Whether you are new to digital DJing or want to move away from more traditional scratching with turntables, choosing software can seem overwhelming. If you are a Mac user, then you don’t want to read about software that sounds like it has everything you need and then find out it only works with PCs. What is the best DJ software for Macs? Let’s find out!
There is no one best DJ software for your Mac. Instead, the best software depends on how you see yourself as a DJ, as well as your budget and your comfort level with technology.
Let’s dive into the details to help you find out more about what best suits your DJing needs!
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What Is Your Budget?
As with anything else, what you can afford depends on your budget and how much you want to spend. DJ software pricing comes in a variety of options:
- Completely free. You will find a couple of free programs, with no need to pay for upgrades.
- Partially free. A version with limited tools can be downloaded, but those will cost you if you want to upgrade.
- Temporarily free, sort of. Some software will give you a limited trial period.
- Free if you buy hardware. Certain programs are built into hardware components, so if you buy the hardware, the software is bundled into it.
Most software will cost somewhere between $100 and $200, depending on how many plug-ins you purchase. A few programs can also be purchased for a monthly subscription.
Generally, you get what you pay for. Free software can be great for starting out, but serious DJ’s will want to invest in a good DJ software for the longer term 🙂
How Comfortable Are You With Software?
Some software is extremely intuitive. You can download it and immediately start using it with little to no issues. Other software will require you to invest some time in mastering it. Typically, the easier the software, the fewer features it has. In some instances, the software has a robust set of capabilities, but it is geared toward one style of DJing.
If you envision yourself getting into the DJ business’s production side, you will be working with more complicated software.
The Essential Features to Look For
As you investigate different programs, here are key features that you want to look for:
- Beat matching. The ideal program has an auto beat matching feature. The better programs should also have an automix feature. That feature takes a list of songs or a series of tracks and remixes them for optimum performance.
- Pitch controls. You definitely want to be able to have control over speed and pitch. The best programs can change speed but keep the same pitch.
- Effects. Echoes, rewinds, delays, loops are essential. A program with FX effects is ideal. Also, you want to be able to see what’s happening with the music.
- Markers. You want a program that lets you cue a song to a specific spot, especially if you are a beginner. Better programs can give you up to 8 cue points.
- Faders, loops, and samples. These are standard for most programs, which is good since it is hard to imagine DJing without them.
If you plan to do a lot of scratching, then you need to make sure the software will work with your controller.
Without further ado, let’s start reviewing the software.
Serato—Excellent, Versatile Software
There’s a reason that Serato makes the top of many lists and is used by professional DJs like Tropkillaz, Skrillex, Jasmine Solano, and DJ Jazzy Jeff—it’s about the best, most versatile software for DJs.
Serato’s story began in 1999 when Steve West created Pitch ‘n Time. He needed a way to slow down bass solos without changing the pitch so that he could teach himself how to play them.
The company developed Noisemap, which let DJs control audio playback with records in 2000, followed by Scratch Studio Edition, one of the first programs to let DJs scratch digital samples and sound files with record players.
When you start with the Serato DJ Lite, you will be able to use two modes: practice and performance. In the practice mode, you will be able to:
- Practice playing two songs together without hardware.
- Set cue points on your tracks.
- Get seamless mixes with sync and pitch slider, also without hardware.
- Be able to set loops, or have the software create auto loops as well as be able to follow beats in a track with beatgrids.
- Have access to your iTunes library.
In the performance mode, you will be able to do all the above and add additional effects as you use your hardware.
Should you like Serato enough to jump to the Pro version, you will have additional features such as these:
- Record. If you want to save a set for later, you can.
- Ableton Link. Use this to sync Serato DJ Pro across other devices.
- Cue points. You will have double the amount of cue points.
- Sample. Up to eight samples can be loaded at a time.
- FX. Up to 46 different effects.
- Key analysis. Want to know what key a track is in? Serato DJ Pro will tell you.
Also, you will find a range of mixers and controllers that work seamlessly with Serato. Numark, Korg, Pioneer, and Roland are some of the major manufacturers whose hardware is Serato-enabled.
Biggest weakness: Serato is geared towards live DJing. If you are interested in producing or more creative DJing, then you will find Serato limiting.
Bottom line: For those DJs looking to perform and use either vinyl or controllers, Serato is the first program to look at. Start off with Serato DJ Lite, and if you like it, then give the Pro version a two-week test drive.
