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Vestax VCI 100 DJ MIDI Controller

R5 250.00
Vestax VCI 100 DJ MIDI Controller
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Vestax VCI 100 DJ MIDI Controller
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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.

Vestax VCI-100 DJ Midi Controller - Angle View
www.Vestax.com
What differentiates the VCI-100 from other controllers is the touch sensitive acrylic plates of the jog wheels which respond to both the direction the wheel is spun and the amount of pressure, i.e. the harder you press the wheel, the greater the effect.
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.
Basic testing
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.
You can adjust the tempo manually by using the slider or by pressing the sync button. When you're on beat, slide up the volume slider (or slide the crossfade - depending on your mixing style). Depending on the mode, you can use the jog wheels to push the track ahead a little bit (just like a record) or drag it a little slower. It takes a little practice with how much pressure to use, but after a couple of minute I got the hang of it. The controller is quite tricked-out for the advanced DJs. The bass, midrange, and treble knobs for each side can be turned for control and have center detente, meaning you feel a click when they hit the center. The knobs and buttons are all pleasingly tactile and quickly reactive.
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.
In-depth testing
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.
Vestax VCI-100 DJ Midi Controller - View with laptop
www.Vestax.com
Using the VCI-100 with Traktor is pretty much flawless. The only thing missing was kill switches for the hi-, mid-, and low EQs. The mid-low is set to be the low kill - but what if you want to kill the mids with a button press? While not ideally located for this function, there are four buttons on the right hand side that I re-mapped in MIDI to act as kill switches. Remapping takes a few minutes to find the exact control code and function, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy. At first, I couldn't get the complete hang of the sensitivity to use when pressing the acrylic plates of the jog wheels when manipulating the song. The touch sensor levels on the back of machine were the key to adjusting the plates until I was completely comfortable.
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.

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