In the contest for the best DJing software for your gigs, you will often end up having to choose between RekordBox and Serato.
Both of these represent cutting-edge DJ software applications that are widely used and acclaimed by top DJs from around the world and both have some admirable features that will work for professional DJs and artists.
These two DJ software tools come equipped with some of the trendy controllers preferred by top artists and DJs like Numark’s and Pioneer’s controllers among others.
When it comes to picking top of the line DJ software, it often boils down to the specific features that you are looking for along with what you are willing to spend on the software tool.
If you are after a sleek and modern interface at affordable pricing, then you can go with RekordBox DJ.
However, if you are looking for a DJ software tool that is more reliable and offers you compatibility with a bigger spectrum of DJ controllers, then the Serato DJ Pro would suffice.
Overall, both of these are superb DJ software options.
Deciding which of these to go for will depend on a number of factors such as budget, the types of equipment you have, brand considerations, and features found on each of the software tools.
If you are split between choosing one or the other, we break it down to you in the article to help you decide, with confidence, whether Serato or RekordBox will be best suited for your line of work.
We look at the features, differences and similarities, and lay it side by side to help you choose from an informed standpoint.
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or pro DJ, you will find this article a handy resource in helping pick what is right for your needs.
Factors to Keep in Mind
When Looking for DJ Software
We have factored in a number of things in comparing Serato and RekordBox DJ.
- : This is one of the most important considerations to look at when shopping for a suitable DJ software. At the end of the day, you will want a DJ software tool that you can use to seamlessly mix your tracks without much complexity and cumbersome UX. If the DJ software is easy to use, you can focus your energies less on mastering the software and more on perfecting your mixing skills and experimenting with multiple passages. Both Serato and RekordBox are easy to use and beginner-friendly without compromising on the usability and depth.
- : When looking for a suitable DJ software, it is also important to factor in its reliability. The last thing you want to grapple with is work with a DJ software that will frequently hand and crash while you are on set. For DJs, particularly beginners looking to build a name and reputation in the local scene, an unreliable DJ software can be a career-killer.
- : The DJ software should also have excellent compatibility with the computer that you are using. If you are a Mac person, then you obviously have to choose a DJ software that supports Mac.
This is one of the most commonly used DJ software tools.
Serato is a major player in this market segment.
Alongside Native Instruments and Pioneer, it is one of the leading manufactures of controllers.
Its model of liberally providing manufacturers with its licenses has seen Serato-integrated gear grow in leaps and bounds over the past decade.
Serato features 16 mixers, 53 controllers as well as 4 interfaces/DVS boxes.
It also comes with 14 accessories and FX controllers among others.
Serato DJ has a dark and serious-looking user interface.
Its UI is crammed with many items and has a “technical” look.
It shows display waveforms in-line vertically by default.
The look and feel of the Serato DJ interface are not immediately obvious and familiar but it doesn’t take much time to familiarize yourself with it.
There are different views that you can pick from such as the 2 deck and the 4 deck modes.
Users can also choose the display effects, the sampler, and even a mix record section.
You can generally toggle these from the DJ controller.
The browser is a key highlight in the Serato interface.
It features super-brilliant smart crates that enable the DJ to more easily discover tracks that they may have improvised on a set.
Serato has impressive built-in features thanks to its expansion packs.
While these are premium features, they won’t cost you a fortune.
At just $29 each, they are fairly affordable and accessible and they offer you a good value for money.
Besides, every expansion pack offers you something unique and innovative in the DJ software.
- There is the Serato Video which allows users to gain access to the inbuilt video DJ editor.
- The Serato video also enables you to bring synced video sets into your sets for playback via a projector.
- There is also the Serato Flip for remixing your tracks for playback via the Serato DJ.
- The Serato DVS or digital vinyl system enables you to use timecode vinyl and discs to connect CDJs and turntables.
- There is also the Serato Pitch n Time, a powerful expansion pack for use in seamlessly shifting the pitch and the time of track.
- The Serato FX can be used to customize the FX by incorporating third-party modules from developers such as Izotope.
It’s crucial to have excellent stability in the DJing software.
The earlier versions of DJ software were hampered by stability issues which caused a myriad of issues such as sudden stops of gigs in their tracks, damaging of libraries and setlists and many of these stability issues eventually drove many DJs back o vinyl and CDs.
