Controller Clinic #11: Vestax VCI-400 vs Traktor Kontrol S4

vci-400

The Vestax VCI-400: Built like a tank, but how easy it to map it convincingly to Traktor?

Digital DJ Tips reader Jona Menasso writes: "I was hoping you could help me deciding between the Traktor Kontrol S4 and the Vestax VCI-400. At the moment my choice would be the VCI-400 but maybe if you answer my two questions I can get a little more clarity. "Firstly, does the VCI-400 offer nearly the same integration with Traktor Pro 2 as the Kontrol S4 without the need of a complex mapping? (I am not a very good "mapper"). I ask this because that is the main catch in the S4 for me. Secondly, do you think the VCI-400 would last three years without failing?   "If it helps, I am not a 'controllerist', and I am not going to bash and hit buttons, faders and knobs - at least not much! My mixing style is based on smooth transitions and incorporation of samples, one-shots and loops, mostly mixing house, prog, minimal and tech."

Digital DJ Tips says:

The answer is really quite simple. If you want the tightest possible, out-of-the-box integration between hardware and software, buy the S4. It (and its smaller brother the S2) has the tightest integration with Traktor of all, and these controllers are more likely to be "fixed" first when Traktor gets updated down the line (ie, NI will prepare the software to work with its own hardware flawlessly before release).

Traktor Kontrol S4

If you want guaranteed, 100% compatible plug and play with Traktor, it has to be the S4.

Everything else has compromises, either in performance (only the S2 and S4 have 100% perfect jogwheel performance with Traktor, although this is improving with third-party products), or ease of use (ie even with the most easy to set up non-Native Instruments controller, you'll still have hoops to jump through to get it to work close to perfectly with Traktor). However, if you're prepared to learn a little bit about Traktor's set-up and mapping, and aren't a DMC scratch DJ, many other controllers come into view, the VCI-400 being one of them. It is supplied with a Traktor mapping to get you going, and there are plenty of people coming up with their own out there too (try the Traktor Bible or DJ TechTools sites for examples).

And as regards longevity, while the Kontrol S4 is well made (albeit with lots of plastic), the VCI-400 is an all-metal workhorse. I wouldn't worry in the slightest about it not lasting the duration.

Have you considered these controllers? Which did you go for? Have you owned both? Which do you think is the best out of the two? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. As an owner of both the S4 and VCI-400. I have experienced both and what they can provide as a great all in one controller.

    The S4 is like what Phil said above, the tighest integration possible. I agree with that. However, durability wise mine ended up breaking somewhere near the AC/USB input on the back which put it out of commission. I had to send it back to the store to get it fixed. A very lengthly process and quite simply frustrating.

    On the other hand, the VCI 400 also works quite well with TP2. Especially with the supplied mappings from Vestax that gets it running right off the bat. Also there are other midi maps made by fellow digital djs. (ex. DJ Tech Tools). I personally took the Vestax mapping and altered it to include 8 hot cues, my version of beatjumping controls, loops, sample decks. etc.

    To compare both, I prefer the jog wheels on the S4, but prefer basically everything else on the VCI 400. It feels like a lot sturdier machine and with a warranty for both you cant really go wrong. Having owned both (my S4 is on another continent still, hence frustrating… :/) Overall there’s only slight changes to how each controller is laid out, but I do prefer the VCI 400. Go to your nearest dj store, bring your laptop, download the vestax mapping off their site for the 400 and tp2, have it all ready, and have a mix on both, see which you prefer. Im sure you’ll make the right decision.

  2. i have both , but S4 had a breakdown
    so i buy VCI-400 for instead

    i think stability & sound-quality is most important
    but S4 is no good for stability
    it made me so embarrassed in front of hundreds clubbers one time
    becasue it suddenly got a breakdown !

  3. grollson says:

    personally i would alwasy argue for vestax…they build solid boxes with knobs and faders that will last a bit. vestax is always a worthy investment!

    perfect intergration is fine but it stops you from thinking. at some point in your djing progress you might think ” I got this button here, wouldn’t it be cool it it did…” and BOOM, you’re in the next level of controllerism, getting things like you want them to be.

    if you really feel the need to do all that crazy wheelspinning stuff, get a dvs. i have never seen jogs of that size as a real option for scratching. they are fine for cuing and pitchbending, maybe for mapping some fx on them, but then resolution is not that important.

    overall, forget that ni products (don’t get me wrong, they ARE good quality), but they are overpriced and limited. find the controller that suits your needs best and that challanges you. be creative in music and technology! an if you really need it, get a ni-logo sticker and put it over the brand logo ;)

  4. George Thoms says:

    I have the S4, Have bee using it on gigs 4 nights a week and sit at home with it the other 2 for just over a year now. It has frozen on me twice at gigs which SUCKS, my channel B fader went through this phase of just slowly lowering itself to 0 in the software and my right side jog wheel sometimes freezes. If you end up with the S4, the only thing I can say is go into settings and calibrate the jog wheels and faders before every show, just to be safe. Asides from that it has been my trusty companion along with a remapped APC40 for some time now.

