but smooth,) which is good to prevent them moving accidentally if you brush against them.
Another nicety is that the USB connector is a snug fit and connects with a slight click, helping prevent the cable from accidentally coming loose which could ruin your day.
* While Reloop don’t shout about it, you can fit an Innofader – Ed