Vestax VCI-380 Serato ITCH controller

I feel quite confident in saying that Vestax paved the way for the absolute mountain of 2 channel MIDI controllers currently littering the DJ scene. The VCI-100 is the blueprint that others have followed – Vestax included – and the design hasn’t really been strayed far from ever since. Beyond the 100 came the oh so desirable VCI-300, but the 100MK2 doesn’t seem to have floated many people’s boats. And the 4 channel VCI-400 is just too much controller for a lot of people.

This new VCI-380 however drags Vestax back to the successful formula. For me, it’s a proper melting pot of Vestax’s VCI-300, 400, Pad One and a small injection of Twitch DNA. And on the face of it, the genetically modified result is damned hot.

Before I go in-depth. let’s give Vestax their important platform to tell you about their new baby in their own words. Cue video:

Vestax VCI-380 Serato Itch Midi controller

Vestax VCI-380 Serato Itch Midi controller

Vestax VCI-380 Serato Itch Midi controller

VCI-380 is a 2 channel DJ controller with a built-in DJ mixer, powerful and creative, opening the door to limitless possibilities of controllerism. Mix, scratch, cue, effect, sample, trigger, loop and slice. Every feature of the VCI-380 is optimized to enhance the DJs performance and take a new approach in manipulating music. Designed hand in hand with Serato, VCI-380 is bundled with ITCH, providing an arsenal of musical craft tools with perfect integrity, straight out of the box.

Controllerism is the art and practice of using musical software controllers (e.g. MIDI, OSC, Joystick, etc) to build upon, mix, scratch, remix, effect, modify, or otherwise create music, usually by a Digital DJ or “Controllerist”. 

The term was coined by Moldover in 2007 and popularized by Ean Golden to describe the process while paying homage to and giving respect to the art of turntablsim. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

EVERYTHING IS AT YOUR FINGER TIPS

The 2 x 8 banks of FSR trigger pads on the VCI-380 are jam packed with creative Performance Modes such as the Slicer, Roll, Sampler, Loop, Hot Cue and Pad FX. With the given features you can trigger cue points, samples, loops, slice up beats, and shoot off Pad FX together.

Pad FX creates amazing combinations to manipulate music in ways nobody else has before: holding each pad (aftertouch) will modify the FX parameter, along with triggering Performance Mode functions.FX are an essential tool to spice up your performance; in addition to Pad FX, each deck features classic FX controls.The Ribbon control on each deck alters the parameters of Pad FX, swipes, holds and needle drops tracks.

ULTRA-STABLE  PERFORMANCE

The legendary jog wheels from the Vestax VCI series have stepped up in their game with an advanced structure and larger platters for extra stability and smoothness. The platters of the VCI-380 are highly responsive, transmitting MIDI signals with extreme accuracy. The LED needle point embedded in the jog wheel provides excellent visual monitoring, indicating the decks playback position.  The torque of the jog wheels can be adjusted to your preference, and as like all VCI series controllers you can pitch bend the track by touching the sides of the jog wheels.

STAND ALONE MIXER

The stand alone mixer function of the VCI-380 has great capacity for adaptability. The two hybrid channels are capable of mixing external devices such as CD players, turntables and MP3 players, together with tracks and samples Serato ITCH is playing. Each channel has an RCA Phono/Line input for limitless connection options, and the crossfader and input faders curve can be adjusted like any DJ mixer.  Mixes with the input source can be tweaked with Trim, EQ and in addition, the FX knobs on each channel function as Hi-Pass filters, to add an extra touch to your performance.

AMAZING SOUND

The built in high quality 24Bit/48kHz audio interface based on technology developed with the critically acclaimed Vestax VCI-400, features BIT-Perfect audio powered by a studio grade asynchronous USB streaming system. This extremely advanced technology provides low latency, premium sound quality and outputs your mix, analog or digital, at its true clarity. Some say seeing is believing. For the VCI-380, listening is believing.

