LAS VEGAS -- Becoming a professional-quality DJ is, presumably, a skill that can take years to develop. But you can master the basics in a flash with Hercules, an AI-powered system for aspiring DJs of all ages.
Hercules made its debut at the CES technology trade show here in Las Vegas this week.
There are various configurations you can buy, which can include a pair of speakers, accompanying software, headphones, a free trial subscription to DJ-specific music services and, of course, the DJ controller. The basic controller, the Impulse 200, is $99.99, and the larger version, the Impulse 300, is $199.99.
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I have never DJ'd before, so I got a chance to try my hand for the first time with Hercules' full setup. I used the headphones, the controller and the software on a MacBook Air.
The niftiest feature of the Impulse controllers is an "Assistant" button. The process is simple: You select a track you want to use, press the button and Hercules' AI digs through your music library and suggests tracks that will mix well.
I wasn't familiar with the tracks in the DJ's library, but selected one called 'Thief - Zerb Remix" by Ookay with a deep, catchy beat. The Assistant suggested "Promises (Pink Panda Remix)" by Calvin Harris ft. Sam Smith. Sure enough, the songs sounded like they were made for each other.
The next step was to sync up the songs. A nifty "Sync" button on the controller did this for me.
My untrained ear didn't even realize that the songs weren't synced before I pressed the Sync button. Doing so, however, significantly improved the song. Where I'd previously heard two tracks on top of each other, I now heard a cohesive song I could very easily see playing at a party or a nightclub.
Hercules also helps you sync the beats manually. Green and red arrows on the controller lit up to let me know if I needed to increase or decrease the tempo of each track. It was spot-on, and I took only a few seconds to align them.
Finally, you can use Hercules' software to map various audio effects (screams, scratches, etc.) to a series of buttons on the device. This was a lot of fun as well -- I quickly grew accustomed to sticking appropriate effects to where they belonged in the song.
Overall, I was proud of the track I'd created. After 10 minutes with Hercules, I'm certainly not ready to DJ at a music festival, but I feel like I understand the basics of what a DJ does and the steps to creating a song. If you're looking to learn to mix tracks, Hercules is a quick, easy and affordable entry point, with a smart and helpful AI to boot.