There have been substantial updates to Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro 3 DJ software in the past few months, and as Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox DJ software continues to mature and grow in popularity, now seems like the perfect time to put these two DJ platforms head to head to see how they stack up against each other.
I’m new to digital – what exactly are these apps?
Traktor is Native Instruments’ laptop DJ software, and Traktor Pro 3 is the current version. It’s one of the first digital DJ apps, launching back in 2000. It’s gone through several iterations since then, most of which were in step with DJ controllers that Native Instruments put out including the Traktor Kontrol S4, the jogwheel-less Traktor Kontrol S8 and the new Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 with Haptic Drive kinetic jogwheels.
Rekordbox is Pioneer DJ’s laptop DJ app. It started life as a music management software for exporting playlists to thumb drives for use with CDJ media players, but has grown to become a full-on digital DJing app thanks to the Rekordbox DJ add-on. Though other DJ apps like Traktor, Virtual DJ and Serato have had a big head start, Rekordbox is quickly catching up in terms of functionality and stability, and is a popular choice thanks to its compatibility with Pioneer DJ’s controllers, media players and all-in-one systems.
To start, the user interfaces of both Traktor and Rekordbox DJ are strikingly similar. The virtual decks, mixer, and FX controls are in the top half of the screen, and the track collection is in the bottom half. Playing tracks are displayed with scrolling waveforms, and thanks to Traktor’s 3.1 update, DJs can enjoy stacked / parallel waveforms like the ones in Rekordbox DJ.
Both Traktor and Rekordbox DJ deliver the basic features expected in professional DJ software – playlists for organising tracks, cue points and loops, FX and samplers, the ability to record mixes, DJ controller support, DVS for turntables, and HID control for media players.
2. Library management
A key area where Rekordbox DJ stands above the rest is music library management. In addition to playlists, DJs can create intelligent playlists that automatically populate with tracks that have tags that match the list’s criteria. There is also a dedicated section for suggesting related tracks that match a current playing track’s BPM, key, genre, artist, and more.
If that isn’t enough, DJs can add custom tags to a track to mark the situation that the track could be played in, or to specify the musical elements the track contains. These are powerful tools that DJs can use to both organise and discover their music collection. Traktor’s library management is limited to playlists and folders, but thanks to its integration with iTunes, you can use iTunes’ smart playlists as a workaround.
3. Built-in effects
When it comes to DJ effects, Traktor delivers in both quantity and quality. It features over 40 Deck FX to choose from, and they can be used in combination with each other, or as a single effect with multiple parameters. Traktor Pro 3’s new Mixer FX feature brings an easy one-knob effects option to the mixer channels, allowing for filters, reverbs, delays, noise, and gates to be applied.
However, Rekordbox DJ is no slouch when it comes to effects either. DJs familiar with Pioneer’s DJM series mixers will recognise most of the effects in Rekordbox (such as Sound Color FX and Beat FX), with a few ones added. Like Traktor, they can be combined with each other, and applied to any of the mixer channels.
4. Hardware compatibility
Both Native Instruments and Pioneer DJ produce their own lines of DJ hardware that work seamlessly with their corresponding software. Rekordbox DJ is designed to work “plug and play” with Pioneer DJ’s mixers, controllers, and audio interfaces. Traktor Pro 3 can be paired with Native Instruments’ Kontrol line of mixers and controllers.
Both programs allow for Midi mapping of third-party hardware, but Traktor takes that a step further by including its DVS control system Traktor Scratch with Traktor Pro 3. DJs can now use their DVS control in Traktor with almost any mixer that has a sound card, opening up the options for many DJs who want to use Pioneer DJ hardware and Traktor software.
DVS is available in Rekordbox, but you need to purchase either the Rekordbox DVS expansion or a controller that ships with it such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ, or a DVS box like the Pioneer DJ Interface 2.
Regardless of the hardware connected to the laptop, both Rekordbox DJ and Traktor allow for plenty of customisation and tweaking in their Preferences.
5. Extended features
For those DJs who incorporate samples in their sets, Traktor Pro 3 features Remix Decks for triggering and layering multiple samples and loops in the mix. Rekordbox features a more traditional eight-slot sampler for launching samples, loops, or entire tracks. Both let you record and playback sample patterns for DJs who like to finger drum or tone play.
While Traktor can only play back audio, Rekordbox DJ offers video mixing with the Rekordbox Video expansion pack. For DJs who use DMX lighting, Rekordbox can control an entire lighting system via the Pioneer DJ RB-DMX1 accessory and expansion pack, letting mobile and wedding DJs synchronise their music with their lights.
Traktor Pro 3 costs US$99 for the full version, which includes DVS support. The licence for Rekordbox DJ costs US$129, or a monthly subscription starting at US$9.90 which also includes the DVS licence (a US$99 value). Other Rekordbox expansion packs can be purchased separately for extended functionality.
Whether you use Rekordbox DJ or Traktor Pro 3, you are getting a full-featured professional DJ program. Your choice of DJ hardware will play a huge role in deciding which software to use, as well as some of the exclusive features on each of the platforms. Free demos of both programs are available for Mac and PC, and can be downloaded via their websites.
Which of these two apps do you use? Which one do you prefer? Why? Let us know in the comments.