📅 Last updated: 21st Sep 2023 | 🕒 Est. reading time: 12 mins
In this post, we’ll break down the best DJ software providers in the market right now (the 6 most widely used by working DJs around the world), whilst also considering WHO they are best suited to.
As well as providing the relevant trial or ‘demo’ links where applicable, we’ll also link to two additional free options in our FAQ section at the end.
Best DJ Software 2023:
Understanding DJ software
Going back to the mid-90s, DJ software was originally developed as a library storage tool, with the idea that DJs would no longer need to lug their heavy record boxes back & forth to gigs. Nowadays, of course, it’s a much more powerful technology, with way more utility.
Once you have your preferred DJ software running on a laptop, all you need is some compatible DJ hardware (like a DJ controller) to take full advantage of its features & functionality. From there, you’ll receive regular in-software updates that keep you at the forefront of the latest DJ tech & innovation – for what’s a relatively small investment.
Compatibility with DJ controllers
Whilst there are some DJ controllers that work universally with most DJ software, the majority are only compatible with the software program (or programs) that are endorsed by the manufacturer.
That said, it’s definitely recommended that you stick with the software the controller was designed for (or at least one listed by the manufacturer) if you want to avoid compatibility issues.
Fortunately enough, when you buy a DJ controller the appropriate software usually comes with it!
What else to consider?
As we spoke about in our DJ Controller post, it will help if you already know what the purpose of your DJ setup is. For example: is it a stepping stone to playing out or is it just for fun?
And, if you do plan on playing out at some stage, what kind of DJ are you aspiring to be?!
Aside from that, your choice of software can simply come down to which one you’re most excited about and/or which interface you’re most comfortable with. You don’t need to overcomplicate it!
Once you’ve decided (or at least narrowed it down), you can then start looking for a compatible piece of hardware to marry up with your preferred software.
So let’s take a look at the best DJ software in the market right now…
1: Serato DJ
Serato is very easy to navigate with a nice clean-looking interface, which makes it arguably the best DJ software for beginners. They also have a stripped-back version called Serato DJ Lite, which can be easily upgraded to the Pro version at any point.
Note: The Lite version is usually fine for your typical two-channel entry-level controllers, although you’ll want the Pro version for anything more serious.
Serato is one of the market leaders for good reason and a great option if you’d prefer not to be locked into one of the main manufacturer’s ecosystems of products, as is sometimes the case with rekordbox and Pioneer’s hardware, or with Traktor and Native Instruments hardware, for example.
And whilst they don’t make their own hardware, it’s often the primary operation on popular DJ controllers from manufacturers like Pioneer DJ (who, as of July 2023 now owns Serato), Rane, Roland, and Reloop – so there’s no shortage of controllers to choose from.
Serato was very popular with scratch DJs back in the day (and still is), and it remains the preferred choice for many pro/working DJs around the world today – in both dance and hip hop circles.
|Cost:||The Pro version starts at $129 US or $9.99 per month (note: the Pro version is typically bundled in for free with ‘mid-tier’ controllers and up). The most you can pay (if you had the ‘Serato DJ Suite’ license bundle, which most DJs probably wouldn’t need) is $349 US or $14.99 per month.|
|Supported streaming services:||The latest versions of Serato DJ integrate with streaming platforms including TIDAL, Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, and SoundCloud Go+.|
|Supported hardware:||You can view their full list of supported hardware/DJ controllers here.|
|Free version:||Download Serato DJ Lite here.|
|Full version:||Download Serato DJ Pro and get a 14-day free trial here.|
In July 2023, Pioneer DJ’s parent company (whose proprietary DJ software is rekordbox, see next on this list) officially bought out Serato. We’ll update this article as things develop, although feel free to check out this news piece for more details.
December 2022: In a major update, Serato 3.0 finally brought ‘stems’ technology to the software. This allows you to remove or isolate components of a track – the bass, drums, melodies or vocals – using these 4 different audio stems in real-time, giving DJs the ability to create unique mash-ups on the fly and execute more creative transitions, with the option of adding in FX.
The update was meant to coincide with the release of the RANE FOUR that dropped a few months later (Rane’s flagship DJ controller).
Next up we have rekordbox — a music management system and DJ software that natively integrates with Pioneer’s hardware.
As Pioneer setups still remain standard issue in bars and clubs around the world, one of the most obvious benefits of using the software would be a smoother transition from bedroom to DJ booth. Partly because their rekordbox-compatible controllers all mirror a ‘CDJ’ club setup/workflow.
Not only that, if you do ever transition to playing in a bar or club, you can also prepare your music at home in rekordbox – setting cue points and creating playlists, etc. – export it onto a USB, and not require the use of your laptop in the venue.
