The age of the digital DJ has seen many brands traditional involved in other areas of music and audio produce equipment for the modern DJ. This is usually due to the overlap in proprietary technology between the two. However, it’s always very reassuring to see a true heavyweight DJ brand applying its enormous experience to these new areas of DJing. Vestax is one such brand, and this experience has resulted in some of the most flexible, pro DJ controllers and equipment available.
The VCI 400 is the brand’s flagship 4-channel USB MIDI controller, designed to provide the versatility to be used with just about any major DJ software package, and integrate into the majority of DJ rigs. Does it live up to the brand’s impressive reputation? We put it under the microscope in our Vestax VCI 400 review.
Solid, robust construction
Vestax has been a premium choice for pro DJs for decades. In part, this is due to the superb build quality and reliability. The VCI-400 continues this tradition. Everything about the VCI screams ‘professional’. The chassis is metal with metal corner protectors, and all of the buttons, faders and knobs are all of high quality, and solidly attached. The jog-wheels are superb, filter knobs are made from metal, buttons are responsive, and faders are the standard you might expect from Vestax.
In terms of size, this controller is a little bigger than many similar controllers, and its metal construction means that it’s heavier, too. However, this is pitched at pros, and the additional size and weight is a small price for such robust build and reliability.
The unit has a familiar twin platter arrangement with a standard ‘mixer’ section at the centre. This provides four separate channels of control, each with its own fader, EQ, filter, PFL and FX controls. Platters can be switched between control over deck A or C, or deck B or D via throw switches just below the pitch control for each platter.
To the side of here for each platter) is a sample trigger/ hot-cue/ loop section. This bank of eight buttons provides the means for controllerists to mash, slice and dice to their heart’s content. Beneath the two platters are another two selections of buttons- six for each platter. These are entirely assignable, with three different ‘bank’ modes for each allowing the user to switch their functionality on the fly.
The unit has a built in audio interface, making it an all-in-one solution for laptop DJs. This is a premium quality design, delivering 24-bit audio with impressive precision, dynamics and detail. Along with MIDI control, the VCI-400 is capable of operating as a 2-channel standalone mixer (firmware update required). This is via two RCA line inputs to the rear (no phono-level inputs unfortunately). In addition, two XLR mic inputs are fitted, with master outputs via balanced XLRs or unbalanced ¼” jacks. To the front, the platter’s touch sensitivity can be tweaked, as can cross-fader curve and cue level.
It becomes clear very quickly that flexibility and versatility is key to the VCI-400’s design. Though it ships with Virtual DJ LE, there are comprehensive maps available for Traktor, Serato DJ Intro, Deckadance, Virtual DJ Pro and others. As a MIDI device, creating user maps is pretty straightforward for anyone with a bit of patience. In this regard, the Vestax is astonishing. Over 200 different control parameters can custom assigned within any software with a learn function.
The VCI-400’s clever, ergonomic design expands the performance potential of the unit exponentially. With the upper trigger buttons designated (unless you custom map) to samples, hot-cues, and/ or loops, the bottom row beneath the platters adds massive performance flexibility. Whilst you’ll almost certainly need one of the three banks set for transport controls, it leaves the other two (24 ‘buttons’) for whatever you want.
Special mention must also go to the audio interface. To my ears, the Vestax VCI 400 is the best sounding DJ controller around. Tight, defined transients, with full rounded bass, and airy upper frequencies result in a sound that punches with a velvet glove.
The Vestax VCI 400 is undoubtedly a professional DJ product, and as such, to get the most from it you’ll need to be using one of the flagship software packages (Traktor Pro, Serato DJ etc). However, if you are, it provides one of the best quality, most flexible, and best sounding DJ controllers that money can buy. For those who like to create their own maps, it’s pretty much unbeatable. Highly recommended.