With all due respect to vinyl junkies and CD stalwarts, when it comes to convenience, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility, there can be little doubt that the best way to DJ right now is on a digital system, be that Mac, PC, or even iOS or Android. And if you’re going to do that, you’re going to need the right software application.
In this guide, we’ll talk about what you need to consider when entering the world of computer-based DJing, as well as make some recommendations for some of the best, most robust DJ software out there.
For a long time, DJs carried large crates of vinyl records to and from gigs and spent hours at the record store choosing their music.
Next came the CDJ and those crates of vinyl turned into booklets full of CDs and USB sticks. Recently, with the rise of digital technology and the increased power and portability of laptops (as well as the decreased cost), the computer DJ is taking the world by storm.
DJ software allows the user to mix and perform music in the same style and use the same methods as a traditional vinyl DJ.
In many cases, the software even allows special control vinyl or CDs, encoded to allow the user to control any song on their laptop physically.
Whether you want to stand up in front of a crowd with only your laptop or with an arsenal of hardware (limited only by your imagination), there is DJ software out there for you.
Here are our top choice DJ apps. Let’s get started.
Ableton Multitrack Recording Software
Ableton Live Intro is the entry-level version of the Ableton Live Suite. This music production software’s introduction has the same user interface but a more limited selection of instruments and sample loop packs than the Suite and Standard versions. It is, however, significantly less taxing on your computer and wallet.
The Ableton user interface is different from those in most programs we tested, but it’s easy to navigate.
Also, it includes an info-view window that provides a brief description of the workspace components when you hover your mouse over them.
This helps you memorize the icons and quickly learn to use the workspace. Ableton also has a help window with short video tutorials that teach you how to navigate the interface, record audio, and create beats using the included virtual instruments and sample loop packs.
This program is comprised of two primary workspaces: the arrangement window and the session window.
The arrangement window is where the software stores all your recorded audio and loops, as well as where you arrange them to create entire songs.
Most music production programs house their arrange windows on the left side of the screen, but Ableton displays it on the right side.
This makes Ableton more awkward to use than other software we tested – if you have any previous experience with music production software, it takes time to get used to.
Ableton Live 10 is a reliable, safe choice for home producers of all levels, but it’s perfect for novices looking to experiment.
- More than five thousand sounds to choose from
- It’s perfect for beginners
- It has a user-friendly interface
- It has 57 effects you can use
- It’s affordable
- It’s not the best choice for experts
Serato DJ Pro Software
Serato DJ Intro is free software compatible with PC and Mac while delivering an excellent mixing experience even with the available features.
The basic setup includes four decks complete with full-color waveforms representing bass, mid and treble audio frequencies.
It also provides a high-quality mixer as well as a flexible integration with different music sources like iTunes.
When you first open Serato DJ, you’re greeted by a very clean, uncluttered interface on a dark background.
Half of the screen is dedicated to your music library; the other half is your deck section with your waveform information in the center.
This layout is straightforward on the eye and wouldn’t be at all overwhelming to a beginner DJ. So if you’re just starting, this could be a great program to learn and progress with.
At the bottom half of the screen, you’ll find your music library. The library already takes up a big chunk of the screen.
But you can click on library mode to shrink the deck section down to give an even bigger view of your library.
You’ll find this handy when you’re scanning for tracks; it just makes it easier and faster to find tracks this way.
- Create amazing FX chains
- Expansion packs available
- All software upgrades are free for life
- Built-in sample player (which can be used as six decks)
- Waveforms show bass, mid, & treble in different colors
- Proprietary hardware required
- Limited MIDI controller support
- The slower pace of development
- It’s a little expensive
Virtual Dj Broadcaster Dsa
Virtual DJ Broadcaster Dsa is a suitable DJ software for those who need something easy to use on their PC without investing in additional hardware.
With a capacity of 99 decks, this program allows you to adjust the pitch and tempo of tracks and scratch with the cursor of your mouse to make it sound more like the DJ turntables.
Additionally, it is a perfect choice to host a party and offer more than just a simple playlist on the regular music player app.
If you are purchasing this program, make sure you can use CDs with your desktop computer or laptop since it is available as a download.
- Ideal for a DJ desktop or laptop
- Carries 99 deck capacity
- Excellent for beginners
- Prone to audio broadcasting issues
eJay DJ Mix Station
Music has always been one of the most popular ways people can express themselves creatively. Since ancient times, music has played a massive part in shaping the cultures of the world.
