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Vestax PMC-007 Mixer Review by Deft (with additional material from Gizmo) Date: June 2004

Why additional material from Gizmo? Simple really - I had the 007 first, took some photos, had a 3 week play with it and set about writing a review in amongst all the other gear I have to play with right now. Deft however pulled out all the stops and got his review done in double - nay tripple quick time. Having read Deft's completed review, it became clear that we felt almost entirely the same way about it so it seemed pointless to have 2 almost identical reviews. Hence the odd comments from me along the way.

Background & Main Interface

Vestax, a name synonymous with scratch dj equipment and the company who really set the standard as far as the typical scratch mixer layout is concerned. The old classic design of the PMC-05Pro lives on today and was slimmed down as the 06Pro and beefed up for the 07Pro. However, competition has been fierce and there is a great deal of choice in today's diverse scratch mixer market. More recent contributions from the likes of Ecler, Rane and Stanton have seen more feature rich performance mixers emerge at very competitive prices. Surprisingly, Vestax have largely resisted updating their classic designs and instead have relied on reputation and branding to maintain market share. There are of course, the Samurai editions, 07ISP and various limited runs of the 05Pro - but these have not made a long-standing impression or change in the basic market Vestax serves. People generally don't like change, and this can indeed be seen as one of the strengths of the core Pro series. You have a popular tried and tested format with a loyal following.

Vestax are not ones to totally rest on their laurels and have reacted to the demand for certain extra features with the PMC-007. As far as I know, this is not some kind of obscure James Bond tie-in, but in fact a logical extension from the PMC-07Pro. Having said this, the design has changed considerably and is probably why they didn't feel the badge PMC-07Promk2 would be appropriate. I'm not 100% sure if Vestax are retiring the 07Pro, though the 007 has been billed as the replacement to it. Skratchworx first caught sight of this mixer back in September 2003 when it was shown at the Plasa Show, London. I believe it was launched shortly after, with the manual being dated November 2003.

First impressions are quite striking as the stylings are a large departure from the champagne-gold finish rectangular shape of the original Pro series and much more in line with that of the PDX-2000 and PCV-180. Curves abound with the only splash of colour being the Vestax logo on the monotone backdrop. There is a nice subtle slope upwards on the top front plate and everything has an elegant look to it. The white and black on grey markings makes navigating your way around the mixer very easy. Everything is in an obvious position and clearly labelled.

The mixer main surface area is split in the usual way - with the majority of space given over to the main three faders. As well as the headphone monitor cue fader and level control there is also a wet/dry fader and individual channel send switches for the external effects loop. The other new pair of buttons are neatly between the phono/line switches and are the mute switches for the 'rehearsal' mode. The sloping top area of the mixer is home to the usual channel gain, eq and pan controls - with extra buttons for the 'scratch eq' setting. The crossfader reverse switch (NOT program reverse like on the 07Pro) is also up between the channel rotaries. The remaining controls are for the mic (level and 2-band eq), effect send level, master level (with stereo/mono switch), booth level, master/cue switch for the headphones and finally the 3-way switch for previewing the effects return signal.

The back panel has balanced and unbalanced master output connections (XLR +4dbV and RCA 0dbV respectively), a booth output (0dBV RCA) and a pair of stereo RCA connections for the effects loop. The mic input section consists of 2 1/4" jacks (1 for the mic, 1 for the effects insert). There are nice fat separate grounding posts for each channel and all the RCA connections are gold plated. The power supply is external and the actual connector is tiny and not overly secure. A reliable internal power supply would be preferable.The front panel has the crossfader curve control control rotary and 3 way switches for the upfader curves. There are also a PAIR of headphone sockets - 1/4" and 1/8".

