Updated: Skratchworx has a great write-up on the Controller One as well as other neat new PLASA gear. See an in-action video there. Worth buying on its own for music? Naw. But an interesting extra on an otherwise great table.

Turntables can slice, chop, juggle, scratch, and make all manner of noise. They can work as MIDI controllers for other instruments, control vibrating chairs, and run interactive art installations. The one thing they can’t do: play musical notes like a flute or piano. And in a daring move to solve something no one had previously seen as a problem, Vestax is building a turntable to do just that. Via a row of buttons and a fader or foot pedal. I think.

Controller One [Vestax.co.jp — mostly Japanese, but an English diagram reproduced below]

Here’s how it works (as near as I can tell):

Sound: A standard audio record is the sound source; apparently the idea is you use a single-note album (note C) and then bend it up or down. “Voice, strings, sine wave” are among the ideas in the diagram, but — uh — is Vestax going to sell an enitre record of a sine wave?

Individual notes: In one of the worst keyboard interfaces ever, you use a series of buttons to choose pitches.

Octaves and Glissando: The fader can be switched to adjust either octaves for the buttons or bend between notes. You can also use a foot pedal for pitch bend.

Confusion, thy name is Controller One. This appears to be a direct drive machine, so you can . . . scratch . . . your . . . one note. Is everyone else as baffled by this as I am? It’s like the world’s worst sampler: you’ve got a single playback source, buttons and faders for controlling pitch, and apparently no way of controlling volume or expression. The greatest thing about a turntable is, well, the turntable — the ability to scratch this tactile, rotating disc. Yet the primary interface here appears to be a cheap row of buttons.

This makes a little more sense if you look at it a different way: since it’s a standard turntable, you could presumably repitch any record (found sounds, voice, whatever) using the buttons and foot pedal, so you could play any record according to musical pitch just by modulating speed. If you’re good with your feet, you could repitch with the foot pedal while scratching with your hands. Now that’s cool — totally bizarre, but cool. If you can in fact control this with MIDI, I can even envision a chorus of these turntables, directed by laptop, singing in surreal harmony.

I may be missing something major here, though, so I’m going to go talk to Vestax and try to find out what the heck this is. It’s a real product; it’s in the new products section of the Japanese Website. In the meantime, you can puzzle over this diagram. Now if I could just brush up my Japanese, I could get a gig in Tokyo as a copy editor, but you get the idea.

Oh, by the way, you don’t actually need to fly to Tokyo to buy a new Controller One to do what I’m describing — you could just use a control record and software and get the same effect. Remap pitch in the software (especially if you’re using something like Ms. Pinky and Max/MSP, for you fellow avant-garde interactive geeks out there) and assign speed to a MIDI controller. Done.

More commentary on this news item:

DJDeals.com has a photo of the unit on display. They hopefully suggest that “This will certainly move the dj and turntablist further towards acceptance as a true musician as it allows the turntable to become a true musical instrument rather than just a tool for playback.” Except, of course, this still is a playback tool — just with a really complex pitch control.

GearJunkies is on top of things as always, though their Babelfish translation doesn’t help a whole lot.

  • Guest

    Check this link that I posted some 5 weeks ago. And there's a movie link in there as well.

  • admin

    I missed that — love your site, by the way; normally read religiously but wasn't able to in September (and thus am a bit late — jealous of you at that show!)

    I still have to admit, I don't entirely get it. It's a nifty extra, anyway. I mostly want to hear what it sounds like with a record that's more than one note, or percussive / vocal things. With the right content, you ought to be able to get some of the melody to come out. With this, I just wonder, uh, why not just use a darn soft synth? 😉 The pitch-change effect is nifty, but kind of limited. Then again, given that it's on an already great table . . .


  • Guest

    In any case, Faderboard, like what will happen with Controller One, was a overhyped, overpriced piece of kit that was revolutionary, but also poorly executed.

    In a sense, it was a sampler that was controlled via a series of faders, each attached to a given pitched or single sample.

    Simple MIDI output (only keys, not fader CCs), and no MIDI-in lead this to be more of a gimmicky toy than a real tool. Great potential if you’re able to play it (and only a handful could), but for the price they were asking ($1000+) was outrageous when considering that one could buy a PC and outfit it with a decent sampler and MIDI controller for the same price. In the end it died a quick death and was forgotten soon after its initial release, and I predict the same will happen to Controller One. It’s great that Vestax is going full-on in its R&D, but lately I haven’t seen much of any product that would be of use to anyone but the most die-hard of turntablists.


    Vestax's Nasty Little Secret

  • pete

    you gota be a scratch musician to fully understand the dopeness of this turntable. if ur not, then just leave it to the ones who are to show u how it works

  • apostle

    pete's right. this gear is only for scratch artists. only a few will understand right away. the rest will catch on in about 10 years or so.

  • ja

    ricci rucker created this turntable, and is the leader in scratching and its sad he doesnt get any recognition.

  • wanna hear 'Michelle' by The Beatles played on a turntable?


  • BassTooth

    they should build an arpeggiators into this joint.

  • likwidation

    I make beats on my mpc 3000. For me, I like that you're able to get a true pitch from samples on wax with this turntable. I can sample all of the different notes I want from one bass sample, instead of sampling one bass note, then 16 leveling it. My best beats are usually made when I simply import great samples, and use the filters sparingly. If I tweak the samples too much in the mp, I usually lose the fullness of the sound. With this, I can sample true pitch changes, and just arrange the timing, while maintain the real sound of the sample, thats really cool—so is the midi feature!!

