Vestax is a 25-year-old Japanese audio-equipment manufacturer that has enjoyed recent success as a manufacturer of mixers, turntables and other professional DJ equipment. Through its high-quality products and sponsorship of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Vestax has also earned a level of street cred that manufacturers rarely achieve.
The Vestax PMC-series mixers are DJ favorites, with the 05Pro, 06Pro and P07Pro models being favorites among scratch DJs. With the introduction of the PMC-37Pro, Vestax has released what it is calling a “multigenre mixer for the seriously creative DJ.” This mixer aims to integrate the best features of the company's turntablist mixers with those of a club-style mixer. And with this idea in mind, Vestax is using this opportunity to debut some exciting new features.
The PMC-37Pro is a rather large 3-channel mixer: At nearly 12-by-16 inches, it is only a couple of inches smaller than a standard turntable. Scratch DJs who are used to 8- or 9-inch-wide mixers may be put off by its large size, but it still sits nicely between a pair of turntables. At 5.8 kg, it is also fairly heavy (more than 2 kg heavier than the popular PMC-05Pro).
All of the PMC-37Pro's controls are located on the top two-thirds of the mixer's faceplate. The PMC-37Pro boasts greater flexibility than typical mixers; however, this flexibility results in a wide array of switches, dials, faders and knobs. Although they are arranged in a well-organized fashion, their sheer number can be daunting, especially when some of their functions are not immediately obvious. It takes some experimentation and time to get used to the unit's myriad features. The mixer's metallic case is solidly made and features a double-panel system around the faders that can be removed for servicing. The PMC-37Pro uses VCA circuitry, and its main faders and crossfader are high-quality PCV-type. All of the other knobs, switches and faders have a solid feel. The channel faders can also be replaced with the shorter-throw version found on the Vestax PMC-05Pro.
The rear panel of the PMC-37Pro is fairly well-organized considering that it is packed with numerous input and output connections. The power switch is quite small and located below the master output jacks. Although this design does make the power switch difficult to reach, it prevents users from accidentally turning off the unit while it is in use. Inputs include four phono with separate ground terminals, four RCA-jack line-level, two ¼-inch effects sends and two mic (one XLR and one ¼-inch). Outputs include two ¼-inch TRS balanced master; two ¼-inch unbalanced, which can be used to power a booth monitor amp or a second sound zone; and a pair of RCAs for hooking up to recording equipment.
SIDE TO SIDE
The crossfader is clear of any obstructions — a key feature for scratch DJs. The C.F. Mode dial, located at the top left of the main fader section, allows adjustment of the crossfader's cut-in time, from smooth (for club-style blends) to steep (for advanced scratch techniques). The crossfader has the typical Vestax feel: It moves very smoothly but makes a loud metallic click when moved to its extremes during fast scratching. The click is not heard through the audio signal; it is a physical noise related to the fader and case design. The crossfader cut-in is impressive: Less than 2 mm of movement is needed to turn the signal from full off to full on when the cut-in time is set to its steepest setting. However, the cut-in point is roughly 4 to 5 mm away from the edge, farther than that of the mixer that I'm familiar with, and it took a little getting used to.
MATRIX INPUT ASSIGN
The unit has three main fader control sections, labeled Programs, and each is laid out in a vertical column above the fader. There, the new Matrix Input Assign features come into play. At the top of the mixer's faceplate are the input select switches that let you set each of the four inputs to line or phono. These are sometimes known as transformer switches because DJs will use them to perform transformer scratches. On the PMC-37Pro, they are fairly small and in an obscure location, thus of little use as transformer switches.
With the PMC-37Pro, there is one more required selection step: the Input Assign. This consists of three rotary selectors, one per Program. You can assign any of the three Programs to receive any one of the four inputs. This is not a mutually exclusive selection; in fact, you could assign input 1 to all three Program channels if you wanted. (Read on to find out why you might want to do that.)
