Speaking about the best dj software, I remember the Halcion days, just ten-fifteen years ago really, when there was only vinyl. Indeed, that sounds like boomer technology, as in ancient, but today music creators have so many opportunities that it would make one’s head spin. Vinyl is still here, obviously, and some say it’s making a big comeback, but you can also go for different music sources if you think you have that David Guetta gene swimming in your gene pool: SD, CD, or USB.
But truth be told, DJ software is king in 2020, as it comes with all the options one would require as a DJ or a DJ wannabe. The best thing about modern DJ software is that you don’t even need a keyboard and a mouse to control it. You can just use a pair of good headphones, DVS to “spin” your virtual turntables, and the best DJ software, which is also compatible with CDJs; and before you ask, CDJ incidentally makes for the industrial club standard.
On top of that, you have DJ controllers, also known as MIDI controllers that work with DJ software. This is actually the biggest advantage of using DJ software: versatility, as in it’s compatible with virtually any setup.
Whether we’re talking about CDJs, a sophisticated controller at a club or turntables, you can use your music library from your laptop anytime, anywhere, and, best of all, DJ software is not expensive. If you’re wondering about what specific DJ software to pick, you’ve landed in the right place, as we’ve already done the research, so you won’t have to. Also, remember that the “best DJ software” thing is relative, as in you’ll have to choose the one that works best for you in terms of a general concept, layout etc. so don’t sweat it too much with “pick and choose”.
How to Choose the Best DJ Software
Basically, you’ll have to make your choice based on just a few things: First, there’s the price, as always, but you can always go for the “lite version” (free) of the software and work your way up from there. Then there’s the features issue, i.e. what kind of sound effects you want, or cool stuff like RGB waveform readouts, or how many tracks can you play at once, but keep in mind that sometimes less is more.
Finally, keep your eyes peeled on software quality and stability, another important thing to look after, and by that we mean to stay away from programs that crash a lot (read user reviews, for example, or this article thoroughly).
7 Best DJ Software Solutions
The Best DJ Software for Advanced Users
Traktor Pro by Native Instruments is arguably one of the best DJ software out there, and it’s now available in its 3rd generation. Being a heavy hitter in the “mixing” market, Traktor Pro is hugely popular with both amateurs and professionals alike, and the latest-gen comes with a plethora of fresh new features, as well as a new interface.
The first generation was launched almost 20 years ago, in 2001, and the third edition comes with 4 virtual decks instead of 2. The more, the merrier, we know, but the problem with 4 virtual decks it that they clutter the Traktor window in a big way.
Moreover, you can’t even fit a browser and 4 open decks on a regular laptop screen, i.e. the interface, though revamped, is now a bit cramped. The filter section is awesome and what’s new is that you can finally add various methods of creative processing to each channel. Another improvement worth noticing is that you will get an emulation of sorts of the classic Allen & Heath Xone:92 club mixer instead of the original mixer.
Mouse functionality is now better than ever, and if you’re looking for hands-on control, Traktor Pro 3 is arguably the best choice if you’re working with Stanton´s Final Scratch 2 hardware. Bottom line, the Traktor Pro 3 DJ software has been a refined product for almost 2 decades, and it offers incredible versatility and tons of new features, and what’s really great is that it’s basically a paid upgrade if you already own the Pro 2 version, i.e. you won’t have to pay the full price for the new edition.
- Better than ever audio engine, MIDI mappings and tweaked User Interface
- Outstanding single Mixer FX
- Various controller options, good value for money
- DVS is included in the bundle
- Built-in browser integration
- Not the best option for beginners
Serato DJ Pro
The Best DJ Software for Mac
Formerly known as Serato DJ, the Pro is the latest update of one of the most popular DJ software in the world. The new platform is now available in 2 fragrances: Lite, which is free of charge, and Pro. The latter is obviously the best option if you’re seriously into DJing, and the biggest improvement is arguably the brand-new Practice mode, which allows mixing 2 tracks together without requiring any type of hardware connected.
Basically, using the Practice mode you can test your sets without a controller connected, which is kind of cool. Moreover, the Serato DJ Pro boasts 64-bit software architecture and virtually limitless library size, but that depends on your storage capacity, obviously.
