Back a few years ago DJs only had one option when choosing their music source: there was only vinyl. But that changed! Today there are so many different music sources for DJs: Of course, there is still vinyl, but also CD, SD, the very popular USB, and DJ software. A DJ software is a software which replaces a DJ setup: It has all the options you need to DJ. DJ Software is one of the most popular sound sources in today's world of DJing as you don’t have to use a mouse and a keyboard to control it. Thanks to DVS you can use turntables and most DJ software are also compatible with CDJs which are the industrial club standard. Also, there are so-called DJ controllers which are basically just MIDI controllers designed to control DJ software. This already shows one of the biggest advantages of DJ software: You can use it on pretty much ANY setup. No matter if there are turntables or CDJs or even a controller at a club: When you’re a laptop DJ you can use your music library with all of those. Other advantages of DJ software are the cheap price (you can get a DJ controller for €80 read our article about the best beginner DJ controllers for this and the great performance features. But on today's DJ market there are many different DJ software: Serato DJ, Virtual DJ, Traktor DJ, Recordbox DJ, and Djay just to name a few popular ones. Now you might wonder which DJ software to pick then and most DJs will pick the software based on the controller they like the most. But we absolutely recommend you to FIRST pick the software and THEN pick a controller which works with it. Due to this, we will give you advice for picking your DJ software in this article.
Why there is no “best” DJ software
You might think “So just tell me which the best DJ software is” now, but this is not possible. The reason for this is that the best DJ software for you will depend on several factors such as what exactly important for you (for example Serato has a lower latency, especially when using DVS while Traktor has more performance features) and most important: personal preference. Pretty much every DJ has a specific software that he likes the most because of factor such as the layout, the general concept etc. And you will have to figure out which software this is for you!
Our top 5 DJ software
In this list, we will present you our five favourite DJ software. We will explain you the general concept, the features, the pricing as well as pros and cons for all of them. Also, you’ll find a picture of the layout as well as a list with a few famous DJs that use the software.
Price: €99 (For free with several controllers, mixers and interfaces)
Used by: Kygo, Dada Life and Dillon Francis
Perfect for: DJs that want software with a simple but professional layout that works with a lot of hardware and has great sound
+ simple but a professional layout
+ low latency (especially with DVS)
+ great sound quality
- no full MIDI map functions
- only works properly with Serato DJ Pro primary hardware connected
For the first software, we’ll have a look at is Serato DJ. Serato has been the international standard when it comes to DJ Software for many years. While Scratch Live was mainly used by hip-hop DJs, Serato DJ Pro has become one of the most used Softwares by hip-hop, EDM, Drum’n’Bass and more DJs. The fact that the software mixer of Serato, as well as some other things, aren’t displayed makes the layout look clean and simple. Not seeing anything which is going on in the software might be an issue for some DJs, but it forces you to focus more on your hearing and your hardware. Also, you can show some usually hidden features such as the FX by simply pressing a button in the program. The facts that Serato has an AMAZING sound quality and works with a wide range of Hardware (including controllers, mixers, CDJs, and interfaces), make it a professional choice of a DJ software. Only problems of Serato are the facts that it’s not fully MIDI assignable (jog wheels, touch strips, shift buttons etc. can’t be mapped) and that it will only go into DJ mode when you connect Serato DJ primary hardware (which always has to be the interface for the sound output). This makes it impossible to use all-in-one controllers that are not natively supported.
Record box DJ
Price: €139 (license comes with several pioneer controllers)
Perfect for: if you only have Pioneer hardware yourself and the venues you play at have Pioneer gear to and you’re looking for a performance DJ software with amazing library management features.
+ performance DJ software with a lot of features
+ low latency (especially with DJ controllers)
+ fantastic library management features
- only working with pioneer hardware
- not the best effects
Since Pioneer is the number one DJ hardware brand, they also created their own DJ software. While Recordbox is actually a music library management software for people who play on pioneer’s XDJs/CDJs using USB or SD, Recordbox DJ is performance DJ software. Due to this, Recordbox has the best library management options of all DJ software in our opinion. But the software also brings a lot of great performance features and pioneer themselves say, that they have the lowest latency when it comes to DJ controllers with record box. While the software is fully MIDI assignable, the Recordbox effects can’t beat the ones of Serato and Tractor in our opinion, but that’s up to personal preference. Anyway, the big problem of Recordbox is the fact that it only works natively with Pioneer’s own hardware (and own MIDI mappings usually won’t work to good)! That’s not a problem when you only own Pioneer hardware yourself and the venues you DJ at have pioneer gear as well, but that usually won’t be the case as Denon is really getting into the DJ business at the moment. More and more clubs and festivals have the Denon Prime setup instead of the Pioneer Nexus one and Recordbox doesn’t work with the Prime Setup of course! You might say that a brand’s software of course only works with their own hardware but if you look at Native Instruments’ Traktor you’ll see that this doesn’t need to be the case.