Once you have assigned the audio inputs to the appropriate Program channel, you have a lot of control of the signal. Each Program has separate gain and balance controls, as well as separate 3-band Isolators. Low, Mid and Hi can be boosted by as much as 6 dB or can be cut to zero. The EQ is high-quality, with the zero setting really killing the signal. (Setting Low, Mid and Hi to the lowest setting actually kills the audio signal altogether.) Each Program also features a sweep filter that creates a flange-like effect. You can set the wet/dry level (the amount of the audio signal to apply the effect to), as well as the level of effect to apply. As a basic idea, it is good, but I'd like to see more choices of effects (reverb, echo and so forth). Each Program can also be assigned to one of two separate auxiliary effects loops (which have separate controls for their levels). This is a great feature, especially because you can choose to apply the effect pre- or post-fader.
Using the three-way C.F. Assign switch, you can select whether to assign that Program's audio to the left or right side of the crossfader, or just the master signal (which is not affected by the crossfader). This not only allows for the equivalent of a hamster switch on other mixers (with which the left turntable signal can be assigned to the right side and vice versa) but also allows you to assign more than one Program's signal to one side of the crossfader; this is a great feature I have never seen on other mixers. The Cue switch allows you to turn on or off the cue feature for that Program channel, which determines whether the signal should be sent to the monitor.
IN THE CANS
The top right of the faceplate features 10-segment LED meters for monitoring signals, a pair of stereo master LEDs and a third column of LEDs that display the Cue level. Yet another fanstastic feature, this lets you monitor the audio level of an incoming track before mixing it live — without having to switch the display source as you would with other mixers. The Cue-meter display is determined by the previously mentioned Cue on/off switches.
The monitoring features of the PMC-37Pro are also quite powerful. Using the Monitor Select dial, you have the choice to monitor the Cue signal, the Master signal or either of the two auxiliary loops. With the Monitor Style switch, you can set the monitor to Split, where you will hear the master signal in the right-hand monitor channel and the selected monitor signal in the left-hand channel, or Stereo, where you will hear whatever you have selected in both monitor channels.
The headphone and monitor control switches are located to the right of the main faders, including one of the two headphone jacks. Obstructions of this kind may not be an issue for club-style DJing; however, scratch DJs will not favor this layout. Thankfully, the second headphone jack is located on the front vertical surface, conveniently out of the way and a better choice if using only one set of headphones.
The PMC-37Pro's Matrix Input Assign features allow for some pretty funky ideas. For example, with just a basic pair of turntables, you could assign one of the turntable's audio to two of the Program channels and then filter and EQ just one of them. By assigning both of these channels to one side of the crossfader, you can switch between the processed audio and the unprocessed audio using the main faders while maintaining the ability to scratch the audio with the crossfader. Add in the ability to assign either channel to one of two auxiliary loops, and the possibilities start to grow even more. The Matrix Input Assign is a brilliant feature that has many outstanding applications for live-performance DJs.
Overall, the mixer has a high-quality feel and an excellent sound. The flexibility and control that this mixer affords is awesome, and I had great fun toying around with the PMC-37Pro's unique features. The name of the game with the PMC-37Pro is options. It offers the widest array of configuration settings that I have seen on any mixer. With two auxiliary effects loops, fantastic EQ circuitry, a basic filter effect and superb monitoring capabilities, this is an awe-inspiring mixer.
With a retail list price of $1,599, the PMC-37Pro is priced far from an entry-level mixer, but it certainly would be a worthwhile investment for any DJ looking to expand his or her horizons beyond the single label genres of “scratch DJ” or “club DJ,” because it combines features that offer the best of both worlds and a whole lot more.
PMC-37PRO > $1,599
Pros: Matrix Input Assign a real breakthrough. High-quality EQ. Complete audio-signal flexibility.
Cons: On/off switch location. Phono/line switch location. No main-fader cut-in adjustment.