With Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox DJ now established as yet another software alternative, it’s becoming even harder for new DJs to choose a platform. In this Head To Head feature, we compare Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ…
Head To Head:
1. Hardware compatibilities
Serato DJ is compatible with a lot more DJ controllers because of two things: longevity and licensing. Serato has been around for over a decade (starting with Serato Scratch Live and Serato Itch), so it’s obviously worked with more controllers in the past compared to Rekordbox DJ, which at the moment is just shy of its second birthday.
Licensing is another reason why Serato DJ has an edge: when you buy a DJ controller that ships with Serato DJ (or Serato DJ Intro), the manufacturer is essentially paying a licence fee to Serato in order to have that compatibility baked in. The result is Serato DJ works with more gear from more manufacturers.
This is in stark contrast to Rekordbox DJ, which is not being licensed to other manufacturers because it is strictly for use with DJ controllers released by Pioneer DJ.
2. Effects onboard
Serato DJ: 22 standard FX, five add-on FX packs with a total of 42 FX
Rekordbox DJ: 17 standard FX, Pad FX control, nine RMX-1000 inspired add-on FX
In terms of sheer number of available effects, Serato DJ takes the lead: it comes with 22 base FX, and can be augmented with up to 42 more thanks to the FX pack add-ons (US$29 for all five packs), for a whopping 67 effects total. You’ll never say you didn’t have enough FX to tweak from now on, though you’ll have a tough time finding enough knobs to control them all!
While Rekordbox DJ has a smaller pool of effects, it does have the RMX-1000 add-on pack that brings some cool performance effect combos such as filter echoes and spiral ups (like what you’d find on a DJM-900NXS2 mixer). Depending on the controller you’re using (eg DDJ-RX and DDJ-RZ), you also get the Pad FX feature, which lets you trigger / toggle effects using the performance pads.
3. DVS capability
Serato DJ: Yes, for 13 years and counting
Rekordbox DJ: Yes, for a little over a year now
Seniority is what Serato has going for it, especially in the DVS space: While Rekordbox DVS made its debut as an add-on pack to Rekordbox DJ last year, Serato DVS celebrated its 13th year in the business. This naturally means that the technology is more refined, tighter, with fewer bugs, and is compatible with more mixers and DVS boxes compared to Rekordbox DVS.
To Pioneer DJ’s credit, the company has been releasing updates at a feverish pace to add compatible Pioneer DJ controllers and mixers to the DVS-enabled list, and it just released its own DVS box, the Interface 2, a few weeks ago.
Still, DVS is a space that has been traditionally dominated by Serato: the scratch DJ community supports Serato DJ heavily, and timecode vinyl release events and collector groups are common throughout the world. There are even special edition 7″ Serato DJ timecode vinyl for portablists.
4. Extra performance features
Serato DJ: Pitch Play, Serato Flip
Rekordbox DJ: Sequencer, Pad FX
Serato DJ added the Pitch Play feature recently, which lets you shift the musical key of hot cues that you’ve assigned for some cue point tone play. Serato Flip, which is an older add-on, lets you record a series of cue point presses for playback, to create your own replayable re-edits.
Rekordbox DJ has a feature called Sequencer, which lets you record passages of audio coming from the Sampler for playback. For the effects-hungry, the aforementioned Pad FX feature really is useful – I find that I use these more than the standard “button and knob” effects section on my DDJ-RZ.
5. Smartphone / tablet app
Serato DJ: Serato Remote
Rekordbox DJ: Rekordbox app, RMX-1000 for iPad
Users of Serato DJ have the option to use Serato Remote, which is an app that can be used to control effects and hot cues. It’s been around for a few years now and is in need of an update, though, and unless you’re using a very basic Serato DJ controller, it’ll be quite redundant in your set-up.
Rekordbox DJ users have two choices: the Rekordbox app for Android and iOS let you manage songs stored on your smart device for playback on network-enabled devices like CDJs or XDJs, but it is hardly essential. More interesting is the RMX-1000 app for the iPad, which is a software emulation of the RMX-1000 hardware. It has special integration for newer Pioneer DJ mixers as well that have the USB Send/Return feature such as the DJM-450.
If you’ve got an iOS audio interface, though, you can just route the Master output of your DJ controller / mixer to your iPad running the RMX-1000 app for effects tweaking, regardless of whether you’re running Serato DJ or Rekordbox DJ.
6. Music streaming
Thanks to sites like Spotify and Apple Music, music streaming is now the de facto way that folk listen to music, and it was only a matter of time before music streaming became integrated into DJ software. Both Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ currently offer Pulselocker as the only music streaming option. It has a sizeable catalogue of dance music, but it is lacking in other music genres.
At the moment, Pulselocker is the only music streaming option that lets you legally DJ with songs from its library in a public setting.
7. Other add-ons
Apart from effects and DVS, Serato DJ has Serato Video which allows you to mix with video files, as well as the aforementioned Serato Flip. Serato Club Kit is a discount bundle that consists of Serato DJ and Serato DVS.
Curiously, Serato Pitch ‘n Time is still an add-on that you need to pay for – this is basically the keylock technology that Serato pioneered over a decade ago. It enables syncing of musical keys between songs, and it lets you slow down and speed up tracks without any noticeable degradation in quality – without Pitch ‘n Time, Serato DJ doesn’t sound as smooth. Pitch ‘n Time should be included as standard in Serato DJ, and it’s puzzling why this hasn’t been the case until now.
Rekordbox DJ, on the other hand, has the Rekordbox Video add-on pack, apart from Rekordbox DVS and the RMX-1000 FX pack.
One crucial difference between Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ is that if you decide to spin on CDJs with just a USB thumb drive, you are able to export tracks to the drive using the same Rekordbox library and playlists (you pick the “Export” interface from a dropdown). This is not possible with Serato DJ.
It’s no secret that Rekordbox DJ still has to play catchup with the stability and feature set of Serato DJ, and while it does have a lot of ground to cover, Pioneer DJ is doing a remarkable job of pushing out updates quickly. It’s also no secret that Rekordbox DJ is, in many ways, copying the Serato DJ blueprint. You know what they say: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
It remains to be seen, however, if Rekordbox DJ will just grow to be the “next Serato”, copying and taking everything including its user base, or if our friends in Yokohama have an ace up their sleeves to bring groundbreaking innovations to digital DJing.
Which of the two DJ apps do you prefer? If you switched from one to the other, what made you do so, and why? Share your thoughts below.