Which Is The Best DJ Software For Stems In 2023?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 31 May, 2023

Stems are the parts of a song that make up the whole, and in a studio there may be dozens of them. But in DJ software, “stems” describes usually four parts – vocals, drums, bassline and melody – that some modern software can let the DJ isolate or remove from their music in real time.

The ability to do this – especially to separate the vocals (or “acapellas”) from the instruments – is a bit of a holy grail for many a creative DJ. And in the last few years, it has become a reality.

Read this next: DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 3 Tips For DJing With Stems

First Algoriddim added it to its djay Pro AI macOS and iOS software (they called it “Neural Mix”), then VirtualDJ literally a day later announced it in its own platform, bringing it to Windows users as well as Mac for the first time. Then Serato recently announced a beta before successfully launching its own stems, along with great hardware from Rane (the Rane Four, of course). and finally, Pioneer DJ launched its take on stems, “Track Separation” alongside a new flagship controller, the DDJ-FLX10.

Which Is The Best DJ Software For Stems In 2023?

So, VirtualDJ vs Serato vs djay Pro AI vs Rekordbox – which one wins? Let’s find out…

Ease of use

Visually, the way the waveforms work in Serato is cool – They fade to grey when stems are enabled, with only the selected stems remaining in colour, which in practice means it’s easy to see what you’ve left in and cut out.
  1. Serato – Serato is famously easy to use, and so it is with its Stems. If your gear is compatible, you just switch out a pad mode (eg the sampler), and you get simple, great sounding, easy on/off buttons for the available stems, plus some “done for you” FX
  2. Rekordbox DJ – with the FLX10, it’s child’s play, so this would arguably have taken the top slot were that controller our only consideration. But for everything else, it requires either pad editor mapping or full-on Midi mapping, which is considerably tricker than Serato’s easy-enough pad mode switching on older devices
  3. djay Pro AI – Again, these are pretty easy to use. The software is not as tightly integrated with available DJ hardware and you may want to do some mapping to get the controls how you want them, but it won’t trip up most DJs
  4. VirtualDJ – VirtualDJ is fiddly, and so it is with its Stems, which is a product of its stems being powerful and flexible, and both its v1 and its v2 stems being available to DJs. VirtualDJ users will be used to getting under the bonnet with their software and reaping the rewards due to that, but the learning curve is steeper for the uninitiated

WINNER: Serato


  1. VirtualDJ – It might not be the easiest to get your head around and set up, but that’s partly because it’s the most powerful. You can separate up to five stems (only VirtualDJ gives you a hi-hats separation), and configure it in all kinds of ways both with your pads and your EQs. It also has comprehensive mapping
  2. djay Pro AI – You get two, three or four stems to choose from when setting up to suit your needs, and can use both the EQs switched to stems mode, and the performance pads to control them
  3. Rekordbox DJ – Lots of Midi-mappable functions including some exciting stems effects options, meaning that if you’re prepared to roll your sleeves up, you could do some good things with Midi mapping Rekordbox stems. That said, they only provide three stems, not four
  4. Serato – Just performance pads, plus some effects (to be fair, you do get a bit of flexibility on how the effects work). But generally, Serato is going for immediacy over lots of choice for the DJ, hence its stems are the simplest, by design



When it comes to software compatibility with all sorts of DJ gear, no one comes close to VirtualDJ, so it’s not surprising that same strength also carries over to their Stems feature.
  1. VirtualDJ – Whether you have an old laptop or a powerful modern one, and no matter what DJ gear you use, VirtualDJ has a flavour of stems that will work for you (you can use v1 and v2, depending what works best with your laptop). Its software is famously compatible with just about all DJ gear, and so is its stems
  2. Serato – Serato’s stems work fine with Mac and Windows, and it works with most modern-ish Serato-licensed hardware too by switching out a Pad mode. Serato has designed its stems to play nicely with older computers too, so as long as you have hardware that already works with Serato, you should be fine
  3. djay Pro AI – It’s only for Apple, so Windows/Android (the majority of DJs) can’t use it, period. However, in its favour, djay Pro AI will let you DJ with stems on an iPad or iPhone, which is crazy. But overall, the software is “pain-free” compatible with less hardware than the others, hence it is third in this list
  4. Rekordbox DJ – Only officially compatible with the DDJ-FLX10 at this stage, and software-wise, despite not having good sound quality (see below), many users still struggle to get Rekordbox stems to work on their hardware (not having 16GB of RAM seems to be the main culprit).


Sound quality

For Rekordbox Stems v1.0, Pioneer DJ’s engineers tell us they’ve deliberately chosen a trade-off between audio quality and compatibility with as many laptops as possible – and it shows.
  1. VirtualDJ – VirtualDJ’s Stems 2.0 narrowly wins. Maybe not surprising as it is the most recent, but for both clarity and separation, it just about edges it. We did feel that maybe it lacked a little dynamic range when stems is switched on but all the stems are playing
  2. Serato – Serato is a decent second, and possibly even slightly better than VirtualDJ in some areas, particularly drums
  3. Rekordbox DJ – Rekordbox’s engineers tell us they went for compatibility over sound quality as their first shot, but it shows, as these are a step behind the top two at present. Still, at the time of writing they’re only on v1…
  4. djay Pro AI –  djay Pro AI’s Neural Mix stems is neither new nor updated recently – it is the muddiest and least defined, with the most “leakage” out of the four, although not much between it and Rekordbox , both lagging well behind the top two



So VirtualDJ is our overall winner, with Serato close behind, and the other two with some work to do.

Even though djay Pro AI didn’t win the gold in any of our four test areas, they still take the lead in DJing with Stems on iOS.

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The truth is that this is a rapidly improving area. We fully expect djay Pro AI to come back strong, Serato and VirtualDJ to keep vying for the top spot, and Rekordbox to improve rapidly.

But the next big question is: Will stems truly catch on? Or will DJs prefer to use their stems features when preparing sets, and do the actual DJing the way they’ve always done?

Time will tell – but you can rest assured we’ll be here to teach, advise and share what we are learning with you all the way!

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