Homebrew firmware upgrade for VCI-100 turntable controller

We love hacks that take quality products and make them better. This enhanced firmware for the VCI-100 is a great example of that. In a similar fashion as the Behringer hack, [DaveX] reverse engineer the firmware for the device and figured out a few ways to make it better. It improves the scratch controller and slider accuracy to use 9-bit accuracy from the ADC readings, which in the stock version were being shifted down to 7-bits. There’s also a few LED tricks they call Disco Mode. They’re selling a “chip” that you need to flash the firmware but from what we can see it’s simply an RS232 converter so you might be able to figure out how to work without that part. We’ve embedded a demo of firmware version 1.4 after the break.

[Thanks Steve]

Comments

  1. ehrichweiss says:

    roy, you must have nothing to call a life to feel the need to say that. I’ve scored first post countless times but never once had an urge to just say “first”..I guess because doing so makes you look stupid, not witty or intelligent or anything else positive for that matter.

  2. M4CGYV3R says:

    Traktor and digital controllers are for noobs. It does all the beat matching for you making the “DJ” nothing more than an overpaid jukebox. The Arduino of the DJ world, if you will.

    Real DJs use vinyl or vinyl-controlled playback software like Serato ScratchLIVE or FinalScratch – and REAL turntables. Even some advanced CD players (Denon DNS-3500 anyone?) would be a step WAY up from this.

    Go real or go home.

    Also, Disco Mode ruins any useful feedback the color/light indicators may have provided – not exactly an improvement. The game looks mildly amusing though.

  3. h_2_o says:

    m3cgyv3r, so basically you have nothing to contribute to this except for putting down hackers who have taking the time to reverse engineer a product and make it better.

    glad to see good hacks like this one here, too bad about tools posting first and n00bs……

  4. DJ says:

    @M4CGYV3R, sorry dude, you’re behind the times. Vynil is OUT. I played for 10 years and couldn’t sell my Vestax for what the parts were worth. And Technics are discontinued. The pros do use digital controllers and laptops now, but real DJs still do all the mixing. The platform HAS changed, so the VCI-100 is fine for beginners. Everybody’s a n00b sometime…..

  5. Cory says:

    The ADC may have 512 steps (9-bits) but noise may make the lowest two bits useless, giving an effective resolution of 7 bits. Or the accuracy of the other components is off enough to make the higher resolution a mirage. Either way, I would suspect the change to make the device less reliable.

  6. Steve says:

    Cory: If you read the posts, you’d see that internal ADC is in fact 10 bits, and is then converted to 9 bits to avoid any noise problem (you always have to remove the least significant bit to debounce an analog input even if there’s virtually no noise). Noise was indeed a consideration for the hacker, and it seems as solid as original firmware. It was using 7 bit previously because standard MIDI messages use 7 bits parameters, except for the one (Pitch Bend) he’s using now, that wasn’t supported by the PC/MAC software before.

  7. Ewan says:

    Nice work.
    Midi controlers and synths are often hampered by shitty firmware,
    Good to see somebody rise to the challenge.

    Don’t get confused about what a dj is!.
    A dj is just the guy who changes the music. It’s not like you have to be a master turntablist just to call yourself a dj.

    I know a guy who pays the rent djing who uses one those nasty hercules dj consoles. But he’s more interested in making people dance than being a ‘real dj’

    Walk arround the bars an clubs in youre local nightlife area, and i’m sure that you”ll find more than half of the people who are being paid to play music will be using pioneer cdj 100’s and the rest will be split between vinyl and computers and expensive cd players.

    Apart from the fact that cd’s are realy objects, there’s not much diference between a vestax controler like the one in the article and a cdj.

    Obviously if it was my nightclub i’d want some guy turning up with crates of wax. But thats just because it’s cooler to look at.

    Sure it takes time to learn to beatmatch, but if your playing shitty music perfectly synced thats not going to make anybody dance.

    Choosing the right tune at the right time is what makes the dj worth his monney.

