Link: Vestax – Price: $899/€799/£599
What with Mark’s review of the VCI-380 elsewhere on DJWORX, my goal with this review isn’t to reinvent the (jog) wheel but to speak on things from my perspective and elaborate on some of the things that Mark touched on but left me to round out. If I more or less echoed Mark’s opinion on an aspect of the controller, I opted not to waste your time repeating it (hence a lack of audio quality waffle). Aside from my experiences with the workflow and implementation in ITCH, I’ll be taking a good look at using the VCI-380’s mixer capability with DVS software. Let’s get to it.
The build quality of the VCI-380 is excellent. As mentioned, Mark has already waxed lyrical over the unit and I agree with most of his points about the nuts and bolts implementation. There’s just one thing that irks me about the design of the VCI-380, though, and that’s the tension adjust wheels. I love being able to adjust tension on wheels, because for me tight is best for scratching and loose is best for effects. Having the adjustment control in the centre of the wheel without any locking mechanism means that I invariably loosen the wheel off when my hands are all over it however, which seems to me like a bit of a design oversight. That aside, I echo Mark: lovely stuff.
The first thing I noticed with the pads is that they’re VERY bouncy. I’ve been assured by Vestax* that the first couple of units out of the factory are a little less sensitive than subsequent units, and that can only be a good thing for those fresher units because if you don’t hammer the pad quite hard, missed presses are a threat. There have been times when I’ve pressed and held a pad only to have my press bounce out of range and stop being recognised, too, which is a bit of a concern. If you’ve got one of the very earliest units and feel like you’re running into these issues, it’s worth dropping Vestax a line.
*PAD UPDATE from Mark Settle
Chris and myself experienced issues with the pads, but it turns out that the review unit was from a pre-production batch. The issue was spotted and fixed for all production units. I’ve yet to see anyone complain about the pads (and believe me they would), so we’re pretty confident that the pads are just fine now.
The reason – at least I presume – that the pads are so bouncy is that the much touted pressure sensitivity needs a decent amount of wiggle room, so to speak. There’s no doubt that the pressure sensitivity is a real standout feature of the VCI-380, and it’s one that has some really cool creative potential. Once you’ve activated a pad, there’s a lot of fun to be had with how simply and (with a little practice) accurately you can adjust effects by modifying how hard you’re pressing. There is an issue though, although admittedly this is purely my own opinion…
Herein lies the biggest issue for the VCI-380: The ITCH effects are under par for the capabilities of the controller. The VCI-380’s design points squarely at advanced effects mangling, but in practice there’s not actually that much that can be done with the pressure sensitive pads. A single effect from ITCH’s fairly limited selection is available for layering onto cue points, slicer, loops and so on, but there’s no real customisation of what those effects can do which leaves some of them a little useless for pressure commands and others lacking.
The filters are the easiest to play with, allowing for filter sweeps over loop rolls and the like, but try to play with bit crusher or reverb and you’re likely to find that there’s not much musicality you can get out of the pressure sensitive pads – a 100% depth bitcrusher is just noise, and a 100% depth reverb doubles the volume of the track.
Being able to adjust the maximum depth of the effect, layer more than one effect onto the pad FX layer, and ideally have access to multiple pad FX on different pads without even having cues, loops, or slicer enabled would be a huge step forward, and Scratch Live already has much of this capability. It’s something I’d really love to see in ITCH.