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Thoughts on Vestax VCI 400

Vestax recently announced this super upgrade of the VCI300 at a price point of $1000.  This puts it into square contention with other 4-deck controllers in the same price range (Native Kontrol S4, Numark NS6, Pioneer DDJ S1 and T1 for a bit cheaper now) I have NO DOUBT that this controller (slated for late February release) will be a solid piece of equipment that really kills the 4 deck DJ controller functions where it needs to excel (the mappable matrix buttons are hugely awesome, and could really take this to the next level as a versatile dj/producer tool).  It sound like compatability with Traktor is top-notch, while Serato DJs should probably skip it until compatability with Itch is announced. (soon?)



Ok, My Pioneer DJM-909 is in the shop for the second time in 6 years.  Not a terrible record considering the heavy use it endures (last time was 2 years ago) so I want to take this opportunity to explore a few options that any DJ has in OLD SCHOOL mixers.  This would be for the person who is buying gear new or used and wants a standard 2-channel mixer without any interface or crazy controller components to it.  We’re talking old school, audio hardware here.  These are listed from cheapest to most expensive and each one of them represents a price point or feature set that I could recommend for SOMEBODY.  Feel free to ask some questions if you need some more help.

Numark M3 Numark M3 – Approx $110

Very straightforward and reasonably reliable Entry level DJ mixer.  Great for starting out with decent faders and solid EQs.  The volume faders have a weird curve that is not adjustable, otherwise a totally solid investment that will probably last beyond the year warranty period even with heavy use.  Also there is NO readout for gain on each channel which is crippling to a beginner DJ. Overall the best bargain DJ mixer.

Vestax PMC-06 – Approx $270

A super basic mixer with very few “features” but reliable, solid, great components and a nice heavy feel.  Super loose faders and reliability got vestax the name it deserves.  Doesn’t do anything fancy but is perfect for someone who wants a solid scratch setup or an inexpensive base to which they can eventually add serato/traktor etc.

Vestax PMC-05 PRO III –  Approx $400

A heartier version of the 06 and a long-time industry standard.  It will take years of abuse and it just FEELS really solid.  Obviously, these mixers are going out of vogue because of their strictly analog controls (no digital interface built-in) but this mixer holds a place in the heart of many DJs and always will.

Rane  TTM-56S – Approx $750

In the early 2000’s, Rane’s trimmed down, slickly designed mixers started becoming the new kings of the DJ scratch scene.  World class components produce excellent audio and the overall feel is very refined. This mixer is Rane’s flagship 2-Channel mixer and is exactly the same mixer as the 57SL but WITHOUT the serato interface built-in or any of the digital features. (Track loading/Cue Buttons/Control knobs etc).  The faders have a soft buttery feel as opposed to the heavier more mechanical feeling Vestax faders.  A quality Choice

Pionner DJM-909 – Approx $1200

Pioneer is known for GREAT sound.  Every piece of this mixer has an excellent feel and the sound reproduction is fantastic.  It looks and feels like a super rugged high-end audio system and has incredible responsiveness.  The feel of the faders is similar to Rane but is slightly more substantial, slightly heavier and bigger faders, give a very nice feel.  Something I’ve only noticed lately, is how responsive the volume faders are when mixing two channels, on lower end equipment, it is hard to hear subtle volume adjustments.  I think this is a function of the excellent gain controls and the precision of the volume faders.  The built-in effects unit is a superb addition and is incredibly easy to operate.  Very versatile, customizable and easy to use mixer.

Once again, these links are to the Pro Audio Star site, based out of Brooklyn, NY. Check them out for a good deal on new equipment. Next post will be on the request of the parents of a 13-year-old student.  He is just beginning to learn DJing and his dad is trying to figure out what direction to take his kid.  I will be going over pros and cons for 3 separate beginning DJ setups.  PEACE!


Numark NS7 In-Depth Review

Hey Hey

I thought I would give an updated rundown on the pros and cons of the Numark NS7.  I don’t own one of these units but two of my long-term students each have their own NS7 and I have spent many hours getting familiar with this piece of hardware and the ITCH software.  Almost all positive things to say in this review! I’ll try to make it brief since the hardware has been out for a long time.

The NUMARK NS7 DJ hardware is still my #1 piece of recommended equipment for a beginner DJ who is starting out with a digital library of music.   It has a few limitations and real vinyl turntables equipped with  Serato ScratchLive are still the best all-around DJ controllers, but the advantages of real tables are balanced with incredible ease of use, portability and VERY good scratch control.  Really only the turntablist (if your DJing relies heavily on scratching) or the DJ who uses effects extensively has any reason to find fault with the NS7.  The price is fairly reasonable for a fully integrated digital DJ system ($1225 or below on ProAudioStar.Com with free shipping) and the only way you will get a system that performs this well for cheaper is if you inherit it from your DJ buddy who is buying one of these.  Expect more price comparison details in my next review.