Used by: Carl Cox, Zedd, Krewella and many more.
Perfect for: DJs who are looking for software with a lot of performance features that work with many pieces of hardware
+ huge amount of performance features
+ a lot of customization possible
+ works with a wide range of hardware (not only by Native Instruments)
- no lifetime free updates
- a bit confusing layout
When looking into today’s huge EDM festival main stages, you’ll mainly see two different DJ software (and of course a lot of USB sticks for the non-software-users): Serato, which we already had a look at, and Traktor. While Serato was more software for hip-hop DJs at first, Traktor’s focus was on the EDM scene from Start on. Even though this has changed and both software are used by any kind of DJ, Traktor is still nearly as popular as Serato. The facts that Traktor offers a lot of amazing performance features and that it brings many customization options make it a solid choice. Also, Traktor DJ works (other than record box) with a lot of hardware by many different brands including CDJs, Mixers, Controllers and more. I personally find the layout a bit confusing but that’s up to personal preference. The only big problem, which Trakor has in our opinion, is that you don’t get lifetime free updates when purchasing it. When you bought, for example, Serato or Virtual DJ and there is a new update of the Software, you can download it for free as you already bought the full version. But that’s not the case with Traktor! If let’s says, you bought Traktor Pro 2, you’ll have to pay €50 of an updated price to be able to use Traktor Pro 3.
Price: €250 (cheaper licenses for specific controllers possible)
Perfect for: you if you want a DJ software that is easy to understand for beginners and that offers a lot of customization of the user interface and works with a huge amount of hardware
+ extremely flexible layout (with skins)
+ easy to use for beginners
+ works with pretty much any hardware
- high price
- weird lags
Many of you might be beginners that just want to get started with a controller and software. And for this purpose, Virtual DJ is perfect. It’s simple to use as a beginner but also brings all the features you need as a professional. It is the software with the most customization options on this list when it comes to the graphic layout as you can download skins to get a completely different layout (that looks like for example a specific setup). But the greatest advantage of VDJ is probably the huge hardware compatibility of the software. Virtual DJ works with pretty much any hardware (mixers, CDJs, interfaces, and controllers) and there are only very few controllers and CDJs that don’t work with it. Anyway, most of them don’t come with a license so you’ll need to purchase one. Licenses for specific controllers reach from €50-150 but in order to use Virtual DJ in a professional way, you’ll need to buy a Pro license which is €250 (this will allow you to play real gigs using Virtual DJ). This makes VDJ the most expensive software on our list! Virtual DJ is a great software for beginners and maybe also for professional DJs.
Price: €49.99 (PC), € 54.99 (Mac), €2.99 (Android)
Used by: DJ Arch Junior
Perfect for: DJs who are looking for a simple software with all necessary performance features and with the flexibility to run the software from mobile
+ Spotify integration
+ mobile version for IOS/Android
+ works with a lot of hardware
- missing some features
- cheesy layout
The last software on our list is Djay. Djay is new software on the market and it’s pretty innovative. While it’s definitely affordable, it brings most of the features and works with many pieces of hardware (if there is enough request in the forum about a new hardware implementation, it will come). The innovative thing about it is that there is a mobile version for Android and IOS devices available. This version can not only be used a pocket DJ solution to try out thing on the go but also works with several controllers including, for example, the Reloop Mixon 4, which is a professional 4 channel controller. There is currently no other DJ software that brings this flexibility! Also, Djay brings a full Spotify integration, which means that if you have Spotify Premium, you can play tracks from Spotify over Djay. This feature works on any platform (Android, IOS, Windows and Mac). Of course, the mobile version, at least on Android, misses some features (such as key lock and 4 decks) but it definitely works. The only bad thing about Djay is the layout which is a bit cheesy in my opinion, but that’s up to personal preference.
In the end, it’s all up to personal preference which DJ Software you will choose! But we can guarantee you, that all software on our list will work great and no matter which of them you’ll choose will be a solid selection.