Frankfurt, Germany. Once a year, inside a massive series of connecting halls, music companies from around the world converge for the European version of NAMM. All of the dj brands are accounted for, and we were expecting working models of many of the new controllers that premiered at NAMM. Sadly, only the VCI-300 was really in testing condition. Many of the new dj items we wanted to get our grubby little hands on were not functional or barely working. Some, like the Numark Ns7, were still in the exact same condition as NAMM, under a protective sheet of glass.
The EKS Otus
This black beauty had a lot of hype after we showed you the sleek looking mock-up from our exclusive report at NAMM. EKS, the makers of Otus, had promised a working model at Messe but did not get it done in time. They have a marginally functional prototype that was plagued by hardware failure due to trade show abuse. Its really too early to make any judgment calls about the device but some good news did come out of my time with them. One, the prototype has all the final components and was surprisingly light even though it had a well constructed aluminum body. Two, there is another model planned called the Otus “Raw” (Pictured bellow) which is a more robust version with a real pitch slider and a nod to controllerism: 4 velocity sensitive cue point trigger pads. We are very excited that most manufactures are noticing controllerism and begining to include cue point trigger buttons on their gear. The Otus is supposed to be ready in a few months time with the raw version premiering some time in fall. We cant wait to test out a fully finished version of either!
The Otus has a 700 Euro Street price and will ship by June
The Otus Raw will be less than 600 euros and should by premiered in the fall
Well at least this one was working, and working well. Paired with a fully functional copy of Serato Itch, the VCi-300 was a hot item at Messe. There is nothing fancy about the combination, just a well laid out interface for performing most of the basic dj functions you would want to execute with Serato but in the midi world. The controls themselves are basically a re-arrangement of the knobs and buttons found on the vci-100 plus a built in sound card. There is one obvious difference though, the slightly larger and more tactile jog wheel offer independent resistance adjustment and a higher resolution output of your jog motions. This is supposed to result in better scratching and more precise pitch bends. The results were very noticeable when in use with Itch, a software designed to accept and deal with those higher resolution values. Unfortunately, there are no other programs that support hi-resolution midi at this juncture. If your thinking about using the vci-300 as a standard midi controller the jog wheels will not give you a major performance jump over the vci-100. That is unless other software companies starts to support the controller natively which is not likely to happen. We shot a bunch of video on the VCi-300 which will be posted next week along with a more comprehensive analysis. In short, for plug and play use- the itch/vestax combo is a very effective one.
Shipping in April,$6-700 street price includes itch
This was clearly one of the underrated controllers announced in 2008. The combo price of over $2000 with a midi mixer is enough to scare most new digital djs away but some people looking for more advanced functionality will find a lot in the player. As with everything else, the models on display were not really ready for prime time with both platters breaking after the second day and a few firmware tweaks left to resolve. We are anxious to try out a finished unit and experiment with some fully functioning platters. A few things that could be be really great are:
1) fully motorized pitch fader- for true tempo sync and subsequent control over multiple decks.
2) the ability to assign the jog wheels to any other control on the unit while djing.
Shipping in June, the retail is $1499 but you might expect to pay around $1100 for it.
Vestax’s Ableton controller was working but failed to leave any lasting impressions of me. There is nothing really amazingly revolutionary about the control surface, it supplies most of the typical knobs and sliders just about anyone would need for driving Ableton. The exciting aspects of this controller will be seen when creative users begin to craft their own layouts and sets around it. At Messe, it worked, but was really an advanced prototype with many functions not working and most others lacking any connection to the software. This could be a problem with how Ableton session was programmed in the first place but I really think the magic on this one will not come from the gear but from the potential users and how they interpret it. Then again, is that not always the case? Its almost makes me want to stop reviewing gear entirely and just start reviewing performances.
Did I forget to mention the vcm now sports a very cool under-lit beveled edge? Its uber ableton.
Numark – NS7
The other “official” controller for Serato Itch fell behind massively in the race to get a new controller out first. With no working model yet, one has to wonder how far out it will be before the larger option hits shelves and if there will be any buyers left when it does. Those giant high torq platters sure do look cool though.
Numark wont budge on details. It will come out sometime this year, and they have no idea what the price will be.
Many have asked about this as a possible alternative to the vci-100. Obviously they have tried to copy it in a more cost effective package. To be honest, you get what you pay for- many of the knobs and sliders are sub-par. The pitch fader surprised me with a nice feel and ideal resistance but most of the knobs, the EQ’s in particular, might break rather quickly.
Shipping in July, the re-loop comes in 2 options. $369 with an internal sound card and $319 without one.
One last thing
It wouldn’t be a NAMM update without some news about the special edition VCI-100. Well, I can promise you this: we will have an exact shipping date and price by Monday. If not, then I will hold Takao (a Vestax employee) hostage until we get it ;-) In the mean time. here is a photo to tide you over. Its the updated function list with some very cool additions. Notice you will no longer need midi foot peddles to work with the juggle layers. The loop section now activates a loop and displays if its on for all 4 decks.
There are some really cool developments happening in the controller world. I only wish we could have done more testing and given you some better feedback on what the best ones are. The good news is that when the final models are ready to go, Dj Tech Tools will be one of the first to get to try them out. So you will know as soon as we do. In the mean time, keep rockin it.