An ideal lightweight and feature-packed console for both bedroom DJs and professionals on the move.
Although vinyl will always have its place, a modern club DJ is just as likely to be mixing tracks from a laptop, as from more traditional turntables or CD decks. However, a touchpad is a long way from being the ideal tool for the job, which is where computer DJ consoles come in. Hercules’s DJ Console Mk 4 is a portable USB mixing desk, which incorporates a USB sound card with a range of sliders, buttons and jog controls that you can use to control DJ software, such as the supplied copy of Virtual DJ 6 LE for Windows and Mac OS X. The supplied software CD also includes low-latency ASIO drivers for Windows.
While its big brother, the DJ Console MX4 is rather large and heavy, the Mk4 is, at just over 1.5kg, light enough to just throw into a bag and go. It even comes with a carry strap that you can attach to the console itself. It’s compact, too, measuring just 64x266x185mm. Its portability is particularly handy if you get out and about to DJ at small venues or parties.
The knobs and buttons on the console are mapped to patches using your DJ software, which allows them to produce the desired effect, whether that’s a pitch shift or a scratch sound. If you use the version of Virtual DJ LE that comes with the console, everything will already be correctly mapped to match the labels on the console. Other DJ and Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software may allow you to manually map MIDI output functions to the console’s buttons and many programs will already have a patch map for this controller, which you can simply select from a configuration option.
The controller has a pair of jog dials, which act like turntables, allowing you to spin and even scratch MP3 files just as you would vinyl. Alongside these are your key mixer functions: cue, pause and play buttons; volume controls for each virtual deck and a crossfader that allows you to mix and fade between the output of the track assigned to each. A wealth of other buttons makes it easy to program loops, pitch shift and even automatically sync the beats of two tracks in case you find yourself horrendously mistiming your mix.
Hercules has packed plenty of audio inputs and outputs on to the console, although there aren’t any 1/4in output ports to match the cables usually used by club PA systems and studio monitors. Instead, each of the console’s two outputs has a pair of RCA phono ports. One of them even has a 3.5mm stereo output, making the console much easier to use with standard home speaker equipment. If you’re going to be DJing in other environments, you’ll want to stick a few extra cables and jack converters into your bag. Fortunately, the console’s driver lets you define the line level required by the speakers you’re using and will output an audio signal of the correct strength.
There’s also a pair of RCA phono inputs on the back, which allow you to connect external analogue devices, from MP3 players to vinyl turntables. On the front panel, you’ll find a 1/4in headphone jack for monitoring and a 1/4in mic input.
As you’d expect, the Mk4’s audio quality is excellent, with clearly defined bass, mid and treble tones that can be finely controlled using the dials on the console. Since you’ll be using a high quality audio device at high volumes, though, you’ll have to make sure to use high-bitrate MP3s, as the high frequency cut-off point of lower bitrate files is clearly audible.
The DJ Console Mk4 is a great tool for keen bedroom DJs, or for anyone who values portability. It’s easy to use, comes with decent software and Hercules’ products are well supported by the most popular mixing software on all major operating systems. It’s our new favourite DJ console and a deserving Best Buy.