Link: Vestax - Price: $999 /€799 /£629
The VCI-400 is an interesting beast to review, to be sure. In this day and age, reviewing a controller tends to be just as much about reviewing the software included as it is about the hardware in question, making the controller almost less of a centerpiece than what it has a relationship with. Even if it only comes with beginner software, the upgrade path dictates that you will be mostly focusing on what it is tied to, and less about the possibilities. While the VCI-400 has no special magic pixie dust that allows you to map in ways you can’t with other controllers, it does have a few tricks up its sleeve that should make you reconsider your notions about what controller you should be purchasing.
Out of the box, there are no real surprises. USB cable, quick start guide, manual, software CD and power adapter. There is also a pack of overlay stickers that come in the box which conform to the “standard” mappings that Vestax provides “just to get you started”. The overlay stickers themselves leave a bad impression at first, feeling somewhat cheap and sticker-like, but there is actually a benefit to their thinness. Applying them, they essentially bleed into the paint job, as if they are not even there. Kudos.
The included power adapter is something of a mixed bag. On one hand, the rotating plug is rather genius, allowing you to fit your adapter in almost any tight power strip. On the negative side, would it have killed them to make it just a hair longer? Given that the unit cannot be bus powered, having a long power lead is a huge nice to have, and, having played out with it, I would have loved to have even a few more centimeters of length.
The unit itself is built like a tank. No exceptions – this may be the best built piece of gear I have owned since my 1200’s. From the 3mm thick upper chassis to the nutted pots, it feels like it could be used as a weapon. It is the kind of gear that makes you feel “pro” just by virtue of holding it.
Vestax is known for having some of the highest quality faders in the business, and the VCI-400 doesn’t disappoint… but it doesn’t set the bar high either. Each fader is a short-body Alpha style fader, and it can be estimated that the life span is about the same as the average (100k cycles). The crossfader is loose, but not overly so. You can scratch with it, but don’t expect an Innofader. The line faders, while appearing to be the same, are very heavily dampened. You aren’t going to be cutting on them, but they are a dream to mix with.
The pots on the VCI-400 are all chassis-nutted with metal stems, and all feel quite durable. Smartly, the faceplate sits raised above an inner chassis where the pots are nutted, with the knobs sinking in just a hair. This should lead to less chance of breakage from a lateral hit.
The buttons on the VCI-400 sit between two styles, a soft rubber and a hard plastic. The button style makes sense for each location, with the soft rubber buttons sitting in what is typically mapped in the transport section and the hard plastic buttons sitting in what would likely be mapped to hot cues. The larger hard plastic buttons rest very low above the switch, making rapid triggering a doddle. The soft rubber transport buttons, while feeling more comfortable, are a little less suitable for rapid fire button presses, with their travel a bit longer and their wobble a bit higher. That said, for general Play/Cue commands, they are extremely comfortable.