The Vestax VCI-100 Mk II DJ controller was officially launched at this year’s BPM DJ show. As the follow-up to the VCI-100 – the controller that arguably started the ball rolling for this method of DJing, but which was looking decidedly dated of late – it has a lot to live up to.
Any Vestax VCI-100 Mk II review has to bear this legacy in mind. But unlike the differences between the VCI-300 and the Mk II version of that controller, the differences here are quite substantial, and so I believe the VCI-100 Mk II needs to be regarded as a “new” controller in order to do it justice.
I got a chance to have a good look at and play with it at the show, but I didn’t get to plug it in or mix on it, unfortunately. Still, I saw enough to be able to write a reasonably in-depth review.
First impressions/setting up
The VCI-100 Mk II looks reasonably similar to the VCI-100; a little more streamlined but certainly in the same ballpark. However, the first thing you notice is that it is substantially lighter. This is due to a plastic underside against the all-metal construction of the original VCI-100. While some may bemoan this change, the unit felt sturdy enough to me (I picked it up and gave it a good twist!) and the top is still metal. The jogwheels, moreover, are extremely good quality; rock-solid, with no give in them at all. I believe this unit will last well.
The only thing I didn’t like about the new design were two thin strips of blue light along the left and right underside of the unit. Similar lights to these were popular on the underside of cars driven by teenagers in our neighbourhood a few years ago, for about a week, until even they realised how uncool they were.
They give the unit the appearance of a toy, which it isn’t. It’s hard enough to get people to take controllers seriously at times anyway, and aesthetically this doesn’t help the cause. I wonder if someone will come out with a firmware hack to turn them off?
Overall, the unit is of a higher standard of construction than the Spin and Typhoon controllers at the bottom end of the Vestax range, but it’s not as solid (or heavy, or big) as the VCI-300.
An all-in-one controller
Another big change is that the VCI-100 Mk II has a built-in sound interface, meaning you do not need a separate DJ sound interface to be able to DJ properly with it – everything you need is on board. There is, in my view, a lot of snobbery out there about onboard sound. There is absolutely no reason why onboard sound need be in any way inferior to that from external sound interfaces. Who wants to carry around two boxes if they don’t have to?
While I have to admit to having not had a chance to actually hear the sound from this thing, I would expect it to sound fine, as I can’t see the sound quality at this price point being allowed by Vestax to be anything lower than perfectly acceptable. Still, I’ll be interested to check this as soon as I get a chance. There are two sets of phono outs, meaning you can plug this into an external mixer if you wish and control both channels separately away from the internal mixer.
There’s also an Aux input which you can plug something like an iPod into. If this functionality works as it does on the VCI-300 (and I strongly suspect that it does), it is meant as a back-up should your computer software fail. It means you can hit “play” on your iPod and reboot while the music carries on from this emergency source.
With Traktor Pro offering 4 decks, and Virtual DJ 7 about to do the same, the fact that the VCI-100 Mk II offers 4 decks means it will happily be able to drive both of these programs.
While it doesn’t have “true” 4-deck control, there are simple switches on each channel to switch between the decks – similar to the Hercules DJ Console 4 Mx, which was itself announced merely days ago. I think the way the 4 decks are dealt with here strikes the right balance between ease of use and flexibility in a controller of this size, and many DJs will be happy they can do this on the VCI-100 Mk II.
More intuitive controls
The controls are now laid out in a more intuitive and sensible way to the slightly sub-standard layout of the original VCI-100, with similar controls for each deck making it easier to get your head around how it works and more sensible to use overall. There is more flexibility in the effect section, and looping is easy to understand. Everything is solid and well made, the knobs having a pleasing feel to them and the right amount of “give”, and the crossfader is nice and loose like it should be.
As a flexible, compact 4-deck controller for Traktor or Virtual DJ, the new VCI-100 is a worthy piece of kit. While the switch from all-metal construction to plastic and metal may be controversial, it is still a well-made (and now lighter) unit. Four decks is a great addition, and the sound card on board is a no-brainer.
It is my suspicion that Vestax will at some point introduce a VCI-200 to sit between this and the VCI-300, and such a controller would probably be heavier and more substantial. If so, that might explain why the company may have repositioned the VCI-100 slightly to sit between this as-yet un-launched controller and the Spin and Typhoon models at the bottom of the range.
Whether that’s the aim or not, the new controller looks good, is well endowed with features, and as long as it turns out to sound OK, it gets the Digital DJ Tips thumbs-up. Whether it sells or not with all the new competition in the market place and at this price point is another matter.
Are you a current VCI-100 user who was thinking of upgrading when this finally came out? Will you still upgrade now you’ve seen it? Or has another controller stolen your heart in the meantime? Let us know.