The all-in-one controller is a term often bandied around these parts. MIDI controllers were touted as the first true all-in-ones, but they lack certain elements to make that a real description. And then came the likes of the Numark HDMIX and Stanton SCS.4J, controllers that really could work independently of laptops. But still, you had to hook them up to sound and light to really claim to be standalone. Taking things a step further was the Phillips Armin Van Buuren endorsed M1X-DJ, which still needed an iOS device, but did at least give you really loud speakers in the self contained unit.
But here is the Tibo Urban 500, a DJ unit that pretty much can claim above all others in the digital ago to be a true all-in-one controller. And by controller, I mean console, for this is totally retro in feel, but has everything (controller, sound, and lights) that a digital DJ needs to play more or less anywhere.
IN A NUTSHELL
The Tibo Urban 500 is a true all-in-one digital DJ (an important distinction) console. It comes complete with a controller, sound system, and lighting — you plug it into a wall socket and go. It can be used as a MIDI controller with the supplied Virtual DJ LE, or as a true standalone with USB devices. Just to underline why I picked out digital, there is no CD capability with this. Should you wish to use CDs, you’ll have to do it via a laptop.
SO. HEAVY. But understandably so at 33kg. This is going to be quite a lift in and out of a vehicle. I’m used to things that at worst are a bit awkward to lift out of a box, but the Urban is like a pulpit. Standing 38” tall, this heavyweight box of tricks even has wheels to make it easier to move it around. Why? Because it has a controller, speakers, lights, and a power supply to run it all, as well as the aforementioned 38” tall carpet covered case.
Looks wise, this is definitely more in the realms of mobile performer than it is cutting edge tech. It’s never going to win any design awards, but it looks like what it does. There’s also plenty of outer real estate to brand it up any way you wish too.
What I do like (if initially flummoxing myself and Dan) is the laptop stand. It acts as a lid to protect the controller element when not in use, but once we’d worked out that it pulls off to rotate round to form the stand, we were impressed.
Let’s break this down into its parts.
To be clear, this is a controller only. You’d reasonably expect a unit such as this to come with a CD unit of some sort. But no — this is for use with a laptop or standalone, something that didn’t bother me one bit. That doesn’t exclude CDs of course, but you’ll have to play them through your laptop… if your laptop can play them that is.
I’m not going to dwell on the controller too much. You can see what it has and assume what it does. Nutshelling, the Urban 500 is a WELLJOINT MIDI 18, a Chinese OEM model most probably used by other companies under a different name. It was immediately recognised by the supplied Virtual DJ LE 7.4.1 and worked out of the box, and I was able to start mapping it in other software too.
As a MIDI controller, it offers two channels (surprisingly with 60mm channel faders), three band EQ, loops, hot cues, and all the usual controls expected in today’s modern DJ environment. The misspelt BARKE button did not make it go woof though — I wish it had.
What I do like is how you can ditch the laptop and use it with USB media only. Plugging in a device I had lying around yielded excellent results. Using the standard method of jumping back and forth through the folder structure is easy, the loading quick, and the performance excellent.
One last trick is the ability to pair with bluetooth devices. It lets you play but not directly manipulate bluetooth audio devices through channel 2, and control volume and EQ. This is very handy should someone demand a request and only have the track on their phone.
We should also mention the line-ins at this point. This is also useful for hooking up external devices (like CD players) or being able to plug in a phone without resorting to bluetooth.
Again, I’m not dwelling too much on the minutiae of this section — you should read the PDF manual to get the detail. I mark it down slightly for short throw pitch faders, but praise it highly for overall performance. I was very happy scratching and even basic juggling on the Urban 500, and mixing was very easy too. And being able to switch between many different playing methods is a versatile godsend for mobile DJs.
One of the key element of making the Tibo Urban 500 a true all-in-one is having built in speakers. Boasting 500W of power, this sound appears to be delivered by the two main speakers. There are sound ports to help when pushing the speakers to max.
Soundwise, it’s a little underwhelming. It certainly can knock out enough noise for your average small event or venue, but I found I needed to compensate more than I liked with EQ. Don’t get me wrong — for the money it’s all you can ask for but it’s just lacking detail. I mention the quality just so you don’t expect miracles from such a wallet-friendly controller. You can always hang something of a higher quality out of the external outs and control them with booth volume on the controller.
Those expecting DMX programming, lasers, or projecting should stop reading now. For the Tibo Urban 500’s light show is for show only. In front of the speakers are a couple of LED equipped flashing boxes that push light onto the black cones. There’s zero control over them, and just randomly flash, sometimes slow sometimes fast, whether music is on or not.
It’s certainly needed on the front of an austere monolith of a console, but if you want a more impressive light show, add your own.
INS AND OUTS
We’ve covered off most of this in the controller section, but let’s look at what’s left. Input wise, you get an XLR microphone input. The controller section doesn’t come into play here, and the only control is separate volume knob.
Supplementing the built-in audio is a pair of XLR outs. This is ideal for hooking up additional speakers to make things a little louder, or just make it sound better.
When we were first offered one for review, I really only took it on for the sake of completeness, curiosity, and novelty. Being used to three decades of turntables, mixers, CD decks, and finally controllers, what could this really offer?
It would have been easy to get this unit in, and after a short period of guffawing and mocking write a true takedown piece about this truly terrible lump of carpeted antiquity dare to present itself in the presence of a sea of evolutionary and revolutionary brilliance.
But that would be the wrong approach entirely.
For the Tibo Urban 500 is a refreshing surprise. While it might not excel at anything in particular, it’s a great overall experience. Without a doubt, it’s a bitch to lug around, but it’s rugged enough to take a good few knocks. Performance wise I couldn’t have asked for much more. The sound is OK but can be tweaked via EQ or beefed up with external PA help. The lights are the most disappointing part and are best described as decoration only.
But when factoring in the price, you get to appreciate the real bang to buck ratio. For just £500 you get a controller with sound and light that is quite able to rock a party, and versatile enough to handle itself in testing situations. I did look at the possibility of getting individual components to make up this system, and while it’s possible to get something close, it’s nowhere near as compelling a solution.
Finishing up — I am very glad to have got the Urban 500 in for a test. It has certainly offered some much-needed variety to my ABC (another bloody controller) reviewing routine, and has acquitted itself very well indeed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Tibo Urban 500 is the DJ equivalent of a caravan — a complete DJ experience in a single luggable box. So if you’re in need of a self contained DJ setup for not a lot of money, the Tibo Urban should be high on your list.