When we talk about record players, or rather about turntables, the first picture that comes to our mind is our trusted Technics 1200: retired for a long time now, we still remember it for its solid and proud design. Nowadays a lot of companies have been developing, starting from this historical model, new projects and turntables, more and more complete, providing them with new functions in spite of the slow decline of the vinyl. The Japanese Vestax house have been thinking about bringing the Turntablism “to the extreme”, giving djs the chance to use the turntable as a real musical instrument.
Once out of its package, the Vestax Controller One turntable seems to be a little bit generous about its dimensions, in comparison, for example, to a typical Technics turntable. Measuring it in vertical position (which is, in other words, the turntablist position) we get 48 x 37,5 x 12,5 cm. Its design is very modern-looking, with a bright chassis and peculiar embellishments like the mirror arm/base board. The turntable is held by solid feet put at the four sides of the base, adjustable and resistant to stress and vibrations.
The components assembly is very simple and fast (Pic.1): you have to locate the plate, fastening it with two screws (indeed provided), and put as pressure as it requires in order to balance the arm where we will put the standard shell with the Vestax logo and the head (not provided)(Pic.1b). In addition to the manual, we will also find in the box a medium length RCA cable to connect the controller to the mixer. Should it not be clear already, even the turntable design helps us understand that this instrument has been made to be used in a vertical stand: by the position of the note keys to the display and the rest of the controls, which we will talk about later.
The Vestax Control One turntable, apart from having the same characteristic features of a professional plate for djs, it undeniably offers optional commands which make the difference (Pic.2). The Control One numbers a good 30 buttons, skillfully positioned and with specific function, and, of course, the plate and an innovatively designed (or, at least, futuristic) arm. A large fader/pitch, two mini bidirectional spring sticks, a rotation knob and a mini trimmer. And more, a wide 7 segment pitch backlit led display indicating notes and advanced functions, notes represented in an international diatonic scale, matching each button. Lastly, another three digit mini display which indicates the pitch value, sideways from the button control line. It’s time to get to the detail: let’s motivate the presence of all these controls on a turntable.
On the back of the turntable we find the POWER/MIDI/OUTPUT/LEVEL section (Pic.3), hidden a little. In addition to the POWER button to start the plate, right on the side there is a standard MIDI input for the connection of external devices, as pedal board or keyboards. The OUTOUT section is where the RCA must be plugged to connect is to a mixer and a switch LEVEL which can be set on PHONO/LINE depending on the output level and one’s own need.
The lower part of the controller is divided in two sections:
– The one on the right which includes the basic function buttons: START/STOP to start the late and stop it quickly, REVERSE to play the plate backwards (from clockwise to anticlockwise, complete with a red led to indicate that the function is on), 33/45 rpm to move from the 33 rpm to 45 rpm mode (with the led on indicating that the 33 rpm mode is one, instead, to switch to 45 rpm mode you must switch to PITCH/FADER mode, otherwise the led will stay one and you will not be able to switch the function), MOTOR OFF to cut the plate rotor slowly, giving the vinyl a slow-down effect.
– The one on the left includes: the PITCH BEND (a bidirectional stick that shows the “b” flat and “#” sharp symbols at the two ends – which, in “NOTE MODE” controls the plate speed through the “#” -a semitone up- and “b” -a semitone down-, while in “PITCH MODE” it speeds up the plate within +/- 1% – +/-3% or +/- 6%), UP to immediately increase the rotation speed of the plate from 33 rpm +/- 0% up an octave with a +100% pitch, DOWN to decrease immediately the rotation speed of the plate from 33 rpm +/- 0% down an octave with a – 50% pitch, QUARTZ LOCK to disable the note and pitch fader button functions, setting the speed at 33 rpm. Each one of the three buttons has a dedicated red led, indicating when the function is on. Near the plate, on a lifted side, we find 8 buttons that change the rpm percentage depending on the applied note (Pic.5).
The upper section is the controller core (Pic.6).
From there we can set, modify and control the turntable behaviour and its advanced functions. Starting from the top we find the PITCH/FADER, which allows us to change the plate speed in NOTE/FADER mode (modifying, through the cursor, the speed percentage depending on the applied note) (Pic.7),
instead, in PITCH/FADER mode the cursor will act like a standard dj turntable (changing the percentage speed between -8 and +8). TONE VOLUME is a plate trimmer that is on the left of the fader pitch, which allows us to set the table speed thoroughly for the notes and #, indeed in NOTE MODE. On the left of the fader pitch we can use the JOG DIAL (Pic.8), a one-fourth snap-in knob, to change octaves and to record sequences of custom notes and chords when the MEMORY PITCH is lit up – and, therefore, on.
By pushing it we can get to advanced functions for the notes: “GATE”, if we want to play a note only when the button is pushed and held, on the other hand “THROUGH” if we want to let the same note go till we push the button or the following note. The three-digit LED display tells us precisely the applied pitch percentage. Right on the side, there is a copy of the 8 buttons we found earlier – on the side of the plate -, but this time, near the buttons we will find a clear 8 digit led display which indicated the corresponding notes. On the side of the NORM/ALL – ±8/10/60 display we will find some leds to indicate the pitch percentage used, which must be selected through pushing the RANGE button several times. Close to the display there is a copy of the pitch bend, and by its side the MAJOR/MINOR function to select the type of scale and the OCT DOWN function to drop down an octave, NOTE/PITCH combined functions which enables modes and BUTTON/FADER to change key through buttons or working on the -/+ pitch fader (Pic.9).
Connecting a pedal board through the MIDI input it is possible to change (enabling the PEDAL-MIDI function)(Pic.10) notes within a range of two octaves (one up and one down) without using the keys but pushing or letting go of the pedal.
The test result was more than satisfying. Differently from other similar models, this Vestax engine could be compared to a four-wheel-drive engine of a super car. I tried to scratch at different speeds, even at slow running, and the plate behaved reliably and accurately, with a start/stop button of high quality workmanship and very solid. Perhaps the disappointing thing is about the remaining keys, the note change dedicated ones, which don’t seem to have been projected for a strong use: could it be not just a feeling? As for the display too I would have choose a wide lcd, heavily back-lit (perhaps blue), instead of the old 7 segment leds which give an old-fashion touch. As for the rest, the arm is very precise and adjustable in each part, rather than giving the controller a snappy design.
The Vestax Controller One is not a turntable for everyone. Its use implies a lot of practice and an already good technique. Indeed, used by expert hands such as the turntablists’ ones, already experienced, it may be a real musical instrument, with a place in an orchestra or in a live band already. But also using the Controller One in a solo show makes this instrument not to be considered as a passive device anymore but as a setup which definitely is able to entertain and amuse on its own. The price is a little high, but considering the quality of the Vestax products it’s worth the cost. Beware: it would be a pity to use it just as a record player.
•A powerful and precise direct drive motor
•Programmable and customizable
•Not easy to carry around
Model: Controller ONE
Italian distributor: www.exhibo.it
Price: about 1.400 Euros
Until next time Dj Fresella…..
Italian to English translation: Umberto del Giudice