Are you a user of Traktor (or indeed Virtual DJ, MixVibes Cross or some other program - but most of our users are one or the other of the "big two"), wanting to try Serato but with questions you’re afraid to ask for fear of getting shunned by your DJ peers? Now that Serato Scratch Live (Serato's DVS software) has been folded into Serato DJ, and a whole host of new controllers have been released for the platform, a lot of DJs seem to be curious about giving it a go.
I recently got to grips with it for the first time in order to write some forthcoming Serato articles for Digital DJ Tips, and here I've listed 10 essentials you need to know about making the jump to Serato DJ.
10 Key Serato Points
- You can’t run Serato DJ without a compatible controller/mixer/interface - unlike Traktor, you can't use Serato DJ without using a controller supported by it. The latest version supports more controllers than ever, but you still need a licensed controller. You can find the full list here
- However, you can still run Serato DJ standalone for prepping tracks on the go. Just be aware that it’s (deliberately) a pared down, one-channel version of the software. It's designed so you can set up your crates, add cue points and preview tracks when you're on the go
- You can’t import your Traktor library straight into Serato - As of this writing, we don't know of a stable, user-friendly way to convert your library for Serato DJ. There exists some programs such as ScratchTools, but there's a lot of command line work and it's a relatively complex job to get done, not to mention that the site looks like it was stuck in 1999. As we regularly suggest to our readers, use iTunes to organise all your DJ music. You may not be able to transfer your cue points, but at least you'll have your folders intact!
- Serato waveforms are different from Traktor waveforms - Serato DJ uses the classic Serato "stacked" (or parallel) waveforms, and allows you to configure them in four different ways. Aside from the main waveform display, there are two more called the Beat Matching Display and Tempo Matching Display, which makes it even easier to beat match visually (the caveat of which is the now infamous Serato face). Regardless, Serato DJ presents significantly more waveform data about your music than Traktor
- Scratching sounds slightly different on either software - As both software use their own algorithms for determining how your audio files are reproduced when you scratch with your controller or DVS, they do sound a tad different in this aspect. It's not a deal breaker for sure, but you may prefer one over the other
- Serato DJ has a ton of FX, but… - you’d have to buy the rest as expansion packs. Just like in-app purchases, Serato offers extra FX at an extra cost (US$49 for the all in bundle), radically different from Traktor’s FX that have always come free with their software updates
- Serato DJ also has sample players, just like Traktor - the SP-6 is a four bank sample player with six sample slots per bank, enough for all the “air horn” variations the EDM world has ever known (hopefully)
- You can mix video with Serato DJ - this is the one thing that Traktor doesn’t have for the time being, and Serato DJ delivers a fantastic VDJ experience through its proprietary Serato Video plugin or through Mix Emergency 2.4
- You can now use timecode CDs and vinyl - Version 1.6 of Serato DJ includes DVS and CD timecode support for Rane mixers and Serato Scratch Live interfaces. There's even an option for *gasp* sync!
- “But Traktor has more cue points than Serato!” - Controllerists, rejoice! Serato DJ now comes with eight cue points, probably enough to satiate your hunger for beat juggling. If you aren't as precise as you'd want to be, you'd be pleased to know that there's also a quantise function as well to make sure you trigger those cue points on time, every time
My personal thoughts....
Folk have been talking about how Serato’s been too slow to adapt to a quickly changing digital DJ landscape, the pace of which has been quickened by advancements in other companies’ DJ software (such as Native Instruments’s Traktor, MixVibes Cross and so on).
But by cherry-picking features that they feel their existing user base needs, keeping a close eye on usability, and an ear to the ground for what the future of DJing might hold (Serato Video, Serato Remote for iOS), Serato is arguably doing what it feels needs to be done to stay relevant in the Digital DJ game.
As a matter of opinion, to me Serato DJ feels more like an aggressively strategic marketing and rebranding move by a company eager to reinvent itself: By consolidating its lineup of software into a competitive package and updating its feature set without losing touch with its traditional DVS market, Serato to me is looking to get back a bigger slice of the extremely competitive DJ market. It’s a tricky beast to tame, and whatever the outcome of the "software wars", ultimately it's us DJs who gain.
Have you made the switch from Traktor to Serato, or indeed have you gone the other way? What was your experience, and where do you see the strengths and weaknesses of each platform? Or don't you rate either, and prefer Virtual DJ, Cross DJ or another program? Let us know in the comments!