Hercules DJ Console
I’m a fan of this emerging digital DJ culture. It’s changing music from creation to delivery, democratizing the whole industry while creating new opportunities – so when the Hercules DJ Console made it to Mac (with assistance from Native Instruments), I had to take a look.
The Hercules DJ Console is an answer for budding MP3 DJs. It accesses sounds held on a Mac (probably a laptop) while offering physical controls such as pitch-bend, beat-matching, cueing, mixing and effects. It features tactile deck-like cueing for individual tracks, and you can scratch away at individual tracks.
Set-up is easy: just install the software, connect the console using the USB cable it ships with, plug in a pair of headphones, link it up to your house sound system, grab some of your best inspiration, and get kicking. Lighting is always a problem in a club situation, so the Console carries some pretty purple lights to help you mix in the dark. Another neat feature it the mic input, so you can offer your (by now spellbound) audience a selection of witty, Smashy-&-Nicey-style dedications.
On the software side, the Mac solution is enabled by a special version of Native Instruments’ Traktor DJ Studio. The DJ Console provides a physical control interface for this powerful – though not too simple to use – DJ mixing software. It does this by sending MIDI control data to the computer using the USB cable.
All a DJ has to do is load selected tracks into the software, and then fly between the songs, matching beats, grabbing small elements of songs to drop into a mix. A single click of a button on the Console brings up the next track. This means you can make an effective mix using your MP3 music collection, recording sessions for later use, or knocking them out live at parties, or simply to irritate your neighbours. The product supports a headphone output, so a DJ can preview the next track to choose the precise point at which to launch that song. The device also hosts a mini-control lever that you can use to navigate Traktor DJ on the Mac.
The Hercules DJ supports a wide range of input/outputs. It’s able to support all these because it has its own sound card, with Mac drivers, so you can connect it to your existing set-up to get a better audio experience when playing games or watching movies – including 5:1 sound support.
There’s a high cost of entry to DJing. If you use CDs, you need a dual CD mixing unit, which will set you back at least £350. If you want to use a laptop and Traktor, you can do that, but you’ll be limited by the mouse and keyboard navigation, which can suck valuable time you need to focus on your set. The Hercules DJ Console simplifies this, offering a slick set of DJ-focused controls in a unit. I must note that the device, while well-constructed, may not be durable enough for extensive use on the road. I have two negative points on this device, which works well at all other levels. The use of USB 1.1 limits the available bandwidth, and when sending a succession of control signals, responsiveness sometimes suffered. I’d also like the device to be able to link directly to one or two iPods, as I’m still not completely happy taking my PowerBook to a nightclub. Evidently, iPods don’t support this yet, so it isn’t the manufacturer’s fault – but there’s a discussion between Apple and Hercules to be had, in my opinion. On the whole, though, for the price, if you want to make a digital music collection work for you, this device is hard to beat.