Review: Rane’s new Twelve MKII & Seventy-Two MKII

When DJ TechTools hit me up to do a review of the new Twelve MKIIs I was stoked, but not entirely surprised. Anybody following Rane and/or watching DJ Jazzy Jeff’s livestream knew this update was coming, thanks to Jeff sporting a pair of unreleased Twelve MKIIs on his livestream since April. But when I learned I would also be reviewing a Rane Seventy-Two MKII, that threw me for a complete loop.

Despite the Rane Twelve MKIIs being one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry for the last several months, an update to the Seventy-Two MKII was on absolutely no one’s radar – especially considering that the Rane Seventy launched to much hype only earlier this year.  

Since these units are essentially an upgrade to the original units, this article will not go in-depth into every feature and capabilities – instead, we’ll look at the new features and improvements made from the first units. If you want a more complete review of the product, check out my previous review of the Rane Seventy-Two.

Rane Twelve MKII

The Rane Twelve from overhead
The Twelve MKII from an overhead perspective.

Despite the “MKII” moniker, there have actually already been 3 iterations of the Rane Twelve: 

  • the OG unit with the ports at the back
  • the 2nd run with the ports underneath the unit and the white, acrylic plates
  • and the 3rd design, that included the 12inchskinz quick-release adaptors on the vinyl plate instead of requiring a hex key to adjust the feel of the platters.

The physical design of the Rane Twelve MKII ultimately seems almost identical to the 3rd iteration of the original Rane Twelves save for a few additions:

  • the connection ports are underneath the unit
  • the platter includes the quick-release adaptor with the same black acrylic plate (complete with textured “grooves”)
  • the build feels exactly the same with the all-steel construction.

Let’s take a look at some of the updated features.

New controls and screen

The top left and right of the Twelve MKIIs.

The most obvious addition to the Twelve MKIIs are some new controls and a new, small screen. The control updates are fairly minimal: on the right hand side, there is now a selectable encoder knob, a “back”  button, and a dedicated “Instant Doubles” button. On the left hand side, is the small screen and a button entitled “Hold for DVS” (we will delve into the functionality below).

The endless encoder functions as a track select knob, where one press will load up the selected track, and a double press will instant double the opposite playing track. The back button allows the user to cycle between selecting tracks and selecting crates, and the Instant Double button will also activate instant doubles, mirroring the opposite playing track. The small screen displays the BPM of the loaded track to 2 decimal places and also allows you to select play modes including the new DVS mode.

Everything else is in exactly the same place and functions the same as the original Twelve.

RCA Outputs

Looking underneath where the ports, power switch, and torque adjustments are, a new set of RCA ports have now been added.  To be honest, this was a bit of a shocker to me and was completely unexpected.

DVS

That’s right – the new Twelve MKIIs now have a DVS feature.  Accessible via a button labeled “Hold For DVS Mode”, this was one of the more debated buttons when the initial leaks of the MKII came out. 

What does this mean? The Twelve is now capable of outputting a timecode signal via those RCA outputs, just like the Phase or some of the older Denon CD players like the SC3900 or SC3700. Pressing and holding the button brings up a small menu on the screen that allows you to cycle between MIDI capability and DVS capability using the track browse encoder. When selected, you can also use the track browse encoder to adjust the volume of the timecode signal. 

As an added bonus, by switching between these modes with the software running, Serato will automatically switch between the associated play mode in the software (REL for DVS and INT for MIDI). When switched to DVS mode, all the controls on the Twelve still function as normal, the only difference is that Serato will be controlled by timecode rather than using MIDI.

Support for Virtual DJ and Traktor

Another big surprise is that the Twelve MKIIs now have full, native support for Virtual DJ 2021 – both for MIDI and for timecode – and Traktor (via DVS only). While it was possible to use VDJ with the original Twelves, it was programmed into the software without input (or permission) by Rane. This led to some issues with resolution, sticker drift, and latency. With the Twelve MKIIs not being completely native to VDJ, most of these issues have been solved and the Twelve MKIIs now offer both a complete MIDI control option and a DVS option much like Serato.

