Best Mac Set Up For Djing

Posted By admin On 16.02.22

Good mixing software can make all the difference in your performance. Whether you're using a Mac, Windows, or Linux, every level of skill and budget is catered for if you want to start DJing. Whats the best Serato Set Up for a MAC??? This area is for discussion about DJing in general. Please remember the community rules when posting and try to be polite and inclusive.

Hi All, I've recently moved from a windows laptop to a mac and I'm also looking to change the equipment I use when DJing with Live. Before the change I was using an X-Session Pro as a mixer/controller and a Numark DJio as an audio interface. We all know that when it comes to computers Mac is the superior machine in terms of basic performance, but is it the best DJ laptop? There are many factors that make a laptop a solid piece of DJ equipment, and the brand name isn’t always it.

Thanks to the fierce competition, Apple is under more pressure to design the best Macs ever. As a result, we’re getting better and more powerful machines like the Mac Pro 2019, which is coming later in 2019 possibly alongside the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro.

In fact, if you’d rather not wait and want to get your hands on one of the best Macs now, there’s already quite a few excellent options to choose from, especially with Apple recently giving its MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and 15-inch MacBook Pro much-needed refresh.

To expand your choices further, the Apple computers are incredibly diverse. The best Macs cover everything from thin and light notebooks like the 12-inch MacBook, which is still on hand at third-party sites despite being discontinued, to professional workhorses like the iMac Pro.

Taking all these into consideration, it can be tricky choosing the perfect Mac for you. We put together a list of the best Macs we’ve tested ourselves – from iMacs to MacBooks – to help you with that important decision. Let’s dive in to all the best Macs you can buy right now, no matter your budget and use.

1. Mac Mini 2018

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – Core i7 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 RAM: 8GB – 32GB Storage: 128GB – 2TB PCIe-based SSD Dimensions (W x D x H): 19.7 x 19.7 x 3.6cm

Hugely improved specs

Mac Mini fans, rejoice! The Mac Mini has finally been upgraded with modern hardware, ushering Apple’s smallest Mac to the modern age and naturally warranting it the top spot in our best Macs list. This tiny thing is packed with 8th-generation desktop processors, a ton of RAM and some of the fastest SSDs we’ve seen – all while keeping the same adored form factor. It’s a tad pricier this time around, but with the raw speed on offer, you’ll find that it’s worth the price increase.

Read the full review: Mac Mini 2018

2. MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Apple’s productivity machine gets the latest Intel tech

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630 RAM: 16GB – 32GB Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD Dimensions (H x W x D): 34.93 x 24.07 x 1.55cm

Screen remains gorgeous
Lack of ports

If you want the most performance you can get in a MacBook without needing to pull off a heist, you’ll want to look into the MacBook Pro 15-inch. Now refreshed with hexa-core 9th-generation processors and up to 32GB of RAM, you won’t be held back by anything you throw at it – especially now that you can get Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics. With that kind of performance, the MacBook Pro takes a lofty spot on our best Macs list without breaking a sweat.

Read the full review:MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

3. Apple iMac (27-inch, 2019)

Apple’s most affordable all-in-one

CPU: up to 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 570X – Radeon Pro Vega 48 RAM: 8GB – 64GB Screen: 27-inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display 5120 x 2880 Storage: 1TB Fusion Drive – 2TB SSD Dimensions (H x W x D): 51.6 x 65.0 x 20.3 cm

Stunning 5K display
SSD upgrades are expensive

The iMac has long been one of the cheaper ways to get into the macOS ecosystem, and we’re glad that hasn’t changed. Though what has changed, we also appreciate. The new iMac is packing with 8th- and 9th-generation desktop-class processors, letting this stylish all-in-one reach that fabled 8-core performance. If you’re looking for an all-in-one Mac, the new 27-inch iMac might just be the best Mac for you, at least if you’re on a budget.