There’s also a new Performance pad view, which shows your cue points in the familiar layout (if you’re already a Serato DJ aficionado). Moreover, the new Pro version is optimized for UDS/Retina displays, i.e. high-res/ultra-high res screens.
The help section has also been improved with shortcut keys, tooltips, tutorials and a search-engine of the knowledge base, plus an option to contact tech support, all from within the app.
- Professional DJ software for dance, hip-hop and everything in-between
- Well-designed user interface, 64-bit architecture, legendary reliability
- Supports the best hardware in the industry
- A plethora of streaming options
- Free version available
- Lacks in terms of new features/ innovation compared to its direct competitors
Rekordbox DJ from Pioneer is the main competitor of Serato DJ Pro, and it’s been designed for DJs looking to organize/export their tracks for playback on USB drives on a CDJ media player, as opposed to performing using a laptop. However, the latest updates introduced the Performance mode, which allows you to use your laptop hooked to a CDJ/DJM, DJ Controller or DVS to spin your tracks. In terms of functionality and look, Rekordbox DJ is pretty similar to other cool DJ software, including the hugely popular Serato DJ Pro.
However, there’s a big difference between the two: while Serato’s DJ Pro supports basically all pro-tier DJ hardware, including Pioneer’s, Rekordbox DJ borrows the Apple Ecosystem strategy, i.e. it’s only “friendly” (as in plug-and-play) with Pioneer-made hardware, so keep that in mind. Library management is better though than Serato’s, as Rekordbox allows you to browse, import, organize and search thousands of tracks, but it features more advanced tools, including custom tags, star ratings, a dedicated window for ID3 tag editing and related track searches. In this regard, Pioneer has the edge.
- Ultra-clean Pro-tier user interface
- Impressive stability and reliability as per the latest version
- Viable alternative to Traktor, Virtual DJ and Serato
- Professional sound quality, multi-deck mixing
- Lowest latency in the industry
- Relatively new on the market (fewer tutorials/user experience)
- Specifically designed to work with Pioneer gear
More than a DJ Software
Ableton Live is an interesting beast, as it’s more like a jack-of-all-trades rather than dedicated DJ software. More precisely, Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation or DAW (read our previous article on that) that basically does it all, including DJing. What makes Ableton Live a good choice for our readers is that it performs exceptionally well at track-based recording and, first and foremost, at audio wrapping.
If you’re wondering what audio wrapping is, think along the lines of manipulating the tempo, rhythm and pitch, which means you can use Ableton Live not only as a DAW but also for DJing at your local night club. Ableton Live is incredibly feature-rich compared to dedicated DJ software, and supports plug-ins and VST instruments. MIDI editing is also great, and the effects/sounds and built-in instruments are awesome.
However, be advised: Ableton Live is not DJ software per se, as in it’s not designed specifically for DJ use. Ableton Live’s interface is very different compared to Traktor and Serato’s 2-decks layout, as in it’s definitely Spartan, lacking the two decks and a mixer in the middle, or the waveforms of the tracks alongside EQ, looping, effects, etc.
Ableton Live is great for live performance, and its biggest advantage for using it as a DJ is its awesome warping engine and its song-tempo management. Unlike other DJ software, Ableton Live allows you to set a master tempo and the software plays all the tracks at the respective tempo, so you won’t require to beatmatch while performing.
The warping engine can also be used to fix issues in the original track, as well as slowing up and down track playback.
- Fully featured DAW that also works as DJ software
- Powerful automation, fast navigation
- Allows you to easily edit recorded live sets
- Easy to edit (or create new) tracks to suit your style
- Compatible with VST and AU standards for external plugins
- Not suited as an easy to use/robust digital-vinyl system
- If you’re an experienced DJ, this is not for you
- Not as intuitive/workable as dedicated DJ software
The Best DJ Software for Beginners
VirtualDJ by Atomix Productions is an excellent tool for aspiring DJs and pros alike, being not only great for mixing and mashing beats via an old-school looking 2-deck console, but also as an audio central for your system. The latest version of VirtualDJ looks really professional, with a brand new and mature interface, much better compared to earlier versions.
One of the biggest updates in VirtualDJ 2020 is the advanced harmonic mixing feature that lets you automatically sync the musical key of two or more songs, and the event scheduler feature, which is something cool for mobile and pro DJs who do events that are heavy on background music, voiceovers, and DJ idents and stingers.
