I love getting stuff sent to me, but I love it even more when the latest hot DJ gear is hand delivered to the worxlab, Such was the case with the new Vestax VCI-380, which is perhaps the most anticipated new DJ controller for some time. But unlike Musikmesse, this was  hands-ons, but sadly for but the briefest moment in time.

DISCLAIMER: Because this was but the briefest of visits, there’s no way that this should be classed as a review. The hardware is finished, but the software is still beta, and I think there’s still some work to do with firmware. At this stage, a review just isn’t possible. That will come later, and our name is already on a box.

Courtesy of Mike and Takao from Vestax, the VCI-380 made its presence known in the office. Space was cleared, cables plugged in and off we went. It is, as suspected a VCI-300/Twitch mashup. Having used both at length, the is essentially the Twitch with jogwheels that people have asked for. It has the extremely familiar feel of the VCI-300, but has some important updates such as the jogwheels.

Clearly work has been done with the layout. The VCI-380 adopts much more of a mixer and 2 decks feel, which makes more sense to my old eyes, but also works better because it can be used as an analogue mixer, ready for DVS hookup (with the right interface of course), right down to the filters. And of course, you then get to map the other features of the unit via regular MIDI at the same time.

The updated jogwheels feel slick, and come complete with integrated tension adjust. Scratching and spinbacks feel amazing for a small jogwheel. The LEDs around the wheel really do work well, but at this moment in time suffer from some latency – audio and screen position is bang on, but the lights take a few milliseconds to catch up. As there is still a little under the hood work to do, I expect that this will improve.

It’s obviously the pads that are of most interest. Coming straight out of the PAD-One, they feel great and respond brilliantly. There are obvious parallels with Twitch here – 8 pads supporting hot cues (and sampler now), the wonderful ITCH slicer, auto looping and loop rolling. At this point, it would appear that looping will be automatic only and very mch tied into ITCH’s beat grids. I didn’t see a way to manually loop off beat, but with just 10 minutes of play, it’s possible that it’s in there somewhere under a shift key. I imagine that this will be confirmed pretty quickly.

Effects are a different proposition to the VCI-300 completely. ITCH gives you one effect per deck with a limited set of controls. That said, it’s more than the VCI-300 ever had unless you dropped more cash for the VFX1. And I think it’s the same set of effects as ITCH normally offers too. But it’s the pad effects that add some extra spice. You can be running one regular effect on the deck that sits on top, but the pad effects interact directly with whatever you’re doing on the pads at the time. It’s at this point that you really get what the VCI-380 is all about – creative fun.

I find myself quite excited by the VCI-380. My scepticism of the need for 4 channels is well know, and this very focussed 2 channel setup with analogue features is ticking a lot of my boxes. I don’t need liberal scoops of bells and whistles in my DJ setup. Indeed, I subscribe to the less is more maxim, and feel that if presented with a compact set of options, you’re more likely to produce something cool and make that investment work hard for you.

I’m possibly drawn to it because  like me, it’s a jack of all trades. It can be a relatively simple A to B player, a mixer running regular turntables and a DVS, or even a controllerist’s plaything with loops and effects all being controlled with complex messaging. It has a little of something for everyone. Only through some sustained testing will we be able to decide if it does them all well enough.

The Vestax VCI-380 isn’t quite ready for prime time just yet. It’s close, but Serato needs to give the next version of ITCH a final spit and polish before it can be used for playing out. But then, I suspect Vestax will seriously struggle to keep up with demand. Launch date is “May” (depends on the software t this point) with prices of £599/$999/€799.


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