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The best DJ software: professional programs like Serato, Traktor, Rekordbox and Virtual DJ in comparison

The most important DJ programs from Pioneer, Native Instruments, Mixvibes and Co. at a glance

In this overview we would like to introduce the most important DJ programs and give a comparison of the range of functions offered. Most of the programs have been on the market for a number of years and have proven their practical suitability. Many functions such as Beatgrids and automatic synchronization are included in practically all software solutions; programs such as Traktor, Serato, Djay and Co. also offer FX and sample players.There is also no lack of controller support.

So how do they differ and which DJ software (for the test marathon) is the best for the respective target group in each individual case?

The best DJ software Quick Facts

The main differences between the well-known DJ programs can usually be found in the area of ​​creative equipment as well as the supported and sometimes mandatory hardware. Some programs are aimed more at beginners, others at professional DJs and / or scratch professionals, while others see themselves as special solutions for mobile DJs and offer additional visual functions in addition to the creative standard equipment. This article explains the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonists. At the end of this overview you will also find a comparison table from which you can quickly and easily see the main differences.

Record box 6

The Rekordbox software was originally intended for the sole preparation of USB data carriers in combination with Pioneer DJ media players. It was mainly used to organize and analyze the songs and generated waveforms. In addition, Hotcue points and loops could be set. The software was later upgraded to a full DJ program. Manufacturer Pioneer DJ recently released the sixth version of the software and introduced a completely new license model that includes the three versions Free, Core and Creative. The free free version is still used to prepare and export tracks that are to be played with the media players (export mode) and offers basic DJ functions (performance mode) that can be operated with the mouse. If you have a qualified Pioneer DJ device such as a DDJ-1000, DDJ-RZX etc., these act as hardware dongle, activate a variety of functions and can be used to control the program. If you use a Pioneer DJ hardware that is not one of the qualified devices, you have to take out at least the core subscription for 9.99 euros per month or the creative subscription for 14.99 euros / month, if the complete range of functions is required.

Rekordbox allows up to four decks to be played and offers hotcue points and loops. The effects are divided into Sound Color FX, Beat FX and Release FX and there are also effect chains as Pad FX. The organization of the songs takes place in a song archive, here the function "Matching Tracks" helps to find titles. Rekordbox 6 supports the promo platform Inflyte as well as the paid streaming services Soundcloud Go + and Beatport. For creative gadgets, songs can be transposed with the pads and samples can be inserted and in addition to controller control, DVS is also supported. Rekordbox allows the recording of DJ sets and the publication of playlists in real time via the dance-specific social media platform KUVO. The integrated control function for DMX interfaces such as the RB-DMX1 is also interesting. This can be used to control lighting systems and activate lighting sequences synchronized with the music.

Rekordbox 6 is used to prepare songs and is also a fully equipped DJ software

Serato DJ Pro

DSerato DJ Pro comes from distant New Zealand and was released in 2004 under the name Scratch Live. At the beginning, the software could only be controlled via timecode media and did not offer any MIDI support. The manufacturer later published its counterpart ITCH, which in turn could only be controlled using a controller. Both products initially merged to form Serato DJ - here you had the choice between timecode and / or MIDI controller control. The full version is currently called Serato DJ Pro and the entry-level version Serato DJ Lite (previously Intro).

Serato DJ Pro can be operated exclusively with specified hardware. The selection of devices is very large and includes simple to professional controllers, DJ mixers and audio interfaces. The simple devices are often "only" supplied with a Serato DJ Lite license, but a chargeable upgrade to the full version is possible. Depending on the hardware used, Serato DJ Pro offers up to four decks that can be controlled via timecode and / or controller. The controllers are all configured at the factory and are ready to go immediately after the software has been installed. With some models, some pre-assigned functions can be changed and additional MIDI controllers can also be operated. The latter, however, cannot be used to control the software alone. The program offers eight Hotcue memory locations and a sampler with 32 sample slots. Effects and filters can be used to edit the tracks, and waveforms that can be aligned in various ways make mixing easier.

With Serato DJ Pro you can record your DJ sets on your computer hard drive, direct forwarding to a broadcast server is currently only possible using third-party software. In addition to locally stored songs, tracks from the Soundcloud and Tidal streaming services can also be used. Anyone who cannot cope with the standard equipment of the software can purchase effects and a video function, a remix function (flip), high-quality key correction (Pitch’nTime) and a laptop mode (play) for a fee. Some functions are also offered as a bundle (Club Kit, Toolkit, Expansions, Essentials or Suite), so that you can save a few euros here.

Serato DJ Pro can be controlled with timecode media or controllers and offers optional video and effects enhancements

Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3

The software Traktor was published in 2001 by the Berlin software company Native Instruments as a PC-only version and has since seen numerous revisions and functional enhancements. The pioneer among professional DJ software solutions, which was ridiculed at the beginning, is continuously updated. With the release of version 3, a new surface design was introduced and mixer effects were introduced. The software allows up to four decks to be played and can be controlled with controllers from Native Instruments or directly supported tractor-ready devices from third-party manufacturers. You can also use any MIDI controller and program the controls yourself. Alternatively, many users also use timecode CDs or vinyls and here, too, you can freely choose the hardware (sound card, mixer or controller). In addition to MIDI, HID is also supported and the audio signals are output via a multi-channel audio interface. The software is suitable for performance DJs who value a large amount of creative equipment and who are looking for additional functions in addition to standards such as Hotcue points, loops and numerous effects.