Mixvibes—Perfect for Starting Out
If you’re just starting and want to get comfortable with DJ software, then Mixvibes is for you. Should you hear someone mention Cross or Cross DJ, they are talking about the same product. Mixvibes released the first version of Cross/Cross DJ in 2008 and has updated it several times.
Consider starting with the Cross DJ free version to get started. The features are straightforward and easy to use:
- Beat detection. Cross DJ automatically determines the Beats Per Minute (BPM), so it can sync them for you. If you want to make adjustments, you can, but the automatic detection is just one of the features that make this an ideal program for beginners.
- Key detection. Matching keys is another skill that is difficult to learn. Cross DJ’s tells you what songs would be suitable matches.
- Music retrieval. You will be able to use your iTunes playlists and also create playlists that will update themselves as you add more music to your library.
- Audio formats compatibility. Apple Lossless, MP3, and most other audio formats.
With CrossDJ, you will also be able to record your mixes and then share them on YouTube, Soundcloud, or Mixcloud.
If you have a macOS 10.6 or above and 2 GB Ram, your computer will be able to handle this software. And an upgrade to the paid version will give you a MIDI Device function and add two more players.
Biggest negative: The software is user-friendly at the cost of having more robust DJing functions. Once you start upgrading to more advanced features, like VJ mixing or Ableton Live, you will have spent nearly as much as you would on more professional software.
Bottom line: If you are a beginner who wants to get your feet wet, Cross DJ is an excellent choice.
Mixxx—the Best Free DJ Software
If you are looking for high-quality software, Mixxx is high on our list of recommendations. It has a lot of pro features at a price that is unbeatable—free.
Since the download is free, you do not have to deal with the limitations of a demo version. You also will not have to give your credit card information, worry about whether the program is legal, or keep getting messages asking if you want to upgrade.
Mixxx is open source software, meaning anyone can access the code and modify it. The Mixxx development team has been working together since 2001, meaning they have had two decades to improve the product.
You will be able to do the following in Mixxx:
- Control pitch and key. Not only can you change the pitch of your song without changing the tempo, but you will also be able to change the tempo and keep the pitch. If you do manual beat-making, this is a great feature.
- Loop beats. Easily add a beat segment.
- Sync your decks. Mixxx gives you four decks to work with. You will be able to use the waveforms to watch for cue points. You can also lock in your syncs if you adjust the tempo on a song.
- Mark cues. Indicate places in tracks for mashups or remixes with the hot cue feature.
- EQ and crossfade. You will have lots of options with the equalizer isolators and curve controls on the crossfader.
- Format support. Compatible with WAV, AIFF, Mp3, Opus, Ogg Vorbis, and other formats.
You can use the program as is, or manipulate the software to your liking if that is something you are comfortable with. There’s a timecode vinyl control feature, and Mixxx can be mapped to hardware controllers and integrated with iTunes libraries.
Biggest negative: As it’s open-source software, it does not have the help and support that you would expect from a company that controls its software. Tweaks that programmers make could cause bugs and instability. If this happens when you are performing, this could cause a problem.
Bottom line: If you are willing to put the time into learning the system and feel comfortable with your ability to adjust as needed, Mixxx will not cost you anything but your time.
Traktor DJ2 and Pro 3—Equal to Serato
Imagine connecting your iPad to a Bluetooth speaker and doing your DJ bit, or hooking your iPad to a controller and out to speakers. Those are just two set-ups you can do if you are using Traktor software.
Native Instruments, which sells Traktor DJ2, began selling DJ software around the same time as Serato. Whereas Serato started out focused on software, Native Instruments started out with a focus on electronic music and software instruments. Its software, therefore, leans toward the production and creation of music.
That does not mean Traktor is not a good software option for DJs. If what you want to do is straightforward DJing, then Traktor DJ2 is for you. However, if you want a robust program that offers a full range of DJ tools, then you should head to the Traktor Pro 3.
The learning curve with Traktor Pro 3 is steep compared to some other products we’ve mentioned. For starters, when you go to the website, you are faced with an overwhelming number of choices. You need to scroll halfway down to find the Traktor products. Compare that to the simplicity of the Serato website.