Read the full review:iMac (27-inch, 2019)

4. MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, mid-2018)

CPU: 7th-generation Intel Core i5 – 8th-generation Intel Core i5 Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 655 RAM: 8GB – 16GB Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2,560 x 1,600 Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.49cm

Much more powerful
Keyboard learning curve

The biggest issue with the older MacBook Pro was that it was still packing Kaby Lake processors while its rivals had moved ahead. Luckily, the MacBook Pro 2018 changes everything, making it more powerful than ever. It still has the controversial Butterfly keyboard, but that’s also been improved so that its quieter and more reliable. It’s not hard to recommend the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018 to anyone looking for the best Macs.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, mid-2018)

5. iMac Pro

CPU: 8 to 18-core Intel Xeon W Graphics: Radeon Pro Vega 56 - Radeon Pro Vega 64 RAM: 32GB – 256GB DDR4 ECC Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color) Storage: 1TB – 4TB PCIe 3.0 SSD Dimensions (H x W x D): 65 x 20.3 x 51.6cm

Most powerful Mac you can buy
Very expensive

Professionals and creatives need something that can handle any workload they can possibly throw at it. If you’re one such user, the iMac Pro isn’t just one of the best Macs for you; it’s the only Mac to consider. Not only does it have a vibrant 27-inch 5K display with a P3 wide color gamut, but it also boasts the most powerful hardware Apple could get its hands on. It’s extremely expensive though, so it’s really only meant for folks who have deep pockets and need that unbridled power to get through their daily workloads.

Read the full review:iMac Pro

6. Apple MacBook Air (2019)

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 RAM: 8GB – 16GB Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

Lovely design
Fantastic battery life

Apple takes the MacBook Air (2018) and gives it a bit of refresh, adding True Tone technology to its display and an even more reliable keyboard. Unfortunately, it hasn’t upgraded the specs – which actually leads us to think that there might be a bigger update by early 2020. However, to be fair to this refresh, the 2018 version has already made our list, so this improved version is just as deserving or more so. But the best part is yet to come: this refresh is even cheaper, so you’re definitely getting more value for less.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (2019)

7. MacBook (2017)

Small and stylish

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core m3 – Core i5 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 RAM: 8GB – 16GB Screen: 12-inch Retina (2,304 x 1,440) IPS Storage: 256GB – 512GB PCIe SSD Dimensions (W x D x H): 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14~0.52in

Incredibly portable
Too expensive

While Apple has officially taken the MacBook out of its MacBook lineup, many third parties are still carry it. And because the 12-inch MacBook has found its niche as an ultraportable and lightweight laptop, it’s still deserving of a spot on our best Macs list… that is, until stock runs out. It’s low on ports, but that’s hardly a surprise in a laptop this thin. It can support basically everything under the sun with its Thunderbolt 3 port, anyway. It’s not as powerful as the MacBook Pro, but if you’re looking for a MacBook that’s easy to take with you wherever you go, look no further.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook (2017)

Michelle Rae Uy, Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

  • Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptops 2019
  • Stay safe online with our pick of the best Mac VPNs

By Michael Pierce & Giulio Chiarenza

Whether you’re new at this and have decided to become a DJ, or you’re a veteran looking for a change of pace, welcome! In this guide we’ll talk about what you need to consider when entering the world of computer-based DJing, as well as make some recommendations for some of the best, most robust DJ software out there.

  • 5 Top Choices

DJing: Then and Now

For many of us when we hear the term DJ we immediately conjure up an image of a pair of turntables and a mixer. For a long time this image was the only relevant one. DJs carried large crates of vinyl records to and from gigs, and spent hours at the record store choosing their music. Next came the CDJ and those crates of vinyl turned into booklets full of CDs and USB sticks. Recently though, with the rise of digital technology and the increased power and portability of laptops (as well as the decreased cost), the computer DJ is taking the world by storm.

DJ software allows the user to mix and perform music in the same style, and using the same methods as a traditional vinyl DJ does. In many cases the software even allows the use of special control vinyl or CDs, which are encoded to allow the user to physically control any song on their laptop. Whether you want to stand up in front of a crowd with only your laptop, or with an arsenal of hardware (limited only by your imagination) there is a DJ software out there for you.

What Exactly is DJ Software?