  • James

    Yow ,greetings

    I m wondering………. A vestax PDX 3000 or 1210 ,need midi got protools LE 7, 2 mac apple G4 s blah… digi 002,fantom,mbox 2,echomona/win

    any sugestions good turntables new modelish ,Vynale

    Any decks with digital out/

    need (a,maybe 2)(maybe different) kicking decks asap…

    Feed back much appreciated,


  • James

    I got 1 technics MK 3 & Mk 5 including Vestax VMC 200,45000 Yen a bargain so ,decided not to get the Vestax 1210 s .(goes well with the Protools 7 Digi 002 & M box 2,The other sound card Mona will be moaning until I get her hooked up with microsoft ,

    feeding decks through the fantom to get that cleaner sound then into m box or 002,

    Love the Juno 6 and Still the yamaha SU 10 for triggering off samples….

    let me know what you you think about the new 1210 s,there s more going on than scratching soft ware,optical for example……

  • tripmastermonkee
  • tripmastermonkee
  • tripmastermonkee

    i think that should put the hateration to rest once and for all…

  • jackie113

    AVS DVDtoGo, a smart wizard-styled tool, copies movies and converts just any video to iPod, Sony PSP, Archos, Zen Creative, mobile or a portable media…


  • J Lucid

    "Confusion, thy name is Controller One. This appears to be a direct drive machine, so you can . . . scratch . . . your . . . one note. Is everyone else as baffled by this as I am? It’s like the world’s worst sampler: you’ve got a single playback source, buttons and faders for controlling pitch, and apparently no way of controlling volume or expression. The greatest thing about a turntable is, well, the turntable — the ability to scratch this tactile, rotating disc. Yet the primary interface here appears to be a cheap row of buttons."

    It's not meant to be a sampler, as it does not sample or record. Volume is controlled via a DJ mixer (crazy concept, I know…pairing a turntable with a mixer).

    The Controller One is meant to tune your record to a musical note so that you can mix your set or scratch in whatever key that you choose. Mixing a set in the same key is pretty difficult and not something that most DJs try to do.

    I'm not sure about the function of the Controller…if it is really necessary but, I would love to see Vestax or preferably Technics, build a deck with the same craftsmanship and organic wood case that was done with the Controller One…a nice, solid deck with great pitch control and beautiful design, drop the price about $1500 and I'd buy 2 of them right now.

  • Jesse Torres

    Thank You Thank Yoy Thank You, almost got someone to get me one overseas so I could be the first kid on the block to break it once I realized it wasn't what I thought it was.

    Peace-Jesse Jess

  • 4OneFunk. San Francisco. We're doin it out here:


  • We're 2 months from 2011… which means I'm responding to this post about 6 years after it was first published… I saw this site when it was first published, but I chose to not get involved in commenting..

    But the results are in now….

    With the merging of MIDI and DJing, the Controller One has proven to be the ONLY turntable with the ability to push this new relationship of DJING & MIDI to new heights. How? Because much of what would take extra time to plan or execute digitally like changing key, can be done instantly on the controller one. The idea was to have a turntable designed to work musically with all the other musical tools. Serato and Traktor allow you to use cue points, you can instantly glitch & loop sounds & just this year alone (2010) MIDI controllers hit the market designed specifically for DJing. So we had digital vinyl software in 2005, but no controllers until 2010?

    This was one of the reason I didn't use digital vinyl then, and wasn't publicly supporting it. I was approached by my now good friend Joe Ward, who created a DJ controller called Quickswtich. Quickswitch and the Traktor X1 are now proving that the future of the DJing is in essence the merging of producer and DJ into one with 3 tools.

    A MIDI system (serato, traktor, or some combination of midi software)

    DJ Controller (I prefer Quickswitch because of it's amount of possibilities, X1 is also available)

    Musical Turntable Controller (Controller One is the only one that exist)

    If you don't have a Controller One, you are stuck with Technics 1200 which gives you an 8 pitch range & no way to change the speed of the turntable to correlate with note progressions. This is why many people are djing strictly with ableton live. Why didn't they coexist before? Digital vinyl software was being viewed as the "competition" to the Controller one instead of being something used together. Look at the comments on here. Djs were divided. 2010 is the first year we can use all 3 tools together, 2011 will be the year more people will see it publicly, and in 2012 it will probably be the norm, shortly after, the standard.

    If you're still confused… imagine scratching an MPC, that's what this is. Unlike controllerism where your sets have to be sophisticatedly preplanned, these 3 devices together allow you to set cue points, and do everything a producer would do, live or studio, with the ability to scratch and change pitch musically without having to process signals. The importance of the Controller One is that it allows you to try lots of things in real time, that you would other wise

    have to process. The level of skills a DJ has in controlling a physical vinyl will not only give you a style advantage in the future for djing, but it will lead DJs to create new styles of music. This is how it's always been. So I recommend new DJs to practice their real hands on skills, the midi and tech stuff is a lot easier to get down.

    So far I get about 10 requests per month asking where they can buy the controller one from random people per month.

    It has been requested by A-trak ( http://twitter.com/atrak/status/8772932646 ) , and DJs like Dj Lethal (house of pain, limp biskit) are utilizing it in their stadium sets.

    Scratch djs have historically been the trend setters for electronic music, from hip hop, to left field music, and now, dance music.

    Next time you don't get something, let it marinate, hold your judgement, and then come back to it.

    I'm glad I waited half a decade to reply…


  • Guest
  • Guest
  • Guest
  • Çhristophe Thomas

    Dont give up yet on the idea


  • Çhristophe Thomas

    Dont give up yet on the idea


  • Çhristophe Thomas

    Dont give up yet on the idea


  • Jonathan Smith

    Whomever wrote this article, has no clue what they are talking about.
    You’ve completely missed it, do some research.