DJ Mixing Software Review
Why Use DJ Mixing Software?
The DJ is the arguably the most important person at a party. The person who controls the music not only gets people on the floor dancing, he or she also keeps them out on the floor. To do that, you have to know song structure, timing for a fade and never let the beat drop. Whether you're new to DJing or you're a seasoned pro, DJ mixing software is a necessity. You can find tips, tricks and more about the top female DJs and online music mixers in our articles on DJ mixing software.
Although you can find free DJ software online, these programs generally don't have all of the capabilities of paid software. The best DJ software is easy to use, lets you use controllers, supports a variety of file types and lets you mix up to four songs at once. Most of the DJ programs available include several automatic features so you can create sets without much knowledge of how to mix music. As your skill as a DJ increases, you can take advantage of other features that give you more control over the music and the mixes you make.
Even if you're an old school DJ, you can benefit from music mixing software. Vinyl is used for a certain sound and for scratching, but you don't have to give that up if you pick the right software that lets you continue using actual decks. However, there's something to be said for the switch from vinyl or CDs to digital – one of which is the relative low cost of digitizing your music and the convenience of having your entire library available when you're performing. Some DJs argue that using a laptop also frees them of other tasks so they can be more creative with effects and cross fades while mixing live.
If you're new to the world of music mixing, it's important you choose DJ software that's easy to use right out of the gate. Choose software that's too complicated or assumes you already know what to do and you might give up before you learn how to match tempo or seamlessly cross-fade into another track. All of the best DJ mixer software include common features that let you create remixes before your gig or on the fly, such as: live loops, so you can loop a section of a song into your mix easily; cross faders that let you move from one track to another with a fade so there's no interruption to the flow; and auto beat matching means you don't have to manually change the beats per minute (BPM) of a song to match another.
Two track decks were standard back in the day, and several software titles still give you just the two. Now it's more common to find hardware controllers with four track decks, which means you can mix four channels at once. The same goes for software with four track decks – you can queue up four songs and create a live remix with more creativity.
If you have experience as a DJ, you likely don't need cue points, but if you're new to the art of mixing music, you can benefit from setting cue points in a song through the DJ software. The best DJ software gives you more cue points, so you can mark a song up to eight times and find where you want to cut to another track and then back again to a separate cue point.
Once again, this is a feature that's best for new DJs. This is an easy way to see the texture of a track. For example, the hi-hats may be purple and the snares, green. As you get better at identifying the different elements of sound by color and by shape, you can go without the color net and know when a kick is coming just by looking at a waveform and the length of a wave.
Many DJ mixer software lets you hook up a hardware controller, or mixer, that has actual turntables so you can still use vinyl records to scratch and mix. Although, vinyl only makes up about five percent of all album sales in the United States, according to a recent Nielsen report.
Other features you can expect to find in DJ mixing software are effects that let you change the sound of song, such as delays, filters and echoes. And all of the software we evaluated give you real-time control, so you can mix live.
There's no denying that iTunes is the giant in the industry of music storage, so it's important that you choose software that supports iTunes. You can have access to all of your music as long as you have a laptop, your DJ mixing software, iTunes and an internet connection. Although you can use your laptop exclusively to mix music live, it's arguably easier, more fun and more satisfying for the crowd you perform for if you use a hardware controller. Most of the software we looked at are compatible with controllers.
It's also important that you choose software that lets you use any type of music file – not every track you have is going to be an MP3. Many samples, loops and sounds you may want to use in conjunction with songs could be in WAV, AIFF, MIDI or FLAC formats. Some software even lets you use video files to add to your mix.
Help & Support
No matter how talented you are as a DJ, sometimes you're going to need help with the software. If you're new to mixing music, it's even more important that you have access to help, whether from one of the software's tech support representatives or from a user guide that explains every feature.
You can easily contact any of the software companies' customer support team by email, and all of them include FAQs on their websites. Most of the DJ mixing software lets you download a user manual, too, so you can learn how to use each program on your own. What's less common is telephone support and video tutorials. Video tutorials are the most helpful option available because you can see exactly which tool is where and how to use it when you're using the software.
Best Software for Beginner DJs
If you're just getting started and you need software that's easy to use but also powerful in its capabilities, check out Serato's line of music mixing software. The intuitive interfaces are simple to learn the first time you use them. Serato DJ is also advanced enough for talented DJs to use – some professional and famous DJs, such as A-Trak and Scribble, use Serato.
Another popular choice in DJ mixing software is Traktor. As you're learning to use DJ software, you can benefit from short cuts that Traktor Pro includes, such as color-coded waveforms. These can help you spot the different elements in a song, from hi-hats to kicks to snares. Traktor also lets you set up to eight cue points, so you can quickly jump from one song to the next and know that your cut is going to be flawless. Some of the biggest names in laptop-DJing have used or still use Traktor (software or controllers), such as Richie Hawtin and Zedd.
A great standalone software option is Deckadance, although you can use it with controllers. You get an easy-to-use interface and a lot of features to help make your mix unique. The sampler acts as a MIDI controller with lots of equalizer sliders, knobs for fading and looping, and filters, so you can apply all sorts of effects to your mixes – even without hardware.
Best DJ Software on a Budget
Most DJ mixing software is fairly affordable, but if you don't have $100 or more to drop on software because you still need to buy a laptop and controller, you have options. Zulu is a good choice if you're just getting started and want to spend less than $50. You won't be able to use time-coded vinyl or CD controllers with this software, though.
MixVibes Cross DJ has versatility at a great price. You can get it for your PC or Mac laptop, or as an app for your iOS or Android phone. You can mix up to four tracks and you get eight cue points with this software.
ClubDJPro lets you use music and video files in your mixes, so you can create visual mixes for your parties – and all for less than $100. It's as easy to use as the best DJ mixing software, and you can add your own text to your visual mixes.
Best for Old School DJs
All you really need out of music mixing software to make it feel more like old school mixing is the ability to use a controller. That's why Serato, Traktor and Deckadance are good choices for those who don't want to make a full switch over to completely digital DJing. Another title that works well for those who want to maintain control over their music with turntables is DJ Mixer Pro.
You can use a variety of controllers with VirtualDJ, so you can go old school with a MIDI controller, or use a mouse and keyboard or a joystick, which are examples of HID controllers.
Whether you're mixing music as a new hobby or you're a professional DJ who performs at clubs, weddings or other parties, you can find DJ mixing software to suit your needs. The titles we evaluated include features and options that can help you learn how to DJ or offer flexibility so you can become an even better DJ. And you can find the best music mixing software to fit your budget.