The Vestax VCI-380 has landed in the DJbooth.net Lab for the big tests which it passes with flying colors! This new successor to the popular VCI-300 has been updated with upgrades in almost ever single facet. The Vestax VCI-380 has Bigger Jog wheels, 2 x 8 Performance Pads with Loads of functions, and it can function as a true stand-alone mixer right out of the box. Check out my HD-Video and written reviews after the jump.
Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The Vestax VCI-380 is the new two-channel Digital DJ controller update to the widely popular Serato Itch VCI-300 controller that Vestax released a couple of years ago. Vestax and Serato have taken the time to upgrade the VCI-300 in almost every area in order to come up with the new Vestax VCI-380 that DJ’s will love just as much or more than the previous version. The Vestax VCI-380 still holds onto the same compact size making it easy to fit into a backpack or small DJ bag. The VCI-380 is a super-durable DJ controller with its full-metal body construction and heavyweight feel to it.
The Vestax VCI-380 can now function as a stand-alone mixer for those who want to plug in up to two external devices or decks for mixing playback. Around the back of the unit are two RCA inputs (one for each channel) with a button for each input to switch them to PHONO or LINE level depending on the type of decks connected. Each one has its own gain knob and they share a ground post for analog decks. There is an RCA booth output with a volume knob around the back and a Master Out XLR pair which is controlled by the Volume knob on the face of the VCI-380. There is also a MIC 1 XLR input with volume control knob and a MIC 2 quarter-inch input also with its own volume control knob.
Each deck has the new and improved Vestax Jog wheels which are very high-resolution and have a ribbed metal surface that feels super-sturdy. The Middle of each jog wheel has a new LED indicator to visually display the position of the “needle” for the track. Also in the middle of the jog wheel is the Vestax torque adjustment wheel that allows the DJ’s to change the tension of the jog wheel. Each jog wheel also has its own Touch Sensor Adjustment knob on the front panel of the controller. Just as with the other Vestax controllers, these jog wheels are very nice and are slightly larger than the others. They are great for scratching, back-cueing and just about everything else you can throw at them. Under the jog wheels are the standard Play/Pause, CUE, and SYNC buttons which are hard plastic. Each Deck also has a Pitch range button that doubles as a Key Lock button when shift is pressed. Each deck has a 60mm short throw pitch slider which does a great job of accurately riding the pitch and they are located towards the outside of each deck for a mirrored style layout. Each Deck also has its own 3-Band Full-Kill EQ with their own FX Select knob, FX Depth knob and FX on/off button to select one of Serato Itch’s 12 individual track effects. Right in the middle of the VCI-380 lays the transport and load controls.
The big encoder knob in the middle is for scrolling through tracks and folders while the Back and FWD buttons aid with navigation through media files. Towards the top of the controller is the Master volume knob and toggle switches for each channel so that the DJ can switch between PC mode or external input Mixer Mode to change between playing computer files and live inputs on the fly. The Vestax VCI-380 crossfader and linefaders are pretty good for mixing and scratching as they are the same ones found on the Vestax VCI-400.
The crossfader is loose and has a 2mm cut in distance which was good enough to pull off all types of fast scratches with a bit of adjustment. The crossfader has its own curve adjustment knob. The Crossfader can be replaced for either a Vestax CF-X2 (see our installation video on the VCI-400 here) or with an Innobender for those of us who really get down with the scratching flavor. The linefaders are a bit longer and have more tension making them ideal for smooth and slow mixing. The linefaders also have a curve adjustment knob which made scratching on them a bit better. The Cue Volume and Cue/Master knobs are on the front panel of the VCI-380 along with the quarter-inch and mini headphone outputs.
Next up we have the coolest feature found on the Vestax VCI-380 which is the 2 x 8-Velocity Sensitive FSR Trigger Pads found on each deck directly above the jog wheels. These pads are meant to correspond with the four different functions listed in the top four buttons of the Vestax VCI-380. These 8 pads per deck are responsible for handling the Hot Cues, Slicer, Autoloops, and Roll effects, Sampling, and Pad Effects. The 8-pads are angled slightly towards the user, which is similar to how the Denon SC multi-media players angle the screen towards the user. All of these pads are velocity sensitive meaning they can react based upon the amount of pressure or length of time the button is pressed. These buttons have a rubbery but solid feel to them. Similar to those found on production style equipment for drumming beats. The feel very good during use and I didn’t have many missed presses or issues with pressing them off to the side. They are VERY Good performance style pads and are sure to please most users in terms of overall feel and reaction time.
Hot Cues – These 8 pads turn into 8 hot cue points for each deck when Hot Cue button is pressed at the top. To set a cue point, simply let the track play and press a Cue Point pad at the time you wish to save the Cue. In order to recall the cue, simply press the button. To delete the cue, hold down the shift button and press the pad of the cue point you want to delete. Simple, clean, and lots of fun with the pads.
Slicer – These 8 pads turn into eight small “slices” of different sections of the song that is currently being played. Basically the Slicer divides a portion of the song into eight smaller pieces that can be rearranged and played back in different order depending on how and when you hit the pads. The software remembers where the song would have been during playback if you hadn’t touched the slicer in the first place, so the song returns to the normal playing position when you are done “slicing” it up. There are two slicer modes where one remains on a loop of those 8 slices, while the other mode allows the user to keep that individual slice going throughout the song as long as the pad corresponding to that slice is held. The Parameter touch-strip can be used to half or double the amount of that slice that gets looped. The touch-strip can also be used to set the default slicer from 1/8 of a beat to 1 full beat. To cycle between these two slicer Modes, simply press the Slicer button again and the pads will change from red to green to let you know what mode you are in.
Autoloop – The first function turns these 8 pads turn into autoloop beatmatched pads of various sizes when the Autoloop Button is pressed. Each pad will correspond to the bar-size you are looking for. The first pad is 1/32nd of a beat while the 8th pad is 4 beats. You can divide or double any loop you have started by using the touch-strip to grow or shorten the size of the loop. The second function turns the 8 pads into 8 different loop store locations that almost acts as 8 hot cues that will continuously play loops.
Roll – The loop roll divides the 8 pads into 8 small pieces of an audio track which can be manipulated and pressed for some cool mash-ups while the track continues to play underneath it all and comes back in when the user stops pressing/manipulating the pads.
Sampler – In order to get the sampler mode on-screen, the user must use a mouse to bring it up. A mouse must also be used to sync the sample to what is already playing in the master. There are a total of 12-samples per side for a total of 24 samples that are ready at any given time. The First six buttons are the actual sample banks while the two remaining buttons allows the user to scroll through the (4) pages of available sample banks. The Samples are even accessible if the user is playing external decks through the mixer portion of the VCI-380.
Pad FX – The Pad FX knob found on the top corner of each deck can be used to select one of the (12) Serato Itch effects found in the software. The Pad FX can be used in conjunction with the other Pad initiated functions to add effects on top of the mash-ups that are currently in place. Once the effect is selected, the DJ can now use the 8 velocity-sensitive pads which will react based on how hard or how long you press and hold the pads. For example, if a beatmasher effect is pressed softly and quickly, the effect will only be minor and barely heard, while if you push the button very hard and hold it down for a while, the user will get a loud and exaggerated effect. The DJ-FX panel in the software will clearly show how much of the percentage of the effect is active at a given time. This feature works excellent throughout our use and the possibilities are endless since the 12-effects can be added to loops, rolls, and slices in ways to make the original track sound almost unrecognizable in the end.
Conclusion / Recommended For
On the downside, the Vestax VCI-380 has changed the way reloops are handled from its previous versions of Itch found on the VCI-300 and in SSL. There has been a backlash towards Vestax and Rane on their respective DJ forums by some DJ’s who use reloops in their DJ sets on the VCI-300 and have already upgraded to the VCI-380 only to find that their preset reloops are useless. I’ll try to explain this as much as possible. On previous versions of Itch (VCI-300) and in SSL, DJ’s are allowed to save a reloop point in a track. The DJ can then play that track from the beginning and when the track gets to the reloop point, it will continuously play on a loop until the reloop is turned off by the DJ. On the new version of Itch on the VCI-380, these reloops will jump all the way to the reloop point when triggered (almost like a cue point) instead of allowing the DJ to play the track from the beginning and auto-looping at the reloop point. This isn’t an issue for the way I spin, but its worth pointing out to previous VCI-300 and SSL users who absolutely need this function. The loops on the Vestax VCI-380 are also all automatic. I’m from the old-school world and I really like being able to manually control the loop in and out points myself. Having said that, the VCI-380 handles auto-loops with good accuracy, but some like to set them on their own. My final gripe with the Vestax VCI-380 is the lack of on-board sample controls. DJ’s can trigger the (24) available samples from the pads but most functions, such as sample sync, are buried within the software and require a keyboard or mouse to get them on-screen.
At the end of the day, the Vestax VCI-380 is a very welcomed upgrade to the popular VCI-300. Everything that Vestax could have upgraded was done to make improvements to almost every facet of this DJ controller. The Vestax VCI-380 is very compact for easy transport, while it remains very strong and sturdy due to its mostly metal design. The new 2 x 8 Velocity sensitive pads are so much fun to use while being able to handle most of the track manipulation duties on their own. The Vestax VCI-380 has new and improved jog wheels with the LED indicator for needle position and it can work as a standalone Mixer right out of the box. The standard crossfader is good on its own, but can be replaced by a CF-X2 or Innobender for serious scratching needs. On the downside, the loops are handled differently than previous versions of Serato and there is a lack of on-board sample controls as well. This controller is meant for users who want to use Serato as their software of choice as this controller is not MIDI mappable. I recommend the Vestax VCI-380 to current Serato Itch or SSL users who are looking for a compact controller solution for their DJ needs. I’ll also recommend the VCI-380 to any DJ looking for an upgrade to their current VCI-300 or for any SSL DVS DJ who wants a controller that can fit seamlessly into their setup while being able to handle all the hot cue, loop, and DJ software functions that we use today.
- Compact and Very Strong Completely Metal Design
- Intuitive 2 x 8 Velocity-Sensitivie Trigger Pad Section to Handle Loops, Samples, PadFX, Beat Slicer & Cue Points
- Can work as a Stand-alone Mixing Console
- Nice Metal jog wheels w/High resolution and Needle-Position LED Indicator
- Alpha Style Crossfader with low cut-in Distance and External Curve adjustment
- User-replaceable/upgradeable Crossfader (Vestax CF-X2 or Innobender Compatible)
- Loops - Reloops Handled differently from Other Versions of Serato & No Manual Loop
- Lack of on-board Sample controls (all done by Computer Keyboard)