The Basics

Thankfully Vestax have used full gain controls on the PMC-007 - the limited trims on my 06Pro drove me mad! The 7-segment level meter is switchable from an individual L+R summed PGM display to one showing the master level. They have gone out on a limb and opted for rotaries for the 3-band eq. Personally, I prefer rotaries for the eq as I tend to use them more for mixing than scratching - however this was quite a selling point of the 07Pro so some people may be disappointed. The eq is superb and is a joy to use. It has a -infinity cut for each band and the frequencies and band-widths have been placed so that with all the eq set to cut there is no audible sound. All the eq bands have +4dB boost available. It would be nice to have a tiny bit more power in them, but it's sufficient to get a reasonable emphasis on each of the bands. The only slight criticism (this goes for all the rotaries) is that the actual knobs have the usual line cut-out for the 0 position but they have no colour markings on them. Sounds simple, but it really makes it hard to see where the eqs are set at a glance. I kept forgetting to move the eq back to flat. Nothing a permanent marker pen couldn't fix though! (Gizmo - these are the same knobs as used on the new 05 pro III). The pan faders have a nice feel to them but have a lot of resistance to movement. I'm sure they would get looser over time though. The phono/line switches are the usual 8-way rotatable and have a hard plastic covering. They feel solid and work well. The slight popping sound is still there though. I'm not a huge phono/line switch tweaker and I'd probably have something hooked up and running through the line input anyway. Still, they move easily and reliably.

The build quality on the unit seems solid and it is well finished overall. It does have a slightly boomy quality to the sound. It's not particularly muddy or noisy but I'm not sure it can quite compete with the Ranes and Allen & Heaths of this world.

The main faders are 3rd generation PCV faders and incorporate Vestax's 'latest fader system' - ReX (Rapid Exchange Fader System). It's been so long since I've peeked inside a Vestax mixer I'm not sure exactly how the PCV faders have changed through the generations. Basically though, the ReX system seems to involve a modified fader plate which screws into the main fader body but has clips at either end instead of the usual mounting screw holes. So they just clip/unclip in and out. No more screwdrivers! This screwdriver-less theme continues with the main mixer faceplate. This also clips on in a sense. Underneath the mixer is a large hand-operated screw. If you just unscrew this a bit it gives you the leverage to move a catch and pop the faceplate up (obviously after you have taken all the fader knobs off!). So you can get to the inside of your mixer with minimal hassle. Pretty cool, BUT.............Because the faders now clip in they are not as secure as typical screw mounted faders. All faders in general have a bit of movement perpendicular to their direction of travel, but these ReX faders seem to rattle around a bit more in all directions. This seems to have gotten worse on the crossfader with extended use. This does not inspire me with confidence over the long term reliability of these fader plate clips. This movement has also had a knock on effect of loosening one of the screws which holds the ReX fader plate to the main fader body. This got to the point where the crossfader almost unscrewed itself from one end of the fader plate! So in fact, I did need a screwdriver after all! Looking at the way the ReX faders clip in you could probably tighten it up with a bit of plastic film or similar wedged in there. This is not ideal but would probably be a solution of sorts to minimise the movement, which would hopefully stop the screw loosening. It would have been nice to have the option to screw mount the faders as well, or a secondary locking system to secure them a bit better. It's held up o.k. since then but the movement does cause the whole mixer to sound a bit like a rattling tin-can when scratching!

The crossfader cut-in to full volume is around 3mm from the edge of the fader on the sharpest setting. It has a smooth rounded curve to the cut and I found the crossfader to have a weighted feel to it but still nice and smooth with little resistance. However, the crossfader curve control doesn't seem to go right down to a dipped fade as the pictures in the manual suggest. There was no centre dip on any of the settings. The input fader curve switches cover the most common settings. Setting C cuts like the crossfader at the bottom of the fader travel. Setting B gives a gradual fade over the whole length and setting A gives a very gradual fade up from the bottom and cuts in fully over the last half-inch or so. The only slightly weird thing is that the maximum level on the A setting is a tad lower than on the other two. The included diagram in the manual seems to confirm this. My electronics knowledge isn't good enough to give you an answer as to why though! The channel faders have no reverse switches and with there being just a crossfader reverse and no program reverse, the PMC-007 is significantly less flexible than the 07Pro in terms of potential fader configuration.

