The world was introduced to the life of the Disk Jockey (DJ) in the 1980s. Since this time, DJs have used their turntables and mixer to shake up parties and keep feet up and always moving. In the early 2000s however, the game changed with the introduction of the digital vinyl DJ systems. This has seen steady improvements and newcomers into the world of the DJ software. And as is the case of online applications, there abound a lot of DJ software one can choose from.
Choosing The Best DJ Software
Choosing the best DJ software is no easy task and can be a complicated business, there are a couple of factors you need to bear in mind. These are:
1)How much is budgeted for a DJ software?
The amount earmarked for a DJ software is directly proportional to the intended purpose of the software. If the need for a DJ software is private, there are free versions which can be downloaded for home use and do not play longer than a given period at a time. Similarly paid upgrades and external hardware can be bought to support the free DJ software. In addition, state laws prohibit the use of the free DJ software for gigs and professional purposes.
2)What functions do you desire from the software?
This factor goes hand in hand with the aforementioned factor. A DJ software for professional purposes is not free and you must be registered and licensed by state law to operate as a DJ. Furthermore, it is important to make as a priority what you want the software to do which could be to play two, four or more tracks at once, play in loops or samples?
Another thing to consider is the controllers. Should it work with a MIDI controller, your favourite digital vinyl system or the old-fashioned turntables? Imagine the exciting possibility of using an iPad for the ultimate house party.
3)What Device or Operating System Do You Want the Software On?
The available DJ software is built for specific devices. What works on a pc will not work on a MacBook likewise what works on a mobile device will not be compatible with a pc. Therefore, bear in mind your device and download or purchase a software which was built specifically for that device.
To help you in picking the ultimate professional DJ software for your needs, we will run down some of the best ones available on the internet.
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS TRACTOR PRO
For PC/Mac Price: 89 pounds
One of the two main dominating software in the DJ market, the native instrument is built for PC/Mac. Of its closest rival, the native instrument comes out top thanks to its intuitiveness and reliability, added with its endlessly flexible performance features. The native instrument Tractor Pro comes in two forms: the traditional pro which can be operated with a traditional mouse, keyboard and hardware DJ controller and the Traktor Scratch which is designed primarily to be used with any digital vinyl setup of a native instrument.
The native instrument Traktor is pretty much the software to beat. It is all-around flexible and reliable and this beats its competitors. It has an excellent sample deck, remix deck, and a loop recorder. That’s not all, the Traktor pro has high-quality effects, a high-quality beat and key analysis algorithms. Its hardware controllers; the flagship S2 and S4 and more compact X1, F1 and Z1 are some of the best around and hold a firm grip on the digital DJ market.
Again, the Serato scratch is built for the PC/Mac and one of the leading brands in the digital DJ market. The Serato is one of the earliest pioneers of the concept of digital vinyl DJing and dominated the market for professional DJ software until it was recently overtaken by Native Instruments. This notwithstanding, the Serato still has a firm grip on the market and for good reason and with its constant software improvement/upgrades.
The company finally combined into one unified application, the two discordant strands of its software, the digital vinyl based scratch live and the controller focused itch. The Serato DJ introduced in 2013, is the first version of Serato software that can be used with any MIDI controller.
There has been significant growth for the Serato which now offers plug n play support for a range of controllers, expansion packs for increasing software functions, and multiple interfaces that can accommodate both a 2- and a 4- deck mixing mode.
The user was vital in the creation of the Serato DJ as there is a free version, the Serato DJ intro available. Endless possibilities abound with the Serato with the company now focused on a single product and we are certain that Serato will be around for a long time.
For PC/Mac Price: $ 420
When it was introduced into the market, Ableton live was intended as a DAW (digital audio workstation) and a piece of a music production software and this somewhat makes it an anomaly of some sort. However, it soon proved to be very vital among DJs thanks to its peculiar Session View– a window designed to launching synchronized loops, MIDI clips and tracks and the unique way it handles retiming audio files. The DAW is a fantastic tool that blurs the line between a live performance and DJing.
