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Zack Rocket

Zack Rocket
July 24, 2012

Numark 4TRAK, Vestax VCI 400, Reloop Terminal Mix 4, NI Kontrol S4 Comparison

The time has come for us here at UniqueSquared to sit down with four of our favorite controllers and lay out all of the features so you can finally decide for yourself which four deck DJ controller is best for you.  To really understand where I am coming from be sure to watch the video above, once you’ve done that check out the rundown of the four controllers I will be comparing and the three features that make them stand out from the rest of the pack.

4TRAK

Numark’s 4Trak is a four deck controller based off the popular NS6 Serato controller.  What makes the 4Trak a bit of an oddball is the effects section that clips onto the top of the unit to control Traktors native effects.  The effects strip looks like it was taken straight off of the NS7fx and thrown on a differently colored controller.  Obviously this is Numark’s attempt at giving the DJ full control over his Traktor effects but the additional hardware is kind of a pain to haul and only adds to the tremendous weight of the unit.

Performance wise the 4Trak performs very well with the same high resolution jog wheels we remember from the NS6 so scratching is definitely something you can get into.  Numark’s 4Trak is made of solid metal which as I said before makes it rather heavy but also durable, it is a controller that you can take out gigging every night and never see anything broken on it.  All of the faders and knobs are taken directly off of the NS6 so they feel great and work really well.  Listed below are the three things that make the 4TRAK stand out to me.

1. Durable Construction – Everything on this controller was built for pros and it’s one of the most durable controllers on the market.

2. Great Jog Wheels – Jogs are important in controllerism and Numark has a really tight mapping that gives you a great sense of feel when scratching or nudging.

3. Ins and Outs – 4Trak has a variety of ins and outs and even works as a stand alone mixer, mobile DJs will love it because of its two mic inputs and its ready to receive timecode or CDJs should you want to do a phono in.

VCI-400

Vestax answer to the S4 and its attempt to dominate the four deck market by creating something open ended in support and easy to map: the VCI-400.  Constructed out of solid metal the VCI-400 is built with pros in mind and comes stacked with features to excite the most advanced of controllerists out there.  The sheer amount of midi controls is massive, far more than any other controller on the market and Vestax wanted it to be this way so that the end user could customize it to meet their specific DJ needs.

For novices these features can be a bit daunting and you should be prepared to spend some serious hours reading about midi mapping but once you figure it out the possibilities are pretty much endless.  The knobs and buttons feel great although I do wish the matrix of 12 buttons on each side was made of gooey rubber like the transport section.  It doesn’t really detract from performance but would have been nice to see.  Vestax’s VCI-400 is the only controller on this list that allows you to start tracks on different decks without switching deck control.  Starting tracks when not in that track view is a huge time saver when you’re mixing because you rarely need to switch decks because the sync buttons are located on each channel.  Here are my favorite features.

1. Endless Customization – This controller is designed to be modified by the end user so if that’s your bag then this controller is the end all be all.

2. Software Support – The VCI-400 doesn’t dictate which software you have to mix on so it makes it easy to switch hardware without having to learn a new software all over again.

3. Awesome Filters – The filter knobs on this thing are freaking sweet and riding the filter is both fun and cool looking, I love it.

Terminal Mix 4

Reloop got a bunch of flak for having overly sensitive platters on their Jockey III and the Terminal Mix 4 is their controller of redemption.  The platters are massive and feel great to mix on and are very tightly integrated with the provided software.  Everything about the Terminal Mix 4 is of high quality from the build, to the knobs, but my favourite things are actually the transport buttons.

The transport buttons have a nice gooey feel and provide a satisfying click once depressed all the way down.  This is great because your fingers won’t get tired hitting the buttons, on the other hand the cue and sample buttons are small and plastic, limiting you from getting too nasty with your cue point mixing.  The layout of the controller is really straightforward and provides a nice mirrored layout making it really easy to understand what all of the buttons actually do.  Terminal Mix 4 is a controllerists controller and I can see both pros and noobs using it because of its reasonable price point and pro features.  The only downside is that there is no native 4 deck support in Serato and the only way to get four decks is to use Virtual DJ which is not exactly a pro application.  It may not work with all of the softwares out there but it has some pretty cool features, my favourite are below.

1. Great Platters – These things are a joy to mix on and just plain fun, I don’t ever want to take my hands off of them they feel so good.

2. Simple Layout – For a controller as powerful as this the layout makes it really easy to understand, something most advanced controllers seldom pay attention to.

3. Great Size – Terminal Mix 4 is really the perfect size for a DJ controller and will fit nicely into any booth and may even fit into a book bag in a pinch.

Kontrol S4

Native Instruments’ Kontrol S4 is pretty much the king of four deck controllers and upon its release set the standard for controller performance and integration with software.  The S4 has been out for a couple of years now but the design is still one of the best on the market.  Designed by Native Instruments the maker of Traktor DJ software, the Kontrol S4 has arguably the tightest integration with Traktor as it was designed to work only with NI’s Traktor.  Loops are amazingly easy to manipulate and the controller comes with support for sample controls and a loop recorder that works seamlessly with the software.

