The DJ market is awash with controllers covering various price points, from bargain basement to high-end luxury, but out in the middle ground, is there really that much difference in what your money will get in regards to control and ability? We take Denon’s MC3000 and pit it head-to-head against Vestax’s VCI-400 to find out if these two controllers are worlds apart.
At the centre of the VCI-400, both figuratively and literally, lies a four-channel mixer, with a complete set of controls for each of the channels including a fader, headphone cue button and two backlit FX engage buttons. Above the four fader channels lies a row of four large red metal knobs which provide a high pass/low pass filter, as well as the usual knobs for EQ and gain.
Track browsing is taken care of via a decent-sized push button encoder knob at the centre of the mixer section, with separate buttons to load the selected track found above each of the fader channels. This makes loading tracks into the intended channel really easy. Alongside each of the Track Load buttons is a sync button that will engage the auto beat sync function (software allowing), perfect for multi-deck mash-ups.
The VCI-400 comes with Virtual DJ, as well as a coupon to allow a free download of Serato’s DJ Intro software (a cut-down version of Itch, but it can be set up for use with any digital DJing software). Obviously, for the time being at least, the main choice of software for use with VCI-400, in our eyes, is Native Instruments’ Traktor.
All of the knobs are metal shaft construction, so they are going to be very durable as well as having a lovely feeling action. The faders are high quality and feel fantastic when in use. The buttons and pads feel firm, and the cross-fader is nice and light to the touch, which is perfect for cutting and scratching. All of the faders and the cross-fader are also user replaceable via a handy hatch found on the bottom of the unit, which is a testament to good product design.
The jog wheels have a great feel to them, are very responsive and easy to manipulate, and are fully adjustable, both for touch sensitivity and stiffness. Another lovely feature found on the VCI-400’s jog wheels are the LEDs that light up the edges, giving a visual indication when the jogs are touched.
Above each of the jog wheels are banks of eight large, and four smaller buttons, which can be assigned to anything but are especially useful when used as sample trigger and loop pads. At the bottom of the jog wheels are further banks of buttons used to control cue and play functions.
Pitch control faders sit on the far left and right corners of the control surface along with an LED to indicate when the zero pitch bend point is active at the centre of the fader. Next to this at the top of each deck control section is a set of three dials and a push button rotary encoder, with backlit buttons underneath each of these — perfect for assigning effects in software.
As you’ve probably guessed, the VCI-400 is completely customisable. Most of the buttons and knobs can be assigned in any number of possible ways, and as a result, aren’t labelled, so the VCI-400 comes with a set of stickers for provided templates, but this is a bit of a letdown, and plastic overlays would have been a much nicer solution for such a professional piece of equipment.
Despite being the cheaper of the two units, the MC3000 is extremely well-built, and this is immediately apparent from the weight of the unit, with its solid steel chassis and steel jog wheels. It’s not only heavy, but is also built like a tank. Other features that bear testament to the high quality build ethos are the rubber knobs and buttons, which can also be found on Denon’s high-end mixers. The rubber buttons have a nice tactile feel to them and an audible click to let DJs know the button has been pressed.
Ostensibly a two-channel controller, DJs can use it to control four virtual decks, as the two-deck sections can be toggled between decks A & C on the left hand side and decks B&D on the right. The jog wheels are extremely accurate and sensitive, with no lag, and are perfect for scratching as well as being easy to work from both the top and the sides. Next to each of the two jog wheels are pitch faders, which, despite the small size, do get the job done, even if they don’t have the luxurious length found on CDJs etc.
Each deck control section has four hot cue buttons that can be toggled by the shift button to give a further total of eight cue points. In addition to the cue point buttons, there are four FX buttons in the FX section that also double up as sample trigger pads. These can be switched between via a dedicated sample toggle button.
At the centre of the MC3000 is a rotary encoder used to select tracks. Two buttons to load the selected track into Deck A/C or Deck B/D are situated either site of the knob, and located above this knob are two FX engage buttons for each of the two mixer channels.
DJs can also connect two external sound sources into the MC3000 and these can be controlled via a knob that acts as a cross-fader for the two external inputs. Another nice feature of the MC3000 is the fact that the external inputs will function independently of any DJ software being used, so should a laptop crash, the external inputs are still live and a CD player can be used to fill the otherwise awkward silence that would result in the middle of a set.
Both of these controllers are high quality professional pieces of equipment and are more than capable of being used to create stunning mixes. The choice comes down to features, portability, price and of course personal preference.
The Denon MC3000 is smaller than the Vestax VCI-400, but is also heavier and has a more cramped control surface. The MC3000 is cheaper than the VCI-400, but only has a two-channel mixer section and lacks the extra buttons and some of the slick features found on the VCI-400. If price is a big factor in deciding which controller to purchase, the MC3000 is likely to be a very strong contender. However, if huge flexibility and the ability to create the ultimate personalised DJ workstation, along with the extra features found on the VCI-400 are something that can’t be lived without, then the sensible choice is the VCI-400. No matter which of these two controllers a DJ decides to take home, they can rest assured they are getting a professional bit of kit of the highest quality.
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|Value for Money||8.0|
Great build quality with lovely accurate jog wheels and separate banks of cue and sample buttons; extremely easy to use.
Because of the smaller size of the unit, the control surface is a bit cramped and feels a little fiddly.
Those on a tight budget that can do without a few of the features found on the VCI-400, but still want a high quality DJ controller, should go for Denon’s MC3000
|Ease of Use||8.0|
|Value for Money||8.0|
Also oozing with quality, this controller has a fully featured four-channel mixer and is hugely customisable.
The tension controls on the jog wheels are quite awkward.
. However, the perfect choice for anyone wanting to customise their DJ controller to create the ultimate personalised DJ battle weapon has to be Vestax’s
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