There are plenty of ways to get started as a digital DJ, but the majority of them will get you laughed off the stage. The Hercules DJ Console Rmx ($350) fills the gap between amateur digital DJ starter kits such as the M-Audio Torq Mixlab and high-end products such as the Vestax VCI-300, but you'll need to put up with a few quirks and probably spring for a software upgrade.
The Hercules DJ Console Rmx's metal-reinforced construction could survive the apocalypse and still keep the party moving. All that metal adds up to 11 pounds, however, so prepare to dispel the myth of digital DJ rigs preventing back strain.
The brushed aluminum face of the Hercules DJ Console Rmx includes an impressive six faders, 46 illuminated buttons, and 12 knobs, offering the most control you can find in a DJ console at this price range. Measuring 14 inches wide and 10 inches deep, the Hercules DJ Console Rmx's design offers plenty of room to play around, with well-spaced controls and buttons.
The Hercules DJ Console Rmx accomplishes two feats: it works as a USB audio card for routing 16-bit, 44kHz audio to and from your Mac or PC; and it works as a MIDI hardware interface for your DJ software.
For less than $400, the Hercules DJ Console Rmx practically pays for itself as a USB audio card. You only get four channels of audio coming and going from the Rmx, and the sheer quantity and variety of high-grade audio connections is impressive. The back of the DJ Console Rmx includes two pairs of RCA and 1/4-inch outputs, a pair of RCA inputs for each of the two channels, which are switchable between line and phono, and two grounding posts for older turntables. You'll also find a pair of quarter-inch headphone and microphone inputs on the front and face of the DJ Console Rmx. All these audio connections add up to one of the most flexible USB DJ consoles we've tested, allowing turntables, microphones, CD players, and speakers to all plug into one central piece of mixing hardware.
As a MIDI control surface for you DJ software, the DJ Console Rmx offers a dizzying amount of controls and plenty of flexibility. Because the Hercules DJ Console Rmx works with your computer using MIDI protocol, it's broadly compatible with a range of music software. Unfortunately, without hardware, MIDI output connections, or the ability to power the Hercules DJ Console Rmx independently from your computer, there's no easy way to use the console with other MIDI-compatible hardware. We were also a little disappointed that the Hercules DJ Console Rmx won't plug-and-play right out of the box, but instead requires drivers to be installed for either Mac or PC use.
All the inputs, outputs, faders and knobs in the world won't help you if the software you're using isn't up for the task. Unfortunately, the stripped-down edition of the VirtualDJ software bundled with the Hercules DJ Console Rmx looks and performs like the ugly sibling to the Torq LE software included with the M-Audio Torq Mixlab we tested last year. The software offers two decks outfitted with EQ, effects, pitch and gain control, along with a crossfader for seamlessly transitioning between songs. A window on the top half of the software allows you to view color-coded waveforms of the songs loaded into each of the two decks, which can be scrubbed through and cued using either your mouse or the large hardware jog wheels on the Rmx console.
Aside from one quirk where deck gain controls default back to unity level every time you load a new track, the VirtualDJ software works as promised. If you really want to take advantage of this console's potential, however, we recommend spending extra money on a software upgrade. A button in the top corner of the software links to an upgrade path to the professional version of VirtualDJ ($149), which offers expanded features and a more attractive design. For around $99, Mac users have the option to use DJ-1800 software, which offers integrated hardware compatibility. Other popular Mac/PC DJ software such as Native Instruments Traktor or PCDJ are also compatible, but they currently lack the MIDI control surface support necessary for the DJ Console Rmx's buttons to illuminate.
The sound-quality of the Hercules DJ Console Rmx is clean and lively. Adjustments for sound quality, output gain, jog wheel sensitivity, and buffer/latency amount are made on your computer using an intuitive software control panel. The EQ quality of the included VirtualDJ software is decent, although demanding DJs will prefer the wider range of filter and dB range settings found on competing programs.
The performance of the Hercules DJ Console Rmx hardware is outstanding at this price. Because the console's USB connection is responsible for handling both audio and MIDI data, slower machines may experience some audio or control latency issues, so be sure to check the Hercules DJ Console Rmx's CPU requirements beforehand. When Hercules starts work on the second version of the Rmx, we'd ask that they use center-indented dials for their balance and EQ controls, and maybe throw in a protective cable lock for the USB jack, but that's about it. On the whole, the Hercules DJ Console Rmx is rock-solid and responsive, and a great way for cash-strapped digital DJs to dip their hands on a professional-quality USB mixing console.