It also continues to change and evolve, and now, there are hundreds of music genres that appeal to people from all walks of life.
Sound mixing is among the most significant contributors to the evolution and widespread appeal of music. Unsurprisingly, it’s starting to garner more popularity among people who want to get into music.
DJ MixStation by eJay is a sound mixing software that beginners will have a lot of fun playing with.
This is the kind of program you would buy if you’re having or going to a party and you want to try what it’s like to be a DJ, but you don’t want to purchase any actual DJ equipment or fancy software that will cost a lot of money.
It has everything you need to have fun with your music, and you can even record your samples to personalize it even further. And you can, of course, add scratching audio effects to make it perfect.
- Good for total beginners
- Fun to play around with
- Easy to use
- Can produce high-quality results
- Not a lot at this price.
MAGIX Music Maker
MAGIX Music Maker offers an opportunity to produce, record, and mix own music tracks for those looking for non-professional software to start with.
It is a simple tool for professionals that can help gather basic ideas without going through the endless instructions and menus.
The software provides a set of features and tools, telling its users “everyone can make music.” The possibility to use the drag-and-drop feature makes the process of creating musical compositions and arranging loops.
It sounds fun and straightforward to use, which means that no previous experience in producing is required.
Converting to audio files and saving up to 99 edited tracks is available for any user of MAGIX Music Maker.
It comes with many cool sounds, 8000 to be exact, and it features a wide range of virtual instruments and loops. It’s an excellent software that is very easy to get started with and does it all.
If you want to try this program out properly before you buy it, there is a free version that you can start your music production off with, which will give you a feeling of what it’s all about and might make you want to purchase the full version.
- Drag and Drop Functionality
- The free version lets you try before you buy
- It has a simple interface.
- Its instruments are limited.
Image-Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition
Next up is a fantastic program that is so much more than just DJ software for music production.
It’s a digital audio workstation that you can use to produce and mix music, but that can also be used for live performance.
It offers loads of different features like pitch correction, pitch shifting, time-stretching, harmonization, and a lot more.
FL Studio is one of the world’s most downloaded DAWs and has matured into a competent music production environment
over the last decade or so.
Although there is credible talk of a Mac version in the very late stages of development, it’s still a Windows-only system.
As it stands, you’ll need a recent version of Windows and a moderately powered PC as a baseline or something a little more serious to run heavier projects.
- Free updates
- Vector-based UI is beautiful.
- Very practical improvements
- The mixer is supremely flexible
- Incredible value
- UI can be imposing
- Some aspects of workflow can seem arcane compared to other DAWs.
MAGIX Digital DJ 2 for Mac
MAGIX Digital DJ is special software that allows users to transform their PC or laptop into a machine for spinning tracks.
The software comes with a wide range of features that both novice and more experienced DJs are likely to find very useful, such as recording loops, and the software promises to be easy to get to grips with.
It’s not super easy, it does take some work to get into, and therefore it’s probably best for somebody who knows that they will use it from time to time so that you don’t waste a lot of time learning it, never to use it again.
This program makes it easy to use songs from your music library on iTunes or music that you have saved on your computer; you just drag them to the right deck to aid with your musical creations.
No matter if you want to play the music, remix it or scratch it simply, this software can do it without any extra hardware.
- Possible to record loops
- Easy to use
- Impressive automix feature
- Supports various controllers
- It takes up a lot of memory
- The interface looks rather dull
- Cannot record mixes
Zulu DJ Software
If you’re looking for a basic DJ software package that is aimed at beginners as well as experts, then Zulu is for you.
One of the big selling points is the super-simple layout that anyone will be able to understand, allowing you to start playing music and mixing tunes right away.
There’s a beat sync feature, so you don’t need to waste time getting the tracks manually with the tempo control. This means you can get right into the transitions, blending your tracks and building your set.
As well as your basic crossfader, there are also low, mid, and high EQs, letting you attempt some slightly more advanced mixing techniques. You can also record what you do, so you can listen back later or even put your mix online.
If you expect Zulu’s interface to blow you away, you’re in for a disappointment. It’s as plain as they come, with a minimalistic, quite dated theme.
However, if you can get past that, this tool‘s layout can make it up for its lack of looks.
- Zulu works great on a wide range of computers
- It provides you with a lot of DJ-related features
- You can access a library of sounds for your mixes
- Zulu lets you integrate VST plugins to use in your projects
- You can perform live YouTube streams from within the program
- Zulu’s interface is quite dated
PCDJ DEX Computer DJ Mixing Software
Along with all the stock features you may expect from a DJ software package – mixer, EQs, effects, etc. – PCDJ is featured with in-built video mixing and support for karaoke that makes it a remarkably flexible option for the event and mobile DJs.