Traktor support has also been added, but only timecode is currently available (that may change with a firmware update).

While Serato is my software of choice, I did try out both pieces of software and the integration with Virtual DJ is very good. Not only do the Twelves MKII work flawlessly with the program, the integration with the Seventy-Two MKII is also top-notch with not only full mapping of the mixer, but also full waveform displays on the screen as well. 

Virtual DJ has always been pretty comprehensive with their mapping and hardware integration, but now that this is now a collaborative effort between VDJ and Rane, perhaps this is a sign of things to come with InMusic products being natively compatible with more software choices. There were the occasional hiccups where it required a restart of the software or hardware to get a proper connection going, but for a 3rd party program, the level of integration was very impressive.

Traktor support, on the other hand, was very bare bones. All you really get is the control tone output. There is no pre-mapping in the software like Traktor-certified gear of old, and you will need a proper TSI mapping to get the most out the controls (or several hours custom mapping the unit to your liking). Everything worked exactly as advertised, though – albeit nowhere near as tightly integrated with VDJ. Perhaps a native mapping will come from Native Instruments soon.

12:00 and 2:00 markers

A small addition for turntablists and scratch DJs, having the built in markers is a nice touch and saves the DJ a couple stickers they may need to place on their units – especially for those used to pointing the sticker at the tonearm rather than simply 12:00.

Start/Stop button

Shifting from the clicky buttons reminiscent of the Denon Prime players, the Twelve MKIIs now offer the more traditional plunger style buttons for the Start/Stop that you would find on turntables. A few people disliked the clicky-style buttons and this will likely satisfy more turntable converts.

The Positives

The feel

DJing on the Twelves has been an absolute joy. The tightness of the integration (especially in terms of sticker drift) combined with the full-sized 12” platters made this one of the best feeling spinning platter controllers I’ve used. The lack of a lot of drawbacks associated with DVS and turntables  as well as the controller-style perks – things like having instantaneous pitch adjustments, the ability to use hot cue pads as press-and-hold style cueing, automatic syncing for instant doubles, and a proper record stop function even with Pitch n Time activated – are all things that I wish I could have when playing on DVS or even the Phase (although we will see how native Serato integration will function with the planned update).

DVS: why does anyone need this?

This feature is interesting and wasn’t something I was expecting at all. Some may wonder why it’s needed when MIDI offers more controller-style perks.

First of all, the timecode signal used is actually the official Serato NoiseMap timecode rather than the generic 1000 Hz sinewave found currently in the Phase and some of the older Denon CDJs. While the use of the official NoiseMap leads to tighter integration and eliminates sticker drift – something that was very apparent in the current iteration of Phase – it also gives the benefit of being able to use the Sticker Lock feature previously only accessible via timecode. While not necessarily a widely used feature, it is one of those features where the people who do use it, have a hard time letting it go when it’s not available.

Secondly, this feature opens up the Rane Twelves to a host of other software that is compatible with Serato timecode – that includes Rekordbox DJ, Mixxx, DJ Player Pro, and a few others. 

Thirdly, this also makes the Twelves fully compatible with Serato Scratch Live for any of the holdouts that still exist (and I know a few of them).

Cross-software support

Honestly, I think this is huge. One of the biggest complaints with the Twelves was the fact that it was really only meant to work with Serato. Exclusive software support is always a sore spot for some DJs, and while Pioneer and Serato have largely been successful in locking users into their ecosystem due to their install base (despite some reservations with the subscription model of Rekordbox 6), the idea of a “walled garden” is enough to send die-hards from both camps to their keyboards ready to decry – or defend – the business model (see also: iPhone vs Android).

With the Twelve MKIIs, the unit is now capable of working with the majority of DJ software out there – including all the major options – and then some. While some options may be more tightly integrated out of the box than others, between native support and DVS mode, the Twelve MKIIs go from being a premium unit exclusively for Serato users to a proper, open controller to most of the major software competitors.

