Once in a while there comes around a tabletop MIDI controller so spectacular that it makes me weep with joy. The Vestax VCI-400, with its robust variety of controls, a commanding heft and build quality, and seamless compatability with many DJ programs, is definitely one of those controllers. For almost two years, the Traktor Kontrol S4 by Native Instruments has been widely recognized as the archetype of well-built, tightly-integrated, high-end controllers. I predict that is all about to change with the Vestax VCI-400.
The first thing I noticed after unboxing and plugging in the VCI-400 is how beautiful and well-built it is. The metal, the paint, the faders, and the knobs are all gorgeous and well laid-out, and I could stare at the bright LEDs in the jog wheels and VU meters all day. Everything, right down to the switches and audio connections, just gives the feel of high quality, and that is something I truly appreciate in a controller of this price range.
The VCI-400 offers a huge amount of control over a four-deck DJ program, giving users the ability to switch between two-deck combinations accompanied by a change of LED color scheme. The mixer section also offers shiny red filter knobs (something I miss sorely in most MIDI controllers) as well as some really beautiful faders. I was also extremely satisfied to see a complete dedicated effects section with a more-than-acceptable amount of parameter control. Perhaps my favorite features of the VCI-400 are the four arrays of soft pads, just begging to be assigned to loops and samples. What’s even better is that the soft pads located just below the jog wheels have three switchable layers, allowing for excellent customization of some easy-to-reach, easy-to-trigger buttons.
One of the most wonderful things about the VCI-400 is how well it works with EVERY deck-based DJ software, from Serato to Traktor to Virtual DJ (and, no doubt, a slew of other MIDI-mappable software packages). The included Serato DJ Intro provides a fabulous introduction to the controller’s capabilities, but doesn’t nearly use up all of the VCI-400’s buttons and features!
The VCI-400 also has the ability to mix two auxiliary audio sources completely independent of a laptop, allowing for integration with CD players or even external DVS systems. The controller also has a built-in 24-bit/48kHz sound card for high-quality playback through phone jacks or XLR (sorry, no RCA). Two hybrid XLR/phone inputs for microphones round out the package, allowing for almost any imaginable combination of analog and digital audio sources.
Even for its high price point, the VCI-400 is arguably worth the money – and even if not immediately, it certainly would pay off in the long run. No other controller I’ve encountered looks this beautiful, is built this well, or behaves as perfectly with every DJ program (except Ableton). The expertly crafted control layout, flawless MIDI and audio performance, compatibility with external audio, and overall aesthetic perfection combine to make the VCI-400 a truly ideal laptop DJ experience. Bravo, Vestax.