We’ve got a tough Head To Head challenge here: both Serato DJ and Virtual DJ 8 are long-running digital DJ apps that each have their own dedicated supporters. If you’re on the fence as to which app to pick, read on to find out what makes each of them special and see how they stack up against each other…
1. Interface / number of decks
Serato DJ: Four decks maximum, vertical and horizontal waveforms
Virtual DJ: Up to 99 decks (skin-dependent), vertical and horizontal waveforms
Graphics are one of the main differences between Serato DJ and Virtual DJ. Serato DJ has a standard graphic interface that is uniform across both Macs and PCs, while Virtual DJ has a customisable one – you can change the way it looks by downloading “skins” made by the Virtual DJ community. You can even use it with a touchscreen PC thanks to its “Tablet” skin that makes it intuitive for touch device use.
Serato DJ lets you spin with a maximum of four virtual decks, letting you choose to display the waveforms in a horizontal or vertical manner. Virtual DJ’s virtual deck limit, on the other hand, is directly tied to the skin that you’re using. The default Virtual DJ 8 skin has a maximum of six decks, but you can have up to 99 decks if you’re using a skin that supports that number.
From this, you may think of Serato DJ as more of a “closed” DJ environment, and Virtual DJ as more “open”. There are advantages and disadvantages to either: being closed means that the developer has more control over the way the app looks and with which devices it works with. This tends to make Serato DJ more stable, albeit across a smaller range of mixers, controllers, and interfaces.
With Virtual DJ 8 being more “open”, that means that users have more opportunities to customise the app to fit their needs on the computer they’re using, and that also means that it works with a broader range of DJ controllers, mixers, and interfaces. You’re even able to modify Virtual DJ 8 on a deeper level thanks to its extensive Options menu that lets you tweak controls to its engine.
2. Hardware compatibilities
Virtual DJ is one of the most popular digital DJ apps because it works with just about anything, and it shows: being compatible with over 300 DJ devices, plus the ability to use any manufacturer’s audio interface and timecode vinyl for DVS use puts it at a huge advantage over the compatibility list of Serato DJ for DJs for whom near-universal compatibility is important.
This is because Serato DJ licenses its software to hardware manufacturers and retains strict control over implementation, while Virtual DJ just takes it upon itself a lot of the time to make sure its software works, which leads to wider compatibility.
3. Licences and pricing
Serato DJ: US$99 or US$9.99 per month / US$299 or US$14.99 for Serato DJ Suite
Virtual DJ: Free for Virtual DJ Home / from US$49 for Virtual DJ 8 Advanced Home User depending on the controller that you’re using / US$19 per month or U$299 for Virtual DJ Pro
Serato DJ has a simpler pricing scheme than Virtual DJ 8, and the cost doesn’t vary depending on which controller you’re using. A Virtual DJ 8 Advanced Home User licence can run up to a whopping US$199, as is the case when buying a licence for the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ.
Both apps have monthly subscription payment options too, and could make more sense if you plan on just trying out the software, or if you don’t plan on DJing too often, opting instead to reactivate your licence only when you need it.
4. Expansion packs and add-ons
Virtual DJ comes with more features straight out the box: video mixing capability and DVS come baked in, for example, whereas you’d have to buy expansion packs for both in Serato DJ. Having said that, Serato has some features that Virtual DJ doesn’t, including Serato Flip and a number of complex effects that come from the Serato FX Pack.
Instead of an online store, Virtual DJ has a community that develops extensions for it. In Virtual DJ’s Add-Ons page you’re going to find effects chains, performance pad layouts, and even plugins that make Virtual DJ more powerful. There is no other mainstream DJ app that has a community of developers like it.
