So you wanna DJ?

The Vestax VCI-100 is considered the Cadillac of MIDI DJ controllers. While not the most expensive, it’s definitely the easiest, most straightforward controller I’ve ever used.

The Vestax VCI-100 is considered the Cadillac of MIDI DJ controllers. While not the most expensive, it’s definitely the easiest, most straightforward controller I’ve ever used. What follows is an in-depth review of my favorite controller: its strengths, weaknesses and a few cool tricks to boot.

Released in 2007, the VCI was not the first digital DJ controller on the market. Several others attempt the claim of first on the market, while this may be true, very few of them were good. Early models featured poor switches, bad crossfaders, unreliable bugs or freezes and a multitude of other problems. It would not be until the VCI came out that there was a controller clear in its directive to become number one on the market.

The VCI-100 features two circular jog wheels, 34 buttons, 19 knobs and five sliders. The crossfader is up front, and is one of the most important facets of a DJ mixer, allowing one to effectively fade between two tracks or fluidly mix them together. A smooth, yet heavy action of this fader feels great. A crossfader-curve adjustment can be made on the backside of the mixer to switch between an arced curve suitable for longer mixers where two tracks are intended to be played at the same time and a short, flat curve best geared towards scratching or hip-hop mixing.

I found the length of the crossfader to be relatively comparable to that of a more traditional DJ mixer that you might find from Pioneer or Rane. All the faders on the VCI feel similar, with the exception of the pitch faders, which have a detent halfway down much like the pitch adjustment on a turntable.

The jog wheels are where this thing can get a little funky. Upon the initial release of the VCI, the jog wheels were a little buggy—either too sensitive or not sensitive enough (even considering the sensitivity adjustment on the rear of the unit). When released an alternate firmware for the unit, all problems seemed to disappear. The jog wheels are now multifunctional, with two different touch areas on the face of the wheel and the side of the wheel allowing for control of two different parameters.

The four buttons on each side below the jog wheels are for the basic play, pause and cue functions of the unit. The LED lights underneath are great, indicating green and orange for on or off respectively. A pretty light click seems to do it on these buttons, but repeated presses in a rapid-fire motion seem to be a little hard on the wrists. Some communities have taken to modifying the controller to add spring-loaded arcade buttons to solve this problem.

The knobs that are featured nearly all over the unit are top notch. They feel simple to turn, have center detents at 12 o’clock and are easily switched out to a third-party knob of your choice. The first version of the unit features silver knobs that are reflective and bright even under a low light setting.

All of this is encased in a silver metal housing with the unit weighing in at a few ounces under six pounds. This thing is definitely a beast. It could take more than a lick or two and definitely keep rocking for years. A few years after the premiere of the VCI-100, a black unit appeared on the market. While completely the same, it answers the question for those of you asking, “Does it come in black?” The MK-II version released in 2010 should be avoided at all costs, however. With a terrible built in soundcard, incredibly buggy jog wheels and a gross plastic feel, it feels like it might break if you jam on it too hard.

Although Vestax has discontinued production on the original VCI-100, they are still available from plenty of retailers around the Internet and available used for a ballpark of $300 to $500 on various auction websites and music gear forums. ?