Rane continues its expansion as the go-to line of DJ controllers for Serato fans with the 4-channel Rane Four. It’s a solid controller with exciting and innovative features that will appeal to performance-focused DJs.
The Rane Four leans heavily into the new Serato Stems feature released as part of Serato Pro 3.0. But it’s not just about the stems with an extensive range of features that make it a professional piece of kit. The quick hits are below but read on for a more thorough look at this new DJ controller.
The Rane Four is perhaps the most comprehensive Serato DJ controller on the market. But as with many new controllers, it has some minor drawbacks worth considering. Let’s dive into the details.
At first glance, the mixer section of the Rane Four comes across as exceptionally busy. It might seem a little overwhelming for beginner DJs, but once you take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout, you’ll discover that it’s logical and promotes a smooth workflow.
The Rane Four offers four channels, each featuring a full 3-band EQ, level knobs, and level meters. Directly below the 3-band EQ, you’ll find the Channel FX knobs with four FX to choose from via dedicated buttons.
Beneath the Channel FX, you’ll gain access to even deeper FX controls with six dedicated buttons split by a small screen, providing you with critical information on currently selected FX.
This section includes two FX paddles, a staple of scratch-focused mixers. The paddles are a joy to use and perfectly positioned and encourage experimentation.
Complete 4-channel mixer with everything you would expect.
Additional FX controls are also available, including Parameter/FX Select knob, a Depth knob, a Beat/BPM joystick, and FX assign buttons. The layout is natural and relatively spacious, considering how many features are available.
To the left of the main EQ section, you’ll find Mic 1 controls, including a 2-band EQ and Echo control. On the right side, you’ll have direct access to the Main output level with level meters and Booth/Zone level.
At the lower end of the mixer, you’ll find four channel faders along with Cue buttons for sending the signal to your headphones. The Mag Four XF crossfader is superb, with Contour adjustment available on the front panel. The faceplate is also easily removable for servicing.
The Rane Four mixer section has everything you would expect from a professional DJ controller in a familiar and logical layout. No complaints here.
In an unconventional move for the Rane brand, the Rane Four sticks to traditional platters instead of motorized jogwheels, as you’d find on the Rane One.
While a slight letdown for scratch-focused DJs, the jogwheels are still highly responsive and capable enough for scratch routines. They are large and include onboard screens.
Large jogwheels with onboard screens.
The screens display waveform data, the time elapsed, BPM, track position, and key info. Vital information keeps you focused on the decks and not having to glance at your laptop.
A slip/Vinyl button impacts the jog wheels’ performance, and a Censor/Reverse button completes the jogwheel controls. Since these are classic platters, you won’t have access to tension adjustment like some other controllers offer.
While a bit unusual for a Rane controller, it does point to who they are targeting with this controller. Performance-focused DJs familiar with traditional DJ controllers will feel right at home with these jogs. But if you are a scratch DJ, you’ll be better served looking at controllers with motorized jogs like the Rane One.
The Rane Four offers deep integration with Serato DJ Pro 3.0. The controller has full software unlock, including the essential Pitch n’ Time expansion. Hence, there is ample value here.
Serato DJ Pro 3.0’s notable addition is the new Stems feature that allows you to cut up tracks on the fly into distinct components. You can quickly isolate vocals and drums, which opens up an expansive range of creative mixing options.
Full access to the new Stems features in Serato DJ Pro 3.
Stems have been around for a while now, but the implementation within Serato DJ Pro is the best I’ve seen. While far from perfect, it continues to push toward giving DJs complete freedom to craft innovative and creative sets.
Build Quality & Design
Rane is one of the most reliable DJ gear manufacturers in the world. Their products consistently display a high level of quality and attention to detail. The Rane Four continues this tradition by delivering a robust, dependable controller that will last years.
The solid steel frame gives the unit a sense of heft and stability. It elevates it beyond the endless stream of plastic-based controllers on the market. The knobs, buttons, pads, OLED screens, and faders all ooze quality.
Clean, logical, and professional design.
As for aesthetics, it is very apparent this is a Rane controller. The color scheme, layout, and design will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with Rane gear. It doesn’t look like a toy and has performance capabilities that set it apart from the competition.
Fantastic jogwheels and comprehensive connections round out what is a functional and dependable bit of kit. If you like your gear built tough, you’ve come to the right place.
The Rane Four features long-throw pitch faders that are buttery smooth and ultra-precise. You can comfortably adjust the tempo with a convenient range button also available.
