The Slate 2 and its bigger brother, the Slate 4, are Gemini's best budget controllers yet, being small, well made and coming with Serato DJ Intro in the box.
Gemini has had a chequered history in the digital DJ world, with a handful of "almost there" devices, and a few that frankly failed to make the mark. But the company appears to have turned it around with the Slate 2 (reviewed here) and the bigger Slate 4: Good value, nicely made controllers, now with the endorsement of Serato. Let's take a peek...
First impressions and setting up
The Slate 2 is a pretty tiny controller, and very slim, at not much more than an inch thick. It is also sturdy, plastic-cased but well made. The jogwheels are small, but big enough, and they feel like they're going to be reliable. The ins and outs are along the left-hand side of the unit which is unusual but it works fine. The buttons are a mixture of hard plastic and rubberised, the faders feel as you'd expect on a budget controller (ie budget), but overall, it is a pleasing little device.
To set it up you simply download and install Serato DJ Intro (the "beginner" version of Serato's DJ software range; to unlock the full features of the paid-for version you're going to have to, well, buy it...), but to be fair Serato DJ Intro has all you need to get going and then some. Plug the unit in via the supplied USB-to-micro USB lead, launch the software, and your library and decks are presented to you. Then it's just a case of plugging in any powered speakers and your headphones, and you're off.
The simple inputs and outputs are down the left-hand side, which is unusual: From left to right, there's (micro) USB, 2xRCA outs, headphones (1/8") and mic (1/4"), the latter two each with their own volume controls.
It's a basic Serato DJ controller, and it does most of the basics well, with a few surprising twists. First, the good: The jogs, while not the best, are responsive and do the job, and the RGB-lit pads are actually really good, controlling hot cues, hot loops, loop roll, loop roll + slip, sampler, even slicer. There is manual looping too, which is a great addition. It's simple to switch between pad modes with a dedicated Pad Mode button.
The mixer - while lacking gain controls and any kind of external inputs (even the mic just goes straight to Out), has a decent three-band EQ and a per-channel omni-filter, which is great. And the effects implementation lets you switch effects from the unit, without recourse to the laptop, unlike many Serato controllers. With a vinyl/nudge jog behaviour option, slip mode, keylock and pitch range, you get all the basics and then some.
It's a nicely laid out and compact controller, with a few surprises, including full RGB pads.
Not so good (my only real gripe) are the very short-throw pitch faders, which only allow adjustments by about 1/6th of a BPM, far worse than many controllers, making manual beatmatching a bit more hit and miss than it might have been.
Of course, the unit is entry level, so there's no booth or balanced outs, no outlet power (meaning dimmer lights and lower output than some), and no onboard VU meters, but none of this should bother beginner DJs, DJs looking for a back-up controller, or just casual users, who clearly constitute the intended audience here.
We liked it. It's the smallest "proper" Serato DJ controller out there, and due to the fact that in order to work at all Serato DJ requires a compatible device plugged in, that alone should win it fans among travelling DJs, DJs looking for a one-bag backup system, and those who haven't got the room for a bigger set-up.
Similar controllers would be the Mixtrack Pro 3 (slightly more expensive) that has better jogwheels and pitch faders but is much bigger, and the Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3, which actually costs a fair bit more but does offer compatibility with more platforms including iPad.
Small, basic but overall competent little DJ controller for Serato DJ, with a few nice touches that you wouldn't expect at this price. A good second controller or beginner device.
This device you can order in our online store!