Vestax Spin and djay Review Part 2

November 25, 2009 | 58 Comments

Vestax Spin/djay

November 25th, 2009First off, sorry about the delay in getting this post up. I actually had the videos ready to go Monday night, but the company I host my websites on, suffered a massive crash. Alright, now that’s out of the way…let’s get to the review!

Ok, let’s dive right into this review (if you missed the unboxing, you can read it here). See that picture up above? That’s the Vestax Spin, and it’s sitting in a custom steel case that I made for it. Well not exactly made, more like re-purposed and customized. Yup, it’s good enough that I want to protect it.

The Vestax Spin is an absolute blast to use. It definitely feels like less of a toy than most DJ controllers out there but, of course, it’s not a competitor to Vestax’s bread and butter, the VCI-100 and VCI-300. When viewed on its own, the Spin looks great; clean lines, a pleasant and ergonomic design, thoughtful layout, smooth and heavy platters, and good quality plastics. When compared to the VCI-100 and VCI-300 though, it looks like a plucky kid brother.

Of course, Vestax knows that the VCI-100 and VCI-300 faithful aren’t going to be looking at the Spin, but I’m sure users of the Spin will look up to the VCI-100 and VCI-300 when they want an upgrade. That being said, the Spin is just what a beginner laptop DJ like me needs.

For those starting out, the value in an included soundcard cannot be denied; plug in a set of headphones, connect the USB cable to your computer, and RCA outs to your speakers, and you’re good to go. There’s no fussing with external soundcards and having to route separate headphone and speaker outs. There’s a big headphone button next to each platter and you press it to hear what’s coming out. It’s that simple.

All the buttons and faders are intuitively placed, and the spacing feels good. All the main features that you’d want to control are available with clearly labeled and nicely lit buttons. The platters feel great, although it would be nice if the touch surface was a little wider for better control. Contrary to my initial reactions in the un-boxing, the linear faders are not too light. In fact, they feel pretty nice. Either I’m going crazy, or the faders got tighter and smoother with use. Is that even possible?!

One weird thing about the design, is that there’s a plug for a power adapter, but the Spin is bus-powered and doesn’t need one. Even odder, is a switch in the back that allows you to switch between external power, off, and USB powered. It doesn’t even say anything about a power adapter in the manual. If anyone from Vestax reads this, perhaps they could enlighten us.

I know you all are hungry for all the info you can get on the Vestax Spin, but the real hero of this combination is Algoriddim’s djay software. Lest we forget, the Vestax Spin is designed with djay in mind. I’ve tried out a lot of different DJ software in my quest to find something that feels right including Traktor and Mixxx (both software titles that I’ve talked about previously). I liked the simplicity of Mixxx and the flexibility of Traktor and I feel that djay slots somewhere in between.

Feature-wise, it has everything that you need to get the job done. EQ, speed control, headphone cueing, etc…all of that is present and where you’d expect it to be. What’s nice are the extras. User definable cuepoints are a huge plus for djay. You can set 3 cuepoints for each song and djay will save them in its own database where BPMs that djay has determined are also saved.

I checked iTunes to see if that information was stored in a common database, but unfortunately it looks like djay keeps that information to itself. This means that if you use your music library with other DJ software, that information will not be available to it. One thing to keep in mind is that although you can set 3 cuepoints in the software, you can only access one on the Spin. That means you’ll have to press the laptop keyboard to do any cool cuepoint juggling. Not really a big deal and, although adding more buttons would have been nice, it would have made the Spin bigger (or the buttons smaller).

Another great feature in djay is the sampler, which not many DJ software titles have. You can play up to 3 samples at once. You can record from the microphone or the turntables live, or you can load up your own samples. Regardless, the sampler is a great tool to get your creative juices flowing.

One thing I noticed was that the integration between iTunes and djay is closer than I first thought. iTunes has to be open for djay to be able to load the tracks. I’m not sure what the reason for that is, but I have a feeling that djay may be piggy backing on iTunes’ playback engine. At the very least, it needs the iTunes database to access songs. I’m not a developer, so I’m not sure if iTunes needs to be open to access that or not. Anyways, if you’re running an older version of iTunes that leaks memory all over the place, then you’ll want to get the latest version. While djay itself doesn’t use that much RAM, an iTunes leak could significantly impact performance.

Another one of djay’s nice features is its keylock abilities. Basically, you can click the keylock button in djay, and when you make speed changes, the pitch won’t change. It’s a nice feature for DJ’s who mix harmonically and it works pretty well. I wish the Spin had a button for it though. That would definitely have been useful.