Further, Virtual DJ 8 comes with loads of editors that let you manipulate audio and video: there’s a “track cleaner” that lets you make clean edits of tunes; a video editor that lets you create overlays and titles over video files; an advanced BPM editor that lets you set beatgrids for tracks, even ones that have varying tempos (also known as elastic beatgrids, which Serato DJ also has); and there’s even an Automix editor that lets you set mix in and mix out points for songs that you’ve got in a playlist (something mobile DJs would find useful at functions).
5. Video mixing and karaoke
Serato DJ: Yes, with the Serato Video add-on
Virtual DJ: Yes
Serato DJ lets you mix video and visuals via the Serato Video add-on pack, or with a third-party app like Mix Emergency. Virtual DJ has video mixing built-in, so you don’t have to spend extra for it.
Virtual DJ lets you spin with karaoke files, perfect for those mobile gigs where you need to throw up lyrics on a screen. Serato DJ also lets you spin with karaoke files as long as you’ve got Serato Video.
6. Music streaming
Serato DJ: Pulselocker (US$9.99 per month for Basic, or US$19.99 for Pro)
Virtual DJ: Pulselocker (US$9.99 per month for Basic, or US$19.99 for Pro) / ContentUnlimited (US$9.99 per month for Music Plan, US$19.99 for Karaoke Plan, US$49.99 for Video Plan)
Serato DJ taps Pulselocker for its music streaming, giving you access to hundreds of thousands of house and techno music across 38 record labels. The Basic plan allows you to access the Pulselocker library, but the Pro plan gives you the ability to store songs offline (for spinning without an internet connection) as well as the licence to play these songs out publicly.
Virtual DJ also has Pulselocker integration, plus it has its own ContentUnlimited service, which has a multimedia selection: different ContentUnlimited plans give you access to its music, karaoke, or video libraries. This is a better option for mobile DJs who find themselves spinning karaoke requests or music videos at functions and gigs.
7. DVS compatibility
Serato DJ: Yes, with a Serato DVS-compatible interface
Virtual DJ: Yes, compatible with practically all DVS boxes
Spinning with timecode vinyl and CDs was originally Serato’s raison d’etre – it’s what endeared Serato to many scratch DJs and turntablists looking to make the jump from analogue to digital. Serato may not have invented DVS (Stanton’s Final Scratch holds that honour), but many consider it to be one of the most stable, foolproof DVS choices out in the market.
Though Serato DVS works with many controllers, mixers, and DVS interfaces, Virtual DJ works with even more – that’s because Virtual DJ 8’s DVS mode can be used with any manufacturer’s DVS-supported equipment. That’s right: you can spin timecode with Virtual DJ 8 and a Rane SL interface (Serato DJ-compatible), a Traktor Scratch A6 interface (Traktor Pro-compatible), and other controllers and mixers that are DVS-ready. Again, we’re seeing the “openness” of Virtual DJ in action.
Your choice will ultimately depend on your style, personal preference, and the types of gigs that you DJ at. If you’re a mobile DJ and you spin with various forms of media regularly (music, karaoke, and video), and you would like access to a streaming catalogue that provides all of these media, then you stand to benefit the most with using Virtual DJ 8. It’s packed with more features without having to buy add-ons, and if you enjoy tinkering with software, you may just enjoy all the customisation and plugin options available.
If you’re a straight-shooting club or gigging DJ who spins with DVS or a controller, and you prefer a simpler workflow, Serato DJ could be the better choice for you. DJ controllers that are supported by Serato DJ are often plug-and-play too, which is a big plus if you don’t like fiddling around with settings.
Serato DJ doesn’t have the secondary features that Virtual DJ 8 has (eg the editors, deep customisation options), but if you won’t be using these for your shows, then you may be better off without the bloat. It is solid, reliable, and unlike Virtual DJ, there is no stigma around it among club DJs (eg “it’s not for serious DJing”) – however wrong-placed such stigma might be.
Which DJ software do you prefer, and why? If you’re a Virtual DJ 8 user, do you get to use any of the advanced features? If you’re a Serato user, what features would you like added to it? Share your thoughts below.