FEATURES

  • 2 Channels USB MIDI controller for Serato ITCH
  • Built-in 24Bit/48kHz audio interface
  • 2 x 8 Performance Pads with Velocity & Aftertouch
  • 5 performance modes (Hot Cue, Auto Loop, Slicer, Roll, Sampler)
  • PAD FX function
  • Channel FX controls
  • Ribbon (strip) control for Pad parameters and Needle Drop
  • Large scale 5 1/3 inch jog wheels with needle position display
  • 2 Channel stand-alone audio mixer with Phono / Line input
  • Hi-Pass filter, Trim and 3 band Eq on stand-alone mixer.
  • 2 Mic inputs with volume control
  • Balanced Master output (XLR) & Booth output (RCA)
  • 19″ rackmount kit (optional)
  • Robust metal body construction
  • CFX-2 (Digital Crossfader) compatible

IN THE BOX

VCI-380
Power Adaptor
User’s Manual
USB cable
Size: 427(W)x304(D)x60(H)mm (knobs included)
Weight:3.5kg
Power: SDC-7 Power Adaptor

So this is a very worthy successor to the VCI-300, and probably the unit that many VCI-400 owners had wished for instead. Seriously DJ industry – not everyone needs 4 channels.

Vestax VCI-380 - the 300 with errr... pads on 3

So what’s cool about this? The in your face addition for VCI-300 owners are the pads. They do quite a bit of work, and time will tell how ably they handle the multi tasking of busy DJs. The addition of the slicer feature from Novation’s Twitch is welcome, and for mappers out there, the velocity and aftertouch are worthy of some special mapping love too. Calm down Jared.

Vestax are making big noises about the XMOS technology inside their products too.  First seen in the VCI-400, it’s the brains that handles the MIDI and audio inside the VCIs, Essentially it makes everything sound better and work more responsively. Geek alert.

Vestax VCI-380 - the 300 with errr... pads on 4

Loving the new lightshow on the jogwheel. Referring to it in such terms is perhaps a glib dismissal, but I actually mean it this time. The video shows the smoothness and how the position of the light might actually mean something rather than just be pretty. Time will tell on that one.

Another plus in Vestax’s eyes is the full mixer function, complete with analogue filter controls. I’ve always been a tad critical of manufacturers making a big deal out of this, but when I tried it with Numark’s NS6, I was glad to have the functionality. I saw a fluid setup where I could use the controller at the heart of my home setup, and simply take the controller out on the road. I see it as an added benefit rather than a deal breaker though. DJs are more likely to buy this for its controller functionality and its ability to hook up turntables.

And I think because of the mixer capability, the VCI-380 is not USB powered. This makes me happy as it means Vestax haven’t had to compromise anywhere to get the power that the unit needs. So this means full volume and full bright LED feedback too. Others will be less happy of course as it means finding a spare socket in a possibly crowded booth.

Vestax VCI-380 - the 300 with errr... pads on 5

If I were to make one blot in the copybook, it would be the lack of effects controls. We’re becoming accustomed to a bank of knobs for different parameters, but effects seem like a last minute addition. But I suspect that Vestax are aiming this more at the sample and loop DJs rather the effects heavy EDM DJs. Obviously we’ll report back if too many compromises have been made here.

Interesting observation – this is the first ITCH controller in quite some time. There were none announced at BPM or NAMM, despite the market gagging for an ITCH blessed VCI-400. But Vestax designate this as an open platform, so expect mappings for all major software apps in due course.

Overall, I’m really impressed. I’m a 2 channel kind of guy and have always been a fan of the VCI-300 and ITCH – yes an unpopular software choice but it does what I need it to, and does it really well. The build, the attention to details like dual headphones and XLRs stand out. I’m especially keen to get to grips with the pads and see just how well they deal with switching in and out of loops, cues and such like.

Vestax VCI-380 - the 300 with errr... pads on 6

Now, for this stellar build, cool features and solid performance, there is of course a hefty bottom line. The Vestax VCI-380 comes in at $999/€799/£699 – making it by far the most expensive 2 channel controller on the market. Take the US price with a pinch of salt – they’re always quote in a stupidly inflated price that nobody ever charges – the street price will be much cheaper. Well… it better had be anyway. Seeing that price tag will make people consider the decision carefully. This is not a no-brainer kneejerk price range, especially for a 2 channel controller. Look at it this way – you essentially get a VCI-300 and Twitch in one unit. That should make it easier to rationalise in your own mind.

Due out in May, we’ll have a review ready for launch.


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