Choosing which DJ software to use can be tricky, and there are many factors to consider. In this head-to-head comparison, we took a look at Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox DJ and Atomix Productions’ Virtual DJ 2018 to see what features each of these programs offer.
Keep in mind that Virtual DJ has been in the performance DJ software game considerably longer than Rekordbox, which only added performance capabilities in 2015. However, Pioneer has been steadily adding new features and improvements, and is quickly closing the gap between itself and veterans like Virtual DJ.
The layouts of Rekordbox and Virtual DJ follow the “traditional” digital DJ software orientation, with virtual decks and playback controls in the top section and the music library in the bottom. Both interfaces are clean and well organised, but I find myself preferring Rekordbox with its darker, flatter look that makes looking at it during a long set easier on the eyes. Virtual DJ has a lot of elements on the screen, which can look busy and cluttered at times. However, once you know where the controls are that you need, navigating around the interface becomes easier.
Both Rekordbox and Virtual DJ pack a ton of features and abilities for every type of DJ, from the casual enthusiast to the professional performer. In terms of music management, both let you import tracks into the software’s database for searching and organising with playlists. Virtual DJ will also show Serato and Traktor playlists, a handy feature for users migrating from another platform.
Rekordbox takes track metadata to the next level with related tracks, advanced filtering, customisable tagging, and intelligent playlists. If you’re connected to the Internet, Virtual DJ can suggest a track to play next, using its algorithm based on what other DJs play. For DJs who like to mix harmonically, both Rekordbox and Virtual DJ can highlight tracks that are musically compatible with the currently playing track.
Virtual DJ has a feature called Sandbox that allows the DJ to practice a mix before actually playing it for their audience. When activated, the program enters a kind of test mode, where only the DJ can hear the changes in faders, the EQ and filters, the position in the track, and scratching. The audience continues to hear the currently playing track while the DJ practices their mix. Once ready to do it live, exiting Sandbox mode returns all controls to where they previously were.
3. In-app music streaming
When it comes to streaming, Virtual DJ has a head start over Rekordbox. DJs can stream music using SoundCloud Go+, Deezer, and iDJPool (as long as they have a premium subscription and their computer is connected to the internet). They have access to millions of tracks, as well as playlists curated by the streaming service. Pioneer DJ recently announced the integration of Beatport Link and SoundCloud, so DJs using Rekordbox will soon be able to take advantage of streaming as well.
4. Video mixing
For video DJs, both Virtual DJ and Rekordbox (with the purchase of the Video Plus Pack) can incorporate music videos, visuals, and clips into a DJ set. Both feature transition FX, adding text and image overlays, using a live camera feed, and delay compensation to ensure perfect sync between audio and video.
Virtual DJ goes further with video mixing, offering a dedicated video editor, a video sampler, a visualiser that reacts to music tracks with no associated video track, and even the ability to broadcast a video mix live to Facebook, YouTube, and other online video platforms. And VJs who subscribe to the VJPro video pool can stream club-ready music videos.
5. Hardware compatibilities
When it comes to hardware support, Pioneer DJ and Atomix Productions have differing approaches. Pioneer DJ, who make both the Rekordbox DJ software and a wide range of DJ hardware, have created an ecosystem where their hardware and software work perfectly together. DJs who perform on Pioneer DJ mixers, media players, and controllers, will enjoy a seamless experience using Rekordbox DJ. However, this also brings a level of exclusivity to the software, meaning that if you want to DJ with Rekordbox, you will need to connect it to Pioneer DJ hardware to get the most out of it.
On the other hand, Atomix Productions is dedicated to making their Virtual DJ software compatible with as many DJ hardware products as it can, regardless of the manufacturer. This allows a wider range of DJs access to Virtual DJ, including those who use Pioneer DJ hardware. The experience may not be as tightly integrated, but it works great. Both Rekordbox and Virtual DJ also support DVS for DJs who mix and scratch with vinyl control records.
Finally, let’s look at the pricing for these platforms. Virtual DJ is free for personal use without a DJ controller. For that, you’ll need a Home Plus license, which costs between US$49 and US$199 depending on the controller. For professional DJs, the Virtual DJ Pro licence is US$19 a month, or a one-time purchase of US$299. The Rekordbox DJ licence is US$129, or you can subscribe to one of their monthly plans, which range from US$10 to US$15 per month depending on included features. Some of those features, like DVS or video, can be purchased for a one-time fee. For the latest in pricing, check Virtual DJ and Rekordbox’s websites.
Both Virtual DJ and Rekordbox DJ can be downloaded for macOS or Windows, and include free trials so you can test out each of them and see which one will work best for you. DJs who want to really get granular with their songs may prefer Virtual DJ because of the included track editors and Sandbox mode, which are unique to the software, while those who regularly spin with CDJs may prefer Rekordbox DJ since they most likely use Rekordbox already to prepare music and export them to thumb drives.
At the end of the day, your choice will ultimately depend on the DJ hardware you want to use (there are more controllers compatible with Virtual DJ than Rekordbox DJ, for instance) especially since the two apps are identical in terms of basic and intermediate feature sets.
Which DJ software do you use? Are you thinking of migrating from another DJ platform to either Rekordbox or Virtual DJ? Let us know in the comments below.