The pitch faders are buttery smooth and accurate.
Keylock is also present, along with Pitch Bend controls and Key Sync. A dedicated Sync button above each deck’s Play and Cue buttons rounds out the Tempo and Key control. You’ll be well covered whether you like to manually alter Tempo or prefer the software to take control. The only thing missing is on-the-fly beat grid adjustment, but it’s a minor gripe that most people won’t notice.
The Rane Four features extensive performance pad features with 8 RGB pads for each deck. Each set of pads also has small screens above them for providing additional information regarding the currently active mode. Once again, this keeps you focused on your controller and reduces the need to reference your laptop.
You’ll have access to Hot Cue, Roll, Sampler, Pitch Play, Saved Loops, Scratch Bank, and Slicer. All familiar performance modes that many DJs will already be accustomed to. These modes open up various creative possibilities and are an excellent way for beginner DJs to deepen their skill set once they have mastered the basics.
The performance pads also feature small screens that display vital information.
But the most significant change compared to other controllers is the deep integration with Stem control from Serato DJ Pro 3.0. With this mode, you can rapidly separate elements of a track. You can isolate the vocals or instrumental components like drums and melodies on the fly for endless creative mixing opportunities.
The addition of the Stem-Split buttons goes one step further. It instantly assigns the vocals and instrumental components to channels 1 & 3 or 2 & 4. The speed at which this happens is rapid, giving you ample time to chop and change throughout a set. Of course, you can prepare this beforehand in Serato if you prefer.
This combination has never been so cleanly executed on a controller, and it’s a lot of fun to play with. But the separation quality can be a little hit or miss sometimes. It works well for tracks with more straightforward and well-defined components, but more complex tracks can sound less appealing. Either way, even when it struggles slightly, the parts are still useable within a DJ set, especially in combination with some FX.
If you like to play with FX during your sets, the Rane Four will give you ample ways to inject flavor while mixing.
The primary Serato Channel FX is a quick and easy way to apply popular FX like Filter and Flanger. The Noise FX is one I’ve never been a big fan of, but I appreciate that some will find it more useful. Filter Roll completes the quick-to-access Channel FX.
The FX paddles open up more FX controls with six primary Hardware FX options that will also function if you use the controller without a laptop. Echo, Recycler, Scale On, Riser, Matrix, and Echo Out. Some of these sound great and are very popular, while others are not so great.
The Rane Four offers an extensive range of FX controls.
With your laptop plugged in, you can access an additional set of FX, bringing the total up to 22 FX. Even better is any changes you make will remain in place even if you switch the controller off so you can play around and establish your favorites.
The Parameter knob and Depth knob respond well, but the little joystick for Beat and BPM changes is a little smaller than I would like. Thankfully the small screen will display your current settings making sure any changes you apply are readily visible. It’s another excellent addition that keeps your focus locked on the controller.
Across the Channel FX, Hardware FX, and Additonal Serato FX, there is no shortage of options. As for how much you’ll like the FX, much of that will come down to personal taste. I feel that Serato is still a bit behind Pioneer’s choice and quality of available FX. However, that could be my bias, considering how familiar I’ve become with Pioneer FX over the years.
Looping controls are also comprehensive on the Rane Four. Next to the performance pads is a large Loop On/Off button with two smaller buttons below. These buttons will halve or double the active loop, or you can use them to set specific Loop In and Loop Out points.
The loop controls are easy to use and conveniently located.
Beat Jump is also available with a dedicated knob at the top of the controller on each deck. This knob determines the length of the jump, with a forward and back button completing the functionality.
For those coming from competitor gear, it might take a little time to get familiar with the location of the loop controls. But you’ll get into a groove after a session or two.
A professional controller needs extensive connection options. The Rane Four does not disappoint with a vast array of inputs and outputs.
You can access XLR Main Out and an RCA Main Out option on the rear panel. This will cover you for the vast majority of speakers you’ll encounter. Supporting this is a TRS Booth/Zone output.
The Rane Four offers comprehensive input and output options.
Channel 3 and 4 RCA Line/Phono connections are also available to move towards a broader setup with additional decks. Two Type B USB ports complete the connectivity allowing you to connect two laptops for seamless transitions between DJs.
Two XLR/TRS combo jacks provide maximum flexibility for connecting microphones. Microphone 1 controls are on the main mixer, while Microphone 2 controls are on the front panel.
The front panel also offers your choice of 1/4-inch or mini jack connections for your headphones. Level and Cue/Mix controls are also on the front panel. There is also a Split Cue option for those who prefer isolating the main and cue to an individual earcup.
