The mixer section
It’s a two-channel mixer, with a great EQ section that kills properly, and excellent VU metering that sensibly monitors the cued source when a “cue” button is pressed, and the master output when not, allowing you to easily get your gain staging right.
The crossfader is, as mentioned above, replaceable and the supplied crossfader is loose enough for scratching. There is a normal/reverse toggle, and also a crossfader curve adjuster. The latter is just “OK” – the scratch end of the spectrum is fine, but there’s no audible centre dip at the other end of its setting as there ought to be on a control like this.
Two small toggle switches on the front select between USB audio and line/phono inputs. The unit can act as a standalone mixer (ie no need for a laptop), so you set these to “analog” and can then DJ away old school-style with CDJs or turntables. You can switch back to your USB (ie Virtual DJ decks) just as easily, so you could mix and match inputs, although you’d have to mix from the USB on the left to the turntable/CDJ on the right (or vice versa) to keep things smooth and seamless, of course.
But you can also use the unit in audio interface mode – the internal sound card is four-in, four-out and so it’s possible to route the external inputs through your software, and Virtual DJ can do this. Furthermore, you can map the VMS2 to prefer the software’s EQ over its own internal hardware EQ or vice versa too. Like its older and bigger brother the VMS4, this unit is nothing if not flexible.
Loops and effects
There are both manual and auto (ie beats / bar-matched) loop functions available, the latter over-complicated (although not too much) due to the fact that you need to hold shift and then press one of two further buttons to half or double the loop length.
Effects are not a strong point of this version of the software or of the way the hardware is set up.
Effects are not a strong point of this version of the software or of the way the hardware is set up. You access them in a rather convoluted style using the library knob and up/down arrows, pushing the knob to turn the selected effect on and off, at which point you get access to one of its potential two parameters by turning the same knob.
Virtual DJ’s effects in the LE version can be quite fun, but they’re limited, and there are no filters – that’s the effect you want more than any other. If you think you’re going to want to use effects a lot, this isn’t the controller for you.
Other functions and features
There are booth and master outs, meaning two volume controls, plus two extra controls for cue mic and headphones volume.
There’s a gain control for the microphone, and a useful tone control there too.
The “mic” on/off button glows red when it’s on, which is a good reminder that your microphone is live.
Round the back is just what you’d expect from the features already described: master and booth outs, two grounded input channels with line/phono switches, and a (dual XLR and 1/4″) microphone input socket.
The sound card sounded decent enough to me, and the headphones were loud enough. There was no discernible background noise or distortion on the master outputs, and for its intended market (ie small venues, mobile setups) the sound card will be just fine.
People bleat on about sound quality but for me, it’s down to the quality of your music files and how deftly you use your system more than any theoretical advantage one sound chip gives you over another.
There’s a lot to like about the American Audio VMS2. It’s functional, serious-looking (if a little old school/clunky, especially with those pseudo-turntable jogwheels complete with imitation strobe dots and record grooves!). It’s reasonably well built, out of plenty of metal.
The jogs work well – better than those of many DJ controllers, which is due to the software integration as much as anything. Having said that, they lack the promised dual purpose nudge/scratch functionality that most have. That wouldn’t bother me but it may be a deal-breaker for you. (Do you scratch? No? well it definitely won’t be a worry them.)
The supplied software – Virtual DJ – is good for “playing records”. It’s easy to use, the sync is very simple, and it has most of the major features you’ll need, with the possible exception of decent effects. (Filters would be nice, but you need to upgrade from the LE version for that stuff, and overall this is not an effects-led controller, as their programming is almost an afterthought.) As solid software to get a job done, Virtual DJ is OK.
The ability to plug external sources straight into the unit and to use the whole device as an external mixer is welcome, but the ability to route these through software too (your choice), is to be applauded – even though you’ll have to get your hands dirty setting it up , as it’s not straightforward. You’ll also have to upgrade the supplied software for this.
The inclusion of balanced XLRs reinforce the fact that this unit is meant to be used out and about, and particularly that it would be good for mobile DJs, who will appreciate being able to make a professional connection from this to either their own or their venues’ PA systems.
Likewise, the fact that there’s a booth out means that were you a mobile DJ playing a bigger venue, you could easily attach a powered monitor. Record out, also, is something that I welcome – we all like to record out sets, and this bypasses the master volume control, so you can alter the overall output according to the circumstances (ie how busy the floor is, how many people are in the venue, the fact you’ve just been shouted at to turn it down at home!) while still recording at a constant level.
Who it isn’t for
This unit is not for controller DJs cutting up loops across four decks, triggering samples, applying beatmatched effects, manually holding together multiple sources, or employing any of the other myriad advanced techniques as practised ad infinitum in bedrooms or shown off on YouTube.
No, it’s a box for spinning records digitally, that also plays nicely with existing equipment. People whose idea of DJing is just that – playing records one after the other in public – will also see much to like in the VMS2. I’m talking about bar DJs, mobile DJs, lounge DJs, party DJs, or people who want a unit that they can use for this in the future while practising with it right now.
Take proper care of it, though, and it’ll do the pro job for what is basically very little outlay.
How to choose between this and the VMS4? If you think you’re going to be constantly mixing between CDs, turntables and digital sources, you may want to look at the VMS4 instead, as because it has four channels you can keep channels permanently set up for four mixed sources, unlike on the VMS2 where you have to switch. The VMS2 would be better suited if you need to switch formats once or twice in a night, or drop the odd record in on another format, or just want the option built in for future-proofing, or “just in case”.
For the money, the VMS2 is great value, but its build quality is not as high as something like the Reloop Jockey 3, for instance. It may be made of metal, but I still think it would repay being well looked after; there is a custom soft bag available and the supplied mounts mean it can be rack mounted into a pretective case, which is what I image gigging DJs would want to do.
Take proper care of it, though, and it’ll do the pro job for what is basically very little outlay. It’s a neat little basic DJing unit that could give you years of service, and if you play in public or are intending to do so, the built-in flexibility for input and output sources would serve you well as your DJing career developed.
- Decent basic standard of construction
- Pro ins and outs at a low price
- Good-to-use jogwheels
We don’t like:
- Poor effects section
- Question mark over durability of faders
- Supplied software is quite limited
Ease of use:
What do you think?
Are you a working DJ who’s been looking for this kind of flexibility in a controller? Have you considered the VMS4 but are now swayed towards this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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DJ Controllers: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide 2013.
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