Small BPM changes sound pretty good, although you wouldn’t want to slow it down too much; you can definitely hear distortion with extreme BPM changes. You can also set the processing power devoted to keylock in the preferences. There’s also an effect that allows you to pitch the track without changing the BPM. However, since you can’t dynamically change the pitching with the Spin itself, it’s not much more than a gimmick.

At this point, I’d like to point out that djay was around before the Vestax Spin and, as such, is able to use a variety of different controllers. Quite a few controllers are already mapped (including quite a few Vestax models), but if your controller is not listed, djay has a self-learning feature. As well, if you do have a controller that’s listed (even the Spin), you can go in and change parameters as you’d like.

Of course, the offshoot of this is that the Vestax Spin is a fully MIDI compliant controller. That means, you could map it to other software if you so wished and, in fact, I’m sure many people out there have already created Traktor mappings for it.

I’m going to say on the record that djay matches me the best out of all the DJ software I’ve used for both Mac and PC platforms. Some are too simple, and some, like Traktor, can be overwhelming to a newcomer like me. Maybe I’ll grow into Traktor, but right now djay strikes that ideal balance of simplicity and feature set. That being said, there are a couple things I’d like to see in future versions.

For one, it would be nice if there were scrolling waveforms. True, not being able to see the waveform makes you rely on your ears just like traditional mixing, but I’m a studio engineer damnit; I like having the option! I’d also like to have more FX (like filter sweep) and control over those effects. I want to be able to map the effects to rotary knobs if I want. Even if I can only choose between a few steps, I want to be able to turn my knob and control it on the fly. Right now, I have to open the FX module and use my mouse to click right or left to change it. If I want to map the effect to the controller, I can only choose note on/note off commands, not dynamically changing values like from a fader.

I am not a DJ. As a non-DJ, the Vestax Spin and Djay make an ideal pair to introduce me gently into the world. But no, they will not make you into a DJ hero even with BPM detection and syncing. No matter what people say, matching BPMs between two tracks is not the hardest thing about being a DJ. Every professional DJ can match BPM’s, it’s par for the course. The hardest thing is playing music as an instrument itself. In my opinion, that’s what makes a real DJ.

I hope hardware and software like the Vestax Spin and Djay will help introduce DJing to a whole new generation. Skill is skill, no matter what the tools. Some kid is not going to come up and destroy the achievements of Q-Bert or Grandmaster Flash. She’s going to succeed by doing something different. If you’re worried that a kid on a $250 DJ controller is going to steal your thunder, then you have bigger fish to fry like upping your own game. Recognize your history, but evolve.

Oh and on a slight tangent: DJ’s(analog and laptop), turntablists, and controllerists are all different. Each shares a similar skillset, but the end result is markedly different. They do not compete, but rather compliment each other. All can be appreciated for their abilities; why is there so much tension out there?

The Vestax Spin is a fantastic controller. Feature-wise it has just enough to get you started. Even if you’ve never DJ’d before, you’ll feel right at home. Time will tell if the Spin will survive the thrashing it’ll get while DJing; I’ll keep you updated. As for djay, if you’re a Mac user (sorry PC platformers) and you’re looking for some DJ software, it’s awesome. It even has a “set and forget” automix mode that destroys the iTunes genius for auto-djing your next wine and cheese party.

If it sounds like I’m gushing with effusive praise, it’s because I’m just that excited. That’s something that not many products can do. Not only is djay fun to use, but it had some surprises up its sleeve that far exceeded my expectations given its low price ($50). Now bundle both the Vestax Spin and djay for $250…killer value.

Here is an embedded video review with the Spin in use. Warning, it’s pretty long. For people who prefer Youtube (why?!), I split it into two videos(Part 1, Part 2). Please excuse my horrible DJing.

Update 12-29-09: For those of you who are interested, I interviewed the developers of djay and asked many of the questions that I have been asked. That post is here.

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Comments

  1. Bob says: February 25, 2010

    Please get to the heart of the matter. Details about the Vestax Product.
    Learned nothing here about the board. Cueing? Was it loud enough? Mixing with faders etc. How about a picture of the back of the product to see outputs. Nice writing style but this was not a review of the 100.
    But thank you for trying.

  2. Sean says: February 25, 2010

    @Bob: How to use the board with the supplied software is in the video portion of the review. The text portion supplements the video, it is not a transcription of what’s in the video.

  3. DJ Soul on Ice says: February 26, 2010

    I represent NerveDJS here in cleveland, ohio. We represent over 600 DJ’s worldwide. I was wondering did you purchase that unit or did Vestax loan it out for you to demo? Our organization wants to preview the Spin as well.

