Hercules is well known for its range of affordable DJ products, but the vast majority of its controllers are exclusive to DJuiced. However, Djuiced is Hercules’ DJ software, which, while powerful, limits DJs to Hercules’ products.
The DJ Control Starlight released for Serato back then made a big splash, more so than many of its more expensive rivals.
Now Hercules is back with a new Serato controller, the Inpulse 500, an entry-level model designed to bridge the gap between entry-level and professional controllers.
The Inpulse 500 is a large entry-level Dj controller. Hercules is 54 cm wide and features an all-plastic chassis. This width helps distinguish Hercules from other beginner controllers, only the latest Numark Platinum FX model is this large.
Just like the Numark, the greater space allows for a more sparse layout. This layout, combined with the excellent rubber-coated buttons, creates a premium feel for what is still a fairly inexpensive controller. The addition of a metal panel on the mixer improves the image and durability of the controller.
The unique feature of the Inpulse 500 is the four hidden feet on the back of the body. These feet, when deployed, raise the Inpulse 500 to the same height as most standalone mixing consoles, just over 3 inches.
This increase in height not only makes it feel surprisingly sturdy but also gives the impression of being more of an expensive piece of hardware. This suggests that the Inpulse 500 is the controller that could be the ideal choice for a novice DJ to use at their first gig, or to bring to a gig.
The Inpulse 500 is equipped with two 5.5-inch capacitive jog dials. The jog dials feel good in the hand, with smooth bearings and a textured top to help with grip. The button to switch between vinyl modes is on the top left of both jog dials, with dedicated controls for Slip and Quantize on both sides.
It’s important to note that Quantize and Slip are features only available in DJuiced and not in Serato DJ Lite. Serato users will need to pay for Serato DJ Pro to use these buttons.
The 8 RGB pads below the jog dial, unfortunately, suffered the same fate. While the Serato DJ Lite works well with this controller, it shines when used with the Serato DJ Pro or Djuice.
The Cue and Play buttons are made of sturdy plastic instead of the soft rubber buttons found on the rest of the controller. It’s a smart design that gives the user great feedback.
In the end, adjusting speed is a delicate and precise affair, so we prefer the longer faders, but given the design and layout of the device, it works well enough.
The top of RGB’s strike pad has Hot Cue, Loop, Slicer, and Sampler mode buttons. However, depending on the software you pair it with, the actual function may vary.
The percussion pad is made of a soft material that feels good in your hand and responds sensitively even when you press the far corner of the percussion pad.
The Inpulse 500 features a mixer divided into three clear sections, each dedicated to a single task. On the far left are the input controls, in the middle are the EQs and faders used for mixing, and on the far right are the total output controls.
The physical ports of the mixer are all aligned with text indications on the top of the controller to help beginners set up easily.
Entry-level controllers usually have no inputs, or only one mic input, and are not routed through the mixer at all.
However, the Inpulse 500 has a balanced TRS mic input, a 3.5mm TRRS auxiliary input, and eventually a stereo line-level input. The microphone includes a dedicated trim control with LED ring lighting level monitoring and a dedicated dual-band EQ.
The auxiliary input not only has two input methods, but also a dedicated trim control with LED ring lighting for level monitoring and hardware high/low pass filter. This is the first of its kind for entry-level controllers.
Knobs and Faders
Located at the top of the two-channel mixer is the Browse Navigation knob, with dedicated load buttons for both Decks.
This knob also has an LED ring light that lights up for the Beat Matching Guide in Serato and the Assistant in Djuice.
Below the Browse knob is a dedicated Assistant button for Djuiced, which can be pressed in Serato for the AutoMix function.
In the middle of the mixer is a large VU meter with 9 LEDs that show the output level of each channel. This VU meter has a wider and more detailed display than competing controllers, but also suffers from dimness when viewed in a bright environment. the VU meter is flanked by a three-band EQ, and Trim controls for both channels.
The two large filter knobs on the Inpulse 500 control a high/low pass filter, or one of four effect buttons. These effect buttons are located inside two knobs, and it reminds us of the Mixer FX on the Traktor controller.
These buttons change the filter knobs to control specific effects in Djuiced and Serato, except for the FX4 button. When FX4 is activated, the knob will change the beat division of the effect within Serato. This is an odd control, but it is better than using a mouse or keyboard.
The right-hand section of the mixer controls the output, which becomes an important feature of the Inpulse 500 beyond entry-level controllers. The main output has a separate VU meter and is output via line-level RCAs.
However, the controller also features a pair of unbalanced TS outputs, perfect for those guitar amps or audio interfaces.
DJs can also choose between two sizes (1/4 and 1/8-inch) of headphone outputs, an option we wish more controllers would offer. With the dedicated volume and cue controls, DJs can select cue channels with the same layout as an expensive DJ mixer.
Arguably the most important selling point of all Hercules controllers is the beat-matching guide feature. Each turntable and tempo fader has a set of small red LED arrows that light up.
These indicators tell the DJ that the track needs to be sped up or slowed down to match the main channel. Once the track’s tempo matches, the Tempo light turns green.
The jog dial arrow lights up to help indicate which direction the jog dial needs to be turned to align the beat. Once aligned, the Beat Alignment text will light up green, indicating that the beats are now matched.
In Serato, the Browse knob lights up red on the first downbeat of the bar, and DJs can combine these tools to help mix the song with perfect phrasing and timing.
Once DJs feel comfortable, they can turn the feature off with a button in the center of the controller. Although this is a feature unique to the Hercules controller, beat matching guides are available in both Djuiced and Serato.
The Inpulse 500 can mix external sources, toggle advanced features with dedicated buttons, and stand up to more expensive hardware.
However, this hybrid design, while capable of controlling both Serato and Djuiced, is tailor-made for the former. This choice makes for some compromises, mainly when used with the Serato DJ Lite, which utilizes only four percussion pads and replaces the Roll and Slicer modes used by the Djuiced and Serato DJ Pro.
Although a small detail, it prevents this controller from being possibly the best Serato DJ Lite controller on the market.
However, it has the advantage of a choice of three fantastic software options, a controller with advanced features, and a product that will last longer in your DJ career.
Hercules certainly hasn’t forgotten its beginner market, and the Inpulse 500 aims to be the controller DJs use for their first gigs, including a beat-matching guide and assistant. The focus of this controller is to help DJs learn the basics, while also helping them develop advanced skills.
Overall, the Inpulse 500 exceeds our expectations for an entry-level controller and is a good value for money and recommended.