This software is packed with four virtual decks in terms of up-front DJ features, with key-matching and beat sync capabilities. Looper tool and sample player are also included in the Dex.
PCDJ supports a properly widespread range of MIDI controllers, making it be used with the digital vinyl setup. Its trial version can be downloaded from the PCDJ site.
This DJ mixing software is a great, user-friendly software perfect for people who like to do a little bit of everything, from just regular gigs to karaoke nights and video mixing.
It’s hard to go wrong with this program since it’s versatile, and it’s really good that it’s available with four full-featured DJ desks.
This program will give you the freedom to fully control your music the way you want to, and it offers no-latency playback.
- Good for karaoke
- It has lots of different audio effects like filters, echo, reverb, etc.
- Great for video mixing
DJ Studio 5
DJ Studio 5 is a fantastic, Android-only DJ app aimed at beginners and intermediate enthusiasts.
You get eight sound effects, a three-band equalizer, ten customizable sample pads, one cue-point per deck, and plenty of other features that make it a well-rounded experience.
The app also has seven customizable decks, so the user interface is really customizable to your own needs. You can also share your playlist through social media with your friends.
The developers of DJ Studio 5 claim that the app has no limitations, and most of the features of the app are completely free—unlike other apps.
They claim to make their money only from premium skins they offer as in-app purchases. You can even disable the ads in the free version.
The interface of DJ Studio 5 contains either a single deck or twin decks. Along with the decks, there are different tools to manipulate the music like volume sliders, loop creators, and BPM (beats per minute) adjusters.
Your downloaded music can also be sorted after it is being analyzed by BPM besides the normal sorting function of the name of the artist’s name.
You choose music on the device and load the tracks on each deck. Once they are loaded, you can start mixing the songs.
- Lots of options
- Steep learning curve
Serato vs. Virtual DJ – Which One to Pick?
Serato DJ and Virtual DJ have been pitching in the DJ software world since the very early days. Both have picked up a serious base of die-hard users.
Both have transformed the way DJ software is made and the features they require. Both are still available for standalone use and use with controllers.
1. UI and UX
Serato has a pro interface that is suited to the highest quality screens. It’s beautifully laid out, and they’ve clearly put every effort into fine-tuning it for top-level DJs and those who rely on it day-in-day-out. Serato DJ allows for four decks with a full platter and waveform view.
Virtual DJ: Virtual DJ may lack that top-drawer crystal-clear interface. It has an extremely customizable modular setup that can be altered with skins created by both Virtual DJ and their community. Some skins are designed to look exactly like a controller.
Serato DJ: Serato DJ Lite comes bundled with a multitude of pro, semi-pro, and budget-level controllers.
It’s totally free, and though it’s limited in options compared to the full version, it does the job effectively and efficiently.
Serato DJ is currently officially compatible with 53 controllers, tons of accessories, including interfaces and CDJs, and 17 mixers.
Virtual DJ: Virtual DJ has worked on providing its user’s near-universal compatibility. It works with almost anything, and thanks to enormous community backing, you can find mappings for controllers of all sorts, past, and present.
By some estimation, Virtual DJ works on 300+ devices, tons of mixers, accessories, CDJs, and almost any interface, making timecode use incredibly easy.
Serato DJ: Serato DJ is high-tech and fully featured as it stands without even considering any additional packs. It has smart-crates, awesome chainable FX, and excellent sampling modules for triggering sounds. However, its aftermarket packs are where it springs to life.
Virtual DJ: Virtual DJ has community backing. That means more stuff for lower prices. The quality isn’t always up there, but still, there are tons of quality options.
Everything is well organized in Virtual DJ’s add-on section on the website. You can access video DJ add-ons, track edit software, and lots of other weird and wonderful bits like user-made FX and performance pad layouts.
In this list, we explored some of the best DJ software options on the market right now. The software presented here covers all your DJ-ing tasks, whether you’re starting or a professional DJ.
This is the best way to find out if a particular software is right for you. When deciding which software to start trying out, you need to consider what level you’re currently on.
Do you need something easy to start with for a beginner, or are you advanced and looking to get as many audio effects as possible?
This is one of the very important factors that you need to keep in mind. Make sure that the DJ software you are purchasing is compatible with the hardware it is connected to. Otherwise, none of these will function, and you will just be wasting money and effort.