Before we launch into how to select a DJ software and talk about specific ones, let’s talk a bit on what exactly DJ software is and isn’t (this section is aimed more towards someone just getting started so if you want to skip straight to the recommendations, just click here). While an individual DJ software can be complex, the concept is pretty simple. It’s a software that virtually recreates two (or more) turntables (a.k.a. decks or music players), and a mixer to mix between the decks. Another big component of DJ software is the music library, which is basically your collection of music imported into the software (usually found in the lower half of the screen). The software can quickly scan and analyze your music to automatically determine your tracks’ tempos, the keys they’re in, and other essential DJ info with a high degree of accuracy.

With the power of software, a lot of the manual work involved in traditional DJing has been automated, the end result being that you can get right down to business, DJing and putting together a killer mix or a set. There is good and bad to this, and it’s a subject that has the DJ world fairly divided. Purists argue that automating everything - from dissecting track attributes to auto-beatmatching (a.k.a. sync) - takes away from the art of DJing. The upside is that this opens up DJing to a lot more people, and the downside is that the learning curve of doing everything manually would result in a more skilled DJ in the end.

Another interesting aspect of “virtual” DJing and DJ software is that everything is on your computer’s screen. If you get DJ software by itself, there’s not really any hardware like the knobs and faders of the mixer, or the jog dial of the music player. The art of DJing lends itself to hardware, since you ideally want to make constant adjustments over everything, ensuring that your set is as tight as can be. Anyone reading this who has DJ’ed before knows that during a set you and your music sort of become one, and you tend to work your hardware like a musician plays any musical instrument; The tactile feeling is important.

The point is this: The DJ software is the heart and brains of the operation, but some hardware (in the form of DJ controllers) is necessary as well, and serves as the muscles and bones. In fact, some DJ software doesn’t really work without hardware. Just realize that as you read our reviews for the best DJ software, you’ll want to keep in mind what compatible hardware you might also need. So:

computer + DJ software + DJ controller = the ideal digital DJ setup!

Read this guide first to make sure you know your software options, and after go check out our guide to selecting the best DJ controller.

5 Things to Consider when Choosing your DJ Software

1) Price

  • How much are you willing to spend on your DJing? There is a wide range so it’s important to consider your budget. Remember to also keep in mind how much leftover cash you require in case you need to invest in a hardware DJ controller (or perhaps the DJ controller includes a license for the DJ software, or at least a pared down version of it).
  • If you go the free route you can often get the lite version of a major program as a way to learn it and then transition to the paid version. The lite versions tend to have fewer features and sometimes time usage restrictions but are a great way to lean a program.

2) Features

  • What does your hard-earned money get you? Do you want detailed RBG waveform readouts? Are the volume meters accurate? What kind of effects does the DJ software come with? How many tracks can be played at once? Remember, more is not always better. Features are great but can sometimes lead to a more complex (read: harder to use) program. An important feature to consider is how’s the library storage and organization of the music? Finding (and organizing) your music is important!

3) Program Stability & Quality

  • Does this program crash a lot? Looking at reviews of DJ software can help weed out the ones with stability issues. This is an area where free programs tend to lag behind the paid ones. Is the manufacturer diligent about releasing bug fixes and updates on a regular basis?

4) Compatibility

  • Physical
    • Will it work with the hardware you currently own? What about the gear you plan to use in the future?
    • Does it require any components (ex. a specific soundcard) to run?
    • Does it lock you into any company’s gear? Do you like that company? (ex. Pioneer’s rekordbox locks you into Pioneer equipment)
  • Digital
    • Does it have any special connections with other audio programs? Serato and Ableton’s ‘The Bridge’ are good examples of two programs made to work closely together.
    • Is it compatible with your Operating System? It’s important to double check and make sure that you buy a program that will work on your computer!
    • Can the program be used on its own without anything other than a mouse/trackpad and keyboard? This is great for set preparation.

5) Aesthetics & Layout

  • Do you want vertical or horizontal decks? Do you want them to be connected next to or on top of each other or, would you rather they were separated? It’s important to find one that makes the most sense to you.
  • Less commonly thought about but still important - do you like how it looks and feels? After all you’ll be staring at the interface for hours at a time, so it’s important that you like it.

The Best DJ Software - 5 Top Choices


We’ve selected and reviewed what we feel are the the 5 best DJ software. We made our selection based on a bunch of different factors: popularity in the DJ community, price, reputable manufacturers, versatility, ease of use for beginners, customization for veterans, and overall number of recommendations in forums and discussions around the Web. Four out of the five programs we recommend follow the more traditional turntables and a mixer style, while the other one (Ableton Live) is sort of its own thing altogether.

