If there is one unit on the current DJ mixer/controller market that deserves the designation “all-in-one,” it would be the American Audio VMS4. Packing a full-fledged 4-channel mixer, MIDI controls for software transport and effects, and a flexible and powerful ASIO sound card all into one extremely sturdy and satisfyingly robust metal housing, the VMS4 is a promising unit affordable enough for the entry-level crowd and capable enough for the pros.
Upon first glance, the most notable feature of the VMS4 is its commanding size and rugged build. Sporting a full metal casing, rubberized corners and a plethora of tough rubber knobs, the VMS4 is a visual and tactile wonder that constantly reminds you of its incredible might. As hefty as this unit is (it weighs almost 15 pounds!), it is still light enough to transport comfortably, and the extra weight is completely justifiable considering its reassuring durability and the abundance of features included.
The mixer portion of the VMS4 is where the unit really shines, allowing for full 4-deck control of any imaginable combination of software and analog sources such as turntables, CDJs, and MP3 players. This is accomplished through the VMS4’s four “midilog” channels, which are each independently switchable to receive audio either from your computer or from an RCA input on the back of the device. Whether you want to control four decks of computer audio, mix together four turntables, or host a sonic orgy of computer, turntable, drum machine, and synthesizer audio, the VMS4 lets you do it all. In fact, the VMS4 can even be used as a standalone mixer if something happens to your computer. Each midilog channel includes full EQ, gain control, its own fader, and a cue button. The unit’s crossfader can also be assigned to any combination of two decks. Cueing is simple and intuitive on the VMS4, with a handy little knob to control the relative amount of mix and cue channels coming through the headphones.
The VMS4 is also a potent MIDI controller, with plenty of buttons and knobs to give you full control of effects, loops, cue points, tempo, and virtual deck transport. The nice, sturdy jog wheels feel great, are a joy to control, and have a nice, smooth spin. Another fantastic feature of the VMS4 is the built-in track pad for controlling your computer’s mouse. The backlit buttons are also really nice to have in dark club situations, and their capacity to display different colors helps to keep track of which button is doing what at any given moment. The parameter and EQ knobs also have lights built into their indicator notches, allowing you to easily keep track of your mixer settings in full darkness and without computer aid. However, these lights are not much help in bright environments, and in these situations alone simple white markers might have been preferable.
The standard VMS4 ships with an included VMS4 Lite Edition of Virtual DJ. However, it can also easily be employed to control any version of Traktor, with the help of many intuitive and customizable mappings. (The official American Audio mapping can be found here, and my personal favorite mapping is located here.) American Audio has also recently released the VMS4 Traktor, which includes a modified silkscreen overlay to better accommodate Traktor users. However, for those who wish to use DVS control, it is worth noting that the VMS4 audio card is not licensed by Native Instruments for use with any version of Traktor Scratch (although it can indeed be used for DVS control in Virtual DJ).
The powerful built-in soundcard is yet another reason the VMS4 is a great value. The device handles incoming USB audio like a champ, with the ability to switch easily between MIDI control of software EQ and true hardware EQ of unmodified software channels. The unit can be switched between 4-channel USB audio with the ability to record your mixes to software or 2-channel USB audio with DVS capabilities. The only downside to the USB audio is that its ASIO driver can only be used by one application at a time (though there are ways to get around this problem – see here). For each of the four midilog channels, the VMS4 provides an RCA input, and there are line/phono switches and grounding available for turntable users. Two microphone inputs are also available in both XLR and ¼-inch flavors, with full mic EQ, gain, and muting controls on the front panel. The VMS4 also has RCA master and booth outputs, balanced XLR master outputs, and a ¼-inch headphone jack for cueing.
Overall, the VMS4 is one incredible unit that could easily hold its own as a standalone mixer, controller, or sound card. The fact that it does all three so well is simply astounding. With a solid construction that almost dares you to throw it out a window and see what happens (please don’t) and an extremely versatile and liberating array of MIDI controls and mixer channels, this solid piece by American Audio might just be the only DJ tool you need.