There are certain examples where DJ software is only compatible with a specific DJ controller. Meanwhile, some can work well with a variety of hardware selections. Be mindful and remember to check this before any purchase.
You also need to check if some components are required for it to run correctly. The best example of which is a soundcard (or audio interface).
Some do not carry a soundcard and will need an external piece of equipment compatible with it to work.
2. Stability and Quality
The quality and stability of the DJ software are also other vital factors to look into. You need to check if a particular DJ software operates smoothly. Keep in mind to pick one that is stable and does not easily crash.
A DJ software that often crashes or responds slowly will do you no good and just be a nuisance, especially when you are in the middle of a live performance. This can be a disadvantage for your career as a DJ.
There is also the layout that you need to consider. Since you will be working and using the DJ software, for the most part, having a layout that is easy to navigate is very important. This will allow you to avoid confusion and frustration while working.
Aim for something that has a layout that you feel would work best for you. It could be presented vertically or horizontally, and you can choose which orientation suits your taste and fits the dynamics of how you work.
Explore and experiment so you can find out what is ideal for you. After all, you will be spending long hours looking at the interface. You might as well go for something that is not such an eyesore.
4. Features and Functionality
With a wide range of choices for DJ software, each of them also offers a variety of features and functions. Choosing the best DJ software will significantly depend on your DJing style and the features and functions you need and want.
Since there are many different possible features that you can have, you need to do some soul-searching and determine what you want the most.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s DJ Software?
We spent so much time discussing what DJ applications are the best and overlooked the most common question – what exactly is DJ software?
Some beginner DJs can confuse it with digital audio workstations and other apps with a similar interface – so let’s take a closer look.
Essentially, it’s two turntables and a mixer in between, but in a digital format – simple as that.
Most of the stuff a DJ has to do to prepare a set is automated – the software detects tracks BPM and the key it’s in – all you have to do is get the tracks ready for a set with a few mouse clicks here and there.
2. What’s Beatmatching?
When DJing, the last thing you want to do is to keep switching tempo back and forth all night long.
While it makes sense to start playing slower tracks towards the end of the night, it’s the best bet to keep the tempo transitions to a minimum.
Beatmatching is picking the tracks with similar or identical BPM and layer them one onto another as the night goes on to provide the best experience to the audience.
3. What’s Auto-Beatmatching, a.k.a. Sync?
For those new to DJing, auto-beatmatching is nothing more than an automated process of mixing tracks.
You press the button, sit back, and relax – it’s almost as easy as that. Is it right or wrong?
No one will tell you for sure – it’s undoubtedly convenient, but it may diminish the whole creative process.
That’s something for the DJ to decide on – add a few fun and exciting twists to it, add something special on the top – and you are good to go – as original as it can be!
4. What Software Do Most DJs Use?
Depending on what type of DJ you are, you might choose to use different kinds of software.
Producer DJs, as an example, tend to love the studio-like features that are offered on Ableton Live. Scratching DJs, on the other hand, tend to love the capabilities of Serato DJ Pro.
Mobile DJs tend to have needs that are a little more versatile. For this reason, we recommend that mobile DJs use either Traktor or Virtual DJ.
Both of these products are widely known for having lots of features and for being dependable.
5. What is the Best DJ Software for beginners?
As a beginner, there is one that thing that you should not do. That is to get a very low-quality DJ software that nobody uses. There are many great high-quality options to consider.
Best of all, you don’t necessarily have to pay to try them out. As a general rule of thumb, the best DJ software for beginners is either Traktor, Virtual DJ, Serato, or rekordbox.
6. What DJ Software for Windows?
Most of the software is available for both Windows and Mac, and it doesn’t make a big difference if you use Windows or Mac.
7. What DJ Software for Mac?
Most of the software is available for both Windows and Mac, and it doesn’t make a big difference if you use Windows or Mac.
While no professional DJ ever would use this program, many beginners and children would.
It gives you a fun introduction to what it’s like to DJ, and it’s an excellent place to start if you want to try it out.
The fact that you don’t need any hardware except for your PC or laptop makes it highly affordable, but it’s worth noting that it’s a budget option that isn’t very good compared to other programs – that’s the bottom line.
Some of the suggested DJ Software offers more features than others, so it’s highly recommended that you download the app you have opted for and find out whether you will be comfortable working with it in a real-world environment.
As a rule, it should have straightforward features alongside easily accessible and intuitive controls, especially if you need to employ them on your first DJ gig.
We hope this information was helpful!