Without further ado, let’s get to the recommendations!

Native Instruments TRAKTOR Pro

Whether you're new to DJing or simply looking to upgrade from a more traditional set-up, it's likely that you've already heard of digital DJ software Native Instruments TRAKTOR Pro 2. Available on Mac and PC and compatible with a range of hardware, from timecode vinyl to all-in-one controllers, TRAKTOR provides novices and pros alike with a solid digital DJ package. Affordable, user-friendly, and with a host of big name DJs using the software, it's fair to say that TRAKTOR has certainly played its part in pushing DJing into the mainstream.


Let's start with the music. The usual file formats of mp3, WAV and FLAC are supported, as well as a few others.

The browser layout is simple and intuitive, with customizable columns that allow you to select and display plenty of track information as well as sections for artwork, track previews and favourite playlists. To the side of the browser you can organize folders, create playlists, browse and search for music elsewhere on your computer or an external drive. There's also a customizable grid of text above each deck which allows you to display track details according to preference.

To make use of some important features, it's necessary to have each track analyzed to find its BPM and set the beatgrid accordingly. Although the detection algorithm is remarkably accurate, it's not always correct; a track with an unusual intro or complex percussion can sometimes throw it, so it's a good idea to go through your collection and check, making manual adjustments where necessary. You can also save cue and loop points, allowing you to jump to specific parts of a track.


The mixer layout is much how you would expect it; the channel faders, crossfader and EQs are conventionally placed between the decks, with gain, filter, keylock, cue and pan on adjacent columns. Keylock is TRAKTOR's version of master tempo on CDJs. If enabled, the pitch of the track will stay the same, regardless of how much it's slowed down or sped up. TRAKTOR actually goes even further by allowing you to alter both the pitch and speed of a track simultaneously. Of course, the further away from the original pitch or speed you go, the more likely it is the quality will suffer. The EQs and filters aren't limited to a single type either; a decent selection of alternatives, modeled on some popular hardware mixers, is also on offer.


The decks in TRAKTOR can be configured in a number of ways. You can have a standard A & B setup, or you can add in C & D for a four deck configuration. You can also choose from four different types of deck. First you have a track deck for playing single tracks, looping and using cue points. Then there's the remix deck which can be used to trigger pre made loops, one shots or samples. There's a neat feature that lets you drag a looped segment directly from a track deck to a remix deck to be triggered or looped as and when you choose. The relatively new format Stems is supported with its own deck, allowing for separate parts of a track to be manipulated independently. Finally, there's a live input deck which more or less speaks for itself.

There's also a healthy list of FX available to apply to any of your four decks, ranging from simple reverbs and delays to weird, complex modulators. With up to four FX racks, that can each be configured as a single effect or in combinations of up to three, there is plenty to get stuck into, and many ways to get creative here.


Naturally, you'll want the option of a more hands-on approach to performing. There's a long list of compatible hardware from both third party manufacturers and Native Instruments themselves. Deciding on what to use requires some research and will largely depend on your style and budget. The all-in-one 'S' range (like the budget-friendly S2 or the more full-featured S4) will give you the most control, but it comes at a price. The great news is, if you buy either of those controllers, you get the full TRAKTOR Pro 2 software included! For simple playback, cueing and FX triggering a single KONTROL X1 will suffice. If remix decks and Stems are more your thing, then the F1 might be more appropriate. You could even use a third party MIDI controller, with key mappings for ‘TRAKTOR Ready’ devices already included in the software.


Being a live performance tool, stability is paramount and overall the program is well built with few noticeable glitches. Naturally the user experience will vary, often depending on the hardware being used.

The software isn't perfect, of course. At times, we’ve had issues with the tagging system utilized by TRAKTOR. For a while we had to use a duplicate music folder for fear of having our carefully labelled metadata overwritten by what TRAKTOR deemed to be more suitable.

