What is the best DJ software for me?
A case of vinyl records used to be the norm for performing DJs, but now, laptops and USB sticks are virtually all modern-day DJs require. There is, however, one other very important ingredient they need to complete their setups, and that's DJ software. Software is basically the modern equivalent of a case of vinyl. It's where you store your entire music collection. In this Buyer's Guide, we'll help you choose the right software program for your needs. If your question isn't answered below, don't hesitate to contact us.
DJ software is essentially your virtual record collection. It's often included as standard when you purchase hardware like a turntable or a mixer, but sometimes you'll need to buy it separately. When you import your MP3, WAV or other digital music files into the software, it will analyse each track to determine the beatgrid, the BPM and the pitch. These elements make it easier to play your tracks on a controller or CD/multimedia player and mixer. The program will tell you what's playing on which deck, where your hot cues are located, which effects are currently selected and of course, your playlist. All you have to do is 'lay down' the right track on the right player and you're good to go!
When it comes to DJ software, the three most well-known brands are Serato, Traktor (by Native Instruments) and rekordbox (by Pioneer). There are also very good alternatives such as Prime (by Denon DJ), djay (by Algoriddim), DJUCED (by Hercules) and Virtual DJ. Following these are many more lesser-known DJ programs, some of which are even free of cost. Most DJ software offers the same basic functionality but some boast extra features or only work with specific hardware. If your hardware does not include any software, then Virtual DJ is a good place to start. Another option would be to download an Intro version of one of the top three brands depending on which hardware you use. Pro tip: some programs can be 'mapped' (which means you assign the function to the controls in the software), so they will work with any controller/media player/mixer.
As mentioned above, sometimes hardware includes an Intro version of a DJ software program (often the less expensive brands). With one of these Intro versions (also known as (LE or Lite), you'll have access to a limited number of functions in the program. To gain access to all the functionality, you will need to purchase an upgrade to the full version. This is sometimes possible within the software itself, but other times you may need to purchase the program separately.
DJ controllers incl. Serato DJ Intro
DJ controllers incl. Serato DJ (full version)
DJ controllers incl. Traktor LE
DJ controllers incl. Traktor Pro (full version)
DJ controllers incl. rekordbox (full version)
All DJ controllers
Some brands offer an expansion for the full version of their DJ software programs, such as Serato. Expansion packs usually include more effects to add to your music and sometimes video editing effects that correspond to the beat of your music, for example. Others make use of DVS or increase the pitch of two tracks at once without affecting the tempo.
DVS (Digital Vinyl System) makes it possible to play digital music files on a turntable by means of a special kind of record called timecode vinyl. This record sends a special signal to your mixer and then to your laptop via an (internal or external) audio interface. The DVS software on your laptop ensures that the music files react accurately to changes in the position of the needle, rotation speed or direction. This way, scratch DJs don't need to have physical vinyl records on hand, which saves them a lot of hassle! Please note: if you want to try DVS for the first time, it's best to invest in a set that's ready to use so you'll be sure you have all the components you need.
If you're ready to get started with DJ software, we have a few tips to help ensure your experience is a success. Firstly, pay attention to whether you are using the Lite or the Full version of the software. If you intend to perform on stage, it's a good idea to have the Full (standard) version, so you won't run into any obstacles during your set due to limited access. We also recommend finding out which software is compatible with the DJ gear you use (or plan to use in the future) so you won't have to switch programs and map everything all over again later on. Finally, we recommend making sure your laptop has the right specifications to ensure it's compatible with the software. The last thing you want is your computer crashing in the middle of your set!