As you read over some of the key features, you will see how Traktor has a stronger focus on creating music:
- Multiple layouts. Although having multiple layouts is a great feature, it is also a choice that you don’t have to make with some other software.
- Sound shaping. Traktor DJ lets you adjust the EQ and add filters to each channel. Once you can take the bass of a track and then blend in only vocals, you are beginning the process of turning one song into another.
- Freeze Mode. This allows you to slice off one-beat segments from a track, and then use them to create new sounds. Traktor DJ says you can play them “like an instrument.”
Biggest negative: Traktor DJ2 has a limited number of effects (four) and only two decks. If you want to have more effects, beat and tempo syncing, and MIDI mapping, then the DJ2 is too limiting for you.
Bottom line: If you see yourself as a DJ/musician and want to learn how to master software designed for that, you will love Traktor Pro 3. The DJ2 program is an excellent free choice if you want to be able to DJ from your iPad or laptop.
Virtual DJ and Virtual DJ Pro—an Excellent Beginner’s Software
Another company that has been around for close to 20 years is Atomix, maker of Virtual DJ. Atomix claims that Virtual DJ is the #1 DJ software based on how many times Virtual DJ has been downloaded. We can see why—their website proclaims Virtual DJ “lets you start mixing as a DJ right away.”
It’s easy to see why a beginner would download Virtual DJ.
What the company does not distinguish in its claim is how often someone who downloaded Virtual DJ went on to buy Virtual DJ Pro. That could be because the Virtual DJ that people download for free is limited to what you can do with a trackpad and keyboard. As soon as you try to add a controller, you will have no choice but to pay for Virtual DJ Pro.
Here are some of the features you will get if you use Virtual DJ:
- DJ mixer. The mixer comes with everything you would expect—smart sync, looping, hot cues, waveforms, equalizer, and filter, and more.
- Video mixing. This is one area where DJ Mixer Pro excels. Virtual DJ Pro works with leading video formats in both full-HD and 4K. Transitions, text-to-screen, song titler, screen grabbing, overlays are all available.
- Visualizations and video graphics. You will be able to display graphics that sync with your music. There are thousands of visualizations available. You can also display skins that emulate your screen to engage your audience.
- Karaoke features. You will be able to use karaoke formats to use on-screen lyrics display, add the singer’s name, background graphics between singers, and more.
- Broadcasting. Integrate your podcasts with iTunes, broadcast video to social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. Build your own web radio station or broadcast to web stations.
Biggest negative: For many people, the biggest drawback is the price. Yes, upgrades come with the price, and there is no need to purchase expansion packs, but the current price of nearly $300 or around $20 a month subscription fee is double that of the Serato DJ Pro basic subscription fee, which is currently about $10. Even the full suite of Serato features is still $5 less than Virtual DJ Pro.
Bottom line: Although Virtual DJ Pro has many features you would expect in software, it excels in streaming and the use of video editing. If you are a professional DJ who needs that functionality, then the price might be worth it.
Ableton Live—Software for the Creative DJ
We mentioned Skrillex earlier as a Serato user. However, he is also mentioned here because of Ableton Live. Armin van Buuren and David Guetta are two other DJs who use Ableton Live. So what is Ableton Live?
First, it isn’t strictly DJ software, but it is used by a lot of DJs. They use it because it is a DAW tool.
What Is DAW?
So what is a DAW tool? DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. Originally, this referred to workstations used in music and audio production to combine music from various sources, such as keyboards, computers, and other sources, into a completed recording.
Today DAW also refers to software that does the same thing, except on a single computer. If you have ever used Audacity, then you have used a simple DAW. It is free, open-source software that is often used in educational settings.
Why Use a DAW Tool Like Ableton?
These are the reasons that you might want to use Ableton Live:
- You want to create original tracks or edit or remix tracks made by others.
- You are sick of beatmatching (or aren’t particularly good at it).
- You want to use older tracks where tempos or pitch are wobbly.
- You like learning to use complicated software.
Since Ableton Lite is not typical DJ software, there might be reasons not to use it:
- You want something easy to use and want to start mixing once you have downloaded it.
- You are an experienced DJ who likes beatmatching.
- You are happy with what you can do and don’t want to learn something new that you might never use, such as more than two decks.
Biggest weakness: Because it is a DAW, Ableton will require you to rethink how you DJ. This is not software for beginners. Also, the beginner’s pack is around $100, and the standard is over $400.
