I’m old enough to remember a time when even the young up and coming DJs were wary of using computers and software in their sets but those days are long gone and now laptops and programs like Serato DJ and Traktor play an absolutely essential role in the careers of millions of DJs around the world.
If you’re looking for a roundup of the best emulations of decks and mixers or maybe you need more specialist software to handle scratching, sampling, sound manipulation and even your VJ visuals then my guide to the best software and apps for DJs will come in handy.
The best DJ Software you can use today:
- Pioneer DJ rekordbox
- Serato DJ Pro
- Native Instruments Traktor Pro
- Atomix VirtualDJ Pro
- Algoriddim djay Pro AI
- Mixxx free
- Native Instruments Traktor DJ
Is there a free version of Serato DJ?
Serato DJ Lite is 100% free and features a Practice Mode that doesn’t require any hardware controller. You can stream millions of tracks from Beatsource, TIDAL, Beatport and SoundCloud (subscriptions required after trial periods).
Purchase a suitable DJ controller that comes with a Serato DJ Lite unlock and you will be able to access the Serato DJ Lite Performance Mode and more advanced features such as filters, EQ, and effects.
Best Virtual DJ App
Tribe XR is an immersive VR DJ application. With Tribe XR and a compatible VR headset you can enter the metaverse and become a virtual DJ. Get your hands on a pair of virtual decks modelled on club-standard Pioneer DJ equipment including CDJ-3000 decks and the DJM-900 NXS2 mixer. You can upload your own music, and access millions of other tracks with Soundcloud Go, perform live sets, connect with friends and colleagues, party with weekly events in Altspace and Sansar and even take lessons to learn real DJ skills – all without needing to leave your living room.
Is Ableton Live good for DJ sets?
Ableton Live is not just a hugely popular and powerful DAW, it’s also an effective and intuitive live performance tool for DJs. With Live you can easily replicate hardware such as mixers and set up your own custom channel strips.
Live gives DJs a near infinite combination of loopers, EQs, filters, delays, distortions and reverbs to play with as well as the ability to work with samples and stems, cross fade and assign cue outputs and much more.
Of course Ableton Live can be operated with just a laptop but many DJs team their Live software and laptop with hardware MIDI controllers for the ultimate hands on control.
Ableton Live can act as the ‘brain’ or heart of a complex DJ set triggering complete tracks, sounds, effects, lights and hardware such as drum machines and synths.
Best Key detection software for DJs
Mixed in Key is used by DJs around the world. It’s at least 10% more accurate than accurate than the next best key detection software. Mixed in Key can accurately detect the key of almost any song.
What is Mixed in Key Studio Edition for?
The original Mixed in Key is a standalone application for detecting the key of tracks whereas the Mixed In Key Studio Edition is designed to work as a plugin in your DAW of choice.
Mixed in Key Studio Edition can inspect any of your samples and provide advanced key and notation data to help you blend different sounds and samples in harmony.
Mixed in Key Studio Edition is especially useful for DJs working on remixes and mashups.
Mac App for real time detecting Key, BPM and Tempo
Mixed In Key Live is a handy app which can detect the Key, BPM, and specific notes of any audio you play on your Mac in real time including audio from video streams, Spotify and your DAW.
Best VST plugin for manipulating audio samples:
Serato Sample is an easy to use sampler plugin for producers and DJs who need to quickly and effortlessly find, chop, key-shift and time-stretch samples.
Serato Sample makes use of the famous Pitch ‘n Time algorithm for superb time-stretching and key-shifting audio manipulation.
With Serato Sample you can automatically sync your sample’s key and BPM to match your project in your DAW and with just one click you can let Serato Sample’s algorithm finds 32 of the best samples to work with.
Note that Serato Sample is not standalone software – it requires a suitable host DAW in which to run (Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, Maschine etc).
