Reviewer: Johnny 1 Move • Date: March 2009 • Price: $449/£249/€449 • Link: Vestax
With the explosion of digital vinyl systems (DVS) over the past few years, Vestax have very sensibly tweaked some of their more scratch-centric products to make the digital turntablist’s life easier. Although the humble 05 has been around for years, this latest update means it still makes a lot of sense for a basic setup.
In addition to the ever-lengthening name, the PMC-05 Pro III DX (phew!), there are 3 key differences to the regular 05 Pro III reviewed here:
- DX connections for easy hook-up of a DVS soundcard
- A slot to add the TUB-1 two in two out USB soundcard
- Slender, rubberised rotary dials as used on the 08 pro
Even if you aren’t thinking about buying one of these mixers for your own setup there’s one thing you should know in case you ever come across one. I’ll say it here, in bold, so even if you’re not interested in the rest of the review, you know the important bit:
For your DVS to work with the DX connections, you need to set it to accept a line level signal.
If you normally plug your turntables in to, for example, your Serato box, it will not work properly as the DX connection is not simply split off from the phone input, it is amplified to line level first. More on this later…
Round the back
Identically to the 05 pro III, there are inputs for 2 mics, 2 turntables and 2 line-level sources, however this time the latter can actually be used to attach CDJs as you won’t need to plug your DVS in there. This is the first major benefit of the DX system - you don’t lose two inputs.
The power supply has been changed from a 15V DC to 14V AC affair, so be aware that you can’t mix and match power supplies with earlier Vestax 05/06 mixers.
Each channel has a trim control to match levels, a high and low EQ offering 12Db of boost or cut, and a pan control. Annoyingly the EQ controls are still not centre- detented so it’s not as quick as it should be to reset them to zero. The pan controls do have centre detents, so this must be a design oversight. As in previous models, all of these controls are still crammed so close together that even the most slender fingered of DJs will have trouble tweaking them. At least the new rubbery knobs make life a little easier in this respect.
The major addition to the last model, the FX loop, survives intact. Although very basic, with no pre/post fader select or wet/dry control, it’s still a useful feature.
The lack of a wet/dry control does limit the use to effects that are added to the original sound, like reverb and delay. If you want to replace the original sound with a 100% effected version then unfortunately it’s a no-go. Given that this mixer is aimed at the turntablist market it’s not a major restriction, but be aware that some creative options are ruled out.
Moving down the faceplate everything else remains the same, from the newer style metal line switches to the standard issue PCV faders.
As before, the linefaders can be adjusted from smooth fade to sharp(ish) cut at the top by opening up the mixer. The unit shipped with these set to the sharpest setting which is fine for the odd cut, just don’t expect to crab on them.
Given the reasonably extensive updates to other parts of the mixer it comes as a surprise that the crossfader still has a 3mm cut-in on the sharpest setting. By today’s standards this is huge. The supplied CLS-1 spacers greatly improve this, but as the 05 was the “standard” scratch mixer for many years I would expect the performance to at least stand up to its modern competitors out of the box.
No room in front
New in the front panel is a blanking plate which can be replaced with the optional TUB-1 USB soundcard. There is precious little information available about this, but a short session with a screwdriver revealed that the USB connection seems to send a copy of the master output to an attached PC, and receive an input into DX input 2. It’s not clear whether using the TUB-1 means losing a DVS channel. The Vestax website seems to suggest so but it’s not explicit, if this is important to you then it’s best to check with Vestax before buying.
The most likely use for the TUB-1 soundcard is for cutting over computer generated beats and recording the results, for which it appears to be a perfect fit. There is no option to use the left channel for the TUB-1 sound, which may cause an issue for people who scratch on the right turntable. Using the hamster switch will help with this, however the channel faders will still be the wrong way round.
Just to the right of the blanking plate are the FX loop send and receive connections, followed by the DX switches. The latter are used to switch each channel from normal operation to DVS control mode, and each channel can be switched independently.
Finishing off what is now a fairly crowded front panel are a further 8 phono sockets for connecting a DVS soundcard, and a headphone socket. Good luck finding a flightcase that still allows access to everything on the front…
I can’t help but think the DX switches would be better on the top panel, which would also allow the front panel connections to be placed more centrally and therefore fit a flightcase better. Not a major issue but fumbling around in the dark for the switches with all those leads in the way will doubtless lead to the odd mistake.
How the DX works
Fortunately more thought has been put into the DX system itself, it really is a breeze to hook-up and use a DVS. Simply attach the soundcard to the connections on the front, slap on a control vinyl (or slot-in a control CD), flick the DX switch and away you go.
As the channels are independently switchable this makes the change over from one DJ to the next a breeze:
Another good touch is that when the DX switch is activated, the line/phono switch is used to switch between using either turntables or CDJs to control your DVS. This really does make it easy to switch between different setups with the minimum amount of hassle.
Even if you are going to leave this mixer permanently connected to the same DVS, it’s still a major advantage to be able to leave 2 turntables and 2 CDJs connected and
be able to play vinyl and CDs, and
use either to control a DVS, in any combination, without any rewiring
. Top marks to Vestax on this one.
All of this switching happens inside the mixer so the DX connections on the front are at line level. This means you have to make sure your DVS is set correctly to work on CD signal level even if you are using control vinyl. A small point, but it took 5 minutes of head scratching to realise what was going wrong the first time of trying this mixer with a DVS.
This gives rise to a nice side affect for DVSs that don’t allow using a control vinyl for one channel and a control CD for the other. This limitation is removed as the DX brings everything up to line level.
Overall this is a great little scratch mixer for people who use a Digital Vinyl System – wiring headaches are a thing of the past. Even more grateful will be those who regularly need to change systems, such as small clubs and bars, as the DX connections at the front make life so much easier when re-wiring. The FX loop and TUB-1 options are useful extras that you wouldn’t expect for such a low price, and the build quality and durability is clear from the number of ancient 05s still in service. The only major black mark is the standard fader cut-in - a short, sharp cut on a modern scratch fader is a must. Having said that, it’s cheap enough to budget for a third party fader and still end up with a bargain overall.
Great – Vestax scratch mixers don’t break unless you try hard
Not pristine, but perfectly acceptable for a scratch mixer.
Features and Implementation
The implementation of the DX systems is so slick you’ll wonder how you managed without it.
Value for Money
At the current street price this is a steal.
• The DX system
• The price
But not so keen on…
• Standard cut out of the box