Instant Doubles button

This seems like a redundant control, considering the ability to execute Instant Doubles by double-clicking the track load encoder – but one of the Serato features I tend to use a lot is the Prepare pane. One thing I noticed was that if I double-clicked the track load while I had a track in the Prepare pane highlighted, it would actually load that track first – and therefore remove it from the list – before activating Instant Doubles. This lead to frustrating moments where I swore I had thrown a track into the Prepare pane only for it to be gone. Having a dedicated Instant Doubles eliminates that quirk nicely.

Where we’d love to see improvement

The Motor

I noticed some strange behaviour with the Twelve MKII motor for very specific platter motions. Long, fast platter movements cause some weirdness where the platter doesn’t quite engage the scratching algorithm until half way through the scratch. The best I can describe it is that it’s similar to when trying to do slow platter movements with Pitch n Time engaged. Unfortunately, this seems to be a problem with the hardware itself because this behaviour occurs even using the DVS system – as well as on multiple softwares. I also double-checked, and this issue is not happening on the original Rane Twelve. While it is only a very specific platter movement that causes this to happen, it was noticeable enough that it really bothered me and could be a dealbreaker for some of the more turntablism-focused DJs out there.

Power switch placement

Placing the ports underneath the unit was the absolute correct decision. This makes it much easier to rotate the Twelves to function in club style – even though the logos and labels weren’t necessarily designed with this in mind (and you lose the aesthetically pleasing look of having the Twelves completely flush with the mixer). That said, putting the power switch underneath was absolutely the wrong move. This should have been placed in an area that was more easily accessible – the back or front, or somewhere on the face. Having to lift up the Twelves every time I want to turn it on or off is annoying.

Lack of a CUE button

I’ll admit, having been using more controllers and CDJs more in recent years, I’m starting to dig the CUE button next to the start/stop button to create a temporary cue. Serato has this functionality already, and it would be nice to see it on the Twelve as well – even if this features is accessible on the Seventy-Two.


Seventy-Two MKII

As mentioned earlier, this piece of gear came out of nowhere. I don’t recall anyone talking about, wishing for, or demanding a Seventy-Two MKII. I think most assumed that Rane would keep churning out the Seventy-Two – with maybe a small update to include the new Mag Four faders, but keep it as a subtle production upgrade – much like they did with the original Twelves. Instead, we are getting an official MKII version of the mixer with some pretty great upgrades.

Similar to the Twelve MKIIs, the Seventy-Two MKII is identical in layout, build, and functionality to the original version with just a few tweaks to both the hardware and the software in the mixer. Most of the prominent upgrades put the Seventy-Two more in line with the Rane Seventy – in terms of both hardware and aesthetics.

Time to take a look at the changes we found in the MKII.

Mag Four faders

First included with the Rane Seventy, the new Mag Four faders are lighter, quieter, and just generally smoother feeling than the Mag Three faders in the original Sevens-Two. All three faders have been switched to Mag Four faders. The Mag Three faders in the original Seventy-Two have been criticized by many scratch DJs since they were introduced – hence the change in the Seventy – so adding the new faders was to be expected at some point. 

For owners of the original Seventy-Two, the Mag Four faders will also be available as a standalone upgrade soon.

External tension adjust for crossfader

One major complaint about the Seventy-Two was that in order to adjust the fader tension, you’d have to pop open the mixer in order to access the tension controls – something that was inconvenient at best and close to impossible in certain situations like gigs.

This issue was addressed in the Seventy, and now it’s been addressed on the Seventy-Two MKII. It works exactly as you’d expect and it’s a great addition. While the line faders also have adjustable tension, it will still require removing the faceplate to access like before.

Knobs and color scheme

Another complaint about the Seventy-Two was the colour scheme and design of the knobs. The dark grey colour of many of the knobs made it difficult to see in low-light environments – especially with the bright glow of the pads and screen. The new knob color scheme follows the Seventy with white knobs instead of the dark grey on the EQs and gains, and the EQ pots have a white outline on the faceplate making it much easier to see in the dark. The rest of the knobs remain a dark grey, though, and are still difficult to see in low light.