The release of rekordbox 6.0 (and iOS 3.0) in April 2020 brought a completely new 3-tier subscription model, scrapping the licensing model they had previously. The paid plans include ‘Core’, ‘Creative’ and ‘Professional’, with the major changes incorporating cloud music management across all devices (on the top plan) in conjunction with third-party services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
It’s important to note, though: when you purchase a ‘hardware unlock’ device (which is basically any rekordbox controller) – unless you choose to upgrade your plan at some stage, you won’t need to pay a monthly subscription for the software.
And, even without a hardware unlock DJ controller, you can still use the free version for basic library management functionality as well as exporting synced playlists onto USB, etc., which is useful if you sometimes use CDJs in a venue but don’t want to pay a subscription.
|Cost/subscription options:||View all the plans or get a free 30-day trial here. Note: the ‘paid’ plans are priced at $12 p/month for their ‘Core’ plan, $18 p/month for ‘Creative’, and $36 p/month for ‘Professional’ (discounts if you pay annually).|
|Supported streaming services:||Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, TIDAL, and SoundCloudGo+.|
|Supporting resource:||If you’re looking to become a club or venue DJ, check out this comprehensive guide we did on how to become a DJ (15 action steps).|
In July 2023, Pioneer DJ’s parent company AlphaTheta Corporation officially bought out Serato. We’ll update this article as things develop, although check out this news piece for more details.
In April 2023, Pioneer released version 4.0 of their rekordbox mobile DJ app, downloadable for free via the rekordbox website.
As of March 2023, rekordbox now has its own version of ‘track separation’ technology, ‘Stems’. You can use three different audio stems in the software: vocals, drums and ‘other instruments’. The update was synchronized with the release of the DDJ-FLX10, which is also one of our 7 best ‘Top-Tier’ DJ controllers.
3: Virtual DJ Pro
One of the longest-standing players in the DJ Software market is Virtual DJ. It supports more DJ controllers and hardware than any other software (even Serato), boasting ‘plug & play’ support for over 300 controllers.
Known for its live video-streaming and Karaoke features (to name a couple of things), Virtual DJ is a widely popular choice among mobile DJs and beginners. It’s got a much slicker-looking interface than it did just a few years back, and there’s also a new ‘event scheduler’ feature which would most likely appeal to mobile, wedding and radio DJs.
There are a few different versions and licenses to choose from, starting with a free ‘laptop only’ home version for PC or Mac, right up to their flagship Virtual DJ Pro offering for professional use. You also won’t need to pay for future updates once you’ve purchased a license/plan, and they offer a cheaper Pro license if you only intend to use it with a single DJ controller for home use only.
|Cost/subscription options:||The Pro version is either $299 outright or $19.99 a month (US). There’s also a cheaper ‘single controller license’ for home use only which could cost as little as $49, although it’s only available with certain controllers. Visit their website here for more information.|
|Supported streaming services:||Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, Tidal, SoundCloud Go+, and Deezer.|
|Supported hardware:||You can view their full list of supported hardware/DJ controllers here.|
In December 2022 they rolled out their improved 2.0 version of ‘stem pads’, which allow for real-time track separation so the user can remove or isolate components of a track, such as the drums, melodies or vocals in the mix. As well as positive feedback from users, this has been touted by many in the industry as the best stems on the market!
In April 2021, Virtual DJ announced that users can now export their library onto USB sticks and then use them on Pioneer CDJs in a pro DJ booth. This is (or at least was) one of rekordbox’s biggest ‘unique’ selling points before the update, which makes it pretty significant!
4: Traktor Pro
At No.4, we have Traktor Pro from Native Instruments. It’s most notably a popular choice among DJ producers that specialize in electronic genres such as house & techno.
Whilst some say that Traktor Pro software isn’t the market leader it once was, it’s still the preferred choice with a lot of performance DJs due to its live remixing capabilities and high-quality range of FX. Popular features did include their ‘remix decks’ and ‘stems’, although stems aren’t unique to Traktor anyone, with all the big players now having their own versions.
Traktor also integrates with Pioneer’s pro gear in a DJ booth if or when you use it to play out in a club (laptop required, unlike rekordbox), although certainly for beginners, it’s strongly advised you stick with Native Instruments hardware initially to ensure tight integration with the software.
|Cost:||A Traktor Pro license is $99 US. Try the free demo or get the full version here. As of July 2022, users also have the option of an ‘add-on subscription’, called Traktor Pro Plus.|
|Supported streaming services:||Beatport Streaming and Beatsource.|
June 2023: View the latest 3.9.0 updates via the support page.