Bottom Line: It might seem like a lot to get your head around, and sure, the deeper you dig, the more time you'll need for testing and tweaking until the software works exactly how you want. But if you're keen on moving into digital Djing, TRAKTOR would be our best recommendation. With a multitude of easy-to-use features, stability and a range of supported hardware, all at a competitive price, it's certainly worth the investment. TRAKTOR gives you both flexibility and the freedom to experiment. The extent of creativity is only limited by how far you want to push it. Best of the Best.

Serato DJ

Hailing from New Zealand, Serato is the go-to program for any DJ who yearns for the old feel of vinyl with the conveniences of modern DVS (Digital Vinyl System) systems and a friendly introduction for newcomers to the industry. Serato and its main competitor, Native instrument’s TRAKTOR, exist on opposite sides of the same coin. Both are fantastic programs that take digital DJing in slightly different directions. TRAKTOR (and many other programs) require many adjustments to settings and calibrations, which can be overwhelming to DJs who just want to play their music. Serato’s philosophy is that everything should work seamlessly and with as little effort as possible. This philosophy makes Serato one of the best options when it comes to DJ software.


Serato has one of the best looks in the industry. It has a beautiful dark colored minimal design to it, which makes accessing all of the information you need extremely easy. In bright white, easily visible against the dark greys and black of Serato, are your virtual platters. These display a wealth of information about the current track such as the BPM, time elapsed and time remaining. They also provide a platter position indicator, which represents one full rotation of a vinyl platter. This is particularly useful for vinyl DJs and beat juggling, and vinyl DJs will feel right at home looking at the screen. Its resemblance to actual vinyl platters makes it one of the most vinyl DJ-friendly options out there.

Serato’s waveforms (the visualization of the music) are detailed and bright with a full color spectrum. They can be arranged in several different ways (and you can have up to 4 on the screen at any given time). Whether you like your waveforms to run vertically, horizontally, massive and easy to see, or small for easy library browsing, there is a view mode for you. These viewing options can be adjusted on the fly to suit your needs. In addition to the main waveform you are also given a smaller version, which shows where you are along the track and a special beat matching waveform, which highlights the beats in the tracks making beat matching visually incredibly easy.

Creating playlists, or crates, as they are known in Serato, is a genuine pleasure. Above the library is a little image of a crate, and all you have to do to add a new crate is click. Next to it though is the best bit, a similar crate, this time with the letter S on it. The S stands for smart crate. When you add a smart crate you will be asked to add rules to it. An example of a rule (and all of these are given to you, you don’t need to be a programming wizard to add them) is “BPM - greater than or equal to 128.” Then you hit save and the playlist will automatically fill itself with every track in your library that meets these conditions and will automatically add new ones as you update your library. If you happen to already have your music organized in iTunes then no need to fret. Serato automatically loads in your iTunes playlists as well.

Creating hot cues and loops is also staggeringly easy in Serato. Both can be created with just a single click of the mouse or touch on your controller/CDJ. They are displayed on the waveform and the cues are color coded so you’ll never confuse one with another.

Control Features such as the ever controversial sync and quantize features are also included. These are unobtrusive and non-mandatory for those who want to do it “old school,” but are a useful tool for those who want them.

Serato also comes with a built in key detection and adjust feature. As tracks are analyzed Serato determines their key and displays it, helpfully color-coded, in the track list. Keys may also be switched live in the mix with a single click.


The number one advantage of choosing Serato is that, like your favorite Apple products, “It Just Works.” Whether using CDJs, vinyl, or controllers Serato is as simple as Plug and Play. You will need to use Serato approved hardware but there are plenty of options and they are meticulous about choosing their equipment so it’s no great sacrifice.

Serato has an excellent reputation for stability. It is by no means crash-proof (no software ever is) and the quality of your hardware definitely plays a strong role, but overall the simplicity of the software means there is very little to go wrong in the system.


One caveat with Serato is that in-order to use the program you must plug in an approved piece of hardware. Without it you will still be able to edit you track information like beatgrids, cues, and loops but you will be restricted to one deck with no platter. To unlock the second platter you can plug in several pieces of hardware. This can be one of Serato and Rane’s SL series of audio interfaces (the SL2 and SL3 are backwards compatible as well as the current generation: SL4). Some devices such as the Pioneer DJM S9 Mixer immediately unlock Serato with no purchase of a license at all! Others such as the Denon MC2000 controller require separate purchase of a Serato license before unlocking its functions.

