Best DJ Software: Traktor, Serato, or Ableton Live?

There are dozens of DJ softwares on the market: Traktor, Serato Scratch Live, Serato Itch, Serato DJ, Ableton Live, Virtual DJ, Algoriddim and more. It can be hard when you’re starting out as a DJ to know which is the best software to use, but once you have been DJing for a while, the choices become easier to make. Here we have laid out the pros and cons to the best DJ software on the market that we at Spin Academy would recommend. These are Serato Scratch Live, Serato Itch, Serato DJ, and Traktor.

Serato Scratch Live Review

Serato Scratch Live is still by far the most prominent DJ software used by professional DJs. Serato Scratch Live is used by scratch DJs like Jazzy Jeff and electro DJs like MSTRKFT. Doesn’t matter what genre, Scratch Live is the software most frequently used by the pros. It’s likely the most reliable, durable, capable and easy to use out of all the DJ softwares. So why not just go with this Serato Scratch Live then?

There are a few setbacks with using the Serato Scratch Live DJ software. The main one is price. While the software is free, you need hardware to use it, i.e. a Serato box, which will run you almost a 1000 bucks for the new version, or a mixer with Serato built in, like the Rane 61 which goes for around $1500 or the Rane 62 which goes for around $2,000. And that’s just the mixer or the box. This doesn’t include turntables.

The other setback to using Serato Scratch Live is the FX’s and the overall flexibility of the program. It is worth mentioning that the new Rane 62 mixer has made massive improvements for Serato regarding the use of FX’s, however it is still too early to tell whether they will surpass Traktor with this.

Pros of Serato Scratch Live:

  • Easy to Use

  • Reliable

  • Durable

  • Capable

Cons of Serato Scratch Live:

  • Expensive

  • Hard to use the FX

Serato Scratch Live’s Appearance:

Traktor Review

The main element that sets Traktor apart from the rest of the DJ software out there is that it has a lot of features that other DJ programs don’t have. It is also a lot cheaper than Serato Scratch Live. Traktor has more FXs and it is easier to trigger them on Traktor, especially if you’re using the Traktor S4 controller. The downside to having more features though is that if you are starting out it as a DJ, it might be overwhelming to use and overly complicated. Another major downside to Traktor is that their equipment is not very durable or built for the club environment. This is likely one of the main reasons it is not seen in many clubs, as well as that it is more prone to problems due to its complexity.

Pros of Traktor:

  • Cheap

  • Has lots of features

  • Has good FX and control of those FX

Cons of Traktor:

  • Hard to use

  • Not durable or built for the club

  • Too complex for beginners

Traktor’s Appearance:

Serato Itch Review

Serato Itch is primarily designed for the entry level DJ that doesn’t want to spend thousands on their first setup. One of its main strengths is its simplicity of use.

Serato Itch is a great software for the entry level DJ but does not have as many features as Serato Scratch Live. For example, you can’t adjust your gain levels for individual tracks in the program. This among other things makes it not qualify as a “professional DJ program”, but it is still great for the beginner.

Pros of Serato Itch:

  • Cheap

  • Easy to use

  • Easy to setup

  • Easy to learn on

Cons of Serato Itch:

  • Lack of crucial professional features

Serato Itch’s Appearance:

Serato DJ Review

Serato DJ, or Serato DJ Intro, is still a very new software therefore it’s hard to come to any conclusions about how good it is. It is bundled with some of the cheaper DJ options like the Pioneer DDJ SX and it has more features than Serato Itch, but still is not up to the quality of Serato Scratch Live. For example, in Serato DJ you can’t chronologically organize your cue points like you can in Scratch Live. We have also found it to be a little less reliable than Serato Scratch Live. For example, it needs the occasional restart to work properly, and the screen literally gets glitch sometimes. While it is likely these issues will be fixed soon, they haven’t been yet, therefore while it is recommended for a beginner DJ we would not recommend it as a “professional” DJ software yet.

Pros of Serato DJ:

  • More features than other entry level DJ programs
  • Cheap

Cons of Serato DJ:

  • Not as many pro features as Serato Scratch Live
  • New and glitch
  • Less reliable

Conclusion

If you have at least a few thousand to spend on DJ gear, go for Serato Scratch Live. There is a reason nearly 90% of pro DJs that use DJ software still use it. If you really like the extra features Traktor has or perhaps don’t want to spend the extra dollars, go for Traktor. If you’re a beginner, and want a solid program that has all the features you need but you don’t need anything too fancy, go for Serato Itch, or possibly Serato DJ.

You might ask, well how come you didn’t discuss Ableton Live as a DJ software option? Well there are a few reasons. Firstly Ableton live is not primarily designed to be a DJ program. It is far more complex, and can handle much more than DJing including producing tracks. If you’re an experienced producer or are highly familiar with Ableton Live, you’re already probably far beyond the depth of this article. We do not recommend Ableton Live as a “DJ software” unless you are already an experienced producer.

If you would like to check out some great tutorials on the software discussed in this article go to our DJ School, Spin Academy.

About the Author

DJ Roshan Virk has been a professional DJ at some of the largest clubs on the West coast of Canada for over 5 years. He is also co-founder of Spin Academy.

Comments

  1. hi man, thanks for the review, I'm looking for an easy-to-use software for scratching with mouse & keyboard, can you do that with Serato? because I downloaded Traktor Scratch and I found out that you can't scratch without the controller, thanks.

  2. Mixxx

  3. Serato freak

  4. Ashanrax Ashan says:

    nic

  5. nice bro

  6. virtual dj easy to use, and works well with mouse and keyboard

  7. Gabriel Bertozzi says:

    Hi folks! traktor o virtualdj? I work with pioneer ddj sx.

  8. Bruce Ivery says:

    ableton is NOT a DJ software!

  9. Chris Archibald says:

    Just like to say I've been using my Traktor X1 with the Z2 and control vinyl as a pro DJ and it hasn't missed a beat. You've also not mentioned the mass off professional DJ's that use Traktor. It's by far the cheapest, and most pro sounding of all DJ software on the market. It also blurs perfectly the worlds between Ableton Live and Serato.

  10. Traktor rules… period

  11. Fuck Traktor Just Use FL Studio 11 it's easy to use and if you do it my way then its totally free and you don't need to pay the $299 ;P
    First you need to download the demo version then use the crack file and you got the Fruity Loops Producer Edition!
    almost all Dutch DJ start with Fruity Loops and they almost never use something else!

    you can get all the files that you need from here: http://flstudio11crack.com/ (this site contains the FL Studio 11.0.2+Crack File)

    So Good Luck You Guys

  12. I feel as if Serato continues to stay up to date and continuously keeps up with the high demanding industry of digital DJing. My opinion is based on others post as we all share the same common interest of djing. In this forum information influence is a significant way for people to make the decision of what software is best for them. However there is a lot of conformity and people are not thinking on their own. So my overall position is that Serato has a better recording feature making it my personal favorite software to use.

  13. Pedrito Alegria says:

    thanks for this article.. was very useful

  14. Cary Broder says:

    Really useful!

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