In addition to track decks for playing back songs, Traktor Pro 3 also offers so-called remix decks for firing samples and stem decks that can play back specially prepared, multi-channel audio files. With Traktor Pro 3 a perfectly synchronous four-deck mixing succeeds at the push of a button, if the beatgrids of the songs are exactly right. DJ sets can be recorded internally or streamed on the Internet using the broadcasting function. The latest updates include improvements for harmonic mixing as well as expanded support for the Pioneer DJ devices XDJ 700/1000 Mk2 as well as the DJ-V10 and user-specific programming of the Traktor Kontrol S3. On the other hand, there are no visual functions as well as karaoke support or lighting controls and they cannot be retrofitted. If you need this, you have to switch to an additional product or use different DJ software. The software is included as a license with some controllers from Native Instruments and costs 99 euros when purchased individually. Updates from older versions are available for 49 euros.

Traktor Pro 3 is one of the most popular DJ programs and offers a wide range of creative functions

Virtual DJ

The software VirtualDJ comes from the pen of the company Atomix. VDJ is often bundled with controllers, but can also be purchased separately for $ 299 or as a subscription model starting at $ 19 / month. The interface of the program has been expanded for the new versions (2020/2021) with standard and broadcasting skins that offer a wide variety of functions and are aimed at different user groups (beginners to professionals). In addition to the standard skins, there are also numerous free layouts by users, which can be used to create an individual "Look & Feel".

The software offers up to 99 decks - which is of course nice, but certainly not very relevant in practice. VirtualDJ 2021 offers stem mixing, video functions and lighting controls and allows streaming on social media platforms. The program is equipped with numerous optical mixing aids and the automatic beat matching as well as the cross-program Ableton Link synchronization work reliably. The "Sandbox" feature allows test mixes to be carried out without the audience hearing them, and mixes can be recorded using the recording function. 19 audio effects, three-band EQs and filters allow the shaping of the songs. In addition to storable Hotcue points, the program has various loop functions, beat jump and key correction. In addition, “Smart Key Match” ensures that the key is automatically matched and automated scratch maneuvers can be used for creative presentations. The sampler can play back one-shot or loop samples and a sample editor allows the sample parameters to be modified.

Videos can be played for visual presentations and can be edited with 32 transition effects, seven video effects and video skins. In addition, shaders and six visualizations are available and karaoke functions are also offered. Any MIDI controller can be used to control the program and time code control is also possible. VirtualDJ 2021 supports streaming services such as Deezer, SoundCloud, Beatport Link and Beatsource, subscriptions for music, karaoke or videos can also be booked as an option, but unfortunately the usage rights granted do not apply to the German market

Virtual DJ 2021

Mixvibes Cross

The Cross software comes from the French software company Mixvibes and is offered for computers, iOS and Android devices. The computer-based implementation has now arrived in the fourth generation and offers a newly designed graphic interface that can be adapted using the script technology Maquillage. The software enables up to four decks to be played, has color-coded waveforms and a well-functioning sync function, which is particularly helpful in multi-deck operation.

A sampler with 2x 8 pads allows one-shot or loop samples to be mixed in and a four-channel mixer takes care of fine-tuning the songs. Eight Hotcue points are available per track and there are up to three synchronizable effects per deck, which can be selected from a selection of 21 effects. In addition to the tempo, Cross can also determine the key of a song and allows for harmonious mixing. A software and cross-device synchronization is possible via Ableton Link. In addition to the songs, videos can be mixed and edited with 25 transition and 18 video effects. The videos can be synchronized with the songs and there is a video sampler with four pads.

DJ sets and video mixes can be recorded, but not streamed directly to the Internet. Preconfigured devices, but also controllers not supported ex works, can be used to control the program. The latter have to be programmed by yourself. Alternatively, CDJ players from Pioneer DJ can be used for control and any (!) External sound cards in combination with timecode media. It is also possible to import song collections from Rekordbox, Traktor Pro and Virtual DJ. Cross offers direct access to the SoundCloud online music service (requirement: paid subscription for 9.99 euros per month) and can be loaded into a DAW as a VST plug-in.

The Cross software can be controlled by a controller and allows synchronization with other programs via Ableton Link

Algoriddim djay pro

The software djay pro 2 der comes from the Munich company Algoriddim and started as a pure Mac product. In the meantime, the software has also been ported to Windows and iOS, but the current version 2 is only available for the Mac. Djay Pro 2 looks very elegant and offers a tidy interface. The first version was equipped with two decks and graphic turntables, which looked more like a gimmick, but is still available as an alternative representation to this day.

