A DJ, just like an artist, grows over time as they are exposed to new influences. When I started laptop DJing, I used a Shuttle Pro controller with a jog wheel to control Traktor software. The controller did its job but wasn't the most effective or DJ-friendly method of manipulating the music. The Shuttle Pro also was not conducive to putting on a good show because it didn't look cool. When I upgraded to the Mac Book Pro and started doing video, the Numark Total Control was the controller of choice. With two sets of controls (for each deck) and lots of knobs and sliders, the Total Control was heaven when compared to the Shuttle Pro. The Total Control works really well but there were issues with build quality and appearance. Its taken a few months, but I am now ready to review the Vestax VCI-100 DJ MIDI Controller. You will notice how my experience with the Total Control has affected my review of the Vestax VCI-100.
What is it?
The Vestax VCI-100 DJ Midi Controller is a USB-based MIDI controller that works with both PC and Mac systems. The controller is laid out very intuitively with two sets of controls, one for each channel and a middle section for combined sound. The VCI-100 has 31 buttons, 12 knobs, 5 sliders, 5 pot wheels, 34 buttons, and 2 touch sensitive jog wheels which are used to manipulate the music being played. The way that DJs scratch a record is the best way to describe the control that the shuttle wheel allows.
The faders are similar to a DJ mixer with two faders controlling volume for each deck, two controlling tempo/speed for each deck, and a crossfader that determines the volume of each deck being played. If you think in terms of a DJ dual-deck CD player and a DJ mixer, basically the VCI-100 combines the controls of both into a device approximately the size of a record.
The VCI-100 is packaged with Traktor LE, which I already had on my computer. On a MacBook Pro, I installed the VCI-100 by simply plugging it into the USB slot. The Mac OS recognized it and it was ready to go. As an experienced user of Traktor 2, I dove in and was amazed by how easy the VCI-100 was to use. All of the buttons were laid out intuitively and clearly labelled. Buttons such as Vinyl Mode lit up green or red so you could easily tell whether it was activated. The upper left hand side has five transport buttons which allow tracks to be loaded to either side or preview. The jog wheel is used to position the start point, and pressing the cue button sets your beginning cue point. Repeating the process on the other deck is just as easy. The response time is instant - press a button and the software responds immediately. The Cue button works just like one on an audio mixer, so you can preview the audio on one deck while the other is playing.
Things went so smoothly on the Mac side, I thought it was time to test how the Vestax VCI-100 works in the Windows world. On the same MacBook Pro with Windows XP running through Bootcamp, I installed the VCI-100. The VCI-100 was instantly recognized and started working. No power cord or adjustments were needed. Traktor LE ran on the PC side identically to the Mac side.
The VCI-100 passed all my basic tests for usability and stability, so it was time to really get geeky and nitpick the machine. I loaded the full version of Traktor on the Mac side and really dove in. For Traktor to work, I went to the software page and downloaded a new .tks file. A .tks file is the definition file which tells the software how to interpret the MIDI signals from the controller.
When setting up the Total Control for a previous review, I had created a special midi defintion file for Cue on the PC side to do what I want. Rather than reinvent the wheel (or download from a website), I got my geek on and reassigned each function of Cue to the VCI-100. Surprisingly, this took less than 25 minutes.