If you’re just getting into digital DJing, then all you need to do is to take a look around, and you’ll instantly discover an overwhelming world of DJ applications. What’s more, each has a diehard following that will try to convince everyone like you that their favorite is the uncontested best DJ application on the market. Naturally, this is absurd, since each DJ application has different strengths that may or may not best fit your needs.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the big three that Sweetwater carries. These applications include Serato DJ, Native Instruments Traktor Pro, and Pioneer DJ’s rekordbox. We’ll also take a quick look at Algoriddim’s djay pro for iOS in case you need something even more portable. These are the top DJ applications currently on the market, and we’re sure you’ll understand why once you check them out. What’s more, if you’re not entirely sure in what kind of direction you want to take your DJing, then this guide may just give you the ideas you need.
A quick note about DJ software in general: Any DJ application worth your time is going to cover all of the basics. These include quintessential DJ functions such as EQing, hot cueing, looping, scratch emulation, and browsing. What’s more, though the basics are vitally important, each of these applications does an excellent and comparable job pulling off those basics, so we’re not going to waste a lot of time on the basics.
By far the most popular DJ application on the market, Serato DJ covers all the essentials and then some. In fact, not to discount the unique aspects of the program, but one of the top reasons to go with Serato DJ is that it’s so incredibly popular. Most DJs are intimately familiar with it, so there are a lot of experienced performers who can help you get started.
One of the reasons Serato DJ is so popular is that it offers absolutely amazing controller support. For instance, if you end up DJing in clubs that have their own gear, chances are you’ll end up behind a set of Pioneer DJ DJM-900 and a couple of CDJ decks — a system that was made for Serato DJ’s HID (human interface device) mode. The bottom line here is that Serato DJ is nonproprietary, so it will comfortably work with controllers from Pioneer DJ, Numark, Denon DJ, and many others.
Another group that’s largely adopted Serato DJ is the scratch artist community. That’s because Serato’s DVS (digital vinyl system) is considered the most stable around. Finally, one of the best things about Serato DJ is that the system is modular. That is, you can buy the base software and then only pay for the expansions you want. Want to add DMX support for your lighting rig? SoundSwitch has you covered. DVS support? No problem. You can even buy and load up on just the effects you want, so you aren’t paying for a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
Native Instruments Traktor Pro is an entirely different beast from Serato DJ. Sure, it can do all of the same basic things Serato can do. Right off the bat, Traktor offers a suite of effects that’s second to none. In fact, it’s so cool, Native Instruments has offered these effects in a standalone package to music producers of all kinds for years. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While Traktor Pro supports open MIDI mapping, making it possible to use almost any DJ controller with it, the system is really set up for other Native Instruments DJ gear. That’s because Traktor Pro offers a whole lot of tools that are even more powerful when you add dedicated controllers to the mix. For instance, Traktor Pro features these things called Remix Decks and the ability to mix Stems tracks, which are 4-track versions of songs you can mix on the fly. Modules such as the Traktor Kontrol F1 make it easy to perform with these specialty decks.
These specialty modules go hand in hand with Traktor Pro’s appeal. This platform has been almost exclusively adopted by remix artists and DJs interested in using tons of samples and even live synths. These are performers who may not even use conventional tracks and so have little use for standard playback decks.
One great example of how Traktor Pro strays from the path of conventional DJing is the Traktor Kontrol S8. This controller has replaced the jog wheels with dedicated Stems/remix control section, giving creative DJs tools that like to color outside of the lines. Simply put: if you’re looking for DJ software for remixing live or for creating insanely complex mixes in the studio, Traktor is a great option.
Championed by Pioneer DJ, rekordbox started life as a way to organize your crates for their standalone decks, such as their industry-standard CDJ line. As CDs went the way of the dodo and digital files took their place, DJs found themselves struggling for ways to organize their music into useable crates. Enter rekordbox.
As an organizational tool, rekordbox was an instant hit, and its system of consolidating and packing tracks is still its biggest claim to fame. Today, you can take your favorite tracks straight from your iTunes library, massage the beat grid to perfection, set up your cues, and then package it all together into self-contained files that include all of your metadata.
And, the actual DJ-platform side of rekordbox is no less impressive. As a proprietary system for Pioneer DJ, rekordbox offers a familiar layout for DJs who are used to CDJs and other popular Pioneer DJ hardware. That means there’s a huge community of DJs out there who can help you master the program. There are additional functions and features we love about rekordbox, such as lyric integration, which lets you use a subscription service to pull up song lyrics (great for karaoke), and its DMX integration for controlling lights.
But that’s not all. Because you can package up your tracks to include the same kind of metadata used by modern CDJs decks, taking your show on the road is easy. You don’t even need a laptop. Drop your hard drive into any rekordbox rig anywhere, and everything will load up correctly every time. What’s more, you can connect that same hard drive to a club’s CDJs, and your tracks will fly in complete with all of your cues, perfectly locked to the beat grid you set up. It’s no wonder rekordbox is the choice of so many professional DJs.
Before we wrap up, we wanted to give a quick shout out to Algoriddim’s djay iOS software. Compatible with many entry-level DJ controllers, djay is a powerful 2-deck DJ application that’s right on par with applications such as Serato Lite. The integrated effects and basic capabilities are extraordinary, and it’s super easy to get around. One of the reasons Sweetwater DJs particularly like this app is that it lets you tie in your Spotify account. While most of the big-name desktop DJ applications offer some form of streaming integration, being able to start off DJing with your favorite Spotify playlists makes djay an exceptional tool for beginning DJs.
As you can see, you have a lot of options for your first DJ application. Do you need something you can take anywhere or a program you can take into the studio? Do you want to spin tunes for weddings and low-key events, or do you want to tear it up with turntablism or live remixes? Whatever you need, Sweetwater has the answer you need. And if you have questions, just give us a call at (800) 222-4700. Your Sweetwater Sales Engineer is ready to help you find the perfect DJ application for you.