The Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 is one of our favorite DJ controllers in the market, and we were ecstatic when Hercules DJ gave us one of our own to write a fair and honest review here today. Coming in as an affordable and budget-friendly DJ controller, the Instinct P8 isn’t necessarily the most fancy or “jam-packed with features”, but is in our opinion the perfect solution for DJ’s on a budget, beginners, those who don’t need a lot of pizzazz (although this one of course has a nice light show function), or really, any experienced DJ who needs a simple solution for a controller that can be a nice addition to an existing setup, whether it’s a home studio or you’re playing on the road (it’s one of the smaller DJ controllers with jog wheels we’ve used, which is perfect for laptop setups and the like). Let’s get into the details of the DJControl Instinct P8.
Features of the DJControl Instinct P8
- DJ controller with two decks
- (2) sets of 4 performance pads — one set each deck
- Control and adjust effects on-board
- Dedicated SYNC, CUE and play\pause buttons
- Each deck has separate modes
- Touch and pressure-sensitive jog wheels
- 3-band equalizer with controls at center of controller
- SHIFT button for help in accessing more functions
- RCA outputs
- 1.8″ headphone jack
- USB powered (cord included)
- No drivers required, PC and Mac compatible
- Comes with full version of DJUCED 40 degree DJ software
Build and stability of the DJControl Instinct P8
Let’s first talk how the DJControl Instinct P8 felt out of the box. Most noticeably is the extremely light weight here, and although we expected it to be easy to pick up, the controller only weighs literally 2.2 lbs. With the price of the Instinct P8, we think you should keep your expectations at bay – don’t be looking for any military-grade, rugged metal housing or anything. This light weight however is very convenient for not only portability and traveling, but being able to fit it neatly into our existing setup as you can see in our photo above. As for fitting the controller anywhere in your studio, it’s nearly the size of a standard iPad (10.4 x 7.4 x 1.9”), so you’ll be fine when incorporating it into your setup or next to a laptop. The knobs turn fine and have a nice outer rubberized shell around them, and the larger knobs (filter and master browser) have click guides to help with navigation and convenience. Although an affordable controller, there definitely isn’t any cheap material in this one.
Aside from the overall material it’s made of, jog wheels are in our opinion always the biggest factor of a DJ controller that make it worth the buy in the “build” department. These jogs in particular are pressure-detecting and quite smooth (we usually like our jogs to be a bit stiffer but we were able to adapt here). They’re made of plastic but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially considering the price. We’ll talk more about actually scratching with these, but at first glance the wheels move well and feel fine to us.
The performance pads feel great as well. Aside from their multicolored lighting for nice effects when we were using them, they’re rubber but not necessarily cheaply made. There’s also a nice, smooth coating on the top of them to give a slick feel. When using them, we could notice the responsiveness and ease of use, and although aren’t necessarily professional drum machine pads, they definitely get the job done.
Lastly when it comes to the build of the DJControl Instinct P8, since the casing and shell are plastic (it isn’t cheap, it’s pretty thick and rugged), we want to make sure you’re careful when you transport this thing. It doesn’t come with a carrying case or bag, so we definitely recommend investing in a compatible case if you’re going to moving around a lot with it. We’’ll admit we’re the type of DJ’s who simply uses towels and pillow cases sometimes, but it’s always recommended to grab a case for further safety.
What we noticed with the size and weight of the Instinct P8 is it can easily fit inside of a laptop sleeve (yes, with a laptop already in it) or a backpack, but still be careful when dropping or setting it down. For the bare minimum, buy a separate laptop sleeve with some extra padding around it and you’ll be good to go.
Ins, outs and controls of the DJ controller
A sacrifice you’ll have to make when it comes to the price of this DJ controller is the ins and outs, as we only have some RCA, a USB and 1.8″/3.5 mm mini-jack stereo output for headphones (comes with the USB cord in the box but you’ll need to buy RCA’s separate). In all actuality, it makes using this controller a bit easier, especially for beginners or those DJ’s who don’t want to hassle with TRS, MIDI or other popular outs some may ask of a DJ setup. There isn’t a microphone input, but if you are indeed looking to record some vocals or use a mic to perform, you can use your audio interface that also goes into your computer to get around this limitation. We actually don’t really know any DJ’s who use a lot of microphone in their setup, and if they do it’s hooked up elsewhere instead of directly into the controller.
