DJ software powers most of the best dance parties, whether they are 100,000-person festivals rocking the grandest sound systems in the world or pool parties using splash-proof Bluetooth speakers. Even when you see DJs playing from hardware decks without a laptop, those decks run DJ software with touchscreens.
Software has long since taken over the DJing world for good reasons. First of all, it’s super fun. But from a technical perspective, DJ software allows DJs to carry a portable, searchable, and quickly accessible library of many thousands of tracks; it treats audio elastically, easily manipulating playback speed while locking the musical key in place. It allows random access to music files, making performance features like hot-cue points and looping a breeze. And it makes DJing with music videos along with full video effects processing possible. But most of all, the best DJ software democratizes DJing, so that anyone can try the same or similar software as the biggest DJs in the world either for free or for a low up-front cost.
— Best Overall: Serato DJ Pro
— Best Professional: Pioneer DJ Rekordbox
— Best for Mixing: Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3
— Best for PC: Algoriddim Djay Pro
— Best for Beginners: Atomix VirtualDJ
— Best Free: Mixxx
How We Picked the Best DJ Software
We have used every piece of DJ software in this guide — as well as others that did not make the list — at least once, and in some cases, many times for live sets, streaming sets, or at least long practice sessions. Fortunately, these days, the baseline for quality within DJ software is very high. Every program in this guide includes everything you need to DJ like a pro: music file analysis and the ability to treat audio elastically so you can speed up/slow down the tempo while locking the musical key in place, highly responsive manipulation, including vinyl-style scratching, performance features like cue points and looping, audio effects, full-featured music library browsers, support for pro-level DJ hardware controllers and mixer, and much more.
To stand out in this well-developed field, DJ software has to have some combination of the following:
— A proven track record for professional use
— A comprehensive yet still evolving feature set
— A user-friendly interface and workflow
— Unique features for creative performance and/or special audio analysis/processing capabilities
Such features may include support for DJing with music from internet streaming services, streaming broadcast abilities, AI-assisted separation of audio files into component “stem” parts, and others.
The most important factor in DJ software, however, may be its reliable and stable operation. Besides just being highly embarrassing, DJ software bugs or full crashes during a performance can damage your reputation and even your prospects for future gigs. The people who have hired you or who are having fun in the crowd seldom care if any hiccups during your sets are due to software error rather than your own human error. So DJ software reliability and stability are of the utmost importance. Of all the programs in this guide, only the free, open-source Mixxx exhibits any kind of concerning behavior when it comes to performance, and those issues are usually minor. Mixxx is still a well-loved radio DJ software and can be used confidently for performance as long as it's tested thoroughly on your personal system first.
Best DJ Software: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Serato DJ Pro
Why It Made The Cut: Serato DJ Pro has sat atop the DJ software mountain for quite some time for its mixture of stability, smooth performance, straightforward and organized interface, and high-level features and audio processing.
— Decks: 4
— Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, OGG, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, MP4, M4A (for playback); WAV, AIFF (for recording)
— Streaming music support: Beatport, Beatsource, SoundCloud, Tidal
— Hardware support: Official support for 90+ DJ controllers, mixers, and all-in-one systems
— Track Analysis: BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.15 and later; Windows 10, 11
— Rock-solid stability and performance
— Great sounding audio time-stretching and audio effects
— Excellent Expansions for editing musical tracks, video mixing, extra effects, and more
— Its many Expansions may be confusing as to which level of Serato DJ you need
— A little slow in its development path
If there’s one DJ software that covers all the bases for professional DJs with a proven and trusted level of live performance, dependability, and comprehensive features for DJs regardless of what genre they play, whether they use turntables with control vinyl or MIDI DJ controllers, PC or Mac, it may have to be Serato DJ Pro. One of the oldest and most reputable names in DJ software, over more than two decades, Serato DJ Pro has become the most popular DJ software for using DVS control vinyl to control digital music with vinyl turntables, gaining a massive following with both hip-hop and EDM DJs. For laptop DJs who prefer using MIDI DJ controllers, Serato DJ Pro not only supports more than 90 hardware models of DJ controllers, mixers, and all-in-one systems, but that hardware includes many of the most deluxe, well-loved, and sought-after hardware in the industry.
