REVIEWED: HERCULES DJControl Inpulse 500
There is something extremely exciting about getting a new controller, similar to playing a newly purchased 12” vinyl back in the day. So I was excited to get the chance to try out the latest new product to hit the market from Hercules, the DJControl Inpulse 500.
Hercules has a permanent spot in my DJ heart as this is the brand I chose when I first made the move to digital. The DJControl Inpulse 500 is an interesting proposition as it is a mid-market controller designed to fill the current void between cheap entry level products and expensive pro models. On paper, it is an ideal first controller for a new mobile DJ or the perfect back-up for an established pro. Let’s find out if the reality lives up to the expectation…
Getting us off to an instant good start, the packaging is impressive and will easily compete on DJ store shelves with leading brands. Printed in full colour, it features great quality photography and is very sturdy to protect the unit in transit. Unpacking was simple as there are only three items inside: a good quality braided USB cable, a simple instruction manual and the controller itself – hang on… no power supply? I was a little sceptical at first because this is not a small or basic controller and I wondered if it would be underpowered relying on USB alone for its juice, but that didn’t prove to be a problem at all. The bundled software options are Serato DJ Lite and Hercules’ own DJUCED offering, however, I also tried it with my own copy of Serato DJ Pro to see how the controller would fair with that.
Plugging in and setting up was a breeze, especially with the included software. The unit fires up with a lovely introductory lightshow and then settles down to not many lights at all apart from the colour ring on the main rotator control. Let’s start by taking a tour around the unit before we load a couple of tracks.
The front panel is nice and clean, featuring only the headphone inputs. There are both 6.3mm (1/4”) and 3.5mm (1/8”) jacks, suitable for all types of headphones, which is a nice touch. On the rear, the master output features stereo pairs of both RCA phone sockets and 6.3mm (1/4”) jacks (unbalanced). So, unfortunately, no pro-standard balanced XLRs. Although the unit does sport built-in Velvet Sound DSP from AKM processing the audio inputs and outputs, and the two sets of outputs will be particularly useful for streaming by alleviating the need for splitter cables.
There is one 6.3mm (1/4”) jack mic input (balanced) and an auxiliary input offering a choice of 2 x RCA phono or 1 x 3.5mm (1/8”) jack sockets, which allows for some versatility if you wish to add on external sound sources. The USB socket to connect to a laptop sits next to a DIN socket labelled ‘Hercules Add-on (reserved)’, which there is no information about, while a Kensington lock is a welcome surprise. This has a protective rubber grommet to keep it dust free when not in use.
COOL BITS – Under the unit is a well thought out add-on of four sturdy retractable feet to raise the deck. When extended, these reveal four white LEDs that create a glow under the controller.
Weighing in at just 3.2Kg, the unit is lightweight but well built. However, I would recommend a flight case to ensure it travels safely as this is meant to be a budget controller where compromises on heavy duty build are to be expected.
Moving on to the playback controls: the two sides are matched, which feels more natural than the mirrored layout found on older controllers. The platters are 5.5” jog wheels with touch detection and are nicely weighted, offering vinyl mode plus slip and quantize, which are selected using dedicated buttons (not available in Serato DJ Lite).
COOL BITS – Large backlit ‘1’ and ‘2’ characters on either side of the controller light up to indicate which side is currently playing out.
For new DJs, or established DJs looking to enhance their mixing skills, the controller provides plenty of help with beatmatching. The ‘Tempo Guide’ tool features backlit up and down arrows positioned alongside each tempo fader which illuminate to suggest changes to the speed. Likewise, the ‘Beat Align’ feature involves similar illuminated arrows underneath each jog wheel to provide visual indication of when a track needs to be nudged forward or held back to sync with the track playing on the other deck.
Below the jog wheels are the obligatory Play and Cue buttons. These are well-placed and are not bumped easily. While I wouldn’t describe the action of these buttons as ‘pro-grade’, they are sensitive enough to respond well. It was great to see the inclusion of eight multi-function RGB-lit soft pads topped by four selector buttons offering eight selectable modes when used with the Shift key. Depending on which software you use, these can provide access to creative mixing tools such as Hot Cue, Loop Roll, Slicer, Sampler, Toneplay, FX, Slicer Loop and Pitch Play. The eight pads are responsive and sturdy with a satisfactory click.
COOL BITS - A neat feature is the tiny light up triangle in the corner of the pad selector switches which indicate which mode is currently active.
There are also dedicated loop controls, which are very well laid out. The In and Out buttons work well, while the inclusion of an Autoloop knob that selects loop lengths with each push, and facilitates additional adjustment through turning, allows any DJ to easily integrate looping into their performance.
The mixer section is constructed on a metal backing plate, which gives the controller a welcome robust feel and is a good solid base for the controls. Each of the two main channels feature a dedicated 3-band EQ, gain knob, volume fader and 9-segment VU meter. To the left-hand side of the mixer section are dedicated controls for the mic (level plus 2-band EQ) and auxiliary input (level plus filter). At this price-point these are excellent additions that are very welcome. On the other side of the mixer section are the master level knob and an additional 5-segment stereo VU meter above the volume control and split cue knob for the headphones.
COOL BITS - The microphone and auxiliary level controls have a light up ring around them that will flash if the output is too high, acting as a peak indicator.
The crossfader is light and sharp with added control via a small selector switch to enable curve adjustment. The volume and tempo faders are an acceptable length and, although they could be a little longer, have a nice smooth action. Above the faders are the channel monitoring on/off switches and a minimalist looking effects section containing a filter dial for each channel and four effect switches located at the centre of the panel and labelled FX1-4.
The filter effect behaves as expected and to activate extra effects all you have to do is simply assign an effect to one of the buttons in your software, switch it on with the button and adjust it with the knob. There are slight variations on functionality between Serato DJ and DJUCED but this was great fun to play with and offered a multitude of creative mixing options.
Located top and centre is the main control dial, which is surrounded by an illuminated ring of colour. This indicates beats in Serato DJ and energy level when using the DJUCED software, which is a brilliant visual addition to help DJs push the energy on their dancefloors. This dial is also used to navigate the music library, together with the added bonus button below it labelled ‘Assistant’. When using DJUCED this button activates IMA (Intelligent Music Assistant), which suggests complementary upcoming tracks to be played from your music library, a feature that is also available using Beatport LINK and Beatsource LINK. In Serato DJ Lite, this button enables the Autoplay feature.
Loading a track to a deck is as simple as turning the main dial to select a folder and pushing down on the dial to select that folder, then scrolling through your tracks and pressing the appropriate load button suitably placed next to the main dial.
In conclusion, I think the team at Hercules have created an incredibly good mid-market product. There is a lot of controller here for the price, with many features only previously found on much more expensive models. Although the unit performed exceptionally with Serato DJ Pro, I was particularly impressed by the bundled DJUCED software. I think this has become a real contender in the software market and offers the user an excess of creative options as well as useful learning tools for the beginner. The controller’s extendable feet with LED lighting on the underside add a note of cool, whilst the eight full RGB pads and jog wheels, that are touch responsive and nicely weighted, deliver a solid build quality that will be respected. If you are looking to move on from an entry level controller, have a limited budget, but want the tools normally associated with expensive models, the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 is definitely worth a demo.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 103, Pages 76-78.