No, you can’t hook this DJ controller up to an analog setup, or perhaps mix it with some turntables and mixers that don’t have USB compatibility or use your computer as a backbone for the setup. You’ll at least need some type of computer to incorporate the Instinct P8. For some, that may be a big “no” (although strictly analog setups are becoming a rarity nowadays), and if your rig includes some analog DJ gear be our guest. But for many however, that isn’t a problem at all. Especially if you’re traveling to gigs with just a laptop and a few smaller, compact controllers, this is the perfect fit. The simple plug-n-play with only a USB cord (yes, to power it up as well – no drivers required, either) is extremely convenient, not only for traveling DJ’s for gigs and performances but perhaps those just getting started on their DJ endeavors who only have a laptop or PC thus far in their equipment arsenal. Yes, this controller is definitely compatible with Windows and Mac (it does not work with Chromebooks we’ve read).
Unfortunately, it does not work with any mobile or smart devices that don’t have a USB MINI port. Computers only here, folks. If you do want to use a DJ controller with let’s say an iPad, and in particular a Hercules DJ controller, you’ll have to take a step up and grab their Universal DJ.
For audio playback however, we do have a “mix out” section right at the back of the controller. You can plug in some speakers here if you don’t plan on using your computer’s audio out, or perhaps use both for extra power and volume. What we prefer for studios at least, is plugging in your audio interface to your computer, having your speakers hooked up to that, and just using the Instinct P8 via the USB cord. The audio will all sync up and work fine together. Aside from the USB port, you’ll also be getting a convenient headphones output for some privacy or to hook up at a gig and use the faders to adjust your decks.
Now we’ll talk about controls, as in what DJ functions we have at our finger tips aside from just scratching with the two jog wheels and using the master fader. Hercules was able to jam pack a lot of extra capabilities into this thing, and we’re very happy with what they chose to include. In our opinion, it holds all of the functions and capabilities that we label as “DJ controller essentials”, especially if you’re just starting out or don’t want anything “too extra” in your setup (more additive features will of course jack up the price as well). On the controller itself, you have transport buttons in SYNC, CUE, play and pause, performance pads (which we’ll get into more detail later), loop/filter/effects amount adjusting, library browse, track loading, master volume adjustment and lastly, some nice 3-band equalization. To us these are the staple points of DJ controllers, and they all work very well and seamlessly with DJUCED.
Using the DJControl Instinct P8 DJ controller
When it comes to “using” any DJ controller, our first and foremost go-to is of course, scratching. It’s not that we ourselves were skeptical about the Instinct P8’s scratching ability; however, we’ve heard of many DJ’s out there talk down on controllers of this price-point, in particular when it comes to scratching (not only jog wheel build, but the responsiveness with software as well). As stated previously, these jog wheels aren’t a stainless steel or aluminum like some other DJ controllers in a lot higher price-points (thinking 3 to 4 times the price), however were super smooth when scratching in our experience. The smaller size may steer away some more “experienced DJ’s” (they’re 8cm, whereas many others are nearly twice this size – of course, regular records are 3-4 times larger), but we are able to get a great feel and fit about 4 fingers at once to scratch (we typically only use 2, at times only 1 with our middle finger).
The DJ Control Instinct P8‘s smaller and perhaps “metal-less” build of the jogs in our opinion didn’t take away from the overall ability to scratch either. It’s not as tight as we’d perhaps like, but there was no problem when we snagged a snare to scratch with and get a nice effect over our instrumentals. We played around with this for hours and eventually became accustomed to the jog’s sensitivity, and actually think the smoother feel is better for starter DJ’s overall.
For beginners or just regular DJ’s on a budget, we’re more than happy with scratching on this. Pair it up with the slick master fader and we were mixing and mashing very well. Of course, anything that hits a higher price-range starts to include (some, at least) higher-quality build materials, such as previously mentioned aluminum or military-grade steel, some higher-density metals, or “special faders”, but we wouldn’t want to compare this to let’s say a $500 Pioneer Serato DJ controller. Would you? Especially if you’re a beginner, the increased price on “better made” controllers may be just a waste of money, unless you want a huge learning curve, be our guest. You can always upgrade later.