Some of that hardware when purchased includes a license to Serato DJ Pro. If not, the software is available in three levels of capability with either a monthly subscription or a one-time price. The higher tiers include features and functions that not everyone will need, such as the ability to create DJ edits of tracks within the software that remove, repeat, or reshuffle sections of the song. Other Expansions include an elaborate selection of professional audio effects in addition to the standard effects, full video mixing, and more.
Serato DJ Pro combines flashy features with reliability, a straightforward interface, and organizational features like “crates” that DJs love for creating bucketed collections of music. Many have tried, but no other DJ software has managed to knock Serato DJ Pro off its perch.
Best Professional: Pioneer DJ Rekordbox
Why It Made The Cut: Aside from being an outstanding DJ software with some unique offerings, Rekordbox is also the software used to prepare music files to play on the industry-standard Pioneer DJ club gear, the CDJ and XDJ decks.
— Decks: 4
— Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF (for playback); WAV (for recording)
— Streaming music support: Beatport, Beatsource, SoundCloud, Tidal
— Hardware support: Works with 50+ Pioneer DJ all-in-one DJ systems, media players, mixers, interfaces, and controllers
— Track Analysis: BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection, vocal detection with special waveform coloring
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.14 and later; Windows 10, 11
— Inviting user interface with features like browser waveform preview and 3Band waveforms that show vocals within a track
— Great Edit mode for editing songs with deletions, looped sections, and other changes and exporting the results as audio
— Lets you easily transition from DJing with Rekordbox on a laptop to exporting music to USB drives to play on CDJ and XDJ hardware decks
— Only works with Pioneer DJ hardware
— Tiered monthly or yearly subscriptions only; no one-time purchase price
While there is plenty of great DJ gear to perform with in the world, the fact is that most big clubs, festival stages, and other venues use Pioneer DJ gear such as the CDJ-3000 or CDJ-2000NXS media player decks. So if you want to show up to DJ with just USB sticks that plug into those CDJs, you have to prep your music files with Rekordbox software. The free version of Rekordbox lets anyone prepare music files to be used with Pioneer DJ hardware. But to actually DJ with Rekordbox on a computer with Pioneer DJ controllers, whether to practice at home or to perform, you need to purchase one of the three tiers of a yearly or monthly subscription. The higher-priced Creative and Professional subscriptions let you store your music on an Android or Apple smartphone and access it either with manual syncing or Dropbox auto-syncing. The Professional sub includes unlimited Dropbox music storage.
Regardless of whether Pioneer DJ uses its stranglehold on professional DJ booth gear to force DJs into subscriptions, Rekordbox stands on its own as a fantastic DJ software. Its Edit mode lets you create your own DJ edits of music with sections deleted or repeated to your preference. And the Performance mode, where you’ll do all your DJing, honestly looks and works a lot like Serato DJ Pro, except with a bit more sparkle to the interface and some unique features. The best of those — the 3Band waveform — detects vocals within the track and indicates them in blue within the waveform. That comes in handy so that when blending two or more songs, you don’t create a train wreck of overlapping vocals.
Rekordbox also features a great sampler, where you can drag audio files or snippets of your full track to create loops. Depending on the subscription level, Rekordbox also supplies full video mixing, song lyric visualization, and control over DJ lighting systems, including exclusive visual effects. Purchasing some higher-end Pioneer DJ gear will enable Rekordbox Performance mode access without requiring a subscription.
Best for Mixing: Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3
Why It Made The Cut: With its Remix Decks, Stems files, audio effects, and more, Traktor Pro has led the field in features for creative mixing for at least a decade.