Best app for extracting vocals from stems:
Audionamix’s XTRAX STEMS is a cloud-based application (subscription required) that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyse an imported source mix and automatically separate it into its various parts (Vocals, Drums, Bass and any remaining music stems) for sampling and further manipulation.
Is XTRAX STEMS worth it? Be warned that Xtrax Stems can be painfully slow and the results can vary greatly in quality with various amounts of artefacts and bleed mucking up your results. This is understandable given that mixed music is inherently ‘messy’ and there’s always going to be overlap between the various elements such as vocals and drums or bass and pads.
When it works it’s great but don’t expect miracles.
Plugin to split stems into parts
Stagecraft’s Simple Stems VST3, AU, AAX plugin* lets you split any audio into its constituent parts. The plugin uses the Spleeter algorithm by Deezer to deconstruct songs into 2, 4 or 5 stems. The results can sometimes be pretty incredible but, as with XTRAX STEMS, more complicated mixes and live recordings are not always perfectly decomposed.
*Note that the Windows version of Simple Stems is a Standalone App only and not available as a plugin.
Best plugin for sampling VST synths
Need to sample a VST synth? DiscoDSP’s Bliss plugin is a powerful performance sampler with easy to use VST sampling capabilities.
Plugin for DJ scratch effects
DJs wanting to scratch sounds in their DAW can use the Scratch Track plugin from Stagecraft Software.
Fire up Scratch Track in your DAW and use it to scratch samples, loops, tracks or even live input. Scratch Track supports all types of timecoded vinyl as well as midi learn for controls, automation, and a programmable crossfade.
Scratch Track lets you use your timecoded vinyl in any DAW or audio plugin host and you can use this plugin to trigger samples and tracks with programmable cue points.
Scratch Track plugin also features a professional grade crossfader with the ability to adjust the curve of the crossfader and respond with super low latency to incoming midi signals.
Best VST Crossfader plugin for DJs
XFade plugin is designed to give the producer or DAW DJ a simple crossfader for mixing, production and live performance.
This nifty little plugin allows you to fade between 2 input streams within the DAW, overlaying your own samples on each side as well.
Xfade is lightning fast with zero latency – perfect for those crab scratching effects!
Xfade lets you adjust the crossfade slope. Use a sharp curve for fast cuts, or a gradual slope for slow and smooth fades between tracks.
Best VJ Software for DJs:
Resolume Avenue is a powerful piece of software (PC/Mac) for VJs, AV performers and video artists. With Resolume Avenue you can trigger video footage, music clips, text effects and more when you want, how you want. Play your video footage forwards, backwards and scratch with it and adjust the tempo to match the beat.
Resolume Avenue lets DJs mix and match visuals quickly and easily and play with them like a musical instrument.
Resolume Avenue features a vast collection of audio effects and video effects which you can use separately or combine however you like.
Software to projection map VJ visuals onto buildings:
For projection mapping of your visuals you can turn to the companion software Resolume Arena. With Resolume Arena DJs can project their video onto any type of surface from complex geometrical structures to entire buildings!
MixEmergency – Easy to use VJ software for Mac based DJs
You can use use MixEmergency with Scratch Live, Serato DJ, or Serato DJ Pro to mix and record your Video DJ sets from your mixer and turntables, or DJ controller.
With MixEmergency you can:
- Add text, image, Quartz Composition, and live video camera overlays to your performances.
- Use plugins to add transitions and effects.
- Mix video between computers.
- Export your video footage at quality levels high enough for film production and high-definition television broadcast.
- Send your mix to a VJ, or send your mix to professional video production software.
What is a DJ controller?
DJ controllers are hardware devices that feature various configurations of knobs, faders, buttons, and jog wheels which the user can manipulate to control DJ software such as
What is DVS?
DVS stands for Digital Vinyl System.
What happened to Kado?
The Kado app intelligently cross-referenced the public data from hundreds of thousands of DJ sets to find high-quality related tracks that mixed well together. Sadly, despite proving to be popular with many DJs Kado’s developers pulled the plug on the project in March 2022.