I’ve been using the Rane Four for the past week, and as someone who’s spent a few years with the Rane One—and has strong opinions around design and usability—I wanted to share my thoughts.
Build and Aesthetics
While it’s much lighter, the overall build is still solid, no concerns there. Where I have a problem is with the Play button. It’s clicky like many of the other buttons, but that feels totally wrong to me. I vastly prefer the plunger-style button on the Rane One, and indeed the same button I’m used to from a traditional Technics turntable. The clicky button feels pretty terrible by comparison.
Incidentally… the platters are the same size as the Rane One’s. Every reviewer that I read mentioned that the One has 7.2 inch platters, whereas the Four has massive 8.5 inch platters. But they’re the same size! Why would we measure just the diameter of the platter on the one, but the whole footprint of the platter on the Four?
One pro feature they’ve taken away is the physical adjustment to the channel faders (aka “deck contour”) on the front panel, from the One. I don’t use them a ton, but during a performance, it’s nice to be able to adjust those things quickly, just as one does with the crossfader.
The four-channel layout of the Rane Four is also nice, but it’s worth noting that in many respects the Four is just a two-channel controller. You have two channel line-ins, just like the One. You can apply effects to only two channels, just like the One. It feels more like a two-channel controller than a four-channel device.
One thing I do like about the Four is the front panel. They’re using proper switches, not like the awful tiny ones on the One, and they’ve included bumpers to protect the front area during travel. Those are nice improvements. The beat jump and key adjust buttons are really nice to have.
Platters and Displays
The platters themselves are serviceable, I’ve used this type of jog before and I’m fine with it. The real problem, however, is the display.
It feels like the resolution of the iPhone before it went retina, or any other older device. And the refresh rate feels like about 30fps, which seems in sync with what Rane suggests you have to set it to in Serato. And maybe this is a Serato or USB limitation, but the resolution and refresh are so poor that it just feels terrible. Both seem like they should be doubled, at least, and a refresh rate like my iPad’s 120fps would be amazing. Because of the lag, it just doesn’t feel very accurate or useful, and it doesn’t even say the name of the song playing!
Furthermore, the nine OLED displays are fine, but a bit difficult to see. I don’t have the greatest vision anymore, but they feel passable. But it does feel like there was a lack of imagination in how to implement them. For instance, when a sample is playing, the background of that pad’s area turns white… then when the sample finishes it turns black again. But why not use that white background to offer a “progress bar?” It’s easy to envision how that could make these so much more useful, but no.
Effects and Stems
The hardware effects are fantastic, and probably in the end would be the biggest differentiator between this and my Rane One. The tiny joystick and knob, used in combination, can add filtering to echo, and all of the effects remember their beat settings when you move around, something that isn’t possible with Serato’s effects. They sound great.
However, the use of effects on stems isn’t everything it could be, because they come after the channel effects in the signal chain, which are provided by Serato, and so you can’t use the channel effect knobs to modulate a filter effect while it’s triggered. This sounds minor, but if you want to flip a paddle to trigger a loop, you can’t further tweak it over time with the filter… you just can’t. The filter knob no longer does anything. So this feels like a missed opportunity, because this could have been possible if both were hardware effects.
One of the most interesting and exciting uses of stems, for me, is what’s provided in the pad mode. And that pad mode can be used on a Rane One with a settings change no problem. I often blend tracks by dropping out parts from one, and adding them from another, which is certainly the most exciting use of stems in my performances. But neither of the Rane Four’s additional pad affordances, neither the Acapella and Instrumental buttons nor the Stem Split mode, account for anything but two parts. So when using the Rane Four, I find myself using the pad modes most of all, which means I don’t really need the Rane Four in this way.
The stem split mode is cool, but also has some quirks. One, in particular, kind of drives me crazy. Let’s say you load a track into your deck, then put it into stem split mode, then take the acapella part (on channel 1 or 2 by default) and scratch with it or otherwise get it out of sync, and you are not in slip mode.
The problem here is getting the tracks back into sync. Right at this moment, you’re controlling deck 1 or 2, with the acapella, so if you hit the stem split button again to get them back into sync, the track jumps to where the vocal is… and loses the beat completely!
You can get around this by switching to channel 3 or 4 first, and then pressing stem split. It’s not that much work, sure, but it’s awkward. And it leaves me wondering why the default behavior is to sync to the active deck, which is the one likely to have diverged from the beat. Indeed, in my experience, it’s always channel 3 or 4 that’s on the beat, and that’s always the channel whose tempo I want to preserve. It’s perplexing that the default behavior goes against this.
Overall, the Rane Four is quite a step up in a lot of ways, inferior to the Rane One in a few ways, and has a few odd shortcomings and omissions.