  5. you should have a look at the novation twitch.
    it’s a really awesome controller it’s a bit more compact than the s4 and the VCI-400.
    but it still has allot of Features.
    and it has the controllerist buttons, so it looks a little like vci-400.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      I have to agree with this. I tried other controllers and simply could not stop comparing them to the Twitch. While you have to press a button to switch from Deck A to Deck C (and Deck B to Deck D), you can still get a lot of functionality out of it. If you use the controller as a 2 Deck plus effects or samples controller it’s easily on-par or better than the top-notch controllers today because of the banks upon banks of button controls. The only other controller that’s even close to this is the Vestax VCI-380 (which also comes with ITCH) and has most of the features of the Twitch, but costs about as much at the two controllers you listed, but has Jog Wheels.

  6. Another thing that has to be taken into account is … software. NI kontrol comes with a full version of traktor while the vci400 comes without software.
    If you still need to buy traktor you have to add some extra euros to the budget if you go for the vci

    • the vci-400 comes with Virtual Dj LE and Serato Dj Intro, while the s4 comes with TP2

      • LE and intro aren’t software packages that do well on the possibilities of the controller … full version or NO version imo.

    • DJ Freez' says:

      That shouldn’t be much of a problem anymore. Get an Audio 2 interface and you’ll get Traktor Pro 2 for free. Meaning, it’s just about 30 Euro’s (I live in Europe) more than an S4.

      Now compare the two ;-)

      Is the VCI-400 with TP2 worth about €30 more than an S4? :-)

  7. antiMACtax says:

    Reference Phil’s post on software being more important than the controller. Traktor is software for either choice, yet S4 is made by Native Instruments. I love my S4, and adding a F1 should make it even sweeter. My vote S4.

  8. José Reach says:

    I think both are great controllers. I have the S4 and I’m completely positive of it. It comes with Traktor 2 which is cheaper and it has a tight integration. The VCI400 is a very creative controller as well and has all these pads. Check youtube noonagon vci 400 what he does with it. He uses ableton with it and makes a very good mix.

    Maybe the new Traktor 2.3 which will come out on the 30th of may will work well with the VCI 400, as it is designed for the use of pads. Maybe there is someone who can confirm this?

    • the new remix decks are locked to NI’s new control F1

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      According to the press release (which really ticked a lot of people off) Traktor Pro 2.5 will only allow the first row of buttons in the Sample decks to be MIDI assignable. The spokesperson from Native Instruments assured the general public that a later revision will address the full functionality of the Sample Deck buttons (for all 16 buttons) at a later date but before version 3 comes out.

  9. Don’t forget theres a firmware update to allow the VCI to act as a standard mixer no laptop required.

  10. DJ Majestic says:

    VCI-400 hands down for build. Now if they could get it to work with Serato Itch, they would have a winner.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      Well, that’s kinda’ why Vestax is making the VCI-380. I’d really like to see the Bridge for ITCH get released soon… it’s only been 3 years since it’s been announced.

  11. Dj Steve says:

    I love Traktor and the funcions on my s4, but the quality is shitty…..I’m about to change to VCI-400 or get a
    VCI-380 and ITCH instead…
    NI got a lot to do with their quality on the harware…
    BR
    Dj Steve

    • Godzilla Jr. says:

      Agreed. One of the inputs on mine broke shortly after buying it. A few months later the left RCA and 1/4″ outputs stop working as well. Took NI 6 weeks to fix it under warranty (and they acted like they were doing me a favor to do so). NI has a ways to go in manufacturing hardware.

    • DJ Freez' says:

      Well at least you have the full software already, so there’s no hassle there… Good for you.

      When I felt the VCI-400, I was majorly impressed. Love the build quality, all the knobs and faders feel extremely sturdy.

  12. If I could afford it, I would get the vci-400.
    *vestax US customer service is notoriously weak(err, I mean non-existent), but if you get it and have any problems, I can help you call tokyo :) they’re actually quite nice and helpful

    also, I agree with @manuel, I really love the twitch controller. great solid feel to it.