  4. Sean says: February 26, 2010

    @DJ Soul on Ice: Unfortunately I’m not big enough for manufacturers to send me review units so I bought it.

  5. S says: May 3, 2010

    I think the main reason for including the external power jack is to enable you to use passive usb hubs for connecting the device to the laptop. Or simply cuz some usb ports are not providing enough voltage (as some older ibooks).

    I hope this explains. And I’m not from vestax.

  6. Sean says: May 3, 2010

    @S: I figured as much. I just wonder why they didn’t put anything about it in the manual, or include a power adapter to use with it.

  7. Dmadix says: May 11, 2010

    Even though I’m a professional DJ, I actually had a reason to demo the Spin, as the Pioneer industry standard CDJ units are very expensive. I may be pro, but I’m not pulling in THAT kind of money!
    The reason is simple: to easily/cheaply demo new tracks right out of my hard drive in the comfort of my own home, rather than finding out the slow and tedious way while playing out live.
    @BOB: Cueing seemed loud enough, surely for home use (for which Spin is intended), but may not be loud enough for club use. The volume knob for the headphones is a little hard to access quickly because it’s tucked underneath the little ledge next to the headphone jack. I also found that using the master output of Spin was more accurate than my sound card, because of a few milliseconds of latency. Obviously this varies from computer to computer, but there is a difference.
    Regarding the pitch sliders, the resolution seems very “stepped”, even when I set them to the minimum 8% range. I tend to make long mixes, so things need to be lined up perfecly and “babysat” constantly (I come from the vinyl world, where “babysitting” is common). I love the loop features built into modern digi controllers/players, although the buttons on the Spin seem to be less sensitive/accurate as the ones found on better units. We get what we pay for, right?
    Another thing I noticed, and maybe someone can verify this, is the EQ sliders seemed to be non-linear. For example, when pulling bass out of a track, a minimal amount of slider movement from zero downward resulted in a huge loss of db gain, but then it seemed to slowly creep down in db as I pulled the slider down to infinity.
    I also wasn’t too thrilled about the cheesy mic that was included, but that’s not my thing anyway (talking over my mixes). Probably good enough for podcasting I guess…
    All in all this thing is exactly what I needed: a cheap way to preview my mixes/tracks right out of my computer so I don’t have to plunk down $1500-$2000+ for a set of CDJs. If I do get a digi controller for recording mixes (I usually record mixes at the clubs “live”), I would definitely step up to something of higher quality and of course, more $$!

  8. Sean says: May 11, 2010

    @Dmadix: Thanks for your thoughts on the Spin!

  9. Dean says: June 1, 2010

    Is there a monitor (booth) out? I didn’t see one.

    If not, how do you hear your mix?

    Thanks,

    Dean

  10. Sean says: June 3, 2010

    @Dean: While the software interface doesn’t show a monitor out, it’s set up in the preferences. You can define separate cueing and main outputs. With the Spin hardware, you can both monitor through headphones and still send out a separate main out. I’ve been checking the main mix by pressing both cue buttons for each platter.

  11. Gio says: August 15, 2010

    Hey sean,

    Thank you for the review, I was just wondering, I am just starting to dj and i like the spin but it doesn’t look like it has many features, in the long term vci-100 looks like it would be more efficient. Should I buy the vci-100 or would it be to overwhelming. Also if I want to buy the spin should I buy the Typhoon, What are the differences? Thank you.

  12. DJ Soul on Ice says: August 15, 2010

    @Gio I’m with NERVE DJS here in Cleveland. We just reviewed the Spin. @ Sean I would like your opinion our demo of the Spin when we get it on You Tube. But anyway, the SPin and Typhoon are the same unit. I spoke directly with Vestax about it. The Typhoon uses Traktor LE Software and Spin uses Djay. Typhoon is probably more for PC users because of the software, although you could use it for Mac, but it costs $50 more so why would you? The VCI-100 is a nice unit but if your starting out, I would buy the Spin and then work your way up to more expensive equipment. I don’t know what feature you want but the few feature it has,(looping, FX, Sync) are suffcient. Most people just want to hear music when you are DJing not alot of extras. If you want to battle someone or make alot of mixes then maybe but if you are starting out you don’t need it. Hope this helps.

  13. sahand says: October 22, 2010

    i bought the spin i really liked it but i didn’t really like the djay program that came with it . is it possible to connect virtual dj to the spin. or do you recommend any other programs ?

  14. Sean says: November 11, 2010

    @Sahand: It should be possible to map the Spin to Virtual DJ (you might also want to try Traktor). The only thing that may be difficult to set up would be headphone cueing since that’s taken care of inside the Spin itself. Not sure though, that was a problem when people were mapping the Spin to Traktor when it first came out; perhaps they’ve found a solution by now.

