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Appeared on: Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Hercules DJ Console


1. Introduction - Retail Package

Hercules DJ Console - Page 1

- Introduction

The music industry is one of the most profitable areas in the global economy. Music is something that most users love to listen to and of course dance to as well. The evolution of computers and PCs has given many end users the chance to practice their skills at creating and "manipulating" dance music. When visiting a night club or bar, we all like to have our favorite song played by the person responsible for that task, the disc jokey (aka DJ). But professional DJ equipement has always been rather costly, thus denying the average enthusiast the chance of playing, mixing and scratching their favorite mp3/cd tracks...until recently that is. The Hercules DJ Console promises to bring DJ mixing for PC users to another level.

- Features

Hercules describes the DJ console "...as an external portable DJ controller, multichannel USB audio and MIDI interface for desktop/laptop PCs. The product is aimed for amateur home DJs, MP3/digital music fans, Club DJs, FM/Internet radio DJs. Users can access tens of thousands of their favourite digital tracks and find any title in seconds with no need to lug around hundreds of CDs or LPs. DJ Console is also perfectly suited for use under low light conditions at parties thanks to at-a-glance LED mode indicators plus backlit and phosphorescent soft rubber keys.

Fun, easy mixing/scratching dual wheels

Take full control of your music with the DJ Console! Optimised DJ sound

Ideal to use with all of the latest music and audio applications including: Cakewalk SONAR, SONAR 2, SONAR 3, Cakewalk Pro Audio, Guitar Tracks Pro, Home Studio, Steinberg Cubase VST, Cubase SX, Cubase SL, Cubase SE, Nuendo, Wavelab, Emagic Logic Audio, Adobe Audition, Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro, Cool Edit Pro 2, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge, Acid, Samplitude, GigaStudio, Propellerheads Reason, Ableton Live, Image Line FL Studio (Fruityloops) and other music software..."

- Package

We received the Hercules DJ Console European retail package. The package contains the DJ CONSOLE unit (size 200x235x65 mm), a detachable cover, non-slip footing and shoulder strap, USB and RCA cables, two CDs (installation software & 800 music samples) and a printed installation guide. The warranty on the unit is 2 years and the package is priced at around £169.00.

Professional users may be dissapointed that the DJ Console doesn't come in a standard 1U rack mount format, but as Hercules explains "...Hercules DJ Console is intended for the consumer market, not the professional market, and the majority of consumers do not have a 1U chassis on which to fix a DJ controller. Moreover, Hercules DJ Console is intended for mobile use (which is why it is USB powered), and the fact that DJ Console is only 23.5cm (9¼ inches) wide makes it much more portable than if it were in the 1U format (48cm/19 inches wide)..."

Hercules lists the PC and operating system recommendations as follows:

It is advisable to visit the Hercules website and download the latest firmware and drivers, since Hercules updates them frequently. You should also take a look at the FAQ before proceeding with the installation and use of your console, where you will find many answers. Among them, is the DJ Console compatible with the MAC: "...We are currently studying the prospect of a DJ Console for Mac OS X, but it would not use the same hardware as the PC version..."


2. The Hardware

Hercules DJ Console - Page 2

- The Hardware

Looking at the console we notice a very orderly and organized layout but with quite a few buttons, knobs and LEDS, so it may take quite some time before you become familiar with their location and all their functions, especially for novice users:

Click To Enlarge!

The Hercules DJ Console includes:

Below are more detailed views from the console:

We can see the 2 vinyl-style jog wheels which are used for spinning and scratching, the crossfader slider, the cue/play/next-previous tracks and auto beat buttons. The Cue and Play/Pause buttons are backlit in orange and green, as shown int the photo above.

At the top of the console, we can find the treble/medium/bass and volume knobs, the pitch slider control, the FX/Cue/Loop buttons, the monitor and load buttons and the trackball joystick control.

On the front side of the console we can see the stereo line input (2 RCA plugs), ¼ inch (6.35mm) stereo microphone input and ¼ inch (6.35mm) stereo headphone output.

