A couple of nights ago, I was discussing the relative merits of the Vestax VCI-400 with reviewer Ken Uston. For him, it is without a shadow of a doubt the ultimate controller, provided you take the time to tailor it through mapping to do exactly what you want it to do. “But Ken” I countered, “I just want my gear to work out of the box”, which was met with more than a little derision, as if I was some lazy work-shy fop wanting a quick fix.
My needs come from my busy life. I simply do not have the time to hack and experiment with mappings, OSC or Bomes to create the perfect symbiosis between man and machine. I’m quite happy to take whatever comes out of the box and adjust my not especially complex style to suit what features lay before me. For me, the small compromises are more than made up for knowing that my gear works first time every time and at the highest possible responsiveness and lowest latency.
Ken however welcomes the blank canvas that is the VCI-400. He has more buttons, switches and knobs at his disposal than most people would ever use, and in turn has created some stupidly complex mappings to truly bring the VCI-400 to life. He doesn’t want to be restricted to whatever DJ dogma is pushed upon him by various manufacturers – he wants unrestricted freedom to use whatever software he wants.
I look at the agnostic VCI-400 and see too much choice. Then I look at the ITCH specific VCI-380 and experience Nirvana. Yes, there’s a whole world open to me, but I’d rather the likes of Serato and Native hard-coded features to controls and printed what it does on the faceplate. However, I really do get both sides of this, and welcome both approaches with open arms. One day, in the not to distant future, I’ll have the time to grab something like an APC40 or Livid box and maps the living crap out of it.
The recent storm in a teacup about NI closing off remix decks to 3rd party controllers shows that there is a small but strong voice that wants to be able to map any hardware to any software and expect excellent response – and part of me agrees, even if it is incredibly hard to achieve and equally hard for manufacturers to support. It’s clearly much easier to come up with a feature and make hardware that does that one thing perfectly, rather than have to worry about that feature working across the most controllers and have to support them all.
So over to you. Do you like your hardware and software to be as agnostic and open as possible? Or would you rather it just damned well worked first time every time without having to unleash some arcane coding devilment to make it all play nice?