The robust quality of the hardware is the biggest selling point of this system.  It manages to be both compact and sturdy.  With two high powered spinning platters that put out some real torque, you can expect a very reliable piece of equipment.  The NS7 feels and performs well above the level of quality that I have come to expect from NUMARK.  They put in a huge amount of work to make sure the design was efficient and functioned well.  The integrated mixer has a great feel and is comparable to the features on a mid-high end mixer such as a Vestax PMC 05  (crossfader has a bulky but very soft feel, similar to RANE crossfaders, but bigger. Very fast and sharp cuts) and the button placement is flawless. The features list is massive and allows you to fully exploit the advantages of digital DJing (library navigation from the NS7 is solid, Hot Cues are easily at hand and VERY useful, extensive loop functions).  The sound is thick and rich and since you have both DIGITAL XLR outputs and RCA outputs you don’t sacrifice any sound quality.  The whole unit is pretty heavy (which is a good thing) but not overly cumbersome. It is compact enough that any DJ could move it on their own if they had the proper carrying case.

Literally every aspect of this hardware functions GREAT.  I have experienced very little downside to this machine and I recommend it to my students without hesitation.   I will be publishing a comparison review between the NS7, the Vestax VCI-300 and the traditional Technics setup very soon.  These are the only three equipment configurations that I recommend to my students (other than a beginner budget setup).


BUT, there are definitely a FEW downsides to the NS7. No one setup will do everything perfect.  Here are my list of CONS for the NS7

No Integrated Effects or Sampler

Since ScratchLive 2.0 came out a couple of months back, the new software has a HUGE built in Sampler and a very deep effects processing unit.  Having these two units built into your system is a MAJOR addition to the ScratchLive software.  Right now you would need to shell out some cash to get the NS7’s NSFX controller.  It integrates nicely with the hardware but will cost you $200 extra.  The sampler is also a big deal for Hip-Hop DJs or anybody that enjoys the occasional Siren or Horror movie drop… can work around it for sure, but this is a very big miss for Serato ITCH.

The Feel will NEVER be as good as Vinyl

For the scratch DJ the feel of pushing a simulated 7″ platter will never match the feel of scratching a real record, or a control record.  Try it out yourself because I know some DJs that really love the feel of the NS7. It works GREAT for scratching, but isn’t quite the same thing.  Also,  pushing or pulling the record to make fine adjustments to your mix is problematic.  Neither me nor my students have been able to get the hang of this just yet (it seems like the tiny record is just too lightweight for it to be adjusted while spinning).  The platter is robust enough to be pushed though, and the fine pitch adjustments work VERY well. Nuff said.

The included Laptop Stand is CRAP

Just skip it….it puts the laptop WAY too far away. Invest in something that will raise your laptop up, so that it is in the air over the top of the mixer.

Overall a very good option if not the best.

Check out the IN-DEPTH Skratchworx review HERE for way more detail.


Tips On Buying Used DJ Gear V.1

I teach a ton of private lessons to beginner DJs who are either looking to try DJing for the first time, or are interested in buying their first set of turntables. I am working on putting together a video series to help my students (and anybody else out there) with common questions regarding buying used gear…..but FOR NOW, here is some quick advice on buying used DJ equipment (turntables, mixer, etc)

With the economy in a slump now is a great time to pick up used DJ gear for cheap. Remember: to get started you are going to need the following:
2 Turntables
1 Mixer (2 channel, designed for DJing)
2 needles (either mounted to cartridges and a headshell, or self-contained all-in-one unit)
1 pair headphones (any will do to start)
and a home stereo unit (any stereo that has an input channel for red/white RCA cables)

This is the bare bones setup and will get a first-timer on their way.

For turntables: buy technics, vestax or Direct drive Numark……nothing else!! If you buy crappy turntables they will hinder your learning and mixing will be much less fun…..PLUS the resale value on cheap turntables is almost zero. In short, don’t skimp on your tables. Used technics are generally $200-$400 each (depending on condition), but if you check your Craigslist postings pretty frequently, you might be able to grab a package deal for much less.

Mixer: Almost any inexpensive two-channel DJ mixer should be just fine. In fact, I recommend getting a really cheap mixer (used or new) at first. A beat-up mixer won’t really inhibit your learning, but it will break relatively quickly. Luckily, you only need it to last long enough for you to find out if you actually want to spend money on DJ equipment and decide what kind of mixer features you will need. There are so many different kinds of DJ mixers out there, it is very hard to tell which one will suit your particular style the best. Therefore, get the crappiest one you can find!  Just make sure it has these options.

-Loose crossfader
-Crossfader curve adjustment
-EQs for each channel (hi mid lo knobs, or just hi lo)
-Headphone or cue channel switch (usually a fader)
-Headphone volume

Here are a few guidelines to go by when looking at used gear:

Turntable Motor: Turn on the power and start the table – adjust the pitch until the center row of large circles (on the platter, where the strobe hits) is holding still… long as you can get them to hold still and they are not wavering around like crazy this is ok. Also, make sure the table gets up to speed quickly (under two seconds) after you press the start button.