— Decks: 4 track decks; 2 Remix Decks
— Audio Formats: MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, Ogg Vorbis, non-DRM AAC (for playback); WAV (for recording)
— Streaming music support: Beatport, Beatsource
— Hardware support: MIDI mapping, native support for Native Instruments controllers, and mapping support for 60+ third-party controllers, mixers, and all-in-one systems
— Track Analysis: BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.13, 10.14, 10.15, 11, 12; Windows 10, 11
— Flexible interface and great-sounding pitch-bending/time-stretching engine for harmonic mixing
— Remix Decks for mixing in one-shot and loop samples or 4-part Stems files
— Best-in-class selection of 40+ audio deck effects and additional mixer effects
— Fairly low, one-time price of $99
— Comparatively small amount of dedicated hardware controller and mixer options
— No support for popular streaming services like SoundCloud and Tidal
In the jockeying of position for popularity among professional DJs, Native Instruments (NI) Traktor Pro 3 has been a somewhat distant third behind Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox for some time. However, Traktor Pro 3’s devoted following has stuck with it amidst some lulls in new software updates and new DJ hardware options from NI. The Traktor stalwarts stick with it often due to its wealth of performance-oriented features and its approachable, customizable interface with many layout options.
As it relates to creative DJ mixing, NI introduced Remix Decks into Traktor a full decade ago, so that DJs can add one-shot and loop samples of drums, synths, vocals, and more to their mixes. Many NI DJ hardware units have dedicated Remix Deck controls, and you can drag and drop samples into the Remix Decks from Sounds.com straight from the Traktor Pro browser (at an additional cost). A few years after the Remix Decks, NI created Stems audio files, where artists format their songs to separate perfectly into four parts — like drums, bass, melody, and vocals — that play from Traktor’s Remix Decks, so DJs can create live remixes straight from the software. Unlike some of the DJ software programs below that use AI algorithms to create stem parts from regular audio files (which often creates off-sounding audio artifacts), Traktor’s Stems always sound perfect. The disadvantage is that there are only a limited amount of Stems tracks available, but a Traktor Pro license comes with 65 Stems tracks to get you started.
Traktor Pro also makes harmonic mixing — choosing to blend tracks according to their musical key — easier by color-coding tracks with compatible keys in the browser and by letting you alter the key of a song up or down to match another track. It’s not the only DJ software harmonic mixing features, but with its high-quality Elastique 3 pitch-bending/time-stretching engine, it makes changing the musical key of a song by a few steps sound natural.
NI has been developing audio effects plug-ins since the late 1990s. So when it comes to mixing music with sound effects, no one else can touch the company’s level of audio effects it includes with Traktor Pro 3. In addition to that, the company is now merged with iZotope, a leading software developer for professional mixing and mastering programs, and NI has hinted that Traktor Pro updates should start to incorporate iZotope technology soon.
Best for PC: Algoriddim Djay Pro
Why It Made The Cut: On top of being a complete and solid pro DJ software for a low price, the PC version of Algoriddim Djay Pro was specifically coded for Windows and touchscreen operation.
— Decks: 4
— Audio Formats: MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC (for playback); AAC, WAV (for recording)
— Streaming music support: Beatport, Beatsource, SoundCloud, Tidal
— Hardware support: MIDI mapping and native support for 80+ DJ controllers
— Track Analysis: Auto-gain/normalize, BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection with flexible beat grid and dynamic tempo support
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.14 and later; Windows 10; iOS; Android
— Specifically coded for Windows touchscreen and pen tool response
— Supports unique DJ functionality for the Surface Dial controller
— Low, one-time purchase price
— Does not support FLAC files
— Not available for Windows 11 yet
— Windows version does not have the AI track stem separation function of the Mac version
While any of the programs in this guide will serve DJs on Windows machines quite well, Algoriddim Djay Pro for Windows actually adopts the most Widows-y of all Windows options expressly for DJing. Algoriddim built it from the ground up specifically for Windows 10 using the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) to be plug-and-play ready for Windows hardware and single-click installed from the Windows Store for $49.99 (free trial also available).
Djay Pro will work normally with traditional desktop and laptop computers, but it also fully integrates with touchscreen Windows laptops and specifically leverages the functionality of Microsoft Surface touchscreen laptop and tablet computers. The software also integrates functionality with the Surface Dial controller, which can be used to browse the Djay Pro music library, precisely adjust software knobs on screen, scratch and loop music, scrub track waveforms, and more. Such Surface integration is unique for DJ software and provides an intriguing option for creating a very compact and portable DJ setup using only a slim Surface tablet, Surface Dial, and touchscreen control with either no additional DJ hardware or with only a small audio interface for adding multiple audio outputs.