Aside from the scratching, let’s talk about the other features, buttons and knobs we have available to us. For one, that knob in the middle was really easy to use when it came to browsing our tracks. Using the sync was also particularly easy to set up and get going with, while our cues were on point as soon as we learned how to set them in the software. It may take you a little bit to understand this feature but once you’re able to get it running, it can be quite a convenient tool to use when you DJ. If you’re unfamiliar with what cue is, you essentially can set a specific time on a track to be released. Once you hit ‘cue’, it’ll start where you chose on that mark previously. You can also set the fader to a specific deck and set cues on the fly in your headphones on the other channel so your audience can’t hear them and avoid dead air. Once you’re ready, simply press that cue button and it’s set off. For example, if you want to speak your audience, or perhaps get some silence to build anticipation for a few bars and then hit that cue to skip over a track’s intro and start right at the beginning of the drums, you can do so. This can be especially handy during sets, or perhaps you have an idea and want to punch in at a specific time in a track on the fly (perhaps the chorus, on a snare hit, or a break down).
Lastly, we want to outline the performance pads and what you can do with these. You get two sets, so four each deck. We were able to add samples, loops, cues and effects on them. Of course, we had to chop up some breaks and assign them to the pads to get drumming. They felt great and we were easily able to separate our kicks, snares and hats and fulfil our drum playing action fix.
The 3-band EQ was also cool to mess around with, which gives us control of all three frequencies on the spectrum. For example, if you want that type of “higher pitch” track effect where it drowns out the bass, you can lower the “low” band on the equalizer knobs, while increasing the “high”. We recommend playing around with the high, mid and low knobs to see what we mean — it can give a nice effect to give the crowd some fun. It’s always great to experiment here.
Using the included DJUCED DJ software
A big stand out of the Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 is lastly the inclusion of some very effective DJUCED DJ software (not a free trial, either. You get full control of this one). We took a long time to learn DJUCED 40 degree since we had never done so before – we wanted to get a good feel of how the compatibility with the controller worked, how the work flow was once when we got into a groove, as well as the overall effectiveness of the software altogether.
A few highlights of the software we really like (we’ll do a separate DJUCED review later down the line once we learn it even further) include the track browsing, cue setting, mixed tracks and effects, as well as ability to scratch right when you open the software. Luckily DJUCED comes with some presets and already-included songs to mix, cue and loop, as well as scratch with. You can always import some songs you already have on your computer (it takes a while to import a lot at once since it needs to analyze them for data), or perhaps just use what they provide if you want to have some fun with it. The seamless integration with the Instinct P8 is also great, since many of the features on the actual controller and control what’s in the software itself, such as the master volume, modes, cues and syncs, as well as high, mid and low EQ. You can also tweak the volume of each deck or perhaps load different banks (either A or B).
The software altogether isn’t too difficult to learn – it’s laid out similarly to a lot of other DJ software out there, so for us in particular we were bale to get it down after a few hours. However, for those just beginning, it will definitely take some time to see what all of these features even mean. We recommend watching some of their video tutorials on DJUCED, and don’t forget, it may become frustrating at times because right out of the box. I know how it feels — we all want to spin and scratch seamlessly. You may want to give up quickly since DJ’ing, in particular scratching, and mixing is pretty hard. We recommend keeping this in mind and just “messing around” with whatever you see fit. Just have some fun with it and see what happens, and eventually you’ll be able to learn what all of these “features” and “functions” mean and can do.
Here are the minimum system requirements in case you need to see if your current PC or laptop can handle the workload here (shouldn’t be too much):
- 2 GHz CPU or faster
- 2 GB RAM or more
- Windows 7 and higher (32 and 64-bit).
- Mac OS X 10.8 and higher (32 and 64-bit)
In conclusion of the Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 review
Our final question for any DJ controller, especially one that comes with its own software that’s a little less known that other popular programs out there is – is it compatible with any others, especially Traktor or Serato? Yes and no. We found the most effectiveness with Traktor Pro 2, Virtual DJ, DJ Pro, Cross DJ, DJAY and of course, DJUCED. Just make sure the program has MIDI mapping support. We had some difficulty getting it to work with Serato, and ultimately, we’d recommend sticking with their DJUCED software since it not only comes with a full version, but is literally made to work seamlessly with the software.
There’s also a different version of the P8, called the Instinct P8 Party Pack which you take to liking. For the same price, you can purchase this which packages the DJ controller with 8 multicolored wristbands that flash in beat with the music, to better enhance that house party feeling. Regardless, we’re big fans of Hercules DJ controllers, and in our case today, the Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 is a very impressive, efficient and affordable DJ controller solution for those just beginning their DJ adventures, or perhaps those who want to add a smaller, portable piece of DJ gear to their existing DJ setups. There’s a reason this particular controller was in a few of our DJ guides, such as the best DJ controller for beginners. There’s not many controllers in this price-point that give it a good run right now.