What is the best DJ software? With so many options out there, each DJ you talk to might give you a different answer altogether. Unless you’re DJing the traditional way with a set of turntables and a way-too-heavy amount of wax, you’re going to need some. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, but the best choice for you might come down to a number of things including your hardware choice, as well as your long-term goals as a DJ. Are you a mobile or wedding DJ? Want to headline at nightclubs and festivals? Or maybe you want to take home the next scratch title at the DMC Championships!?
Each of these factors will play a role in your decision for which DJ Software you decide is best for you. In this article, we’re going to break down the top contenders so you know exactly which software route to take.
Rekordbox was originally created for Pioneer DJ as a music library and track preparation tool before its significant upgrade to Rekordbox DJ in 2015. Bringing an expanded performance version with full mixing, effects, and sampling capabilities. Offering up to four decks of track control, an intuitive library browser, and a convenient tagging and track system; Rekordbox DJ has everything you need. Not to mention, effects, loopers, beat slicers, and an 8 slot sampler.
Unsurprisingly, Rekordbox DJ works best with Pioneer hardware which is its biggest appeal for many DJs. Given its workflow and track library system is shared across Pioener DJs standalone DJ Controllers and industry-standard CDJs and mixers. So whether you’re DJing using Rekordbox DJ with your laptop and a controller; Rekordbox DJ with your laptop in the DJ booth; or via USB the “standard” Rekordbox way, computer free. Even if your DJing from just your keyboard! All your cue points, grids, loops, and info embedded into your tracks, providing the smallest gigging footprint and an easy transition no matter what you’re using.
So, who should use Rekordbox? Well, if you’re an aspiring club DJ, or you already own a piece of Pioneer DJ hardware, then Rekordbox DJ might be for you! With Pioneer DJ still holding the industry standard throne across the world, you’ll never step up to a DJ Booth and be unfamiliar with the software at your disposal.
Rekordbox can be downloaded as a 30 Day Trial, comes packaged with Pioneer DJ hardware, and is also available in monthly subscription plans.
If you don’t use a Pioneer DJ controller, or if you don’t intend on hitting the clubs, then you might want to look at some other options.
When people talk DJ Software, the two biggest names to pop up in conversation are Rekordbox and Serato DJ. So if Rekordbox wasn’t for you, then Serato might be the next best option. Responsible for the birth of Digital Vinyl Systems (DVS), Serato has quickly become one of the major players in all aspects of digital DJing. Offering everything you’d expect from professional DJ Software including solid music organisation, effects, mixing and sampling capabilities. Not to mention it comes bundled with plug ‘n’ play support for a number of popular DJ Controllers. If you just want to test the waters, you can use the free version of Serato DJ Lite to wrap your head around the workflow.
So if you’re someone who doesn’t plan on hitting the stage at nightclubs, Serato DJ is a great option. If you’re someone into sampling, Battle DJing, or scratching, you’ll love some of the benefits that Serato DJ has to offer. Likewise, if you want to keep the turntables and dip your toes into digital with a DVS system, Serato comes out on top here as well! There’s a reason Serato is the main sponsor at the DMC Championships. So if you plan on scratching your way to fame, this is a great option.
Native Instruments Traktor
While Serato DJ and Rekordbox are both amazing pieces of software, they aren’t your only options. Traktor is another piece of software that’s been at the forefront of digital DJing since the early 2000s. Originally gaining notoriety with its Final Scratch Digital Vinyl System. Today, DVS is still a part of Traktors makeup. However, the software features and integration with dedicated Native Instruments hardware is what draws in a majority of its users.
Initially, Traktor might seem like a lot to get your head around. But it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. With a completely customizable layout you’re able to really personalise your experience.
Where Native Instruments really sets Traktor apart is the Creativity. The new Stems file format separates your tracks into the main vocals, bass, and melody components. From there, you’re able to manipulate these sections to create mashups, layer acapellas, and so much more. They also have their own waveforms giving you a visual guide to each component.
Traktor will work and can be custom-mapped to most DJ Controllers, but it goes without saying. You’re going to have a much more seamless workflow if you are using a controller by Native Instruments. But if you like the look of Traktor, there are some really great DJ Controllers by Native Instruments that you’re sure to love.
We’ve spoke about the “Big 3” when it comes to DJ Software, now lets talk about the one that’s competing with all of those. Virtual DJ.
One of the biggest advantages to Virtual DJ is the fact it’s compatible with virtually any piece of DJ Hardware you can get your hands on. While the recent addition of Stems is widely considered as the added feature that just might make Virtual DJ an even more popular version than Serato.
Stems is very similar to what we just spoke about on Traktor, however Virtual DJ takes it one step further. Traktor required you to add in special stem tracks with the stems “pre-separated”. Whereas Virtual DJ does everything automatically. Yes, some tracks are going to work much better than others. But when it does work well it can really open up some creative possibilities in your mix.
The full version can be pricey to jump right into but there is also a free version available that’s perfect for learning the ropes and seeing if its right for you.
You might be thinking, “but Ableton Live isn’t DJ software?”. No, it’s a fully-functional Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), but it is meant to be used in a Live setting. In particularly, DJs tend to love the “warping” or beat gridding feature found in Ableton Live. It does mean you’ll have to ditch the traditional “two decks and a mixer approach” but if you work out what you’re doing you can get incredibly creative with it.
Again, with Ableton Live you’ll have to throw out everything you knew about DJing the traditional way. But it can be especially fun if you’re producing your own originals inside the software as well. You could probably figure out ways to beat-match and scratch in it but I wouldn’t want to. (Most people who scratch with Ableton solve this by running Serato or Traktor separately and beatmatching/syncing with Ableton.)
When it comes to price, it does cost significantly more than the aforementioned software titles, but for good reason. Obviously being a fully-functional DAW you’re opening yourself up to endless opportunities for creativity. Then when it comes to controllers, your typical DJ Controller won’t do the job. But products such as the Push 2 or Novations range of Launchpads are both great options for getting hands-on and triggering clips with your hardware.
Algoriddm Djay Software
If you’re someone who prefers to DJ on the go and would rather use the flexibility of your smartphone/tablet than a laptop then Algoriddm’s Djay software might be for you. It works flawlessly with controllers such as the Reloop Buddy and means you can DJ just about anywhere.
If you’re a professional DJ, this software probably isn’t going to be for you. But that’s not to say you cant get some truly professional results. If you’re someone who’s just starting out or you just see DJing as a hobby then it’s a great option thats worth looking into. Check out our demo of the Reloop Buddy below where we exclusively use the Djay software and achieve a professional mix!
The Best DJ Software – The Final Say
Above all, you can’t go wrong with any of the DJ Software in this article, it’s just a matter of deciding which one is right for you.
If you’re a Pioneer DJ fanboy who plans on making an appearance at clubs and festivals, I recommend you use Rekordbox DJ. If you’re someone who puts more weight on scratching and sampling, and you’re looking at using a controller such as the Roland DJ-707M then Serato DJ will be your best bet. Obviously if you’re using a Native Instruments controller, Traktor is going to have everything covered. While Virtual DJ and Algoriddm Djay both offer some great alternatives for mixing.
Then, if you want to get really creative and are okay to ditch the decks all together, Ableton Live will have you experimenting for hours on end.