Its newest version, the Ableton Live Suite 8 is closer to a studio-in-a-box than its counterparts on the market. It has an impressive clip arrangement feature, a large sample library and huge effect selection options. As an added advantage, Live has a load of built-in effects and instruments, the capacity to host plugins and an innate MIDI learn feature. Furthermore, there are a variety of controllers to choose from which are specifically designed to work with the Ableton Live for optimal results.
The Ableton live is a device for anyone looking to blur the lines between DJing, live performance and its original purpose, production. On the downside, it is quite expensive and somewhat bulky.
For PC/Mac Price: $ 300
Made for PC/Mac, the Virtual DJ Pro can run 99 virtual decks at a time. Of course playing 99 songs at a time is not advised, it goes to show how much performance and flexibility is locked within the virtual DJ. The Virtual DJ Pro can run in conjunction with a range of DAWs opening a world of endless performance possibility. It features also an audio line-in and mapping for a large number of controllers.
However, the Virtual DJ can be quite pricey coming at around $300 for the full license. That notwithstanding, the Virtual DJ Pro allows for a monthly subscription of $19 and also has available free controller-specific versions.
For PC/Mac price: $ 129
Developed initially as a music librarian and track preparation tool for Pioneers range of CDJs and digital music player, the Rekordbox has existed for a while now. It received a significant improvement in 2015 and took the form of the Rekordbox DJ, an upgraded version of the software with an expanded performance feature, full mixing, effects and sampling abilities.
The latest version of the Rekordbox DJ has four decks of track control, a library browser with track recommendation and tracking system sophisticated effects each with multiple slots- a looper, beat slicer and eight-slot sampler.
Going a step further, pioneer DJ released the Interface 2- opening up the rekordbox ecosystem not just to those who use one of its controllers or mixers, but to all DJs. This feature’s a 2 channel audio interface that allows one to control the music on a PC or Mac using any setup. This coupled with its fully featured, flexible and boasting unmatched compatibility across platforms makes the rekordbox the software to watch.
At this point, it is only fair to look into some of the best free DJ software. Don’t write off the free DJ software just yet, this is a software for those who want a little more than iTunes provides and are not looking to spend any money.
The Mixxx is suitable for Mac, Windows and Linux. It has two decks, which both support scratching, looping, hot cues and time stretching. It also features pitch bending, an equalizer, beat detection and crossfader curve control which gives you the power for a silky smooth transition. The Mixxx fires off vocals and sound effect with its four sampler decks have a music library that can merge well with iTunes, and intuitive sorting options.
Surprisingly, the mixxx has good support for external hardware which is a feature one won’t expect from a free package. As a bonus, included in it is a Serato style vinyl timecode control, which allows Mixxx to manipulate a turntable.
Expectedly, the means is not nearly as dependable as the paid versions listed above, but it is bottom line an amazing free package and the only free option for Linux users.
Virtual DJ is one of the more prominent DJ softwares on the market. Having being around since 2003 and having both a professional and a free option, its place in the market is very well established. The virtual DJ 8 system built for Mac and windows, provides for up to 99 decks which you may never need and includes 4 or 6 deck skins. It features an iTunes-match like streaming services which however requires subscription and support for video mixing. It also features a variety of deployable effects which includes a flanger, echo and beat slicer. A built-in sampler for record on and use as a sequencer is one of the best features of the free virtual DJ software.
On the downside however, it doesn’t play for longer than 10 minutes at a time, comes with adds and sometimes upgrades which money are required.
The Cross DJ Free is a DJ software that targets the market of wannabe DJs. The free package comes with two decks which support video mixing, hot cues and loops, beat detection, and a three band equalizer and audio effect. It has no limitations in terms of its features.
However, the Cross DJ Free doesn’t have MIDI support for external hardware and misses the pecks every professional DJ wants in a software. The cross DJ fire was created for beginners and doesn’t take long to be outgrown and boring.
It is imperative to identify your particular need and adopt the best software with features to meet that need. The free versions come with legal and technical limitations which put the paid versions well above it. The above-listed DJ software is some of the best in the market and with external hardware support can be improved upon for maximum performance.