You can very easily attach the included shoulder strap for easy transportation:

On the rear side of the unit, you will further find the digital optical/coaxial In/Out, MIDI In/Out, 5.1-channel output via minijack (3.5mm) or RCA plugs.

The Hercules DJ console, besides being a contoller, is also an external USB audio interface for any PC, with 16-bit, 48kHz sampling and 24-bit ADC/DAC. No external power supply is required, the device being powered by either of USB1/2 ports.


3. Installation

Hercules DJ Console - Page 3

- Installation Procedure

We used the latest available driver pack (C031G) and the latest firmware (V34) update. Our console already had the V34 firmware:

After connecting the USB cable to the PC, the hardware wizard will appear asking for the drivers. Press cancel and run the downloaded driver pack. The installation procedure is very straight forward:

After the installation has completed and the system reboots, a green icon will have been added to the taskbar for the DJ Console mixer:

From the taskbar icon, we can setup the Hercules DJ Console properties. The default audio mode is "Standard" while Advanced and ASIO modes are also offered:

The main difference between Standard (5.1), Advanced (DJ) and ASIO modes is the headphone output management:

The DJ Console Softmapper is a powerful mapping interface allowing you to assign keyboard shortcuts to your DJ Console's controls for keyboard control of audio applications (mapping of digital controls only).

The latest driver pack for the Hercules DJ offers MIDI capabilities. Most music software incorporating MIDI control, features a "learning" mode, allowing the user to assign specific functions to individual buttons and so on. MIDI control makes using music software much easier and far more enjoyable by giving users tactile control for all their favorite functions. The Hercules DJ Console can send the following MIDI commands:


4. The Software

Hercules DJ Console - Page 4

- The Software

The Hercules DJ console comes with various software applications:

There is already an update for v1.09 SE which should be applied. The Console version will work fully (i.e. it doesn't expire) with your Hercules DJ Console, however the sticker included in the retail package "Virtual DJ - Full Professional DJ Software Specifically tailored for DJ Console", may lead many users to believe that they will have free access to the latest versions of Virtual DJ.

Atomix Productions has already released v2.01 of Virtual DJ with many fixes and new features, and currently, no discount is on offer for DJ Console users to upgrade. Hercules also doesn't offer an updated version on their website. This means if you decide to buy the full Virtual DJ version you would have to pay an extra €99.00. The main differences from the Pro version are:

Other than this issue, Virtual DJ is one of the best Mp3/CD mixing software packages and users will have lots of fun using it.

There is also other software that can be used with the Hercules DJ Console:


5. USB Audio Card abilities

Hercules DJ Console - Page 5

- USB Audio Card abilities

As we said earlier, the Hercules DJ console can also be used as an external sound card with high-level specifications:

There are 2 sampling modes:

According to Hercules, the ASIO 2.0 latency is between 5 and 6ms.

When using ASIO 2.0 drivers, your are restricted to using only 48KHz and no 44KHz. Hercules explains that "...The USB audio clock is close to 48KHz, so files sampled at 48KHz are played directly via USB while files sampled at 44KHz are over-sampled at 48KHz by the CPU to play via USB, which increases the latency for 44KHz files. Considering that the latency via USB for 44.1KHz files is not much better in ASIO 2 than in WDM mode, while ASIO 2 has a latency benefit at 48KHz, we have determined that WDM drivers are sufficient for 44.1KHz files..."


6. DJ Tests

Hercules DJ Console - Page 6

- DJ Tests

As we mentioned before, the bulked version of Virtual DJ is 1.08 (and with update 1.09). You can also use the newly released v2.01 Demo version, but important features will not work (like previewing next songs).

For our tests we mainly used Virtual DJ v2.00 from Atomix Productions. The full version compared with the demo, further supports:

In VDJ 2.xx, to make Hercules work in one-output and headphone prelisten mode, go to the soundcard setup in VDJ, and browse all the way to the bottom of the setup images until you see the Hercules image, then choose it. Also, to get DUAL sound output, you need to select the 4.1 soundcard + external mixer image in the soundcard setup in VDJ (only available in full version, not demo).

