Until recently, digital DJing was a pretty broad field, and you might find DJs hitting the club with a mix of devices like laptops, sound cards, controllers, or bulging CD wallets.
In the past few years, however, things have changed. The rapid development of Pioneer’s rekordbox, along with major updates and additions to their latest CDJ range, including USB integration, improved looping and quantization, means most DJs only need a USB stick and headphones.
While Pioneer CDJs are ubiquitous, this approach has become an industry standard, but it is by no means a solution that works for everyone. Below we take a look at some of the other options available to professional and amateur DJs alike.
Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3
Native instruments were one of the first to adopt digital DJing and released the first version of their Traktor software in 2000. Working with Stanton in 2003, they developed Traktor Final Scratch – a Digital Vinyl System (DVS) that enabled DJs to digitally play and mix files with special timecode vinyl.
DVS is still part of the Traktor setup – it has officially been incorporated into the latest Pro 3 version – but it’s the software features and integration with dedicated hardware controllers that have drawn the majority of users in.
The Deck FX section is deep and allows for complex and unique permutations that can be assigned to multiple controls, while the new Mixer FX is reduced to individual controls per channel for improved playability.
The tight mixing, looping and beat jumping capabilities on four decks make it perfect for DJs who use multiple sound sources, create new rhythms and tracks in real time, and want to integrate their own productions to push the boundaries between live performance and DJing to blur.
For DJs who want to keep it simple, there’s nothing like DJ Pro from Serato. Trusted by Scratch DJs and turntablists around the world, its rock-solid stability and sober user interface make it the first choice for anyone who has precise, precise control or the ability to mix tracks with minimal effort.
The hardware produced in collaboration with Rane has expanded in recent years from plug-and-play boxes to a range of dedicated mixers to a motorized, digital-specific turntable-style controller.
Serato-certified mixers and controllers from Denon, Roland and Numark ensure that there is something for every DJ style.
Combining some of the best parts from Traktor and DJ Pro is that rekordbox DJ. As an add-on based on the existing rekordbox infrastructure, DJs who want a single program for mixing at home and preparing sets for the club will find a very useful solution with their familiar interface.
While it’s not quite as stable as DJ Pro or as deep as Traktor, it’s a comparatively younger piece of software, and with a company as big as Pioneer behind it, you can bet they’ll catch up with the competition pretty quickly.
Atomix Productions VirtualDJ
Consistently underestimated and yet the most widely used DJ software in the world, Atomix productions‘VirtualDJ has many features that similar software from much larger manufacturers has neglected for years.
Key sync, streaming integration, and smart playlists have been built into VirtualDJ for years, among many other features, and yet some of the bigger players are only now starting to scream about it.
VirtualDJ is also very open software that works directly with most controllers on the market and goes well beyond what is possible with other major software.
Originally designed as a live performance tool, Ableton Live was quickly adopted by DJs looking for a new way to do things.
Freed from the constraints of manual beat matching, users can instead focus on incorporating a live approach into their sets, enabling fluid, amorphous constructions that often redefine the very concept of DJing itself. Deep right?
Being able to play works in progress, unreleased tracks, and individual stems alongside finished tracks can add a unique touch to sets.