The Rane Four straddles a fine line between being large enough to comfortably fit all the performance features without being too small and feeling cramped—a viable option for a mobile DJ.
The Rane Four expertly balances size and features.
The weight is a little heftier at 18.25 lbs. (8.27 kg) than some controllers, but much of this is due to the heavy use of metal throughout the unit. I don’t mind a slightly heavier controller if it adds longevity to the unit. The Rane Four also has four solid feet to bring the controller up to a more comfortable mixing height while providing enough space to slide a laptop underneath.
Regarding 4-channel Serato DJ controllers, the Rane Four is well-priced to match up with some of its closest competitors. Especially when you factor in full software unlock, including Pitch n’ Time. The build quality is exceptional, and the performance functionality is second to none.
The Rane Four is a feature-rich Serato DJ controller.
But much of the conversation will boil down to how much you want to explore and play around with the Stems feature. It’s an integral part of this controller, so if you do not need this functionality, you might be better off with another controller. Likewise, if you want motorized platters for a more natural scratching experience, you’d be better offer with the slightly cheaper Rane One.
For what the Rane One offers, the price is more than reasonable. This is a professional controller with an extensive list of bells and whistles. At the time of this review, it’s also the most intricately integrated Serato DJ controller on the market.
The Rane Four is proving to be extremely popular, with positive reviews pouring in. The main highlights focus on the excellent stem control features and deep integration with Serato. Other reviews also mention the superb sound quality. Both customers and critics agree that the Rane Four is a standout 4-channel controller.
Using Stems In Your DJ Sets
One of the most appealing aspects of the Ran Four is the deep integration with the Stems feature that comes with Serato DJ Pro 3. This feature breaks down any song into four main components. Vocals, Drums, Bass, and Melody. But some might wonder how to utilize this new feature in their DJ sets. Below we take a quick look at two of the most common applications of stems in DJ sets.
Mashups – You can blend two tracks into one seamless mashup using stems. For example, you could combine the melody and vocals from one song with the Bass and Drums from another. The number of combinations is endless to create unique mashups for your sets.
Acapellas – Nothing quite hits a crowd harder than a surprising use of a legendary vocal. With the stems feature, you can instantly extract the vocal component from any song and layer it over another track. Especially useful if you have a mainstream audience that will appreciate recognizable lyrics.
The two options above are just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities are endless for remixing, learning song structure, or editing tracks on the fly for easier beatmatching. And as the technology behind it gets better, the options will continue to expand.
Selecting a DJ controller can be a daunting prospect. Every controller is unique, so while the Rane Four might be suitable for one person, it might not be the best choice for another. Below we take a glance at a couple of alternatives.
Rane One Review
The Rane One is a superb scratch-focused controller with the same level of build quality as the Rane Four. While it might only offer two channels, it features some of the industry’s best motorized platters.
- Tactile vinyl-like scratching experience that is perfect for scratching.
- Extensive inputs and outputs with high-quality sound.
- It lacks the two additional channels that the Rane Four offers.
Traktor Kontrol S3 Review
If you want a more straightforward and much cheaper 4-channel controller, the Traktor Kontrol S3 is worth considering. It’s a clean, robust controller that also works well with NI’s Traktor DJ 2 mobile app.
- A straightforward layout that focuses on the fundamental features you need.
- Good build quality and balanced outputs without a huge price tag.
- Limited FX controls.
Traktor Kontrol S3
Pioneer OPUS-QUAD Review
For those that want to splash out and buy a premium 4-channel controller, the OPUS-QUAD from Pioneer is an enticing option. The unique design and standalone capability set it apart from the competition.
- Complete standalone 4-channel controller with a spectacular screen.
- Eye-catching design while inheriting Pioneer’s superb club-style functionality.
- Substantially more expensive than the Rane Four.
Pioneer DJ OPUS-QUAD
Should You Buy?
DJing continues to evolve, and the resurgence of stem functionality is fantastic to see since it adds a whole new layer of creative potential. Will Stems redefine how DJs mix? Probably not, but with the improvements in algorithms, there is no denying the appeal of cutting tracks up on the fly.
If you are interested in this type of DJing, the Rane Four is the standout controller due to its tight and natural integration of stems into a traditional DJ controller setup. Beyond stems control, the Rane Four is an industrial-strength DJ controller with all the features you want from a professional controller, and it is easily one of the best DJ controllers for Serato on the market today.