Bottom line: If you want to branch out and become a more versatile DJ and see yourself not just mixing beats but making your own, then a DAW like Ableton Lite is something you should check out. Try it out for free for 90 days.
Apple Logic Pro X—DAW Software Made for Mac
Some live DJs prefer to use DAW software made specifically for Apple, such as Logic Pro X. It will integrate with other Apple products, so if you want to use your iPhone or iPad to control the program on your Mac, you can.
Other features of Apple Logic Pro X you might like include:
- Drag and drop hot zones for easier editing in the Sampler plug-in.
- Slice mode to take a sample and break it apart and create your own sequences.
- Plug-ins for a drum synthesizer, or design your drum machine.
- Use flex time and flex pitch to easily adjust the timing and pitch of your recordings.
- Create alternate tracks and then be able to compare them for increased experimentation.
Biggest weakness: See the Ableton review. Everything we said about Ableton’s weakness is true here also.
Bottom line: If you plan to stay with Macs, then Apple Logic is an excellent DAW that integrates with other Apple products, such as iPad and iPhone. Again, as with any DAW, Apple is for DJs who want to branch out into producing or creating their own music.
Dex 3—Easy-to-Use Software for Mac Users
Dex, or PCDJ DEX, as it used to be called, is a program that should get more press for Mac users. With Dex 3, you get an easy-to-use software that doesn’t require the learning curve of other, more robust products. The iPad DJ app has some cool features:
- iTunes sync. The iPad DJ version automatically syncs with your library. Use mixes you have created, make new ones, or use automix to let the program do the work for you.
- Hands-on. Or should we say fingers-on? Use your fingers for scratching or back spinning if you use the platter tab. The cues tab will let your fingers do the drumming. Other tabs let you create effects, change your waveforms, and create loops.
- Controller support. Pioneer, Denon, Numark, and Reloop are some of the DJ controllers that support Dex 3.
Biggest weakness: Dex 3 does not have the advanced feature of a program like Serato or Traktor.
Bottom line: If you plan to DJ Karaoke parties, then Dex 3 is worth a look. The Party Tyme Karaoke Subscription service currently has over 16,000 songs. Your monthly subscription fee is for commercial purposes. The price is currently $99 a month, so it is obviously for professional DJs. This PCDJ DEX 3 Party Tyme Karaoke Subscription video explains the system in more detail.
CuteDJ Pro—Beginner Software With Video Editing Features
This is another easy-to-use software that is fun and not overwhelming. You will be able to mix audio, cue, slice, look, scratch, and mash your mixes. CuteDJ Pro also gives you the ability to mix videos.
You can also do the following:
- iTunes integration. Just like Dex 3, you can instantly access your iTunes music and playlists.
- Automix. Your playlists can be mixed automatically.
- Harmonic match. CuteDJ Pro automatically detects the key of a song and can match it to others in the same key or same tempo.
- Record your mix. MP3, WAV, or AIFF files are supported.
- MIDI and controller supports. CuteDJ Pro works with close to 100 controllers.
Biggest weakness: The limited features. CuteDJ wants to market itself as a professional DJ software, but the features are not robust enough for a professional DJ, outside of Karaoke.
Bottom line: If you are a beginner and want to have an easy-to-use software where you can practice editing video and audio, sign up for a free 30-day trial and see if you like it.
Pioneer DJ Rekordbox
If you buy Pioneer controllers, then you will have the option to use Rekordbox. We have nothing bad to say about Rekordbox because it looks and feels a lot like Serato, Traktor, and Virtual DJ. If you plan to use only Pioneer hardware, then Rekordbox is a good option. But if you do not want to be limited by one manufacturer, you should consider going with other software.
PC Only Software
Some software will claim to be both for PC and Macs, but don’t be fooled and download something that will not work on your Mac. Avoid these products:
- MAGIX Products
- Samplitude Music Studio
- Sound Forge
- Magic Digital DJ
- Music Maker
There is no shortage of DJ software for Mac users, whether you are a beginner or wanting to branch out. Our bottom line is that Serato is excellent for any DJ, Traktor is excellent for DJs who want to explore electronic music, and Virtual DJ is an excellent choice if you see yourself going into Karaoke and want a program that will work with anything, then Virtual DJ is for you.