Hercules: Affordable Serato Control
The first review I ever wrote for DJ Times was for a DJ controller from Hercules, the brand name in front of a range of products from France’s Guillemot. In the years since, Hercules has continued to introduce DJ controllers at price points that make them attractive to up-and-comers, mobile jocks, and anyone who needs decent functionality without breaking the bank.
A recent addition to the family is the DJControl Jogvision, which caught my eye primarily because it is the first Hercules controller to be targeted for use with and to include Serato’s DJ software—in this case, it’s bundled with Serato DJ Intro, Serato’s entry-level software. At a street price of around $250, however, it stays firmly in the affordable category. So, how does it stack-up?
First Impressions: The overall design of the DJControl Jogvision follows the basic template of most Hercules controllers I’ve looked at over the years. In terms of layout, the type of buttons and knobs, etc., it’s very much one with a strong family resemblance. While many of the earlier controllers the company produced sported metal housings, this unit—like its other recent siblings—uses a lighter-weight, all-plastic construction that improves portability, and doesn’t seem to forfeit much in ruggedness judging by the still-solid overall feel.
Like many controllers, the DJControl Jogvision includes a few drum-controller-like pads for control of certain functions, while there’s the usual array of EQ knobs, sliders, crossfader, etc. On the front panel, headphone and mic jacks are on offer, and on the rear, both booth and master outputs—although solely (and unfortunately) RCA-only in both cases.
Set-Up & Use: Getting the unit up and running was pretty trivial, frankly. I evaluated the DJControl Jogvision using a Mac notebook, so no drivers were required. The only necessary step was downloading and installing the latest Serato DJ Intro from Serato’s website. Connect the controller, start the software, and off you go. Well, almost.
It was immediately obvious that the unit is not capable of running from USB port power alone. The included AC adapter (a diminutive power brick) was required before the unit would function. Not a huge issue, but a bit surprising in some ways for an otherwise basic controller and audio interface combo like this. (Purely a guess, but the array of illumination in the unit probably simply draws more juice than many USB ports can reliably deliver.)
Once that issue was addressed, I connected a couple of small monitors to the booth outputs, plugged in a pair of headphones, loaded some tunes into Serato, and within minutes of opening the box, I was knocking out a capable DJ mix with some of my favorite tunes.
One immediate shortcoming was the monitoring (cueing) capabilities of the DJControl Jogvision. There are a pair of cue buttons and a volume control, and that’s the end of it. There’s no ability to mix the audio of what’s being cued with what’s going out the master, necessitating both tracks to be in cue mode to hear and mix them. Not ideal, but probably not a show-stopper necessarily, either.
Adjusting output volume seemed a tad strange, too. To adjust the master out, it’s necessary to press a “shift” button on the controller and turn a knob—vs. having a dedicated master gain available. Not being able to see its position and confirm the level when hooking the unit up risks inadvertently delivering excessively high volume audio to monitors or the house system, so definitely something to be a little cognizant of in a new environment.
These issues aside, however, the DJControl Jogvision delivers everything you’d expect for a controller at this price point, plus some nice extras. The extras include jog wheels that both feel nice, and are a generous size to boot. They delivered accurate, responsive control in my testing. Inside each one are rings of LEDs showing track position and rotation. The responsiveness of the jog wheels was excellent, with no perceptible latency. For DJs who incorporate scratch techniques in their performances, the DJControl Jogvision proves itself a capable player. For those with a more laidback style, the textured edges of the wheels deliver great control of the playhead position when cueing up or adjusting the beat-match of tracks.
Another minor extra includes the aforementioned pad buttons, which offer what Hercules calls “color match,” which simply means that their backlight coloring matches the cue point marker color in Serato. Arguably, this provides for more intuitive control, especially while getting used to the unit.
When it comes to effects, the unit offers basic control of Serato’s built-in effects, plus a little “extra” of its own: Air Control. It’s basically a sensor in the middle-back area of the top of the controller that can sense the proximity of your hands. Once enabled, the closer your hand is to the sensor, the more “dialed-in” the effect is. Honestly, while perhaps a tad novel, it’s both cool and highly effective. Perhaps the only drawback is that the only effect that can be controlled this way is a low-pass filter; more interesting might have been the ability to patch Air Control to any of the effects. But even with the LPF alone, you can coax some interesting effects out of it simply through the use of rolling motions with your hand. One downside? Don’t try and adjust the rear-panel-mounted booth gain control with the Air Control enabled—you’ll definitely trigger it when you do.
Finally, while not really a product feature, the choice of Serato DJ Intro to bundle with this unit does provide a nice upgrade path for aspiring DJs who choose the DJControl Jogvision as their DJ “starter kit.” Making the modest investment to move to the full version provides a range of additional capabilities not found in the Intro version, equipping someone with everything they need to develop and deliver amazing DJ performances on par with the best.
Conclusions: With its roughly $250 price tag, solid feature set, and inclusion of Serato DJ Intro, the Hercules DJControl Jogvision offers a capable “DJ starter kit in a box” for the aspiring, bedroom DJ, while the solid construction, light weight and über-portability will offer appeal to mobile jocks or even club DJs looking for something compact that delivers great bang for the buck.