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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 153554b96e