    Djing with vinyl is a different subset of djing, which is much more expensive and more time consuming and much cooler.

    now everybody can be a dj, get over it.

  8. jEXEy says:

    I’m big into the UK scene where EDM is much bigger than here in the states and i know for a fact that these mp3 controllers are a joke… so go ahead and hack away [cheers], but cdj’s and vinyl aren’t going anywhere.

  9. th0mas says:

    as a vci-100 owner and a hackaday regular reader I just want to say thanks for posting this.

  10. Adrian says:

    I just want to point out that http://www.djtechtools.com already figured out how to mod the firmware. And that a pro DJ (several, actually) uses the VCI-100 to do some really wicked shit.

    I’m not discounting [DaveX]‘s hard work here; that’s pretty awesome that he figured it out on his own and customized it to meet his needs. When it comes down to it, any DJ who doesn’t customize his setup to his needs and practise like hell doesn’t deserve the title “DJ,” so much as “HJ” (Human Jukebox). It’s one thing to have top-of-the-line equipment or thousand-dollar turntables and a huge record collection, and completely another to use them right and creatively. Sorry, M4CGYV3R. You are dead wrong. Species that don’t evolve, and cultures that don’t change with the times are doomed to die out.

    Besides, clubs these days don’t care if you can beat-match manually as much as you can draw a crowd and make them money. Technical skill falls in last place now, sadly. Having cool gimmicks and nifty tricks that you can do thanks to software (things you can’t do properly with vinyl, like cue-juggling and live re-edits) gives you an edge up over the competition, too.

    It’s not the tools you use, but how you use them. When used properly and creatively, you can do amazing things. That’s what hacking is all about, right? Using tools and products in new imaginative ways? Proper DJs nowadays are hackers. I have seen some amazing DJs who made their own equipment completely from scratch, and in the end, those DJs are the most entertaining to watch. Since DJing is a performance art these days, something more than just beat-matching records is necessary to maintain public interest and make a fun night at the club. DJs who showboat are going to make more money and have a bigger following than somebody who just buckles down and beat-matches two records by hand. Hell, that skill is so old, it’s really not impressive anymore. It’s expected (by other DJs) that if you’re a DJ, you can beat-match. Software like Traktor does it for you simply so you have more time to focus on other things, not to encourage you to not ever learn it. And it doesn’t do it perfectly; it takes hours of dedicated tweaking of your library to make it work right. So you still have to do the work, you just do it all in advance, so when the show’s going, you don’t have to focus on beat-matching, and you can instead go nuts and do cooler bigger things.

    The VCI-100 is compact and clean. Traktor is powerful. Used properly, you can do amazing things with them. Things no vinyl DJ could ever do. Fo much less money. And without carrying several hundred pounds of equipment and vinyl with you to parties.

    Now I’ll shut up and step down off my soapbox. Thanks.

  11. Adrian says:

    Please excuse my double-post, but I just checked in at DJTechTools, and [DaveX] is a community member there. So my previous statement about them already doing it was dumb. I apologise.

  12. Mudo says:

    I’m a dj trying to learn arduino for controllerism myself setup.

    I have some interesting ideas like hardware gear for digital djing with regular turntables but I can develop myself due to:

    – Dumb old school close mind djs.

    – Selfish hardware developers and open source mindjails about use traktor or Ableton.

    – My limited knowledge, time and money.

    I will very glad to share my ideas but I want to get almost one kit for me. It is so difficult to work altogheter?

    There is only dumb people or internet?

    I hope really intelligent and open minded people still lives in this planet. Sometimes I’m not sure (and not the exception of the rule, of course).

    It is not free hate, it is frustration.

    Sorry dudes.

  13. Alex Dodd says:

    Hey guys, i know this is an oooooooold post, but i found it whilst searching for the “upgrade cables”, which are apparently like gold dust in the UK. You mention its just a simple RS232 converter, that does kinda simply go over my head, are there any other ways to homebrew this with parts from maplin and my solder iron etc…? I don’t mind doing research, but i don’t really know where to start… Cheers! Alex

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