17 leading DJ software packages reviewed and rated
When it comes to software for digital DJing and "controllerism", you'd be forgiven for thinking it's all about Traktor. But there are plenty of alternatives, all of which have their fans and some of which are extremely popular.
Whether you're wondering what package to learn on, looking for a change or just curious as to what else is out there, our ultimate guide to digital DJing software can help you.
About this guide
We've rounded up every major DJ software package currently on the market, in alphabetical order, that fitted our criteria:
- We only feature software that works with current DJing hardware. This isn't us saying that as a DJ you have to use Midi controllers or the like, as it's perfectly possible to DJ with just a laptop, but the list would be too long if we included all digital music manipulation programs out there.
- We have not featured DVS software - that is, software that needs traditional record decks/CD players and control vinyl/CDs to work. While DVS systems are great, Digital DJ Tips doesn't cover digital/analogue solutions at this time
- Where a company makes several versions of its software, we have included what we think is the best version for controller-led digital DJs, against versions with features for music producers, karaoke operators, radio DJs, video jockeys, mobile entertainers, restaurants and so on.
- Where there are lesser versions of packages available, we've only listed the "full strength" version. After all, you tend to get a limited version of some software package or other with your DJ controller. We figure if you upgrade, you'll want the best.
Our ratings are reached after careful consideration but are only a guide – we consider features, price/value and how well the package appeals to our target audience. Also, “5? doesn’t mean perfect (although a 5/5 piece of software will be highly thought of in DJ circles) Likewise, 2 doesn’t mean awful – it just means the hardware doesn’t meet enough of our criteria. Avoid anything we star with a “1?, though.
Choosing DJ software
- Thanks to the wonder of Midi, most DJ hardware controllers can be made to work with most DJ software. However, this list contains the names of DJ controller that that the manufacturers specifically tell us works with their software. We've left out single deck controllers, compatible sound card, FX units etc - we just list the standard DJ controllers for each piece of software. You can always check manufacturers' websites if you need more detailed information. Find a software/hardware combination that suits you, but if you can't pair your software and hardware up, it is probably still possible. Time to hit the forums!
- The minimum you're going to need in addition to software is a sound card. You could then add a DJ Midi controller when you're ready (there are plenty that don't have sound cards so your purchase wouldn't be redundant). Alternatively, some DJ controllers combines the two - just look for one with "built-in sound card" or "built-in audio interface". Check out our DJ Midi Controllers: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide 2011 and our article All About Sound Cards for Digital DJing
- Be sure to check that the software you're interested in will work with your computer and sound card - check ASIO compatibility if you're using a sound card with a Windows computer. Most DJ software nowadays will work on most modern PCs with enough RAM, but be sure before buying. Look on the software developer's website for tech specs
- Most software here has a demo version you can download to try. Do this. Try as many as you can. You'll be the one staring at it for the indeterminate future, so pick one you like the look of!
Finally, do double-check all specifications, compatibilities and so on before buying. We try our hardest, but we’re only human and just because we say something’s suitable for you, doesn’t mean it is. Do your homework – it’s part of the fun! And happy software hunting…
Ableton Live 8
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Akai Professional APC40, APC20; Novation Launchpad; Korg Zero 8; Open Labs controllers; Vestax VCM-600
They say: Mix and match tracks and loops automatically, remix on the fly, capture audio loops in real time from decks and other external sources, incorporate your own productions into the mix, and much more.
We say: Completely different way of DJing, niche but gaining ground. Good for mashups and re-editing on the fly. Preferred by DJ/producers, famously championed by Sasha and deadmau5 among others.
Deckadance Club Edition
System: PC/Mac; Supported DJ controllers: Allen & Heath Xone:3D; American Audio DP-2; Behringer BCD2000, BCD3000; DJ Tech DJ For All, i-Mix, i-Mix MkII, i-Mix Reload, Mix Free; Hercules DJ Console Mk2, DJ Control MP3, DJ Control MP3 e2, DJ Console Mk4, DJ Console RMX, DJ Control Steel; Icon i-DJ; M-Audio X-Session Pro, Xponent; Numark Omni Control, Total Control; Omnitronic MMC1; Openlabs DBEAT; Reloop Digital Jockey; Vestax VCI-100, VCM-100, VCI-300
They say: Deckadance is a DJ mixing application that works as a standalone program OR as a VSTi plugin in your favourite host. Deckadance was written by DJs for DJs, so we are confident that it will take your DJing to the next level.