    The S4 is so shabbily made, it’s embarrassing.

    • I don’t think the S4 is built to the same standard as the VCI-400 (few controllers are, it’s beautifully made), but then again I don’t agree that it’s shabby or embarrassing – it’s plastic for sure, but I have been using an S4 and an S2 regularly since they were launched and have no complaints about the durability or build of either. I do think the jogs don’t feel as natural as Vestax’s, but again I wouldn’t call them shabby.

    • AdriaticBlue says:

      Thanks spektakx for touching on this. I’ve been researching the VCI-400 lately and cannot find any solid info regarding how good (or not) US customer support is of their products.

  13. The VCI400 is the better controller from both a build and a costomizability standpoint. The S4 is incredibly tight with Traktor, and the jog performance is to die for. That said, when you want to do your own thing, the S4 is more locked in a certain workflow, and overall just is not built to the same standard. The VCI400 is a controller that just begs you to make a workflow that is your own, and with some tweaking the scratch performance isn’t bad at all.

  14. Jona Menasso says:

    Thank You Phil for this article, it’s been a while since i had this trouble… i ended up going for the S4, and must say i am Happy with my purchase, it fills my needs and still has got very much “room to spare”.
    The purpose of the Article still remains the same: Helping others with the same problem i had…

    Thank’s Phil And Every single one of YOU, who helped me and who help other whenever help is needed.

    Have a nice SunNday!

  15. Slak Jaw says:

    I also have a VCI-400 EGE and a S4. The build quality is definitely better with the VCI, but I’ve really had no issues with my S4 except for the Browse button is a bit glitchy now. I bought the S4 at launch and have been gigging with it regularly. My main issue with the S4 was the difficulty in customizing the controls to my liking. That’s one of the main reasons I switched to the VCI. I love how many mappable controls it has. I’ve probably spent close to 200 hours creating my own custom midi mapping for it in Traktor. For me having customized controls has become an essential part of my DJing.

  16. Kaan Baki says:

    I’m really wondering how the Numark 4trak will be compared to these two controllers. Is there still no review coming Phil? Because the 4trak is on the market for quite a while now.
    If I had to choose between the vestax and the s4, i would probably go for the s4 just because i’ve never seen the vestax “live” and don’t know how the controller feels in general.

    • DJ Freez' says:

      Not having seen the Vestax “live” shouldn’t be a reason not to buy it, especially if you read how positive everyone is here. Why not visit a store and check it out?

  17. Djtavi77 says:

    VESTAX VCI400 ALL THE WAY.

  18. I have no idea on the VCI, since I never had my hands on one for longer than a minute in a shop, but it looks and feels like it is built like a tank and can survive smaller tactical nuclear strikes.

    However I have been using a borrowed S4 lately for several gigs and I am somewhat underwhelmed by what the S4 offers. It is very limited on accessing things. Using the sample decks is not very intuitive, mapping things differently is a major pain and while the jogs have very tight response, the jogwheel quality is worse than on a mixtrack pro (one of mine came off!).
    Asking above 800 Euros for an ALL PLASTIC unit is a major ripoff in my book and seeing how well Itch is tracking the jogs on an NS6 compared to tracktor I have to suspect that NI is only holding back high resolution support in TP so they can sell their low quality gear better. It is sad to see that even the hugely bashed VDJ Pro is doing better on a terminal mix than traktor.

    So all in all I cannot support NI on this and hence will prolly go for a VCI 380 if it gets good reviews.

  19. Save your money and get an S2 and an F1!

  20. I’ve been playing around with VCi-400 with both Traktor and Serato DJ intro.

    The response of the jog wheels is excellent in Serato DJ Intro, but no matter what I try in Traktor I can’t get it to respond well enough to scratch with.

    The build quality is excellent and the sound quality is outstanding.
    Headphone level is, again, too low for a lot of club situations.

    • There are few controllers with truly excellent jog control over Traktor in my experience, most achieving 8 or 9 out of 10.

    • strangely I don’t have the headphone issue (usually it hurts my ears if I turn it up at the front) and with a little work on the mappings you can get excellent scratching done on the vci400 (there are quite a few scratch vids on youtu.be)

  21. I’m about to decide between S4 and vci400…the only issue is that s4 can do timecode vinyl while the vci400 has to be used with another graphic card…but doing so you lose the high quality xl output. Any thoughts on that?

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