After loading the Virtual DJ software, you'll see what should be a very familiar interface which resembles your DJ console:

We will assume you are already familiar with the basic elements of DJing, so we will simply present our thoughts after our extensive use of the VirtualDJ + Hercules DJ consoles, remebering however that we are not Pro DJs:-)

Positive

Negative


7. Hardware Tests - Page 1

Hercules DJ Console - Page 7

- Hardware Tests

In order to measure the output quality of the DJ Console, we used the RightMark Audio Analyzer v5.44. The software can produce and analyze the DJ console in/out circuits giving us an idea of what to expect. For our tests we used the RCA/Digital/Coxial in-out jacks with external loopback (line-out - line-in).

All the RightMark Audio Analyzer results can be downloaded for RCA, Digital, Coaxial.

16Bit 44 Khz

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.04, -0.05
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-94.3
Very good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
93.7
Very good
THD, %:
0.0086
Very good
IMD, %:
0.013
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-94.8
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.012
Very good

General performance: Very good

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-96.0
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
95.5
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0048
Very good
IMD, %:
0.011
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-97.1
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0099
Very good

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-95.7
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
95.5
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0048
Very good
IMD, %:
0.011
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-97.5
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.010
Very good

General performance: Excellent

The results as RightMark Audio Analyzer v5.44 reported were excellent for Digital/Coaxial and very good for RCA outputs.

16bit-48Khz

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.04, -0.05
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-95.4
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
95.3
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0072
Very good
IMD, %:
0.0083
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-94.7
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0088
Very good

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-98.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
98.0
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0003
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0037
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-98.5
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0040
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-98.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
98.1
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0003
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0037
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-99.5
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0040
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

At 48 Khz, the performance was very good providing excellent results


8. Hardware Tests - Page 2

Hercules DJ Console - Page 8

24bit-48Khz

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.04, -0.05
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-95.4
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
95.3
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0072
Very good
IMD, %:
0.0082
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-94.6
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0089
Very good

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-98.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
98.0
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0003
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0037
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-99.9
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0040
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-98.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
98.1
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0003
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0037
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-98.8
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0040
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

24bits are not a problem for the Hercules DJ Console and the results are again excellent!

24bit-96Khz

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.04, -0.05
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-98.7
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
96.3
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0073
Very good
IMD, %:
0.0083
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-94.9
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0100
Very good

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-149.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
101.6
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0022
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0049
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-148.9
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0068
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.00, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A):
-149.2
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A):
101.5
Excellent
THD, %:
0.0022
Excellent
IMD, %:
0.0049
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB:
-149.3
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0068
Excellent

General performance: Excellent

At the highest mode (24/96), the Hercules DJ Console performed as before with excellent results. Very good results for an external soundcard!

Gaming Performance

Unfortunaly, the Hercules DJ Console drivers don't support hardware EAX extensions, only with software emulation, meaning you will see a drop in performance with new games.


9. Conclusion

Hercules DJ Console - Page 9

- Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Hercules DJ Console will become a favorite "toy" for users who wish to take their first steps in the DJ world. Since the device is low priced, it is reasonable that some desired features are not present (e.g. solid metal construction) but after all, it is aimed at amateur/middle range users. Pro users will also find the console useful :-)

The Hercules DJ Console is a hardware device, meaning without the correct software support, it won't work perfectly. This is where users will be pleased, since almost all Mp3/CD DJing software supports the Hercules DJ console, and as in our case, VirtualDJ became our favourite software, and it may well become yours. A drawback is that VirtualDJ has already reached version 2.2, while Hercules offers 1.09. Users would have to thus pay the full amount to get the complete version of VirtualDJ 2.xx, something that will not make you too happy...We hope that this will be addressed by Hercules.

Lastly, let's not forget that the Hercules DJ console is an external soundcard with 5.1 external output, Coaxial/Digital in/out and of course microphone that will cover all users needs. The performance of the Hercules DJ Console when tested with the RighMark Audio Analyzer was excellent in all tests.

Overall, we feel that the Hercules DJ console is a great product (but with room for improvements), that most buyers will enjoy using.



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