Monitoring, Effects and New Functions

The headphone section is fairly straight-forward. There is a master/cue switch and fader to blend between PGM1 & PGM2. The cue signals are taken post-eq/pre-fader and the headphone stage is reasonably clear and goes pretty loud (enough to be uncomfortable!). Added to the usual cueing functions we also now have the addition of a mute/rehearsal button for each of the channels. Pressing one of these effectively disables the crossfader and also mutes the selected channel at the master output. The crossfader now replaces the usual headphone cue fader meaning you can now practice your next mix or scratches with the main fader in your headphones. It also means you can rehearse without having to alter the main output level. Neat, well implemented and very useful.

The scratch eq button is a simple eq preset that can be added to the eq stage. The manual seems to say that it bypasses the eq, but in reality it doesn't seem to. The usual eq settings still affect the overall sound when it is engaged. The scratch eq gives a boost to the mids and highs and cuts the lows. It's actually more useful than it sounds - makes life a lot easier if you are quickly interspersing a set with some quick cuts - it saves you having to alter the eq and gain settings temporarily. Would be very cool if you could set the scratch eq to your own personal setting though I'm not sure how easy this would be with analog components. (Gizmo: yeah - Me and BX figured that keeping the Scratch EQ button pressed, setting the EQ and then releasing would be ideal).

A very welcome addition is the external effects loop available on the PMC-007. There is a switch for each channel which when activated routes the post-fader signal for that channel out of the send RCA connections. There is a send level rotary just above the switches and a return level fader just below. Initially I was dismayed and confused to find that the return signal was just dumped onto the main mixing buss. The return fader is marked with both MAX/MIN & WET/DRY markings. So I was expecting it to actually blend between the sent and returned signal. Mmmmm. HOWEVER, simply by chance I was poking about underneath the main faceplate and saw a little switch accessible by the left channel fader. Intrigued, I had a quick flick through the manual to find that this switch actually related to the effects loop. In its default position the effects loops works as I just described. But in its other position the MAX/MIN return fader becomes the WET/DRY fader I was expecting! Phew. There was me ready to write off the effects loop as a bit poor! Further proof that it really does help to read the manual sometimes (DUH! - Gizmo). The only problem with using the fader as a WET/DRY control is that the fader essentially blends between the returned signal (WET) and the master output (DRY). This means that if the MIC is connected, by flipping over to WET you cut out the MIC signal. So not good if you are using effects whilst with an MC! They could have done with altering the routing to maintain the MIC signal in this situation. Still, the switch under the faceplate gives you the flexibility for different types of effects boxes and situations. In its default position it can work like a session input control, and in its other position it works better for audio effects processors. It is in the manual but it's not particularly obvious unless you own the mixer. It wouldn't have hurt them to put the switch actually on the top panel somewhere. The effects return signal can be monitored through the headphones cue system via a 3-way switch: Off, Solo or Blend.

Summary

Deft: Vestax have brought some welcome additions and rather neat features alongside some more traditional ones in the PMC-007. However, there is a nagging feeling that they may have alienated some of their staunch supporters by removing some of the flexibility and favoured features from the original PMC-07Pro - namely the fader based eq and upfader/program reverse switches. At a current street price near to £700 it is going to be a tough decision for anyone who would really like these extra features. Also, although the ReX fader system is a good one, I feel it needs a little refining. With the likes of the supremely reliable Rane TTM-56 already established and the forthcoming Rodec Scratchbox, the 007 may find itself in a difficult market positon.

Gizmo: Even at PLASA, we were left scratching our heads hard as to the market the 007 is aimed at. While it's got some obvious turntablist-centric features, it misses some obvious essentials. It's almost as if Vestax are trying to bridge a gap between club and scratch dj's and keeping neither happy. The new features are welcome but the scratch EQ could have been implemented better. But it's the missing features that let the 007 down. While it's a very capable scratch mixer that goes beyond the battle market, I feel it's just missed the target, especially when you consider that the Rane 56 has everything we need for less money. And when you consider that the Pioneer 707 is only £495 and offers most of the features we need, the £700 price tag on the 007 begins to look deeply unattractive.

Overall rating - 7/10

 



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