The latest version of the software offers up to four decks and the waveforms can be arranged horizontally or vertically. Many functions can be faded in or out as required and the user interface can thus be adapted to requirements. The scope of delivery includes four effects that can be expanded to over 30 (from Sugar Bytes) for a fee. Eight Hotcue points can be saved and loops can be used for mix tricks. The sampler has twelve memory locations and five sample sound packs are available for immediate use. The song can be replenished by accessing iTunes or, if you have an active internet connection, streaming through Tidal, Soundcloud, Beatport or Beatsource. Access to the Spotify song offer will no longer be possible from July (2020), but this does not only apply to djay, but to all third-party providers who want to use the Swedish service provider. Visual presentations are possible via PhotoBeat and videos. The latter can be set in scene with seven transition effects and five video effects. There are no special karaoke functions or an interface for lighting controls. Over 50 MIDI controllers are supported out of the box, including the Traktor Kontrol S3 and programming for alternative devices is also possible. In addition to MIDI controllers, Pioneer DJ Nexus players or the XDJ-1000 can also be used. These devices control the software and show waveforms and the song library on the device display.

djay pro 2 supports streaming services such as Tidal, Beatport or Beatsource and can be combined with various hardware controllers

Ultramixer 6 Pro Entertain

Ultramixer 6 Pro Entertain is aimed at mobile DJs and solo entertainers who provide entertainment at weddings, company parties or other anniversaries. The software is tailored to these special needs and focuses less on performance and remix features, but offers great convenience in song selection and allows multimedia entertainment. The sixth version of this program is equipped with four decks that can be arranged differently and offers a separate playlist for each deck as well as a comprehensive wishlist in which the guests' music requests can be conveniently recorded.

Ultramixer 6 Pro Entertain allows you to save up to six Hotcue points and activate loops. The mixer area, which can optionally be faded in, has a graphic master EQ with 31 bands and offers three-band equalizers with kill switches as well as filters with resonance and a flanger for each deck. Faders and a crossfader are available for mixing, but the latter can only fade adjacent decks. With the sampler, samples can be sprinkled in once or as a loop; the tempo can be adjusted manually. A video sampler is available for visual presentations such as visuals or videos. Real VJ software does not replace Ultramixer 6 Pro Entertain, because there are no video effects whatsoever. Announcements of event items can be made via text overlays and it is also possible to play karaoke files along with the naming of singers. The software allows mixes to be recorded and distributed on the Internet and includes an interface to the Madrix lighting control software. Beatmaking is not one of Ultramixer's strengths and Beatgrid processing is not particularly convenient either. Any MIDI controller can be used to control the program, but you should select a directly supported device, as your own programming requires knowledge of XML and is extremely time-consuming.

Ultramixer 6 Pro Entertain is tailored to the needs of mobile DJs and allows not only the presentation of Musk but also images and texts

Deckadance 2 DVS Edition

The Deckadance software has been around since 2007 and was originally distributed by Image-Line (known for Fruity Loops). In 2015 it was sold to Stanton DJ and Gibson, respectively. Unfortunately, the development of the program seems to be frozen at the moment, because the last available version dates from January 2017 and the most recent beta version from June of the same year. If the program is no longer maintained, it would be a shame, because Deckdance 2 offers some special features that are not available anywhere else. Up to four decks and eight storable Hotcue points and loops are available for mixing.The decks can be individually equipped with function controls so that you can adapt the user interface to your way of working. The program is equipped with ten effects and other "GrossBeat" effects (scratch and glitch effects), but also offers a VST interface that allows the loading of external effects as well as instruments (!).

None of the aforementioned programs allow this flexible type of expansion and thus the use of studio plug-ins and sound generators. The software scans and checks the plug-ins so that there is no crash in live use. In addition, Deckdance 2 itself can be loaded into a DAW as a plug-in. Complex setups with Ableton Live or other programs are possible. The sampler in Deckdance 2 allows one-shot or automatically synchronized loop samples to be added. The program is limited to playing music, there are no video or karaoke functions. The great freedom in the choice of timecode media is also interesting, because here you can not only choose from a large selection of existing products, but also teach the software not known timecodes and generate control files for burning your own control CDs. Alternatively, the software can also be operated with MIDI controllers - many devices are already supported ex works, and your own assignments are also possible.

Deckadance 2 offers many special features, further development by Stanton DJ would be desirable

Comparison table: All programs at a glance

All programs in a tabular overview

The DJ programs compiled in this overview have a lot in common with regard to the basic functions. All candidates presented offer at least four decks for mixing and an automatic sync function and usually also an adjustable beat grid, which serves as the basis for this assistance. All programs can be controlled via MIDI controllers and some via timecode media. The easiest way to use preconfigured controllers is because your own assignment can be quite time-consuming and sometimes not all functions can be controlled satisfactorily.

Larger differences can be found in the streaming services supported and creative features. Another differentiator is the visual features. Here you should check your needs and decide whether you absolutely need video / karaoke or lighting control functions. Some programs offer retrofit options that are subject to a fee, should requirements change at a later point in time. Basically, choosing the right software is not trivial; free demo versions often help to get a comprehensive impression.

You can read how the individual programs performed in our test in the large test marathon of DJ software.

The best freeware for DJs can be found in this article.

You hang up with the iPad? Click here for our DJ app tests.