Most of the current DJ software, including the Serato DJ, now have excellent stability following years of tweaking and patching up of the various DJ software.
The Serato DJ software offers you excellent stability and is even compatible with the older machines like the MacBook Pro 2011.
This compatibility is a convenient feature as some DJs are still working with their older DJ laptops.
Software compatibility is a core consideration given the multiplicity and variety of hardware used by DJs worldwide.
Serato has the distinction of liberally selling its license to various controller manufacturers such as Denon, Numark, and Roland among other leading players.
Almost every controller will have a Serato license.
The only exceptions are those that have been manufactured by Pioneer and Native Instruments.
Some of the premium DJ controllers have a full Serato DJ license.
There are also the cheaper and more accessible entry-level controllers that come with the Serato Intro, the minimal, stripped-down version of the Serato DJ software.
However, you can easily upgrade these “no-frills” Serato controllers at a small extra cost.
The Serato DJ software works not only with the controllers but also with Club Kit which is currently referred to as DJ Essentials.
This affords you the capability to mix CDJ decks along with the timecode vinyl without relying on an interface.
This is a novel solution because of the HID technology that works through a USB on the compatible mixers.
To use this feature, you simply have to plug your laptop into the decks and mixer.
You can also easily leverage a club’s CDJs.
Serato DJ has a full free license but its controllers are pricey.
There is also the more affordable Serato Intro that you can upgrade into the Serato DJ for a fee of $129.
The Serato DJ expansion packs are priced at between $29 and $99.
There is also the Club It or DJ Essentials which goes for $169.
This, too, comes with the Serato DJ so you won’t worry about footing the extra cost for the DJ software.
If you want to have everything, then you can go for the Serato DJ Suite which costs $299.
RekordBox is a top choice for CDJ-based mixing applications.
In any case, if you are planning to mix the Pioneer CDJs, then it won’t even be a choice.
It will be the only choice as it’s the free music prep software for Pioneer.
The RekordBox is an extension of this and offers DJs a laptop-based control that includes both CDJs as well as the DJ controllers.
RekordBox has extensive integration with the Pioneer devices.
Pioneer being a leading hardware juggernaut in the industry, therefore, makes RekordBox one of the most ubiquitous DJ software tools that you are likely to encounter in your DJing craft.
Even if you leave out the CDJ applications, RekordBox DJ offers functionality that’s not too dissimilar from that of the Serato DJ.
It is a DJ software tool that you can easily connect to a deck or controller through a USB to a desktop computer or laptop.
Unlike Serato DK which enjoys compatibility with a vast range of gear, RekordBox has compatibility with less gear.
It supports just 22 controllers, 12 mixers, and 10 CDJs all of which are Pioneer hardware.
User Interface/ UX
The RekordBox user-interface is sleek and ultra-professional.
It oozes a distinctively Pioneer feel and looks modern, well laid out, and well thought out.
The sleekness and homogenous look are some of its most recognizable features.
The RekordBox user interface provides users with a horizontal side-by-side track view as well as a vertical track view just like its competitor Serato DJ.
RekordBox DJ also features an impressive library with mini waveforms that enable the DJ to quickly assess tracks before loading them.
This is a convenient and user-friendly feature that also makes your DJing a lot easier and more intuitive.
The core functionality of the interface is that you can use it even if you haven’t connected it to a deck or a controller.
This feature enables you to work with combos of tunes at any point in time when you are on deck even if you are still sketching out the mixes or setting your cue points.
The user interface design is one area where RekordBox DJ enjoys a superior advantage over Serato DJ.
It’s clean and ultra-professional.
The other edge is that it allows you to work offline even if it’s connected to a controller.
RekordBox DJ is built with various cutting-edge features including a sampler and a powerful FX.
It also features a solid edit-remix tool that compares favorably with the Serato Flip.
It even has an excellent quality version of the Pitch N Time with which you can make smooth transitions of tracks between the keys.
Its expansion packs are comparable to those of Serato DJ and they even appear similar in terms of the offerings:
- : this is a Video DJ software that you can use to integrate graphics and visualizers into sets.
- : Get access to a comprehensive suite of editable FX.
