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Vestax QFO LE Creative Musical Interface
Reviewer: Markski • Date: March 2007 • Price: Street £449/$999 TSP • Link: Vestax

Introduction

Vestax QFO LE Review

Since its introduction, the Vestax QFO has been a source of divided opinion between turntablists. Whilst some embraced the QFO as a brave step forward, its critics have always maintained it is little more than a gimmick. Regardless, the one thing that everybody has always agreed on is that the product is way too expensive for the niche market it’s targeted at. Thus, Vestax went back to the lab and responded with a cost reduced version in the shape of the QFO LE. For a detailed look at the original QFO, please read Antwan’s authoritative review elsewhere on Skratchworx.

What’s In The Box

QFO LE
Platter
Slipmat
Vestax Headshell
Tone Arm Balance weight
Cartridge Shell weight
45 EP adaptor
2 x Platter screws and screwdriver
Manual
Stereo Phono Lead
Pair of CL-SS Lag Spacers

First Impressions

Vestax QFO LE Review

The first thing that strikes you about the LE is the sleek black finish that completely defies its cost reduced roots. It certainly looks a lot more ‘hi-fi’ than the dirty silver of the original QFO, yet on closer inspection you do start to notice where the pennies have been saved. This whole area around the platter is a now lot sparser due to the absence of many of the original switches and knobs that graced the original QFO. This gives the LE a much cleaner look overall, and is certainly a lot less daunting at first glance.

Controls

Vestax QFO LE Review

The full sized channel gain and master volume knobs have been replaced in the LE with small, plastic rotary dials (much like the headphone volume control on the original QFO). In use they are perfectly adequate for setting levels, although their size and lack of clear markings make them a little fiddly to adjust. It is also virtually impossible to read the levels from a distance, so pre-setting your master and gain levels are the order of the day in a live situation. The only switches that remain from the original design are Monitor Select (for switching between channels 1, 2 and master cue), and one Phono/Line input switch. The second Phono/Line switch has been replaced on the LE with a second PGM reverse switch (in addition to the original one that remains underneath the cross fader housing).

The LE Tonearm

Vestax QFO LE Review

The cutting edge 'Dynamic Balance Straight Arm' technology of the original QFO has been replaced on the LE by a new style PDX 2000 MK 2 ASTS tonearm. This means you can’t run around the stage with the LE round your neck like a guitar, or use old and crappy stylus with dodgy carts. Personally, I think these are positives, although it obviously requires you use the LE on a flat surface, plus you don’t get the reduced record wear that the 'Dynamic Balance Straight Arm' provides. In everyday scratch use however, I couldn’t notice the difference. The QFO took every drill, laser and heavy handed scratch I could throw at it when equipped with a Shure M44-7a.

Pitch Settings

The original QFO pitch slider remains the same on the LE, controlled by movement around the outside of the platter. However, the original 3 position pitch mode switch has also fell victim to cost cutting. Whereas the original QFO had three pitch settings to control the way in which the pitch slider worked (90L/180/90R), the QFO LE defaults to the 180 setting, In practice this is the most useful of the three, giving a pitch range from +60 to 0%, 0% to -60%, -60% to 0% and back to +60% from the far left to the far right of the platter.

EQ?

Vestax QFO LE Review

The absence of any EQ is certainly disconcerting when you first approach the LE, yet in use the situation is nowhere near as bad as you’d expect. Firstly, as with the original QFO, all the faders are equipped with Vestax’s ‘Shock Proof’ rubber housings to dampen any vibrations. Secondly, the sound on the LE is remarkably clean, so even when cutting the standard ‘Beep-Aaargh-Fresh’ sounds, the lower frequencies are surprisingly subtle. To be honest, after an hour or two on the cut I’d completely forgotten about it.

Connections

Vestax QFO LE Review

In addition to the master out and line level in, you also get a dedicated phono input on the LE, with earth/GND connector for hooking up a second turntable. This is a nice addition that allows the option of a compact 2 deck setup with the addition of another turntable.

In Use

Do the Pepsi challenge on a QFO/QFO LE and I defy you to tell the difference on the cut.
The motor, platter, faders and general guts remain identical between the two models. Even with some of the major QFO features missing, cutting and scratching is just as enjoyable on the LE as it is on its elder sibling. You’re still stuck with the decidedly average cross fader curve presets from the original QFO, although Vestax have thoughtfully included a couple of CS-LL lag spacers which do improve matters. However, you’re doing this baby a disservice by not throwing a Pro X Fade in it – it’s a match made in heaven.

To LE, or not to LE?

Vestax QFO LE Review

The QFO provides the turntablist on a budget with a QFO solution for a non-QFO price. The lack of the ‘Dynamic Balance Straight Arm’ is not that much of a loss, as the ASTS arm still tracks phenomenally well. It all depends whether running around on stage, or scratching on you lap is important to you.

There’s no doubting the lack of EQ but in most of the situations I’ve been using the LE it hasn’t become an issue. What you lose is hands on control, yet the majority of applications the QFO lends itself to involve the output being sessioned in to another mixer, routed into a desk or another third party recording device - any of which provide their own EQ controls. If you perceive this as a major problem then you’re probably better off with a separate deck/mixer combo, or a full QFO.

Ultimately the LE can hold its budget head up high against its premium priced counterpart. The core QFO functionality ensures that the LE remains an elegant solution suited to a broad range of turntablism applications at a more accessible price. If only Vestax could drop that price lower and then maybe we could see a musical revolution as radical as the introduction of the product itself.

RATINGS

Build Quality - 8/10
When traveling without a flight case your eye is always on protruding tonearm, but overall construction is good and strong.

Sound Quality - 9/10
This is no hi-fi deck, but even sans EQ, the QFO sounds good and warm. Certainly more than adequate for scratch applications

Features and implementation - 9/10
The right features have gone to justify the price drop.

Value for money - 7/10
Great value when compared a QFO, but still pricey overall.

Pros:
• One stop third deck solution and performance tool.
• Compact and Portable.

Cons
• Still needs a further price drop to become truly accessible to the masses.
• Lack of EQ may limit its appeal for some.

The Bottom Line

The QFO LE is a compact and versatile performance machine for a myriad of scratch applications. It’s still a little on the pricey side, but a great solution nonetheless for the traveling turntablist, or as an additional third deck in an existing setup.


 

 



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