Review: Vestax VAI-80 Tank
If you’re a digital DJ or producer who’s ever wanted a little more control over your sound card’s inputs and outputs, the Vestax VAI-80 audio interface (US$309/£199/€244) – also known as “The Tank” – might be the device you’ve been looking for. It comes in bright red (as opposed to the silver colour of its Japan-only release last year), and with quality metal construction and striking features, it’s a devilishly good-looking beast. But what marks it out from the competition? We thought a quick VAI-80 review would get to the bottom of it…
To start with, “The Tank” is – as you would guess from its looks – a high-quality sound interface, with “silky smooth” and “no complaints” being the feedback from users on its 44.1KHz/16-bit capabilities.
But its uniqueness lies in the flexibility it offers for those who need a little more in terms of manipulating inputs and outputs. For instance, it has:
- A headphone volume control – Ever wanted your headphones to “go louder” than your existing sound card can manage? With this, they can
- A proper microphone input, with level control – If you have a DJ controller and a standard sound card, there’s no easy way of throwing a microphone into the mix. With this, there is (got to be 6.3mm jack though, not XLR)
- Twin stereo RCA ins, again with levels – No poking around in your driver software to adjust the sound input volume. Now you can plug the output from your mixer in, get it tweaked to where you want it (there are switchable in/out LED level meters too) and record straight to your laptop, for instance
- Balanced XLR outputs – Plug straight into a club PA from your DJ set-up without the need for an external mixer (they’re not shown in the pics, but they’re round the back)
- Two-band EQ and level controls over both stereo outputs – Brilliant for tweaking the final sound characteristics as the signal leaves to go to the PA or whatever, again without recourse to software
So if you need to take the DJ output from a club mixer, add something else (synths, guitar etc.), get it balanced nicely and record the output straight to PC, it’s got you covered. If you want a clean XLR output from your DJ controller to a club PA, while also feeding the signal into a mixer or recorder and monitoring the results via headphones, no problem.
You pay for it though – it’s not cheap, I guess as befits all the functionality. Furthermore, an obvious omission is the lack of an RIAA phono preamp, meaning that if you want an all-purpose sound card that will let you rip vinyl to digital as well as handle all your other DJ/producer tasks, this isn’t it.
You’ll know if you’ve been waiting for a sound card like this. The bottom line is that it offers a lot of flexibility with its analogue level/EQ controls, pro-standard input and output configurations, and great build quality.
If you’re a DJ who is looking for a Swiss Army knife-style sound card that’ll see you through all kinds of as yet unforeseen sound routing and interface situations, “The Tank” might just be for you.