Top 5 DJ Software in 2019
With all due respect to vinyl junkies and CD stalwarts, when it comes to convenience, cost-effectiveness and flexibility, there can be little doubt that the best way to DJ right now is on a digital system, be that Mac, PC or even iOS or Android. And if you're going to do that, you're going to need the right software application.
Fortunately, the market is awash with applications that will enable you to mix using not just two but - in many cases - four or more decks. What's more, the best of today's DJ software offers up myriad creative options, so you can add real interest and take your mixes to the next level.
Add a hardware controller and you've got a setup that feels great and will enable you to do anything that was possible using an old-school setup and a whole lot more.
So, what are the best DJ software applications you can get for PC, Mac, iOS and Android? Click through the gallery to find out...
Native Instruments Traktor Pro
Traktor Pro 2 was first released back in 2011 and it’s remained solidly at the top of the digital DJing game since then. Much of Traktor’s appeal lies in the fact that its well designed interface is approachable and easy-to-use enough for newbies to get to grips with without too much hassle, but it still packs a lot of depth, allowing advanced users to do some seriously creative things with it.
Between its excellent Sample Decks, Remix Decks and Loop Recorder, its quality effects and its solid beat and key analysis algorithms, Traktor has pretty much everything a modern DJ is likely to need. A digital vinyl system is also available, in the form of the Traktor Scratch upgrade.
There’s real innovation in here too, in the shape of NI’s Stems format. This offers up commercial releases broken down into four competent ‘Stems’, to be played back and manipulated separately by Traktor’s Stem Decks.
Traktor is well supported by hardware, too, from NI’s own extensive range of controllers and interfaces as well as numerous third-party options. It can be mapped to any controller you wish, too, which makes it extra flexible.
For all its success, though, there’s no denying that seven years is a long time in the software world, and despite lots of ‘point’ updates since its initial release, Traktor Pro 2 is beginning to show its age. Fortunately, NI is promising big things before the end of 2018. According to the development team, there’s a whole new version on the horizon that will see the application ‘rebuilt from the ground up’. We expect it to be accompanied by a new range of controllers, too. As such, if you’re considering taking the plunge on Traktor, it might be worth holding off for version 3.
Ableton Live is something of an anomaly in this list, due to the fact that it’s not really a true DJ application - or at least it wasn’t originally imagined as such. Still, while it may have been first envisioned purely as a production tool, in the years since its inception Live has become a favourite of DJs across the world.
Key to its popularity with DJs is the Session View - a brilliantly implemented and cleanly designed window for launching sync’d audio samples, MIDI clips and tracks. It’s this view, along with the intuitive way that Live handles retiming audio, that makes the DAW a fantastic tool for blurring the lines between DJing and live performance.
With the added bonus of a heap of built-in instruments and effects, the ability to host plugins and an intuitive MIDI learn function, Live makes an unbeatable one-stop-shop for electronic musicians. What's more, you can choose from any number of controllers that can work with it.
Ableton’s recently developed Link tech adds to its appeal as a performance tool. This is an open software tool that allows developers to add wireless sync to their applications. You can find Link as part of a host of DJing apps, iOS tools, DAWs and plugins, making it easier than ever to jam with multiple laptops or tablet devices.
Serato DJ Pro
Serato spearheaded the birth of digital vinyl systems back in the early ‘00s and has remained one of the major players in digital DJing ever since. Its range of software applications has gone through a host of iterations and name changes over the years, but since being unified and refreshed under the banner of Serato DJ in 2013 the application feels tighter and more refined than ever.
In recent times, Serato has put a lot of work into making its software reliable and low-latency, and its these factors that make it a popular choice amongst pro club DJs. The app also offers plug 'n' play support for a range of controllers and solid digital vinyl capabilities.
Beyond this, there are all the creative elements you’d expect from a top-quality DJ application, including sampling capabilities, effects, four-deck mixing, sync and analysis tools and much more.
Users can get to grips with Serato for free, too, via the cut down but still well-equipped Serato DJ Lite version.
Pioneer DJ rekordbox DJ
Originally developed for Pioneer DJ by French developer MixVibes, rekordbox existed for a good few years as a music librarian and track preparation tool for use with Pioneer's range of CDJs and digital music players.
In 2015, rekordbox got a significant upgrade in the form of rekordbox DJ - an expanded 'performance' version of the software with full mixing, effects and sampling capabilities.
There are up to four decks of track control, a library browser with a tagging and track recommendation system, per-track and master effects - each with multiple slots - along with a looper, beat slicer and eight-slot sampler.
More recently, it’s been expanded with an Auto-Mix feature, an automated tool that will do a lot of the work for you, which is a great option for beginners looking to rock a party without wanting to spend weeks rehearsing first. At the more ‘pro’ end of things, it can sync and control light shows and stage effects. rekordbox DJ can also be expanded with add-on packs for digital vinyl, video mixing and lyric functionality, which is ideal for karaoke and events DJs.
Unsurprisingly, rekordbox DJ is best used with Pioneer’s own controller hardware. Its biggest appeal is probably cross-platform compatibility, since its workflow and track library is shared with Pioneer’s industry-standard CDJs and mixers.
rekordbox DJ can be downloaded as a 30-day free trial, and it's also available in a variety of different purchase options, including monthly subscription plans.
Atomix VirtualDJ Pro
VirtualDJ Pro can get pricey - you'll have to pay $299 for a full license - but it does offer some hugely flexible ‘pro’ features.
Most notably, VirtualDJ Pro can run anything up to 99 virtual decks (obviously, it’s not advisable to try mixing 99 tracks at once, but it’s an impressive amount of flexibility nonetheless.) It’s also ReWire compatible, meaning it can be run in conjunction with a variety of DAWs, opening up a whole world of performance possibilities.
Recent updates have added even more grand tools and features into the mix. The previous update, version 8, rebuilt the audio engine from the ground up, adding Sandbox feature for private mix previewing, an enhanced sampler and more.
The latest edition, VirtualDJ 2018, puts the focus mainly on visuals. Video Skins offer a way to project your DJing skills live onto a big screen, while new visualisation tools offer automated ways to generate video to accompany your mix. There’s also an automated scratching tool, new lighting compatibility and new methods for broadcasting directly to social media.
The software also features audio line-ins, and comes with mappings for a fairly substantial range of DJ controllers. If you don't want to pay upfront, you can subscribe to VirtualDJ Pro for $19 a month, and there are also free and controller-specific versions available.