You have to feel for Vestax sometimes. No matter which new deck they launch into the ever hungry gear market, there's always one big problem - the Technics SL1200/1210. The grip it has had on the market has been extremely hard to break and some doubt if it ever will be broken. Sure, dents have been made but that's about it.
While there's evidence that the turntable market has slipped over the years, the desire to bring out new models is still strong. But rather than bring out yet another thinking outside the box design, Vestax have decided to build on the existing market and seeing that the Technics grip is becoming weaker, they've also made a few changes to attract potential switchers into the Vestax fold.
The PDX-3000 comes in 2 flavours - regular and MIX. Compared to the 2000, there's not so much difference so much of the original skratchworx review is still true, therefore this is more of an update covering the new features. So let's see what's changed.
The old PDX range came in 2 colours - black and silver (and special edition white but not seen much). So this years colour is near black, but with a shiny varnished checkerboard pattern. Very striking it is too, especially when you catch it in the right light. When I say paintjob, it appears to be the actual colour of the plastic, rather than a sprayed on silver paint, making it a lot less likely to look shabby if abused out on the road.
The construction however remains the same. Same platter, same case, and almost the same controls. Refer to the previous review on that - no point in doubling up the content.
On the regular PDX-3000, nothing has changed from the 2000 MKII. The same skip-free ASTS straight arm system is in place. But it's the MIX model where you'll see the biggest change in the shape of a new s-arm, aimed squarely at switchers from Technics or perhaps for people who would have bought Vestax apart from the straight arm.
The length of this S-arm has been made the same so that for Technics users who sticker up their vinyl at 12 o' clock rather than in line with the cart, the start point is exactly the same. And of course it also features anti-skip as well as as anti-skating technology.
This S-arm is something new and along with the variable torque is aimed at swaying those fence sitters and even die-hard Technics fans to jump ship. You can see familiar elements taken from the ASTS straight arm as well as trying to keep the S-arm proponents happy. And it does seem to feel like a Technics arm as well. Interestingly, the weight can be locked in place as well. Be under no illusion - s-arm means a loss of stability but only to the same performance level of the Technics. The s-arm is designed for audio fidelity and most certainly not for scratchy backspins. If you want pure stability, stick with the straight arm 3000 model. But if it's safe ground you're after, the 3000Mix tonearm combined with the slick new servo controlled vari-torque is for you.
Personally I'm lamenting the loss of the Dymanic Balance tonearm. I do hope that Vestax see fit to keep a "Pro " model in the range.
Much is made of torque on turntables. Crazy numbers are often quoted with regard to how powerful the motor is and just how much flesh you lose when you try to slow down the platter. But one thing is pretty consistent and that's how much mix DJs have got used to the feel of the Technics. Whether it's touching the edge of the platter or gripping the spindle, feel has to be taken into account for people trying new tables.
So in a bid to please the aforementioned switchers, Vestax now have variable torque on the PDXs. This ranges from the now miniscule 1.5kg of Technics torque up to the Vestax standard 2.7kg, but all with a starting torque of 4.7kg, ensuring that the platter gets up to speed as instantly as possible. This is also reflected in the responsiveness of MIDI control as well.
But according to Vestax, much work has been done on the software that controls the motor. Technics have had the monopoly on analog servo motors, meaning that everyone else has had to use digital servo ones. This has led to many saying that you can't mix accurately on anything but a Technics. So Vestax have spent a lot of time working on the motor software to give you the much smoother feel you need to allow you to mix more accurately. So now the PDX-3000s can be used for scratching and mixing too.
In use, it doesn't feel like there's much difference but it's noticeable when you use the spindle to pitch bend. On the lowest setting, I could slow the platter down - on the highest I couldn't. With my hand on the vinyl, I was hard pushed to really tell a difference though.
A casualty of the variable torque is start speed adjust, but I expect nobody will miss that at all.
Isn't it ironic that 30 year old technology is key to the possible success of the PDX-3000? That's not just a reference to the 1200, but also to MIDI. Previously in the realm of musicians, MIDI has now worked its way into the vocabulary of the wider scene.
It's not new of course. Stanton and EJ patented MIDI output from a turntable in 2002 and Numark's CDX and HDX decks can do all sorts of MIDI magic including being driven note-wisefrom a keyboard. And the addition to the PDX range comes from being a key part of Vestax's Controller One as well.
It's worth pointing out that this is MIDI input only, so no driving external devices from the PDX. But it does work very well with a MIDI enabled keyboard. I hooked a Yamaha keyboard up and it was working straight away. Pressing 33 and 45 together gets MIDI active and remembers the last pressed key if you drop in and out of MIDI mode while the PDX is powered up.
Using MIDI, the PDX gives a full 3 octave range. This is a full note lower than -60% and a full 4 notes higher than +60% (the maximum pitch ranges achievable with ultra pitch and +/- 10% pitch fader. In terms of responsiveness, it responds with only a very slight drag or pickup. That will of course depend on your slipmats more than anything else.
And before you ask, I didn't film anything. I'm not exactly what you would call skilled on a piano so it would have been a pretty basic up and down the scales affair. I'll leave the clever MIDI stuff to more skilled musicians to drop on Youtube. But you can check out what can be done in this movie of the Controller One.
Worth an upgrade?
If you're already rocking PDXs, you won't need the variable torque so you've probably be looking at MIDI or maybe the s-arm as a potential deal maker. For switchers however, the things that made you loyal to Technics are now largely part of the PDX-3000 (expect possibly the life span). For people new to DJing, the choice isn't as clear as it once was. Scratchers used PDXs - mixers stuck with Technics, but now you can pick and choose which brand you want as the features and now mimicked on the PDX.
The key here is price. The entry level PDX-3000 is £415, whereas the PDX-2000 MKII can be had for £299. And if you want an s-arm, you'll be paying a rather painful £469. You have to work out if variable torque, MIDI and a new paint job is worth £115 or £169 throwing the s-arm into the equation. That said, it's only a tenner more expensive than the 1210 MK5G, but does have lot more going for it feature-wise.
Build Quality - 8/10
It certainly looks high quality and everything works well, but it's a plastic case.
Sound Quality - 9/10
The old argument of s-vs straight arms certainly comes into play but the tested straight arm rendered loud and clear feedback-free audio.
Features and Implementation - 9/10
Variable torque, ultra pitch and MIDI put it towards the top of the deck food chain.
Value for Money - 8/10
Breaking the £400 barrier makes a turntable not as attractive as it's competitors, especially as its target market can get a 1200 for £85 cheaper. You have to decide if the extras are worth it.
Pros: MIDI, variable torque and an s-arm at last
Cons: Price and the loss of dynamic balance tone arm
The PDX comes of age, both in terms of digital and features. There's something here for switchers and newcomers alike, provided you have deep pockets.
Thanks to Leisuretec for the loan unit.