Those specific Windows integrations add to what is already a user-friendly, yet sophisticated and professional DJ software. Djay Pro has a clean and welcoming interface with crisp graphics, excellent integration of audio effects and sampling, and smooth, rock-solid performance for a low price. Although Algoriddim is still supporting and developing the Windows version of Djay Pro, as of this writing, it is not available for Windows 11 and does not include the Neural Mix real-time stem separation of tracks that the subscription Djay Pro AI for Mac includes. Windows DJs can keep an eye on that being added in the future.
Best for Beginners: Atomix VirtualDJ
Why It Made The Cut: VirtualDJ is free to use without connected DJ hardware, making it a good entry point, but it also often innovates new functions before competitors and has the most complete set of features for all types of DJs.
— Decks: 4
— Audio Formats: MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, OGG, ASF, WMA (for playback); MP3, OGG, FLAC, WAV (for recording)
— Streaming music support: Beatport, Beatsource, Deezer, DigiTrax, iDJPool, SoundCloud, Tidal, VJ-Pro
— Hardware support: Native support for 300+ DJ controllers, mixers, and all-in-one systems
— Track Analysis: BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection and five-part stem separation
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.11 and later (macOS 12 and later recommended); Windows 7 and later (Windows 10 and later recommended)
— Free to try the most comprehensive DJ software feature set in the world
— Real-time track separation into five parts
— Industry-leading support for third-party DJ controllers and streaming services
— Rather steep monthly subscription or one-time price to license it for DJ hardware use
— Not much hardware made specifically for VirtualDJ
It’s a beautiful thing to be a beginning DJ, because for a period of time, if you put in the effort, you’ll get better each time you do it. Still, many people try DJing software out of curiosity to find after a while that it’s not for them. With Atomix VirtualDJ, the curious can start on a program that’s free for beginners, and if they pursue it further, they can grow into the role with the software that not only has the largest feature set of any other program but also often tries new things long before its competitors. VirtualDJ is free to use with its full feature set except for one restriction: It won’t work with any connected DJ hardware until you purchase a VirtualDJ Pro license for $19/month or a one-time fee of $299.
Beginners can use VirtualDJ to learn the trade using as many of the comprehensive DJ features as they want, including many innovative and professional options that competing software does not have and may never incorporate. For example, VirtualDJ uses AI technology to separate normal audio tracks into three or five “stems” that attempt to isolate vocals, instruments, bass, kick drum, and hi-hat. The quality of those stem results varies but is getting better over time, and VirtualDJ is the only software so far to offer five-stem separation.
VirtualDJ also has full video mixing and video recording, a visualizer for adding video to audio files, an unlimited audio and video sampler for playing clips and loops, many audio and video effects, full karaoke DJ features, Internet-connected DJ tipping, control over industry-standard DMX club lighting systems, built-in audio and video internet radio and social media stream broadcasting, Android and iOS apps for remote control, and many other attractions too numerous to list here. Beside all of that, VirtualDJ has the most comprehensive support for built-in music streaming services and for third-party DJ hardware. For any type of DJ, it’s well worth trying before buying but especially for mobile DJs.
Best Free: Mixxx
Why It Made The Cut: With the free, open-source Mixxx, great DJing software with professional-level features does not have to cost money.
— Decks: 4
— Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, OGG, Opus, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF (for playback and recording)
— Streaming music support: N/A
— Hardware support: MIDI mapping and included preset mappings for 120+ third-party controllers
— Track Analysis: BPM/key/waveform/beatgrid detection, loudness levels for autogain leveling
— Operating Systems: macOS 10.12 and later; Windows 7 and later; Linux Fedora, Arch, or Ubuntu 18.04 and later
— Impressive design, features, and performance for free software
— Has all the core digital DJing features of paid alternatives
— Goes beyond the norm in areas like audio formats, audio routing, and Internet broadcasting.