Plug in the turntable to the mixer and wiggle the phono cables to check for crackling.

Put the tone arm weight close to zero (rotate the weight on the back so the needle is almost weighless) and see if you feel any resistance when moving around the tonearm. (Ideally there is none and it should float around freely, some resistance is ok, just not a HUGE amount)

Look at the surface of the turntable and mixer. If there is a ton of dirt and grime on the outside then there is probably dirt and grime on the inside. Fiddle with all the knobs to listen for dirty connections (crackly).

Play a record and look closely at the needle sitting on the record. The cartridge and headshell should be square with the surface of the record, not rotated (clockwise or counterclockwise).

Ok, more advice on buying used gear to come. Post in the comments if you think video footage would be helpful and I’ll get it moving a bit faster.


UPDATE: Numark NS7 looks sweet, plus Stanton’s DaScratch looks LAME!

The Numark NS7 got previewed a while back and is starting to get hands-on reviews from tradeshows etc.  Numark is aiming to be the best in the game for an all in one DJ rig. Hook the unit into a laptop and you are ready to roll.  It comes packed with the same Serato Itch software (previewed in earlier post) but the whole hardware is bigger and badder. The design philosophy is similar to vestax’s vci-300: there is a one to one relationship between the buttons on the hardware and the functions in the software.  The idea is to help the digital DJ get away from the computer screen and back to manipulating the music.

Check out this link for the hardware demo.  I’m especially impressed with the “timeline search” function, which I can see being an intuitive and super useful tool.  (DJs who use Serato in Relative mode with real turntables don’t really have an easy way to jump around a track without fiddling with their mousepad)

Even more impressive is the scratching in this video.  You can tell from the way that he is moving his hands and the way it sounds that Numark has got the feel JUST RIGHT!  I can’t wait to try one.  PSSL.Com has it going for $1300.  Ships on November 30th.

In other news Stanton also announced their DaScratch midi controller, which looks kindof DaLAME.  This thing looks like a toy and performs like a toy.  Although, its price ($250 on make it a pretty affordable and highly featured MIDI controller.  It is definitely not a “fully featured DJ controller” as they are trying to bill it.  Scratching on a touchpad will never be more than a gimmick and it shouldn’t have been included on this thing.  For use as a midi controller and for DJs who don’t do intensive mixing, it could work well.  Check out the video and judge for yourself.


Let’s get ANALOG: Fun with vinyl on youtube.

More reasons not to get rid of your turntables…or great reasons to buy real record players if you’re thinking of getting into DJing!

I can’t believe that I’ve been DJing for 8 years and have never known you could do this! 

Play a record upside down!

Paper Cone Gramophone (For post apocalyptic listening)

Bicycle Gramophone

PLUS Vinyl Edutainment: How a Vinyl record is made..


New Vestax DJ Controller Gets goes SUPER MINI! – Vestax VCI-300 plus Serato Itch

I missed the prepress on this one so I was kindof blown away when I got the ProSound Catalog the other day with this on the cover.

Vestax and Serato have joined forces.
Sharing their technology and compiled feedback from Pro DJ’fs and users from around the world, they have created a dedicated DJ USB MIDI / Audio system and software offering absolute control. 

The VCI-300 is a dedicated USB MIDI controller for the included Serato DJ software. It also comes with a built in audio interface with standard 4in/4out and headphone connection, which means all you need for DJing is the VCI-300, a laptop and a set of headphones.

Why is this a big deal?  Because Vestax makes SERIOUS dj equipment for serious DJs and now Serato has made a new program that will be the benchmark for tabletop DJing.  Serato Itch is a stripped down and revamped version of Scratch Live that is built with this controller and other forthcoming USB/MIDI controllers in mind.  I love my technics turntables but frequent gigging means lots of wear and tear and LOTS of moving these heavy things.  I’ll be touring with a hip-hop group in the spring and I’m definitely NOT looking forward to lugging those bad boys around.  Also, using Serato Scratch Live with control records is just a digital simulation of DJing with a really nice feel.

The VCI-300 is the first DJ controller that has high resolution MIDI that can send enough data to the computer to get a great scratching sound, meaning this is the first digital contoller that allows you to do everything you can do with real turntables PLUS get all of the benefits of a digital system.  M-Audio’s Torq uses the same idea, software designed to integrate well with the controller, but it is nowhere near the response and functionality of this thing.

Scratching Demo

ALSO,  Numark is getting in the DJ Controller game.  Looks like the NS7 is gonna use the same Serato software but with a larger “deluxe” spinning platter kindof interface.  I always thought it was pretty dumb that their CD turntables had a spinning motor in it, but since switching to SSL, it no longer seems so stupid to have a spinning turntable that doesn’t actual have a real record on it.  Its all about the “feel” man!

One last side note….Anybody from Vestax who might be reading this….

What the heck happened to THIS THING????

Pro Audio Star is carrying the VCI-300.  Check out their prices here.