For Traktor users the S4 is pretty much the end all in terms of performance but there are also a couple negs to the S4.  For one the controller is built out of plastic so yes it is quite light but plastic is never that durable and I recommend you get a case for it immediately.  Second the knobs do not act as volume kills so mixing requires a bit of filtering sometimes but this is a small problem in an otherwise perfect product.  Online there are some pretty amazing performances on the S4 and as a DJ you will find that the tools it provides you with will tear down mental barriers in your mixing.  The Traktor Kontrol S4 is one of the most powerful DJ tools out there and below are my three favourite things.

1. Looping – The S4 has the best looping controls on the market and their functionality will take your mixing to the next level in the way you think about looping.

2. Modular Layout – Everything is laid out in sections on this controller and this makes it really easy to know what does what and learn the functions really quickly.

3. Jog Wheels – Traktor Kontrol S4 has the tightest jog wheels on the market and mixing on them is a pleasure because they are so closely integrated with Traktor.

There you have it our four deck controller rundown, each of the controllers listed in this blog are all high performance devices and each is very different from another.  To get even more information don’t hesitate to comment on this post.  We love talking about gear and what could work best for your setup, so don’t be shy, ask away!

Cheers,
DJ Zack Rocket

Video Transcript:

What’s going on guys. My name is DJ Zack Rocket with UniqueSquared.com and today I’m in the studio bringing you guys an overview comparison of four popular four-deck DJ controllers. We’ve got the 4TRAK from Numark, the Vestax VCI-400, the Reloop Terminal Mix 4, and then the Traktor Kontrol S4. Let’s check them out and see how they stack up.

The 4TRAK from Numark is a 4 deck controller designed to work specifically with Traktor. You’ve got a nice effects bar up at the top here, that lines up with your effects in Traktor software, and a really really nice build. This thing is solid metal, and it’s really designed to be taken on the road. I mean you can beat this thing up and it will still function. It’s got these big beautiful jogs that are just a pleasure to cut and mix on and what stands out to me most is the amount of ins and outs you’ve got on this thing. You’ve got two balanced out XLR’s, you’ve got master out and booth out for RCA’s, a couple of line ins for your RCA’s, and two mic ins so I gotta tell you I mean with this controller you are never going to get to a gig and be pigeon holed. You’ll be able to hookup to just about any DJ setup and that by far makes this the most versatile out of all these controllers.

The VCI-400 is Vestax’s new four deck DJ controller and it’s designed to work with Serato DJ intro and Virtual DJ LE right out of the box. But Vestax didn’t want to limit you to any DJ software so they actually designed this controller to be completely customizable with just about any MIDI mapping out there on the market. And they also provide you with mappings to get you up and running with other popular DJ softwares. What makes this really special is just the sheer amount of customization that you can do on this controller to tailor it to work best with your setup. You have these great pads right here which you can change the functions of and they even have multiple functions that you can change just by flipping through the mode switch. The software support is excellent and works with just about any software under the sun and what makes this really stand out is the aesthetics. You have these great big filter knobs that feel really really nice, awesome knobs, and there’s a nice click in there up at the twelve o’clock position. And it’s the same deal with these rubberized EQ knobs that actually kind of lock in there right at twelve. So out of all these controllers the VCI-400 is by far the most customizable and it really stands out of the pack because of that.

The Reloop Terminal Mix 4 is a four deck controller designed to work with Serato DJ Intro and Virtual DJ LE right out of the box. It’s got a really really nice layout. It’s mirrored so it’s really designed with the controllerist in mind. The platters feel great, has these nice little grooves in it that kind of emulate vinyl a little bit and so you turntable guys getting on this thing and scratching is gonna feel really really good and I love the way all these knobs feel. They’re hard plastic but they lock in at 12 o’clock and they actually even function as kills on the EQ just have a really nice feel and nice bit of resistance to them. Just like these line levels. I mean they just feel great. And it’s at an amazing price point being actually the cheapest of all the controllers you see up here. Where it’s strongest point is just the build quality. I mean the knobs, the platters, and the faders just feel so good on this controller that I know you’re going to like it.

The Traktor S4 is Native Instrument’s 4 deck controller designed to work with Traktor. Now Native Instruments designed this controller and they also made Traktor so it’s got some really, really tight integration. I really love the looping features on this because you’ll find yourself getting on these loops and using loops in ways you never even imagined possible, I mean it’s really phenomenal. The modular layout of this thing is fantastic because it’s really easy to figure out what’s going on here because you have your effects section, each one of your channel controls here, your looping and you transport which is just mirrored on each side, and of course two platters. It’s a really really simple layout. And I absolutely love the jog wheels on this thing. They have incredible response in the software and they just feel great. What really makes this thing stand out is just the sheer amount of integration it has with Traktor. It was designed by the guys that built the software to take full advantage of every one of Traktor’s features and out of all four controllers here on the table this thing is arguably got the tightest integration with software. So there you have it guys it’s kind of a run down of four popular 4 deck DJ controllers.

If you have any more questions, or if you want to get a great price on one of these to pick up for yourself, feel free to head on over to UniqueSquared.com. Until then my name is DJ Zack Rocket. I’ll catch you guys later.

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  1. [...] Numark 4TRAK, Vestax VCI 400, Reloop Terminal Mix 4, NI Kontrol S4 Comparison [...]