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
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Tags: ableton live, deckadance club, disco xt, djay 3, e-mix pro, futuredecks pro, mixmeister fusion, mixvibes cross dj, mixxx, numark cue, pcdj dex, pro dj 5, Serato ITCH, Software, torq 1.5, traktor pro, traktor pro s4, ultramixer 2 professional, virtual dj 7
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