The Roland DJ 202 released in late 2017 is an exciting product for entry-level DJ's. Like most of its competitors, the 202 is used with Serato DJ Lite. This little unit remarkably manages to pack a full Roland drum machine inside the controller. However, does the inclusion of Roland's class-leading technology mean sacrifices are made elsewhere? Let's find out.
Roland DJ 202 Features
Roland has opted for a familiar layout with the DJ 202, like most controllers at this price point. The controller has small pitch faders, jog wheels and 8 performance pads encased in a plastic body. We are pleased to see that the decks are A-symmetrical rather than the mirrored layout. It's a small detail but keeps the feel of using separate units like you'll find in a club. Dedicated FX controls are found at the top of each deck to control the three inbuilt banks within Serato DJ Lite. These work post-fader too which is great.
The jog wheels are relatively small in size but don't let put you off. These wheels are the best we've used at this price point! They feel great, boast very low latency, plus have a nice resistance when nudged. If you're looking get into scratching, this controller is a great place to start. However, the tight resistance means spin backs are a little more difficult to achieve. Not to worry though as this can be modified in the extensive hardware settings menu.
Further down the deck, we find the dedicated play and cue buttons. These are made of hard plastic and respond great. The same can't be said for the 8 performance pads sadly. They're rubber pads with a click at the bottom of the stroke. They work okay but we found they weren't very responsive at times which is a shame, especially when you consider that you are drumming on them! To the right of the pads, we find parameter controls instead of the more commonplace loop buttons. The parameter buttons can be used to control current loop length and the inbuilt Roland drum machine.
“The DJ 202 ticks all the right boxes, providing a great layout with dedicated controls and the best jog-wheels at this price”
The 2 channel mixer sits below the browse and load button and features a 3 band EQ, trim control, and a dedicated high/low pass effects filter for each channel. The faders have a nice feel to them and the crossfader is loose with little resistance, great for scratching on those fantastic jog wheels. It's worth pointing out that the crossfader can also be adjusted in the hardware settings to give it a slightly different feel.
Central is the master VU meter, which doubles up as the menu indicator when you access the hardware settings. It's as confusing as it sounds and you'll want the owners manual handy but the 202 does offer some in-depth settings not found on other units.
Around the back of the unit, we find no inputs apart from a microphone jack with its own volume control. You can add effects such as a reverb, echo, and filter to the microphone but this is done in the hardware settings. It's a little confusing and needs the unit to be put into a special mode, so not something you can do on the fly. Also on the rear of the unit is the USB port and a MIDI out for synchronising external devices to the sequencer or playing track. The headphone jack is found on the front and is the larger ¼ inch jack. We personally prefer this to the smaller ports found on other controllers due to it's greater durability.
The Roland Drum Machine/Sequencer
Moving onto the feature that sets this controller apart from all the rest, the inbuilt Roland drum sequencer. With its own dedicated controls, you can actually use this sequencer without even launching Serato. You just need a powered USB source. However, if you're wanting to use your own drum sounds you will need to load them into Serato DJ Lites sampler. Within the sequencer, you get drum sounds from the legendary Roland TR 909, TR 808, TR 707 and TR 606.
Each pad contains a different sound from the kits including the kick, snare, closed hat, open hat, tom, clap, rim, and ride. On top of all this, there are 8 pre-recorded loops for you to use straight out of the box if creating your own feels like hard work. Making sure it's all in time is taken care of with the sync function and moving the tempo of the playing track will move the drums BPM too, very slick and straightforward.
The main issue however with the 202 is that even though it carries the fantastic sequencer technology, its inbuilt to the pads rather than on a dedicated section of the controller. This leaves the sequencer feeling overwhelming and confusing at the best of times. Simple tasks such as remembering which kit you want to use means digging out the owners manual and pressing various combinations of buttons. It's a bit of a nightmare but at this price point, you are getting a lot of technology for your money so it's to be expected.
The Roland 202 is a fantastic controller and should be on everyone's short list at this price. It's fantastic jog wheels and extensive features really do make it stand above the competition. Even if you're not looking for a drum machine to perform live remixes on the fly, the 202 is still a compelling package that covers all the basics very well.
Our main issue with the controller is not what it doesn't do, but how complicated it is to access the majority of this controllers main selling points. From its extensive hardware settings to the drum sequencer, the DJ 202 is rather complicated and the vast majority of users won't fully harness its power. That said, if you're willing to sit down with the owners manual, here is a fantastic controller that will keep you entertained for a long time!
Full Video Review:
Roland DJ 202 Performance Video:
Best jog-wheels at this price point
Inbuilt Drum Sequencer
Inbuilt mic effects
Overly complicated to use
Some settings need the unit to be unplugged to change
Performance pads could be more responsive