— Can be slow to respond to keyboard and mouse actions
— Susceptible to bugs like the cursor not showing up over the software window
Oftentimes the go-to free, open-source alternative to paid software represents a sizable sacrifice of quality in exchange for saving money. However, the free, open-source DJ software Mixxx offers a comparable experience to many of the big-name programs in terms of features, interface, and performance. It goes even further than some of the paid software for certain options like audio formats, input and output routing, recording, live Internet broadcasting, and others. On the other hand, the now-standard option in paid DJ software to connect to music services like SoundCloud and Tidal to DJ with tracks streaming from the internet is absent in Mixxx because those companies have no financial incentive to integrate with it.
Yet when it comes to the core features digital DJs need out of software, Mixxx has it all: comprehensive track analysis; beatgrid adjustment; performance features like hotcue points, auto loops, and beatjumps; a flexible track browser that reads iTunes, Traktor, Rekordbox, and Serato libraries; full-featured internal mixing, and audio effects. There are a good variety of 19 chainable audio effects, as well as up to 64 sample decks for adding any audio sample to a set.
Mixxx originated more than 20 years ago. The stable Mac, Windows, and Linux versions on the download site are updated semi-regularly and have improved a lot just in the last few years. Mixxx is plainly awesome for freeware, and a no-risk way to try DJing for beginners or to try something new for experienced practitioners. It is still an open-source project, however, so the risk-free experiment could end when you take it to the stage or live stream. We know DJs who use Mixxx to perform with great results, but we fired up the latest version to reacquaint ourselves with the software. Within a short time some issues arose that never came up with the other software on this list, like the program hanging up for a while in response to keyboard or mouse commands and the mouse cursor disappearing from the screen when in front of the Mixx window.
So while we do recommend trying Mixxx, we also recommend testing it extensively before a public performance to make sure it’s satisfactory for the way you DJ on your particular computer and operating system.
Things to Consider Before Buying DJ Software
Where and How You DJ
Where and how you currently DJ and/or plan to DJ may affect your choice of software. For example, if you are a vinyl DJ using turntables, any DJ software worth its salt will support DVS DJing, which uses control vinyl on a turntable to manipulate the music within the software. However, unlocking the DVS capability may cost a higher purchase price or a higher subscription tier.
If you perform or plan on performing in venues that use Pioneer DJ CDJ/XDJ units, software like Serato DJ Pro, VirtualDJ, and Traktor Pro will all let you connect the CDJs to your computer to perform. However, in order to prepare music files to work plug-and-play from USB drives to the CDJs, the files have to be prepped in at least the free version of Rekordbox software. The free version, however, does not let you actually DJ sets from the software, so it may behoove you to choose a Rekordbox subscription if you plan to use Pioneer DJ club gear often.
Not all DJs care to mix with music streaming over the internet, but a lot of DJ software programs have started to incorporate support for streaming services like Soundcloud Go+, Tidal, Beatport, Beatsource, and others to play and manipulate tracks straight from within your DJ decks. That ability makes it fun to try DJing with all kinds of music that you otherwise may not add to your permanent collection, but it’s also susceptible to performance lags if the internet connection is unstable. Also, using those streaming services in most cases requires a subscription fee.
Note that DJ software that works with Spotify is no longer an option because Spotify stopped allowing DJ software integration.
DJ software developers are often small-to-moderately sized shops with heavy customer service demands, so try to excuse them if they need some extra time before supporting the latest macOS or Windows operating system updates or new processors with special requirements like the Apple M1/M2 chips. Make sure the DJ software you’re considering runs on your current computer before buying.
Q. What is the easiest DJ software to use?
The easiest DJ software to use is probably Native Instruments Traktor DJ 2, which is a free download for Mac, Windows, and iPad. Rather than trying to be a full-featured professional program, Traktor DJ 2 simplifies the number of options available from the software in this guide, so that it is very approachable to beginners. However, it still includes most of the core features needed for you to put together credible DJ sets in an interface that will let you learn the basics before moving up to a more sophisticated and complicated software.