- : The launch of the vinyl turntable in 2016 demonstrated Pioneer’s commitment to support vinyl-heads. The DVS provides for timecode control for scratchers as well as any other DJs interested in running a timecode vinyl setup.
In terms of the features on offer, RekordBox offers you more value for the money.
With its extensive range of expansion sets, Serato DJ certainly offers you more when it comes to expandability thanks to it’s a decade of development and upgrades.
If you purchase the complete suite including the expansion packs, then RekordBox certainly costs more than Serato DJ.
RekordBox DJ doesn’t offer you the level of stability that you would get with Serato.
The RekordBox platform upon which it has been built has always been known for its stability problems.
Besides, the platform was not built for live use so stability considerations didn’t really matter in its early days.
Nowadays, with the software being deployed in live performances, stability is once again at the forefront of desirable traits.
While the stability issue still isn’t ironclad, there have been some improvements and upgrades to a level that the software crashes have become less and less frequent.
The other issue is that RekordBox DJ is a very CPU-intensive software and will not run smoothly on the older machines.
RekordBox DJ certainly lags behind when it comes to stability as well as its compatibility with the older machines.
In these areas, there is clearly some ground to be covered.
These will invariably improve with future updates but for now, expect some hitches on the stability front.
One of RekordBox DJ’s biggest draws is its extensive compatibility and deep integration with the Pioneer products.
In fact, the DJ software is officially restricted to Pioneer gear.
It is still possible, however, to unofficially map this software to controllers built by manufacturers other than Pioneer but this is generally a difficult and cumbersome process that is not recommended if you are looking for optimal performance and a bulletproof setup.
In terms of compatibility, its strongest point is the fact that RekordBox can also be used as a playlist prep software to mix on the Pioneer CDJs using a USB drive.
RekordBox should be your default choice in case you prefer mixing between the controllers and the CDJs using your USB.
Pioneer gear has previously been priced on the higher-end and it was expected that their controllers would follow suit and be similarly higher-priced.
However, the Pioneer DJ controllers have proven to be within reach with many costing less than $300.
Serato DJ clearly offers more when it comes to compatibility.
If you want to exclusively mix on your laptops and controllers, then you’d be better off with Serato DJ.
This is super convenient as you can easily turn up at a gig and plug your controller into an output.
This will also find wide applicability in the modern club scene where DJs are simply expected to plug in their controllers into a plug system via a connected laptop and get on with the gig.
However, most clubs are still dominated by Pioneer CDJ and the RekordBox DJ software will seamlessly plug into this existing system as it can also be used as prep software to create CDJ-enabled playlists to be used in the Pioneer setups.
You only need a USB to begin rocking up to your DJing gigs.
RekordBox is slightly more affordable than Serato DJ.
RekordBox is a free prep software that you can use to upload tunes onto a USB drive which you can subsequently use with your laptop.
On the other hand, the RekordBox DJ goes for $139.
It also features expansion packs with prices that vary from $10 for an extra FX to $159 for the RekordBox video.
The DVS pack goes for $109.
You can save money on your purchases of the suite as Pioneer usually bundles up each Pioneer controller with a free RekordBox DJ software so you won’t have to purchase the full software license when you grab this bundle.
Both Serato DJ and RekordBox DJ have their market segments where each plays to its strengths.
Serato DJ definitely reigns supreme in the DVS scene and remains the most preferred DJ software among scratchers.
While Serato DJ is a bit more complex, you can master its advanced features with a bit more practice, repetition, and dedication.
If you are a top DJ, you will appreciate Serato’s range of features that unlock lots of creative possibilities.
Unlike RekordBox which is limit do Pioneer gear, Serato DJ also offers you compatibility with a larger spectrum of controllers and delivers a more fully-featured setup at an affordable price range.
RekorBox’s biggest edge its seamless integration with the traditional CDJ setup used in most clubs worldwide.
RekordBox enables a DJ to easily plug into a CDJs using their USB sticks or choose to use a DJ controller along with a laptop setup.
RekordBox also allows DJs to use an all-in-one DJ controller setup.
Pioneer’s footprint in the DJ industries continues to grow and in the next few years, we can see it monopolizing this industry which will make RekordBox DJ the quintessential DJing software.