December 2022: Traktor Pro 3.7.0 features five brand-new Pattern Player kits for Traktor Pro Plus subscribers created by Camea, Chris Liebing, Dubfire and Joran van Pol. The update also came with a number of bug fixes. View the full breakdown on their website.
August 2022: Traktor Pro 3.6 now has Pattern Player and Ozone Maximizer (subscription features only). The update also included a number of other smaller fixes. Additionally, NI has started publishing quarterly updates along with a road map for where things are heading. Here’s Traktor’s full walkthrough video on the 3.6 changes.
5. djay Pro AI
Next in line would definitely be djayPro by Algoriddim. The full version of the software is called djay Pro AI.
Whilst djay is mostly popular on IOS devices for mobile and iPad right now, they also brag a seamless integration with your music library for Windows, which recently got a major overhaul in August 2023.
In another recent update, version 4.0 in May 2022, they introduced tons of new features, most notably Digital Vinyl Control (DVS) integration. This now means pro DJs can, for the first time ever, potentially use their mobile to connect to physical turntables and mixers.
The software also has an innovative ‘Neural Mix’ feature which allows the user to remove (or separate) the elements of a track in real-time (such as the vocals and the drums), similar to the ‘stems’ feature on Traktor, Serato and Virtual DJ. Note: Both these features are only available with the full version.
In addition to an ever-increasing number of DJ controllers, their software also offers native integration with Pioneer DJ’s pro gear in a DJ booth. From an innovation standpoint, it’s arguably the best DJ software on the market, although perhaps not ideal if you want the pick of the DJ controllers with the convenience of out-of-the-box native integration.
The software also integrates with streaming services including TIDAL, Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, and SoundCloud Go+.
If you want to see exactly which controllers are supported based on your device/operating system it’s best to visit their website.
6. Engine DJ
Now unless you’re buying a piece of Denon’s hardware (or perhaps Numark as they’re owned by the same parent company, ‘inMusic’… we list all of them below), you don’t need to worry about this influencing your decision on what DJ software to use.
In the same way you would with rekordbox, for example, you would use Engine DJ as a track management/preparation tool on your laptop – setting cue points and creating playlists, etc. – transferring them onto a USB ready to plug into one of Denon’s standalone units.
Aside from professional media players, these all-in-one DJ systems (where the Engine DJ operating system is built-in to the unit for standalone purposes) include the Numark Mixstream Pro, the Denon Prime Go, the SC Live 2, the SC Live 4, Denon’s Prime 2 (note, this unit has been discontinued), and of course, Denon’s flagship Prime 4 and Prime 4+.
Also see our buyer’s guide: the 5 best all-in-one DJ Systems.
Most notably, one of the key selling points of the units that it operates on is the WiFi connectivity. This allows the use of streaming services and also the ability to sign straight into your Dropbox to access your digital music collection in the cloud. Other popular features include the Touch FX (touchscreen FX), Drop Sampler, and Smart Playlists.
What software do most DJs use?
In order of popularity, Serato is still the most used software by professional DJs and hobbyists, closely followed by rekordbox. This is likely the case as Serato is still the most popular choice amongst mobile & event DJs. Virtual DJ and Traktor would typically follow as ‘most used’ after that.
What is the best DJ software for beginners?
Whilst it’s open to interpretation, Serato is arguably the best DJ software for beginners. As well as having a clean, easy-to-navigate interface, it’s also the default software operation on a broad variety of DJ controllers across different manufacturers; plus they have a ‘Lite’ version so you can try it for free.
What is the easiest DJ software to use?
In our opinion, the easiest DJ software to use is Serato, although it really depends on individual preference and what you’re used to. Pioneer’s Rekordbox and Virtual DJ would probably be a close second. You can’t go wrong with one of the market leaders in that sense.
What is the best free DJ software?
If you’re really skint, or what you’re doing is mostly for fun, there are a couple of good free DJ software options available. The best one we know of is CrossDJ from Mixvibes, although it only works with two channels. Another one is ‘Mixxx’, which has open-source DJ software; meaning the full version is completely free!
Which DJ software is best for streaming?
The best DJ software programs for streaming are Serato, rekordbox, Virtual DJ, djay Pro AI, and Engine DJ – these five all offer a broad range of options to suit both club and mobile DJs. Traktor is slightly lagging behind, although they’re still compatible with Beatport Streaming and Beatsource.
Do I need a DJ controller to DJ?
If you don’t have the budget for a DJ controller, and/or if you just want to have a mix without buying any equipment, you can simply use your laptop. As mentioned in this post, there are plenty of free DJ software programs out there – especially if you only need basic functionality!