Q. What's the best free DJ software for beginners?
The best free DJ software for beginners is either Mixxx or VirtualDJ, if we’re talking about the “best” software being the one that has the most comprehensive, professional-level set of features. If the “best” for you as a beginner is the easiest to learn, see Traktor DJ 2 in the question above. Otherwise, the choice between Mixxx and VirtualDJ comes down to your goals. VirtualDJ is only free if you don’t want to connect additional DJ hardware, which can work fine as radio DJ software or DJ software for beginners to learn. But to connect DJ controllers, mixers, media players, etc., you’ll need a paid VirtualDJ license. On the other hand, Mixxx is free, open-source software that lets you connect more than 100 supported DJ controllers and other hardware. The Mixxx feature set is outstanding for free software and good enough for professional use. However, if you are okay with eventually paying for DJ software after you’ve learned how to use it, VirtualDJ has the most loaded feature set in the world, not only for club-style DJing but also for mobile and karaoke DJing.
Q. What music software do DJs use?
The music software DJs use most often is probably Ableton Live, which is the most popular DAW (digital audio workstation) software for making electronic music — the type of music DJs most typically make to play in their sets. Ableton Live is amazing for making music, and it can also be used to DJ, although most DJs don’t use Ableton Live to DJ unless they are playing an entire set of music they’ve created themselves.
Q. What equipment does a beginner DJ need?
The equipment a beginner DJ needs, assuming they are going to use software to DJ, is at the most basic level a computer (or tablet) and software. Beyond that, the next step is to acquire headphones, speakers, and an audio interface to add multiple sets of audio outputs to their computer or tablet. The next piece is a DJ MIDI controller that provides hands-on control over the DJ software. There are many DJ controllers made for beginner-level DJs, and most of them include a beginner-friendly “Lite” version of a DJ software program and multiple audio outputs, so you would not need an additional audio interface. So as long as they buy a DJ controller with included software and audio outputs, the beginner DJ only needs a laptop/tablet, DJ controller, headphones, and speakers.
Q. What DJ software uses Spotify?
No DJ software uses Spotify streaming integration at the moment. There was a time when programs like Algoriddim Djay Pro allowed you to DJ with music streaming from Spotify straight within the software. However, a while back Spotify stopped allowing that integration for any DJ software. Now, instead of Spotify, you can find DJ software that integrates music streaming from Tidal, SoundCloud Go+, and other services, as long as you have a paid subscription to those services.
Q. Which DJ software is better, Serato or Rekordbox?
You can ask 100 DJs whether Serato or Rekordbox is the better DJ software, and the number of answers you get for each program probably will equate to the number of those DJs who personally use each program. That is to say that there is no 100 percent objective answer to which of the top two DJ software programs is the better one. We’re certain that you can be the best DJ you can be using either program, but choosing between the two will come down to personal choice. There are some things about each program that can be considered better. For example, Pioneer DJ has a vocal detection algorithm that shows you where there are vocals in the waveform, which is very helpful for not mixing competing vocals together between two tracks. Rekordbox is also a great option if you’re going to DJ from USB sticks on Pioneer DJ CDJ media players at a club because Rekordbox will let you practice and prepare tracks at home on your computer and then perform in public from your music library on a USB drive. With Serato DJ Pro, you have more supported DJ hardware options to choose from, as well as better pricing options that don’t force you into a subscription. For more details, see our descriptions above, and trust yourself to make an informed decision.
Final Thoughts on the Best DJ Software
We, fortunately, live in a time when it’s hard to go wrong with the DJ software you choose, and there are amazing options you can try inexpensively or for free. Most of the DJ software programs in this guide are so good that DJs often decide on their software according to what’s compatible with or what’s included with the DJ controller they most want to use. However, for the DJ software with the ultimate combination of professional reputation, rock-solid stability, generous hardware compatibility, comprehensive features, and suitability for all types of DJs whether they use turntables or controllers, Windows or Mac, Serato DJ Pro gets the nod. For the absolute most innovative and complete features set, as well as compatibility with the highest number of third-party DJ hardware models, check out Atomix VirtualDJ. And if you want the easiest path to DJing on a laptop when it suits you to plugging in USB sticks into CDJ units at a club, Pioneer DJ Rekordbox is the way to go.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.