In the spring of this year, the synthesizer specialist Roland surprised with the release of its first DJ controller, the DJ-808.
The four-channel device impressed with extensive Serato DJ control and a sequencer, including malleable sounds from Roland’s cult drum machines TR-606, 707, 808 and 909. The top model is now followed by the two simpler controllers DJ-505 and DJ-202 to expand the user base.
I looked at the DJ-202 and reported how you can work with the two-channel four-deck controller, which also offers a sequencer and internal TR drum sounds as a special feature.
The price of the Roland DJ-202 is aimed at beginners, but has some unique extras. The controller is delivered including the Serato DJ Intro software, an upgrade to the full version Serato DJ is possible for a fee. In the course of this test I will point out the differences between the two software versions.
The contents of the outer packaging of the Roland device are quite clear, because it only contains the controller, a USB connection cable and a printed quick guide. A separate power supply unit is not available, as the DJ-202 does not have any standalone functions and manages with the voltage that is provided by a computer via USB.
The plastic housing of the device measures 478 x 279 x 62 millimeters and weighs a light 2.1 kilograms.
The workmanship of the Roland bolide is neat, but the material quality of the controls is kept simple. In addition to the easily gliding faders, the device has knurled knobs that can be operated with sweaty fingers. The jog wheels are touch-sensitive, but not illuminated and have a total diameter of around 14.5 centimeters.
Due to their size, they are easy to handle. For the control of numerous creative functions in Serato DJ Intro there are eight rubberized and illuminated pads per deck, which have to get by without velocity, but have an audible and tangible pressure point.
The mixer section of the controller is a pure software remote control without standalone functions
The connection options of the DJ-202 are quite spartan. On the rear of the device there is a cinch master output for the submixer or an amplifier system. There is no further output for feeding a monitor system. These restrictions are bearable for private use and many devices in this category are also not more richly equipped.
The only input on the DJ-202 is a microphone input with level control. There is a MIDI DIN OUT socket for synchronizing additional hardware or software on a second computer. Communication with a computer is handled by a USB port and a connection option for a Kensington lock is to prevent the theft of the controller.
Headphones can be plugged into the front using a 3.5 millimeter jack plug and the corresponding signal can be regulated in the middle of the controller in the mixer section.
Connected: On the back of the Roland DJ-202 are audio and communication ports
The two decks of the DJ-202 are equipped with illuminated transport buttons and the jog wheels already described, with which songs can be pushed and slowed down and also scratched in vinyl mode. If you want to adjust the title speeds manually, you will find pitch faders with a control range of 4.5 centimeters.
Right next to it are the controls for controlling the effects. Roland has equipped the controller with four buttons and a rotary control for each deck. This equipment can be found in many entry-level devices and is sufficient for Serato DJ Intro, but it brings limitations in connection with Serato DJ, as many parameters can only be controlled together.
The effects can be selected and activated with the buttons and their proportion can be regulated with a potentiometer. With the button on the right side, the tempo can be tapped manually and the beat grid is selected with the potentiometer while holding down the Shift button.
Below the jog wheels there are sync buttons for automatic beat matching as well as buttons for switching deck controls. The Key-Lock key allows you to switch on the key correction and, in conjunction with Shift, to select the pitch range.
Effects under control: The effects in Serato DJ Intro are accessed above the jog wheels
The green glowing performance pads provide access to the creative functions in Serato DJ Intro. The function selection is made with a labeled row of buttons directly above the pads. Please note that only Hotcue, Loop and Sampler can be used in conjunction with Serato DJ Intro, as can the sequencer.
The functions Cue Loop (loops that start at the Hotcue marker), Roll (temporary loops) and Slicer (eight playable song snippets) can be used in combination with Serato DJ.
The Hotcue function allows you to save and trigger four Hotcue points and the four lower pads can be used to capture manual loops. The Loop function enables the activation of four pre-defined, automatic loops and the control of manual loops.
If you activate the sampler, up to four samples can be fired in Serato DJ Intro and manual loops can be controlled again.
As a special feature, the DJ-202 offers a sequencer with which internal drum sounds from the legendary drum machines TR-808 and TR-909, as well as samples in Serato DJ Intro, can be played. The internal sounds are put together as kits with eight percussion instruments each and include bass drums, snares, hihats, cymbals, toms, claps, rim shots and cow bells.
It is noted on the manufacturer’s website that a later firmware update of the controller is planned to include TR-606 sounds, and drum samples can also be downloaded there. In contrast to the two large controllers DJ-808 and DJ-505, the DJ-202 does not offer any modification options for the internal sounds and their volumes cannot be adjusted either.