We say: Top-notch effects and sampler, 8-slot VST host for hosting VST effects and instruments, can also function as a VST plugin. Quality waveforms and good iTunes integration. If you like Traktor's look and feel, you may like this.
See it at: Deckadance shop
Disco XT 5.5
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Behringer BCD3000, Hercules DJ Console RMX, DJ Control MP3; M-Audio X-Session Pro; Numark Total Control
They say: Allows to create a continuous, gapless flow of music from individual audio files, mixing the songs together. It has been designed for live use.
We say: Cross-fader activated filtering, easily assignable shortcuts, editable EQs, good iTunes integration. Waveforms and general layout a bit strange. Worth a look if you want something understated. Poor choice of controllers.
See it at: Disco XT shop
System: Mac; DJ controllers supported: Vestax Spin, VCI-100, VCM-100; Numark Total Control, Stealth Control, Omni Control; Ion Audio iCue3 Discover DJ; M-Audio Torq Xponent; Reloop Digital Jockey 2 Interface Edition; Hercules DJ Control Steel, DJ Console Rmx, DJ Console Mk4, DJ Control MP3 e2, DJ Console Mk2, DJ Control MP3; M-Audio X-Session Pro; Vestax VCI-300
They say: Ready to rock your next party? djay seamlessly integrates with your iTunes and transforms your Mac into a full-blown DJ system. Unprecedented ease-of-use with innovative and powerful mixing features.
We say: Good looking, visually stunning and fun DJ software with seamless iTunes integration a big sell. A serious contender for beginner to intermediate Mac users. You may miss waveforms, though. Vestax Spin is built to work with it.
System: PC; DJ controllers supported: e-mix mp1200; Behringer BCD3000; Hercules DJ Console Mk2, DJ Control MP3, DJ Control MP3 e2, DJ Console RMX, DJ Control Steel; Vestax VCI-100, VCM-100; IMG MC-500USB; Kam ME-701; American Audio DP2
They say: The e-mix DJ Software offers all functions for professional mixing. The program can be controlled by one of the common Midi controllers or easily by mouse.
We say: Audio/video software aimed at club and mobile digital DJ/VJs. Can be bought with company's own e-mix mp1200 for an integrated solution. Lots of competition at this price point - it's among the most expensive here.
See it at: e-mix shop
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Behringer BCD2000, BCD3000; M-Audio Xponent; Reloop Digital Jockey 2 Interface Edition; Vestax (models not stated); "all" Hercules
They say: You can really mix your songs, nothing else needed but your imagination. Beat-matching is just a click away and also are seamless beat-aware loops, effects and many other things. All these thanks to a brand new audio engine.
We say: Video mixing, beatgridding, vinyl FX, VST support, Midi learn, pitch scaling auto-gain and mix recording, some iTunes support. One of the better of the mass of alternatives to the big boys. Patchy controller support. Also sold as DJ Mixer Pro.
See it at: FutureDecks Pro shop
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Mixmeister Control
They say: MixMeister software isn't quite like anything else on the market. It's designed for people who care enough about their music to refine a mix until it’s perfect, rather than throw everything together on the fly and hope that it sounds OK.
We say: Performance version of this mix creation and automation software, with hardware support, Midi timing signals, monitoring and performance mode. Radically different to most software, in a niche of its own. You'll know if this is for you once you try it.
See it at: Mixmeister shop
MixVibes Cross DJ
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: DJ-Tech i-Mix, i-Mix MKII, i-Mix Reload, i-Mix Reload MKII; Hercules DJ Console RMX, DJ Console MK4, DJ Control Steel, DJ Control MP3 e2; Ion Discover DJ; MixVibes U-Mix Control; MixVibes VFX Control; Numark iDJ3, Omni Control, Stealth Control, Total Control; Reloop Digital Jockey, Digital Jockey 2; Vestax Typhoon, VCI-100, VCM-100
They say: Helps you control your music with keyboard/mouse or a DJ Midi controller. Because finding the right track to play next is the first concern of a DJ, it is focused on media management and interface simplicity.
We say: Easy iTunes management and big library window making file management easy, but no nested folders in iTunes. No effects or sampler though, although FX are promised. What it does, it does well. Looks great.
See it at: Mixvibes shop
Price: Free - open source
System: PC/Mac/Linux; DJ controllers supported: Behringer BCD3000; DJ TechTools MIDIFighter; Evolution X-Session; FaderFox DJ2; M-Audio X-Session Pro; Mixman DM2; Griffin PowerMate; Hercules DJ Console Mk2, DJ Console RMX, DJ Control MP3 e2; Stanton SCS.3 system; Vestax VCI-100
They say: Free, open source DJ software that gives you everything you need to perform live mixes. Our advanced mixing engine gives you complete control. Hot cues, looping controls, and our high fidelity EQs.
We say: Unique project. Some attractive skins, and it's being improved all the time. Key lock, recording, iTune integration and Midi scripting engine all add up to a lot of bang for no buck. Getting there.
Get it free at: Mixxx website
Numark Cue 7
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Numark NS7, Mixtrack, Mixdeck, Omni Control, Stealth Control, iDJ3, Total Control
They say: Cue is the most reliable, intuitive DJ software. It empowers DJs to mix, scratch, juggle, and sample audio and video on its dual virtual decks. You can use Cue just like you use vinyl, CDs, or most other DJ formats.
We say: This is a rebadge of Virtual DJ 7, with Numark guaranteeing its compatibility with all of the Numark controllers we've listed here. Make perfect sense over Virtual DJ7 if you wanted to use it with one of these controllers.
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: American Audio DP-2; Reloop Digital Jockey 2; DJ Tech I-Mix, I-Mix Reload; Stanton SCS3 System; Behringer BCD2000; Hercules DJ Console RMX, DJ Console Mk2, DJ Control MP3; Vestax VCI-100; Vestax VCM-100
They say: Our flagship DJ software with up to 4 DJ players, auto-play & shuffle, BPM beat matching, effects & sampler, waveforms for easy looping & cue point setting, & auto-gain control.
We say: Library includes smart playlists which is welcome although doesn't nest iTunes folders, which isn't. Busy interface, although you can reskin it to suit your tastes. Waveforms could be much better.
Pro DJ 5
System: PC; DJ controllers supported: Behringer BCD2000, BCD3000; Hercules DJ Console RMX, DJ Control Steel, DJ Control MP3, DJ Control MP3 e2, DJ Console MK2; Numark Omni Control; Kontrol DJ KDJ500
They say: In addition to essential auto beat-mixing, cueing, synchronize beat-looping and MIDI mapping of all major controllers; ProDJ 5's offers superior stability and mixing performance.
We say: 8 sampler decks on top of two normal decks, distortion, reverb and delay FX (but no filters), ability to save and load playlists, some automation features but poor choice of controllers.
See it at: Club DJ Pro shop
Serato ITCH 1.7
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Allen & Heath Xone:DX; Numark NS7; Vestax VCI-300, VCI-300 MkII
They say: An integrated 2/4 deck (depending on controller) software and hardware system, designed to give music selectors and DJs new kinds of control. DJ music on your computer with accurate control from a range of purpose built ITCH hardware.
We say: Streamlined, simple to use yet professional and powerful, Serato ITCH plus a piece of ITCH hardware is one of the most straightforward ways to get into Digital DJing. No sampler, though, and FX sometimes require extra hardware.
Get it with: Any of the hardware listed above.
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: Torq Connectiv, Xponent, X-Session Pro (LE software only)
They say: A fully equipped DJ software workstation that provides innovative tools and production power. In addition to essential cueing, beat-matching and mixing, offers a host of real-time creative options unavailable anywhere else.
We say: Sampler, VST effects, studio ReWire support, and ability to transmit/receive Midi clock, plus tight integration with Torq hardware, which it works with exclusively. Well respected and deservedly so.
Get it with: Any of the hardware listed above.
System: PC/Mac; DJ controllers supported: NI Traktor Kontrol S4, Traktor Kontrol X1; Allen & Heath Xone:4D, Xone:3D; Behringer BCD3000; DJ Tech I-Mix Reload, I-Mix; Hercules DJ Console Mk II Mac edition; Numark Total Control, Mixdeck, Mixtrack, Stealth Control, Omni Control; Reloop Digital Jockey/Digital Jockey 2 (all editions); Stanton SCS3 system; Vestax VCM-100, VCI-100, Typhoon
They say: Traktor Pro is the new benchmark in DJ software. Mix digital files on four decks, using the high-quality internal mixer or external hardware, and the best effects suite around.
We say: The industry standard digital DJing software. Powerful and fully featured, it has a fair learning curve, and doesn't have the nicest user interface, but a pro's choice nonetheless.
Traktor Pro S4
System: PC/Mac; DI controllers supported: Traktor Kontrol S4
They say: Developed in perfect synergy with the S4’s controller, new features have been added to the Traktor Pro S4 software to fully take advantage of this all-in-one solution.
We say: We suspect many Traktor Pro users are looking enviously at this software update wondering when they can get their hands on it. Presumably some of the functions will come to the next version of Traktor Pro.
Get it with: Traktor Kontrol S4 hardware
UltraMixer 2 Professional
System: PC/Mac/Linux; DJ controllers supported: American Audio DP-2; Behringer BCD2000, BCD3000; Hercules DJ Console MP3 e2, DJ Console RMX, DJ Console, DJ Console MkII, DJ Console MP3; Numark Total Control; M-Audio Torq Xponent; Reloop Digital Jockey
They say: First DJ software available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. No matter whether you want to use UltraMixer for a professional gig or at a private party or as virtual jukebox in restaurants, hair studios or medical surgeries - it will prove the right choice!
We say: Old fashioned-looking, no waveforms, no iTunes playlist integration. Does have rudimentary effects and a sampler but hard to see what this does that would sway you away from its more popular competitors, especially at this price point.
See it at: Ultramixer shop
Virtual DJ 7
System: Pc/Mac; DJ controllers supported: American Audio VMS4, DP2; DJ Tech i-Mix, i-Mix Reload, i-Mix Reload MKII; Gemini CTRL ONE / CTRL SIX; Hercules 4-Mx, Mk2, Mk4 (pre pre prod), MP3 e2, RMX; ION iCue; M-Audio X-Session; Numark DMC-2, iDJ3 (pre prod), MixDeck, MixTrack (pre prod), Numark MixTrack Pro, Omni Control, Stealth Control, Total Control; Reloop Digital Jockey, Digital Jockey 2, Digital Jockey 2 Interface Edition; Stanton SCS.3d (2), SCS.3m; Synq PCM-1; Vestax Spin, Typhoon, VCI-100, VCI-300 Mk1
They say: VirtualDJ is the hottest audio and video mixing software, targeting DJs from the bedroom, mobile, and professional superstars like Carl Cox.
We say: Easy to use and powerful, now with up to 99 decks. Great video support. Ability to broadcast on the internet. Virtual DJ seems to divide DJs into those who love and those who hate it, but we think it gets better and better.
See it at: Virtual DJ shop
It's been fascinating to formally look at all the DJ software that's out there.
Of course, Traktor dominates professionally, and the new S4 incarnation is a welcome leap forward for that brand, jumping into Serato ITCH territory with its hardware/software integration. Both S4 and ITCH are the ultimate in out-of-the-box ease of use and tight integration with their respective hardware, although Torq gives them a good run for their money in this department too.
Virtual DJ is a viable alternative to any of the other options, although with the recent Traktor price drop it looks pretty pricey. It certainly has legions of fans, though Meanwhile, Mixmeister and Ableton offer radically alternative takes, stretching what's possible with Digital DJing, and even what digital DJing means.
Then we have the chasing pack. These packages haven't discovered 4-deck support, yet, and that may allow the big names to pull away if it gains traction. How many DJs actually want four decks as opposed to two decks and a good built-in sampler, though, is something for debate.
Anyway, of the remaining packages, Deckadance and MixVibes come at digital DJing from different ends, Deckadance is fully featured, powerful and worthy of consideration for DJ/producers (witha price to match), while good-value little MixVibes offers simple to use and attractive software for the DJ looking to "just play records". Both are great at what they do.
What about all the rest?
Finally, there are all the other brands. Just like cars brands on the road, there's room for all, and every piece of software we have reviewed here has got something that it does differently or better than all of the rest - be it automation, video support, playlist features, operating system (there are two Linux packages, for instance) - whatever.
Our best advice is to have a download and a play and see what fits your needs. One thing is for certain - for the digital DJ , there's more choice of software today than ever before, and that's got to be a good thing.
What do you think? Have we left out your favourite software? Do you agree with our ratings? Let us know below.