  15. Steve says: December 30, 2010

    Sean,

    Thank you for the most informative review I have ever read on ANY product. After a long wait I am finally picking up my Vestax Spin tonight. I got a great deal on a used unit here in Vancouver off of Craigslist and he is including the Djay software with the product key that has never been used.

    I hope to have many fun evenings with this new toy and hobby! I am dj’ing my first party for NYE tomorrow night 😀

    All the best!

  16. Sean says: December 30, 2010

    @Steve: Congrats on the gig…have fun!

  17. James says: November 15, 2011

    Hi, I have seen recent comments about the ‘Vestax Typhoon’ I am mianly asking, with Traktor or Virtual DJ would either of them two software’s be able to play songs that I have downloaded from Youtube using the Youtube converter, this is my only worry, please reply.

    Thanks hope to speak with you soon!
    James.

  18. Sean says: November 15, 2011

    Hi James,

    If the songs you’ve downloaded from Youtube are saved in MP3 format, you should be able to play them with either Traktor or Virtual DJ.

    Hope that helps,
    Sean

  19. James says: November 16, 2011

    Yeah that’s right, I copied the URL into the converter which says ‘Enter URL video to convert into MP3’. Now all in Itunes, but it comes up with unkown artist?

    I haven’t got the Tyhpoon yet but just wanted to make sure first, also one more question, which software would you reckon is better Traktor or Virtual DJ?

    Thanks again,
    James

  20. Sean says: November 19, 2011

    I personally like traktor but that’s only because i know how to use it. Virtual dj has many fans as well. Fyi, when u rip songs from youtube it doesn’t take the song information and populate the metatags so u have to do that manually.

  21. Dennis says: November 21, 2011

    Hey,
    from where did you get the black faceplate??
    looks so much better than original…

  22. Sean says: November 22, 2011

    Unfortunately, the faceplate on my Spin is still silver, it’s probably just the lighting in the video that makes it seem black.

  23. Michael says: November 24, 2011

    “I hope hardware and software like the Vestax Spin and Djay will help introduce DJing to a whole new generation. Skill is skill, no matter what the tools. Some kid is not going to come up and destroy the achievements of Q-Bert or Grandmaster Flash. She’s going to succeed by doing something different. If you’re worried that a kid on a $250 DJ controller is going to steal your thunder, then you have bigger fish to fry like upping your own game. Recognize your history, but evolve.”

    -I couldn’t agree more. Very well said. Thanks for the review.

  24. James says: November 29, 2011

    Hi again, for traktor would it work with cd’s, as in burning them onto you laptop and play them from there?

    I am really interested in the Vestax Typhoon and using traktor, should I give the software a go on my pc before I give it a go?

  25. Rob says: December 9, 2011

    Hi there,

    I bought the Vestax Typhoon recently and like the software that came with it in it’s box ‘Traktor LE’ or whatever, but not too keen on it personally.

    So what if I were to stop using traktor and use ‘Virtual DJ’ instead, would it be possible to use that software without causing any effect?

  26. Sean says: December 9, 2011

    I’ve never used virtual dj, but the vestax typhoon is just a midi controller so you should be able to map it. The only issue you might come across is the headphone cueing since i don’t know how the built in soundcard is controlled.

  27. Rob says: December 10, 2011

    I see, yeah I heard about that slight problem with the headphone cueing, but I’ll give it a try anyway.

    Also, if I rip music from youtube and download it as mp3 format, should it work with traktor so it will work when I play?

  28. Sean says: December 10, 2011

    Yup traktor reads mp3s

  29. Rob says: December 23, 2011

    Okay, I have converted them from youtube into itunes but when I look back at the format, instead of mp3 format, it tells me it’s MPEG-1?

    Is there a way of changing that?

  30. Sean says: December 23, 2011

    If it can be played in itunes as an mpeg, it can be played in traktor

  31. rob says: December 25, 2011

    Okay, there is just one more thing I do not get, in itunes library when I go to click play on the icon it doesn’t play, this is because it is an MPEG-1.

    Would this affect in anyway when I want to select it to play?

  32. Dan says: January 2, 2012

    Can anyone send me a link to the best website for selling the vestax typhoon that comes with traktor le, because most of the websites have virtual dj.

  33. sam says: May 17, 2012

    the bus power in the back now allows users to use this with their iPad! All you need is AC adapter and the apple camera connection kit and djay on your iPad and you can use your vestax spin with a tablet. i wonder how long they were planning that in advance to have the bus power on this thing… very cool!!

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