Parameter Setup

This is a new option in the Mixer Settings that allows remapping of the parameter buttons on either side of the mixer on the Hot Cue page. The buttons normally default to controlling Flip functions if the plugin is purchased. One of the drawbacks of the Seventy Two mapping scheme is that manually re-mapping the buttons will override the parameters of each page. This new feature allows users to remap just the functions on the Hot Cue page to either a Sync function, the Silent Cue function, or a custom remapping function. There is also the ability to override all the pages if desired.

Daytime Mode for pads

Once again addressing a widespread complaint about the Seventy-Two: the fact that the lights were so bright that it was often very distracting to use in low-light environments. You can now choose between a brighter Daytime Mode and a dimmer standard mode for dark venues.

Shifts in the Effects offerings

One of the touted features to the Rane Seventy was an improved effects engine. I did an A/B comparison on various effects between my Seventy-Two and the MKII and while I’m pretty sure I could hear a difference, it was pretty subtle. While it might be a bit of placebo effect, I’m pretty certain the Seventy-Two MKII utilizes the improved engine found in the Rane Seventy, as certain effects like the Echo and Delay effects sounded clearer and more pronounced compared to the original Seventy-Two.

The Positives

In terms of the new features, absolutely everything Rane updated on the Seventy-Two is undoubtedly an improvement. Every upgrade addressed some complaint from owners of the original Seventy-Two – some widespread, some I didn’t think they would consider. 

Mag Four faders

Of all the upgrades, my personal favourite is the new Mag Four faders. This is a return to form for Rane, who has always been known for the legendary feel of their magnetic faders but stumbled a bit with the Mag Three faders. 

In my original review, I stated that I was happy with the Mag Three faders. But in the 2 years since that review, I have focused on improving my scratch game a great deal. As I did, I started to really feel the limitations of that fader in terms of weight and feel, especially when compared to the Innofader that I had installed on my portable deck and my experience with the Magvel Pro on the DJM S9. After some time on the Seventy-Two MKII, I find the Mag Four absolutely lives up to the hype and now competes with the gold standard scratch faders in the Innofader and the Pioneer Magvel Pro fader – especially with the added external tension adjust knob. Granted, some DJs like Vekked and Skratch Bastid have no issues with the Mag Three – and they are much better turntablists than I am – so it is ultimately personal preference.

Virtual DJ integration

In my 2 decades of DJing, I’ve never really delved too much into Virtual DJ. It’s always been somewhat of a fringe competitor to me – the distant 4th to the “big three” DJ software companies (Serato, Traktor, and Rekordbox). But sheer reputation from die-hards tells me it is one of the most powerful and customizable options on the market and with my brief time with it, I’m definitely impressed. It’s a lot to take in and very, very complicated, but I see the potential. I was especially impressed with the integration with the Seventy-Two, having the waveforms being on full display on the screen (and honestly, they look and scroll better than the Serato waveforms which seem a little choppy and washed out due to the color scheme). The default mapping is also pretty comprehensive – and relatively easy to remap if you have the right reference material. The new dynamic stems feature is just the icing on the cake and a lot of fun to play with, although it does require somewhat of a change in mentality when it comes to DJing. 

New mixer settings

The updates to the settings are all very useful, and I hope that these improvements make their way onto the original Seventy-Two via a firmware update in the near future. The Parameter Settings is something I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to figure out in the XML code – how to remap the parameter buttons without affecting other pages. Luckily, Rane adding this is exactly what I was looking for.

Where we’d love to see improvement

Honestly, my issues with the Seventy-Two listed in my previous review still stand – with the exception of the accessible crossfader tension adjust, and the new colour scheme for the knobs.

The FX controls are too convoluted and complicated, the screen has too low a refresh rate when zoomed in resulting in choppy waveform scrolling, the touch controls are sorely lacking, and my bumpers are bent like crazy and loose due to the design of those metal bumpers. I will add that they did at least improve the bundled cables.