The sequencer allows the recording of sixteenth note patterns by step input, but also as a playback. Samples and internal sounds can be used together in a pattern, a total of 16 patterns can be saved.
The sequencer is switched on and off as well as its volume control using control elements in the mixer area. The patterns can be synchronized at the touch of a button and switching is also possible without interruptions and quantized so that different content can be used.
Since no nudge function has been implemented to push or slow down the sequencer, you have to proceed very carefully when starting the pattern so that there is no acoustic chaos. The patterns can be previewed using the cue function, so that the entry point and the selected content can be checked without audience involvement.
As an alternative to the programmed sequences, the sounds can also be played live in a DJ set using finger drumming.
The DJ-202 has a total of 16 performance pads that are not velocity sensitive, but have a defined pressure point
The mixer section of the Roland DJ-202 offers two channel strips that are equipped with three-band EQ and trim controls. The dual mode filters in Serato DJ Intro can be controlled with filter potentiometers and there are channel faders with a control range of 45 millimeters for mixing.
The crossfading is done by a crossfader, the curve of which can be adjusted in the software; there are no corresponding operating elements on the controller. The cut lag is around two millimeters, which is okay for beginners. Since the controller has no line and phono inputs, there are no source selection switches.
There is a six-level master level display between the channel faders, there are no LED chains for the channel signals. In the middle of the mixer section there are knobs that control the master and headphone signals.
Filter action: There are dedicated knobs in the mixer area to control the dual mode filters
After installing Serato DJ Intro 1.3 and the controller driver, which is provided for Mac and Windows systems on the manufacturer’s website, the DJ-202 can be used. The sound card of the Roland device works with 24 bit and 48 kHz and has two stereo outputs (master and headphones) and two inputs (microphone).
According to the manufacturer, the frequency response ranges from 20 Hz to 22 kHz. In terms of sound, the output signal offers a lot of pressure and fairly transparent highs, which is why nothing stands in the way of use in a semi-professional environment.
The controller is well structured so that you can find your way around very quickly and do not need a manual for your first steps. With an encoder that has a pressure function, you can navigate in the song collection and the songs land in the decks by pressing a button.
The songs can be manipulated very directly with the jog wheels and the manual tempo adjustment with the pitch faders works quite well despite the somewhat short control path.
The manual cruise control in four-deck operation proves to be a little less comfortable, but still practicable. When switching the deck control (for example from deck 1 to deck 3), the controller does not display a different fader position, but activates a pick-up function in Serato DJ Intro, so that a parameter change only takes place when the previously set value is exceeded.
This prevents unwanted parameter jumps. The same is done for the trim, EQ and filter controls as well as for the faders in the channel strips, which makes it possible to mix four decks.
In order to be able to use the sequencer, one cannot avoid reading the user manual for the controller. The activation of the different modes as well as the changing of the sounds and the programming are unfortunately not very intuitive.
However, once you have familiarized yourself with how it works, interesting drum patterns can be generated despite the somewhat limited editing options for the sounds and the lack of a shuffle function.
Also included: The Serato DJ Intro software is included and offers up to four decks
The MIDI socket on the back of the controller can be used to send out MIDI clock data and thus for synchronization. On the one hand, hardware devices such as drum machines or samplers can be synchronized, but also programs such as Maschine, Traktor Pro or Ableton Live on a second computer.
In addition to the pure speed adjustment, a start and stop command can also be sent by pressing the sequencer start/stop button.
The DJ-202 has an extended microphone section, which can only be used by studying the manual. While the input level can be adjusted using the rotary control on the back of the controller, there are numerous other functions that can be activated in the system settings.
A low-cut filter and a noise gate can be used for the microphone to block out unwanted signals. In addition, reverb and delay effects can be used to make the microphone signal sound more interesting.
In addition to the microphone functions already mentioned, the master output level as well as the control behavior of the crossfader and the LED brightness can be configured in the system settings.
It is also possible to activate an alternative USB mode that allows the controller to be combined with Traktor DJ or other DJ software.
The Roland DJ-202 is a well-designed entry-level controller that comes with the Serato DJ Intro software. The device offers solid basic equipment, which makes all common standard functions easy to use.
Another plus is the easy to use jog wheels and the moderate size, which enables easy transport. Mixing songs is almost effortless and can also be done by users with little practical experience.
The additional equipment offered in the form of a sequencer with integrated drum sounds from Roland’s cult drum boxes TR-808 and 909 is a sensible creative extension.
The controller can be recommended to beginners who are looking for a complete package of hardware and software that are directly coordinated with one another.
You may also like: