When the Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 arrived in our office, we chuckled a little at the package and wrote it off as a bit of a novelty. After taking it out of the box, installing the software, and turning the thing on, we were quite surprised that the Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 is a fairly sophisticated and well-conceived product. It is not a professional DJ solution by any means, but it does provide a surprising range of control over your music and becomes quickly addictive. It packs a lot of amateur DJ fun into a $99 package.
What's it do?
The Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 is a product in three parts. The main component is the Mobile DJ controller. The controller is an iPod-white chunk of plastic that's powered by two C-cell batteries and measures 6x7x1.5-inches. It has rounded edges that feel good in your hand and a relatively solid construction that could survive the wear and tear of a rowdy house party. Anyone basically familiar with a DJ mixer will quickly recognize controls such as the crossfader, volume sliders, play/pause, and cue buttons. Hercules also throws in two textured plastic jog wheels for skipping and scratching through your music, as well as a large button on the bottom of the controller labeled Automix (think autopilot). The most impressive feature of the controller is the backlit monochrome LCD that displays the tracks currently playing on your computer and allows you to wirelessly browse your computer's music database to select and cue the next song.
The second part of the Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 is the big, dumb plastic USB dongle necessary for authenticating the software license and wirelessly linking your computer to the controller. A USB extension cable is included in case the bulky dongle is too big to fit directly into your computer's USB port.
Last, and most important, is the MP3 DJ software that's truly the brains of the operation. The software is Windows-only, but it was a breeze to install and will prompt you if you'd like to import your iTunes library or add music manually. We went the manual route and were pleasantly surprised that we could drag and drop folders of MP3 files directly onto the software playlist (only MP3 and WAV files are supported). The software is a near-identical graphic representation of the hardware controller. There were a few extra features found only on the software that we wish could be controlled by the hardware (filtering, EQ, turntable brake effect), but at a cost of only $99 we were more than happy with what we got. You can also use the software to record your DJ mix in real time to an uncompressed stereo WAV file.
Once your music is loaded into the software and the controller confirms its connection to your computer, you're off and running and can control the DJ software completely from the controller. The range of the wireless connection is rated around 20 feet, but when we tested it in our office we were able to squeeze about 50 feet of distance between the controller and the receiver before the controller stopped working. Even with the controller out of range, audio playback was never interrupted--only our ability to manipulate the audio using the DJ controller was affected.
Who's it for?
There is a great big world of digital DJ equipment competing for the attention of both amateurs and professionals. The Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 is more of a trickle-down product that takes some of the most fun and intuitive parts of the professional DJ experience and translates them into a product aimed at people who just want a tool for DJing their own party. The key word here is "novelty." We would not use the Hercules Mobile DJ MP3 at a wedding or any serious event where the music experience is held up to scrutiny. If you're looking for a more serious product, Hercules does make a much more robust and professional digital DJ controller called the MK2, and companies such as Numark, and M-Audio offer similar pro audio solutions as well.