Final Thoughts

The Rane Twelve has always been an interesting piece of gear to me. In a market where the overwhelming majority of DJs who want a spinning platter probably already own a set of turntables, the fact that the Phase device is breathing new life into existing turntables and offering similar functionality for much less. And with Rane’s own sister company Denon DJ offering similar units but with standalone capabilities, it always felt a little out of place. I’ll admit, I wasn’t the biggest supporter of the Twelves when they first came out; the Twelve seemed too big, too heavy, and too expensive for what it was: a piece of gear locked to a single piece of software with zero capabilities beyond controlling Serato. 

After a week on the Twelves, I get it. It feels like the near-perfect marriage of the feel of turntables, and the capabilities of a controller. Little things like the immediate pitch control or even being able to get that record stop sound without having to disengage Pitch n Time have been features I’ve been wanting for years now. That the units are now compatible with nearly every software option on the market makes them much more attractive. 

Unfortunately for me, the Twelve MKIIs are marred by the one glaring issue with the motor. Whatever changes Rane made to the motor on the Twelve MKIIs feels like a step back. The majority of DJs likely won’t notice this problem at all, but the heavy scratchers and hardcore turntablists may have a problem with this. The technique I found this issue affected most for me was the boomerang scratch, but it was noticeable in some other techniques as well. When I was strictly mixing and performing more basic turntablism tricks, I did not notice this issue at all and the players felt amazing. It was only when I was attempting some more complex scratch practice where this problem was very apparent.

In spite of this, everything else about these units is clearly head-and-shoulders better than the originals – especially since it is now usable on nearly every piece of software on the market.

In terms of the Seventy-Two MKII, it ultimately depends on your play style. While I make no bones about the several issues I have with the design and workflow of the Seventy-Two, I think it’s still the most powerful 2-channel DVS mixer on the market in terms of sheer features. Retaining the exact same design and layout of the original may turn some people off, but Rane also directly addressed quite a few of the problems reported on the original Seventy-Two. That said, the simpler and more streamlined Seventy might be a better option for some (I have yet to use a Seventy myself). Personally, I love DJing on the Seventy-Two and think it’s a fantastic choice for those that want the most features at their fingertips – and the new faders have already cemented themselves as one of my favourites to cut on.

Are they worth it?

Would I get these units if I already owned a Seventy-Two and/or Twelve setup?

Probably not. These are clearly an incremental upgrade – like an iPhone S update. While the gear is easily better, it’s not so much better that it’s worth the loss incurred when selling the old units for the new ones (unless money isn’t really an object for you). I would definitely pick up a Mag Four fader upgrade for the original Seventy-Two, though.

Would I get the Twelve MKIIs and a Seventy-Two MKII if I were looking for an upgrade to an older setup like a Rane Sixty-Two or even the DJM S9 and turntables?  

If you’re in the market for a spinning platter controller that feels as close to turntables as can get (and don’t need to play vinyl) – but one that also offers the perks of some features only available to controllers (something that even Phase doesn’t currently have) – then the Twelve MKIIs is some of the most fun I’ve had DJing in a while (scratch issue notwithstanding). As an avid Serato user, it’s been more fun than my Denon SC3900s, more fun than the Denon SC5000Ms, and even more fun than the Phase with turntables. The premium pricing is a bit of tough pill to swallow, but the new multiplatform capabilities makes it a little more worth the $800 per unit asking price.

The Seventy-Two MKII is my jam, though. I love that mixer and have loved the original since I picked one up 2 years ago. While there’s still a lot of room for improvement, the MKII fixes some of the more glaring issues while still taking care of some of the minor annoyances. If you want the most advanced and feature-rich – if not always the most intuitive – 2-channel Serato mixer on the market, look no further than Seventy-Two MKII. 

You can pick up both units on pre-order from the DJ Tech Tools store – here’s the Rane Seventy-Two MK2 and the Rane Twelve MKII. We’re curious to hear your thoughts about the gear as well – let us know in the comments below.

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