Tech Tuesday: Hercules Universal DJ Decks

If you’re a starter DJ, here's the best place to start.

If your New Year’s resolution was to learn how to rock the mic right, Hercules is here to lay the foundation of your burgeoning DJ career. No matter what device you have loaded up with your music: iOS, Android, PC or Mac, Hercules’ Universal DJ Decks gives you control over two turntables and a ton of other sound tweaks that you’d normally find spread over two extra peripherals like a mixer and a loop machine, so that you can try your hand at mixing music in the privacy of your room…and then take your skills out into the wild when you’re ready.

At its core, the Universal continues Hercules’ tradition of building thoughtful, reliable decks. It’s a standard midi-controller that boasts grippy jog wheels, rubberized buttons and sliders that are just heavy enough. (We would have preferred a little more resistance in our crossfader, but that’s a personal preference.) Build quality, literally, isn’t as weighty as some of Hercules metal-bodied offerings, but the sturdy plastic casing holds up to wear nicely and is much more portable than the metal-cased alternatives we’ve tried.

Hardware-wise, Hercules’ Universal DJ Decks share form and function with most of its competitors. What sets the Universal apart is how it handles software. Using the Djuced DJ program gives you a versatile heads-up display of all your music that will also extend the display (and your control of the music) to a smartphone via bluetooth. Or you can simply use your iPad as the source for your music if a laptop isn’t quite portable enough for you, and the Universal will play just as nicely with it. Unfortunately, for anyone who has used standard professional DJ software like Serrato or Virtual DJ, the Djuced program is woefully underpowered and backwards; but it will suffice for newbies looking to learn the ropes before committing to buying much more expensive professional software. Fortunately, the Universal itself can make that transition with you since it will work just as well with the included Djuced software as it will with any software you buy in the future that supports midi-control. (FYI, every professional DJ program supports midi-control—it’s industry standard.)

The Universal DJ Deck has eclipsed all of Hercules’ other introductory DJ hardware as the one to buy if you’re just starting out. It’s a solid piece of hardware with a lot of versatility that will ease you into the world of beatmatching and mixing while also familiarizing you with industry standards that you’d find at the high-end of the hardware spectrum. If you’ve been keeping a list of music that you’ve been meaning to learn how to mashup, the Universal is currently the best way to try your hands on the (jog)wheels of steel.

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