Review: Roland DJ-202 & 505

We get hands on with Roland's latest DJ controllers
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Last year, Roland announced the second line of Serato DJ controllers, the 202 and 505. Like the 808 before them, the controllers combine a sequencer, on-board drums, and a Serato controller into one, to allow for seamless mixing and drum programming. Today we will be taking a look at both of them, identifying the main differences and similarities between the two units, should you be interested in getting one.

What are they?

Like the DJ-808, both of the controllers are designed for Serato DJ and contain a built-in sequencer for creating your own drum patterns with ease. Each has two channels, but the option to use 4 decks while mixing via the alternate deck button located near the jog wheel. They are a plastic build, with metal faceplates. They are similar in size to the NI S controller lineup, with the DJ-202 being a bit smaller.

dj-505_t_gal

How do they work?

They are built to work seamlessly with Serato DJ and have been mapped accordingly. While they have the same basic functions, the DJ-505 gives you more control with the added knobs to edit drum sounds. Interestingly enough, when comparing them both side by side, you'll notice that the DJ-202 is essentially the DJ-505 minus the sequencer at the top. 

Patterns are created by triggering drums with either the step sequencer or in real time with the pads. The controller comes with 808 and 909 samples, and Roland has just recently released the 707 and 606 sample packs as well with a firmware upgrade. If you have a TR-8 or have ever used one, the sequencer will be instantly familiar.

On the back of the 202, you only have one RCA out, whereas, on the 505, you have RCA and XLR outputs and TRS booth outs. The 505 also allows you to connect turntables and even has a grounding screw. Both controllers also have a MIDI port on the back.

dj-202_t_gal

What do I think?

Personally, I'm not a controller guy at all. I used one when I first was DJing, but once I learned CDJS I never looked back. What I do find interesting about these controllers specifically, is the TR sequencer. When I saw it in action at this past NAMM, I have to say I was quite impressed with how well it works. In my own experience, I actually had a bit of trouble with it, but it was more so Serato's issue than the controller. But, since I actually saw and played with it once before, I know it's a very solid addition. The metal plates are a nice feature, but personally, I think the 505 should have at least a semi-metal build. The payoff is that both are very lightweight. The drum pads are fun to use, switching between sequencing and beat fx.

Final thoughts?

Overall, these are very well-thought-out controllers, and the sleek build makes they visually appealing as well. The sequencer is obviously the highlight of the controllers, and as I said, it's very stable and easy to use. This makes it a really solid choice for those who want to begin on a path to doing live sets and more of an actual live performance, something most other controllers tout, but few truly deliver on. Roland's recent sample pack releases are also great and allow you to expand your sonic pallet for even more interesting sequences. Again, I'm not a controller guy, but I do find these to be very good options for someone who's looking for a controller in these price ranges.

Pros: Roland's best drum kits, light weight

Cons: Only works with Serato, $699 for DJ-505

Final Scores: Solid 8s for both

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