Streaming is another big feature in VirtualDJ 2020, which by the way works great on both Mac and PC. This thing can click on online music, and you’ve got access to all of these streaming services.
There’s DJPool, VJ’Pro for video, Digitrax for karaoke, Deezer, and you can also connect Deezer if you want to play music from streaming. We must mention Mirrored Rhythm, a feature that lets you overlay the full waveform on top of each other, for your spinning with two decks, and there’s also Full Spectrum, which is what we had earlier, i.e. the default.
The user interface looks pretty much like Traktor, i.e. it’s easy to get in and navigate, and, most importantly, everything works flawlessly, as it should.
- Refined user interface
- Beatport Link streaming library compatibility
- New features including Event Scheduler and a better harmonic mixing with auto pitching
- PC version is now 64bit by default
- Free update from VirtualDJ 2018
- No free version available
The Best Free DJ Software
If you’re looking for the best free DJ software, Mixxx is the droid you were looking for, as it’s absolutely free of charge and open source. However, even if Mixxx will not put a dent into your bank account, it still offers all the essential tools a DJ requires to engage in creative live mixes with digital music files. And on top of being free and open-source, Mixxx features cross-platform compatibility, i.e. it works equally well on Mac OS, Windows and Linux.
Another advantage of Mixxx is that it features a well-designed and intuitive user interface, which means you will enjoy it as an experienced turntablist or as a “noob” DJ with just a pair of cans and a crappy laptop. And speaking of the latter, Mixxx is not a resource hog, and it will work well on older laptops, which is a big plus for beginners on tight budgets.
Feature-wise, this freeware offers all the necessary tools for mixing tracks, including effect chain grouping, time-stretching, and beat syncing, as well as pre-bundled timecode vinyl control software, which is great as it provides improved tactile control via a CDJ or turntable.
By the way, the latest update brought resizable waveforms, post-fader effects, new high-resolution skins, tempo-synced effects, and brand-new controller mappings, so yeah, tech-support is great for grass-roots DJ software.
- Absolutely free and open source, gets updates regularly, works on any OS
- Features time stretching effects
- Accurate BPM detection
- Easy broadcasting
- Plays and wins in the best bang for the buck category
- Takes a little tinkering to make it perfect
The Best DJ Mixing Software for Windows
Last but not least, we have djay Pro, or, as it’s being marketed, the best DJ software for Windows. If you’re a Windows 10 aficionado, you should know that djay Pro was specifically crafted for this particular OS, and it seamlessly integrates with your music library, which means you’ll be granted instant access to virtually all the tracks in the known universe.
Besides that, djay Pro offers pro-tier sound quality and a multitude of features, including 4 decks, high-def waveforms, hardware integration and lots of audio effects. The visual interface is arguably one of the main reasons to choose djay Pro, as it provides a powerful music library alongside flexible layers of functionality, and it allows you to intuitively switch between two-deck, four-deck, sampler and expanded library layouts. Most importantly, since djay Pro is built to be a native Windows 10 app via UWP (universal Windows platform), it’s incredibly easy to install from the Windows Store.
All you have to do is to make a single click, no additional setup required, and you’re ready to go. The deep integration with Windows 10 translates into low latency audio plug and play hardware support and smooth graphics, everything contributing to an immersive experience. Since we’re dealing with Windows 10, it goes without saying that djay Pro combines desktop and touch input methods, i.e. it makes for the best of both worlds, being easily controlled via mouse, keyboard, touch, MIDI controllers, pen, and even the latest Surface Dial;
On top of that, you get plus full Surface Dial Support, i.e. you can use the new Microsoft Surface input-device to browse your music library, or, why not, to scrub, scratch, adjust knobs, loop and so on and so forth.
- Excellent hardware integration with pro DJ hardware (Pioneer DJ, Numark, and Reloop)
- Multi-channel audio interfaces via USB, solid filter effect selection
- Supports over 60 MIDI controllers including Pioneer DJ, Numark, Denon, and Reloop
- Plug and play setup from Windows Store, auto mixing, key and beat matching
- Powerful DJ interface, iTunes+ Windows Explorer library
- Only works under Windows OS
- Kind of expensive