Hercules DJ Console review

Hercules DJ Console review

Introduction

The music business has changed a lot since recent years. After electronically available music started appearing in 1996 with the adoption of the MP3 format (largely developed by Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in the early nineties) it took a few years before it became really popular and mainstream with the introduction of peer-2-peer networks ala Napster, Audiogalaxy, Kazaa.

Because electronic music is the future and the music business was impacted by the piracy, legal systems like eg. Itunes were created and supported by the record companies. (although we think they should have started with it much earlier).

Inspired by the electronically available music, Hercules – a company who has been creating PC Hardware (video cards, soundcards, …) – introduced a DJ Console for home use. The DJ Console promises to bring the art of DJ-ing to your PC – ideal for the dance music lovers and alike who visit dancevibes.be!

Official pricing is around 250 Euro in Europe, but you may find it as low as 200 euro. This price makes it an attractive alternative to the much more expensive mixer/turntables/cdplayers combination.

Dancevibes.be takes a look at the DJ Console for PC (recently a MAC edition was also introduced) to see if it deserves your well earned money!

Installation / Package

The DJ Console is a fully integrated hardware and software solution. This means that instead of using your mouse to manipulate the DJ Software, you’ll use the more intuitive buttons, sliders and wheels on the external console.

Hercules DJ Console

When you open the package, you’ll find the DJ Console (including a shoulder strap), a CDROM with software/drivers and a manual. The DJ console is connected to your PC via a USB(2) cable – allowing easy installation.

The DJ Console has two equal sets of knobs, sliders and a wheel – allowing separate manipulation of two tracks. (eg. Play one song through your main speakers, while pre-listening to the next track through your headphones).

The most important controls are of course the play buttons, the pitch knobs (to speedup/slowdown a song) and the cross-fader. These allow a novice DJ to start his DJ experiments. Also very important are the 3 equalizer knobs: Treble, Medium and Bass can be set per track allowing for an even more seamless transition to the new track.

In the middle of the console there is a “joystick” that can be used to select the tracks in the DJ software. We didn’t use it much as we found using the mouse to be much quicker.

More advanced functions are also present: Setting Cue points allows you to choose starting points for playing back a track. (together with the fast forward / rewind buttons you’ll have found the right place in no time). Loops allow to repeat parts of a track while the Fx button applies special effects to your output.

All the controls on the Console light up in the dark – this enables its use in darker rooms (eg. Student party, bedroom, …)

Hercules DJ Console - front

At the front of the unit you can find a headphone input (together with a volume knob) and a microphone knob. These respectively allow you to pre-listen to the next track and talk over the music (if you’re a wedding DJ ;-))

Hercules DJ Console - back

The rear of the unit has an analog audio out section that includes connections for 5.1 speakers via either RCA or mini stereo jack. There is also a digital (optical and coaxial) audio in/out, a midi in/out section and the USB plug to connect to your PC.

The DJ Console is quite small and thus very portable. (if you take your laptop’s mp3 collection, you’ll be setup in no time).

Besides for being used as a DJ console, you can also use the console as a 5.1 external soundcard.

Bundled software

The DJ Console comes bundled with the following DJ Software: Atomix Virtual DJ 1.09, Mixvibes Pro 5, Gmon New DJ and Storm 2.0 DJ Edition (music sequencer). The CDROM also contains demo’s of bpm studio, OTS DJ and CD Scratch 1200.

Of all the software we have mostly used Atomix Virtual DJ v1.09, because it provided the best integration between the console itself and the software.

The default skin shows two vinyl decks, a play list and the necessary buttons, knobs and sliders. Starting a song is as easy as drag ‘n dropping the song from the play list onto one of the vinyl decks.

Virtual DJ

Once two tracks are playing at the same time you’ll see at the top of the screen the following bar:

Virtual DJ beat syncing

The little green and red squares represent beats. Getting your mix right means aligning your beats to happen at the same time. You can do this by slowing down one song with the wheel. Of course if the two songs have a different BPM (Beats per minute), they will diverge again. The solution is to use the pitch control to slow down/speed up one or both of the tracks.

Even easier is to use the automatic beat locking mechanism by pressing the triangle besides the ‘Master Tempo’ on the DJ console.

Virtual DJ beat syncing

You can then use the cross fader to mix between the left and right channels and the equalizers on both sides to control treble, bass and medium.

It’s also possible to record your live mix to your hard disk as a WAV file (or multiple WAVs), which you can then burn on a CDR.

Record your mix with Virtual DJ

Virtual DJ is also skinable, it even includes a skin resembling the DJ Console:

Record your mix with Virtual DJ

Hercules is quite good at providing driver updates for your DJ Console. The latest version is currently from the end of January 2005.

The console version of Virtual DJ is v1.09, unfortunately the new Virtual DJ v2.06 is not included yet. (your only option is to buy it from Atomix). On the Atomix site you can see that some nice improvements (eg. Scratching) have been made in the new version so it would be nice to see it made available for the Console owners.

The new MAC edition of the Hercules DJ Console comes with Traktor DJ software. The PC version doesn’t have this version, but if you have already bought Traktor DJ you can use the MIDI presets available at the Hercules site to enable the use of the console inside Traktor DJ.

Conclusion

Hercules DJ Console surely is a nice product that’ll keep you busy DJing for hours and this for only 200 a 250 €. It’s not a replacement of course for eg. the Technics digital vinyl players and other equipment that costs thousands of euros, but it was never meant to compete in that space. It’s not a toy either as DJs like Airwave have been spotted to carry this portable DJ Console. A great buy!

Airwave with the Hercules DJ Console at Asta in Den Haag

DJ Airwave with the Hercules DJ Console at Club Asta in Den Haag. Check out the official Airwave site and our interview with L-Vee/Airwave from last year!

Review written by Wim

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