The Reloop Buddy Review – A DJ’s ultimate travel companion?
The beginner DJ controller market is a crowded place at the moment. Whether it’s a cheap backup controller or a DJs very first pair of decks, there’s a lot to choose from. With a variety of brands to choose from, the decision becomes even more difficult when you factor in which software to start with. Algoriddim for a long time now has been the default choice for those using an iPad, however, a lack of dedicated hardware has failed to allow Algoriddim to really shine. The Reloop Buddy aims to change that, so is this tiny little controller got enough about it to challenge the more established Pioneer DJ units? Let’s find out in this full Reloop Buddy Review!
The Reloop Buddy is a cheap controller aimed at beginner DJ’s who already own an iPad. The chassis is one of the smallest we have seen, measuring in at just 32.5cm wide. Built from plastic, the controller weighs in at an impressive 1kg, making this one of the easiest controllers to travel with, rivalled only by the Pioneer DJ DDJ-200.
The included iPad/phone stand is a nice touch, the slot being wide enough to accommodate the square pro edged models. The limited real estate on the small controller has lead to a mirrored design. Although we are usually critical of such a decision, on the Buddy it makes perfect sense. Keeping the tempo faders and loop encoders away from the busy mixer section.
The controls on the Reloop Buddy are small and compact. The controller certainly packs a lot of functionality into a small area, with smaller controls than most, it certainly suits those with smaller hands. The compact nature of the controller has however lead to some interesting cutbacks. Most notably, the mixer only features a two band EQ, with no mid or trim control.
As most DJs use auto gain, we can forgive the lack of trim control. However, the lack of mid EQ is a glaring omission, with Algoriddim DJay failing to control the mid EQ at all! Meaning even when you turn down both low & high knobs, the mid frequencies still play at full volume. Something we’re glad to say, Virtual DJ thankfully addressed!
The Reloop Buddy is compatible with iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC and Android devices. Being compatible with so many devices is great for versatility, however it has lead to the Buddy featuring various methods of connection. Connecting to mobile devices will require external power, supplied by either a battery bank or USB power plug both of which aren’t included. The Reloop Buddy will charge the connected phone/tablet when used in this mode. Connecting via the USB-A port using the devices original charging cable.
Connecting the Buddy to a computer is easy, with just the one cable providing both data and power. This connection method can also be used with tablets and phones, although it requires USB adaptors and powered hubs.
Best known as a free application for your mobile phone, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Algoriddim Djay wouldn’t feature some of the more advanced performance modes from more powerful paid PC programmes. However, the situation is quite the opposite with Algoriddim. In fact, the German application has been at the forefront of cutting edge technology, with DJay the world’s first application able to separate and control instruments and vocals in real time.
Called NeuralMix, this breakthrough technology is exclusive to Apple versions of Djay, found on iPad, iPhone and Mac. The Reloop Buddy is the first controller designed with dedicated Neural Mix controls on board. Allowing DJs to control the balance of a tracks drums, instruments and vocal stems,
Users are able to quickly change between Neural Mix and regular EQ controls with ease from the controller itself. Our only criticism is that the filter control is sadly lost when in Neural Mix mode. A dedicated pad mode enables for quick latching and muting of each stem, fantastic for creating quick re-drums. The pad mode also offers users the ability to retain control over the two-band EQ and combo filter.
Setting the Reloop Buddy apart from its rivals is the inclusion of paddle effects. Typically found in battle mixers, paddles allow the DJ to apply effects much quicker than typical wet/dry knobs. Ideal for saving space in the controller, we’re a huge fan of their inclusion. The paddles are sprung loaded and can be temporarily applied when pulled towards the DJ or locked on when pushed away. Made from plastic, the paddles don’t feel like premium units. That said they certainly don’t feel weak and we have no complaints with their action.
Sadly even though the Reloop Buddy features hardware controls for changing the effect parameters, there is no visual indication to confirm the changes made. This is somewhat of a recurrent theme with Algoriddim Djay, with the user forced to manually change views on the iPad to see what changes the buttons have made.
In another example of Reloop providing a big bang for the buck, the Buddy features sixteen RGB pads. Although dim due to the USB Bus power, it’s very unusual to see RGB pads on a controller at this price point. Due to the limited space available, Reloop has replaced the usual row of pad mode buttons with a single-mode button. The user holding the mode button and selecting a pad to change modes. Although unconventional, the system works well with each pad featuring a label indicating its function.
The modes include Hot Cue, Auto Loop, Touch FX, Sampler, Slicer, Bounce Loop, Neural Mix and Looper. With the exclusion of slicer, which requires further setting up on the iPad, these functions all work well. The integration with Algoriddim Djay’s display however could heavily be improved upon.
Much like the effects, sadly Djay doesn’t change views to show which pad mode is active. The user can manually change the view, but sadly the layout of the onscreen pads never match the physical layout of the Buddy. A very confusing and frustrating process, especially given this units beginner target market.
The Reloop Buddy sadly is a story of what could have been. With fantastic hardware, including features not usually found at this price point, it was hard to see how this controller could go wrong. But sadly, the lacklustre integration with the very software it has been designed around leaves the Buddy a hard controller to recommend to beginners.
The good news here is that our issues with the Reloop Buddy lie solely in the Algoriddim Software integration. Something a software update could easily fix. The physical controller is great, with superb effects and RGB pads, it could be a killer package. Algoriddim just needs to include a controller view that complements the hardware connected. The current layout, although brilliant for touch, leaves controllers feeling unnecessarily confusing and difficult to use.
Users invest in physical controllers to make DJ’ing easier, with physical controls and shortcuts over the software. This package currently sadly still relies on the user messing around on-screen. Not ideal when for those wanting to focus on the music.