If you are a beginner or a hobby DJ looking for a small and compact DJ controller for at home or on the go, you might like the Hercules DJControl Starlight. The device is designed for Serato DJ.
In addition to various control elements for the mix, the controller is equipped with an Integrated audio interface and, with its special RGB underfloor lighting, would like to support you when you hang up …
Hercules‘ new star DJControl Starlight is aimed at budding DJs and hobbyists. The “double-decker” is delivered in a colorfully printed cardboard box, on which information on device functions and information on the system requirements can be found.
The controller measures 34 x 10 centimeters, weighs barely 500 grams and should find space in common laptop bags and messenger bags. Installation media are not included with the device, but a USB cable, a multilingual quick start manual that provides installation and operating instructions and the usual leaflet with safety and guarantee information.
Despite its light and compact design, the “kleene Hercules” has a lot to offer and comes with Serato DJ Lite, which can be updated to the Pro version on request or at face value. Before that, you can confidently try Serato’s flagship software for two weeks.
Starlight does not fish alone in the entry-level waters, because Numark also serves the Serato clientele with the DJ2Go2 controller bar and Hercules itself has inexpensive solutions in its range with the Compact (test here) and its siblings.
Controller, cable, package insert – that was in the box
Layout and connections
Hercules DJControl Starlight has an integrated four-channel audio interface (0/4) that provides the DJ with both master and headphone output. These are designed as mini-jacks and are located on the respective outer flanks: headphones on the right, master on the left, where the mini-USB socket is also located.
The interface works with 44.1 kHz and 24 bit. Let’s take a look at the control panel. Each deck houses a touch-sensitive jog wheel, plus transport buttons (sync, cue, play/pause and via shift: sync off, stutter, back) and multifunctional, blue-lit effect pads for hot cues, loops, FX and samplers. The mode with two dedicated keys and the shift key is selected.
The 40 millimeter short pitch sits on the outside next to the initially somewhat stiff jog wheel, which can be used for pitch bending and, via the vinyl button, for scratching. The crossfader also measures 40 millimeters and can be set in the software to – “Scratch or Mix”, as you like. The diameter of the plate is 65 millimeters. That’s enough for baby scratches.
The sound is adjusted using a smooth bass/filter control (the mode is determined by the associated selection button), and the level is adjusted with the somewhat sluggish volume control.
Two more pots with a higher rotation resistance determine the volume on the main output and the headphones. What you hear there is determined by the headphone buttons in combination with the previously defined mode “Cue + Mix” or “Cue Master”.
If you turn the Starlight upside down, the underbody lighting in the form of four LEDs appears behind a milky, semi-transparent plastic pane. Four rubber feet hold the controller on the table.
The test subject feels properly processed and quite valuable. Due to its elongated construction, it takes up little space in front of the laptop and the cables run away to the side. That fits.
Hercules DJControl Starlight fits perfectly on and in front of the 15.4 inch MacBook Pro
Serato DJ Lite can be downloaded from Serato’s website. Furthermore, there is a driver package on the Hercules website that suggests that the Starlight could be operated with the new Hercules DJUCED software, but this is not the case. That’s a shame because the sibling controllers work very well with the program according to the list.
Serato DJ Lite version 1.05 is now installed on my MacBook, the controller is connected and set up after a bit of bling-bling. Since there is no navigation encoder or any loading buttons, which I find very regrettable, you always have to reach for your notebook to fill the decks. When music is played, the DJControl Starlight lives up to its name and starts to flash. A few more explanations later.
The Serato DJ Lite Preferences, tab A can be seen here
As is well known, only a few settings can be made within the Serato Preferences, which should be very useful for beginners. All the more astonishing that there is a panel for the seven different lighting control modes, namely Off, On, Beat-Fade, Beat-Flash, Master-Volume (strobe effect) and Waveform Color as well as Cuepoint Countdown, explained below:
- Beat Flash: The LEDs light up red on the first beat of the track and blue on the following beats and go out between the individual beats.
- Beat Fade: The LEDs light up red on the first beat of the track and blue on the following beats without going out.
- Master Volume: The LEDs light up white depending on the volume (stroboscopic effect).
- Waveform Color: 2 LEDs reproduce the wave color of the respective tracks.
- Cuepoint countdown: 2 LEDs light up in stages, depending on the color of the next cue point.
Whether you actually want to define this as a visual mixing aid for yourself is up to you. It’s always nice to look at when you’re into a little bling-bling. I personally like the blue-red alternating flashing (red on the 1 of the 4/4 time) very much.
On-top, various RGB colors can be switched through via shortcut on the device (bass/filter button + pad 1), but Serato Lite always sets them back to blue and red.
The jog wheel is small but functional
In practice, Serato and Starlight work well together. With the pitch and handwheel, the tracks can be brought into lock step. Since the tempo fader dissolves by 1/10 percent, you may not get the pieces of music pitched one hundred percent the same and they will eventually diverge, by then the transition should be completed, some musical genres do not affect beat mixing anyway.
Speaking of which: Since Serato DJ Lite does not output a Beatgrid, only “Simple Sync”, i.e. transients + tempo, is available here. If Serato is wrong, this can be corrected without any problems with the jog wheel and the audition option via the headphone output, which may not be particularly loud, but is sufficient for hobby use.
A pitch correction is also on board so that there are no “Mickey Mouse effects” when pitching.
Hot cues, FX, loop and sample pads in personal union
The combination filter sounds respectable and is a welcome effect when transitioning via filter mixing or during runtime. Four hot cues can be defined, deleted and played by the user, autoloops in sizes from 1 to 8 can be captured, four freely assignable sample pads (default are horn, chord, drop, sweep) can be triggered.
In addition, there are three effects that can be switched on at the touch of a button, along with FX timing switching, only in one direction, the intensity of which you can set in the software beforehand. Something can be done with it.
The idea of declaring a bass cut and a filter for the transitions and as sound FX is not a bad one. Perhaps, in some eyes, better than using a two-band and foregoing the gains, even though Serato DJ also offers autogain.
Hercules DJControl Starlight is an inexpensive, portable DJ controller for beginners that directs Serato DJ Lite with its integrated USB audio interface and more than two dozen control elements.
The device is equipped with a headphone and master output for the desktop speakers and is supplied with voltage via USB. With the transport section, the jog wheels, the mixer, a pitch and the “tone control”, all the basic tools for playing, synchronizing and fading are available for the mix session and Hercules also has two multifunctional pad sections for creative interludes such as FX (only on / off) and integrated loops.
One could criticize that the jog wheels are quite small, Due to the lack of navigation elements for each new track, it is necessary to reach for a notebook and the Starlight does not (yet) work with Hercules DJUCED If this is not an exclusion criterion, with the Starlight you get a nice tool for the party with friends or on the go. The attractive price is another plus.