We are living during a relatively new and exciting time in digital djing when everyone is free to use and re-configure almost any controller with any software. Enjoy it, because the market might not be like this for long. Software and Hardware companies are realizing that they need to team up and create integrated packages that work really well out of the box. Itch and the VCI-300 was the first good example of this in action. Together, that dynamic duo works very well but for anyone that wants to re-configure Itch or use the 300 with other software will run into problems. Even though the 300 is now fully supported in Traktor, its nearly impossible to get the same level of performance and integration out of MIDI that the original manufacturer achieved with HID.
Is midi so bad?
No its not, MIDI is just 20 years old and stretched to the limits of its capacity. You can only get so much performance out of 127 messages and its very hard to program really complex interactions. Instead, manufactures will turn to HID which provides a much better way of connecting hardware and software in a proprietary way. Because HID lives at a very low level and requires no drivers, it tends to be faster, more reliable and have lower latency. It also allows a hardware designer to make dj gear do whatever they need without the restrictions of an ancient standard.
While this is certainly going to produce better controllers and happier customers, it will come at a price. In the future, your controller will come paired with a piece of software and the “options” of what you (and we) can do to re-imagine the possibilities will be limited.
This future may even put many of the mid sized controller outfits out of business. There will be no way their controller, which is restricted to functions the midi spec supports, can ever compete with HID and full software integration. The 300, which offers the best scratch performance available on a controller is a great example and simply would not have been possible with MIDI.
The Bottom line
This type of environment puts a lot of influence and power in the hands of the software companies. If the number of big players in that realm stays small then they will have the luxury of handpicking who they choose to work with or eventually just make their own controllers for the sake of performance. Hardware only companies like Vestax will have 2 options:
1) make their own software (and try to catch up) or team up with a software company
2) Develop exclusive types of hardware control and use it as leverage against the software boys.
In many ways this new dj technology must follow that path of others before it. There was once a day when a car was a very simple thing and the really adventourous or motivated could take them apart and re-build everything to suit. Eventually modification and easy customization will give way to the demand of convienence and features. Personally I am torn between these 2 worlds. On one hand its obvious that dj controllers need to improve if they will ever take over the role of a turntable. Then again, it will be very sad to see the great DIY, create your own dj adventure ride that we have been on end. Perhaps it wont end there, and just take another twist down a new road to a destination yet unkown.