The trade-off here is that while you are locked into specific hardware to use, this hardware is all vetted by Serato and is seamless to use as soon as you plug it in. No messing with mappings and confusing calibrations. It just works. Additionally there are a large number of these approved products so most people won’t feel constrained by the list (which may be viewed on the Serato website). Additionally, while Serato may be controlled successfully with just a keyboard and mouse (a device such as an SL interface would still be required to use it) it really is meant to work alongside hardware, as its seamless integration is where it really comes into its own.

Bottom Line: The yin to TRAKTOR’s yang, Serato DJ embraces the DJ that still prefers the feel of vinyl (or, at least, some form of circle) beneath their fingertips. While both TRAKTOR and Serato have vinyl-friendly capabilities, Serato remains the reigning king of digital vinyl systems around the planet. If you’re just starting out you’ll find it a fun and intuitive introduction to the world of DJing. Serato DJ stands out among the best of them. Its beautiful interface, simple workflow, and powerful features make it one of the best choices when picking your DJ software.

Ableton Live

Ableton Live is THE live performance software, so much so, it is branded rather explicitly in its name. Anytime you see a laptop on stage at your favorite gig or DJ set, chances are the trusty glow of Ableton’s Session view is in sight. PLEASE NOTE: Ableton Live is NOT a traditional DJ software that aims to emulate turntables and a mixer. It’s a much more flexible and unique live performance environment, and we would be remiss to exclude it in our list of DJ software to consider.

Ableton Live also makes an appearance in our guide to the Best DAWs. For every step of the music creation process, Ableton is there to help capture your ideas and edit them to perfection. But the other half of this great piece of software is where Live really shines, and that is in its live performance, made incredible by its Session view. That’s what we’ll focus on in this review.

Creating arrangements on the fly, tweaking knobs and FX to infinite possibilities, and even crossfading in realtime is where Live really begins to shine, so much so that Ableton Live begins to blur the line between performance in the studio, and performance on stage, which is why we (and probably your favorite band, DJ, or producer) think Ableton is absolutely brilliant.

The Session view is what separates Ableton from other DAWs, and even makes one question the traditional DAW format. This view contains a grid with rows and columns - the columns being the track/instrument and the rows holding clips. These clips are made up of audio samples or MIDI notes depending on the track. An entire row consisting of clips of different tracks is then called a Scene.To get an arrangement going, simply play a clip and it will loop until you either stop it or tap on the next one. Add in some other elements, and before you know it, you are cooking with gas. Place different clips strategically and voila, you have a finished track. It becomes clear just how powerful this Session view is in your first moments with Ableton.

One of our writers and Ableton expert, Glen, explains how one might use the Session view:

My journey with Ableton’s Session view began using each clip as a scratch pad for musical ideas. I’d play my MIDI piano for minutes till I found the one melody I liked and hit Tab key to switch to arrangement view and drag it over.

As I began to enjoy and get used to this radical departure from my other DAW of choice, Logic, I then began exploring it as an extremely powerful looper for my guitar. Layer after layer, clip after clip, I would build up giant tracks. After adding drums, and then some bass, I had a full song done using the rows or Scenes, as a rough arrangement, which I would then drag into arrangement view and finish editing there.

And now as I play shows and DJ the occasional party, Ableton is getting even more use. Either I deconstruct my original track into scenes and play them live while tweaking and mixing live (live producing), or I straight up DJ using Ableton’s A/B crossfader option.

While my uses are very specific, I could definitely see the DJ user choose Ableton over TRAKTOR for a host of reasons. The first is the expansive use of FX and plugins. Virtually limitless potential to mix and map this and that.

We have seen the implementation of more and more pads and knobs on DJ controllers in the past few years, and this is something that Ableton was truly built for, not just an added on feature.

When used with a controller made for Ableton, such as the Akai APC 40, performance becomes even more streamlined. In fact, if you want to know the performance capabilities of Ableton, definitely look at the Akai APC 40, which was truly built for live performance in Ableton in the Session view. With the ability to solo, mute, launch clips, record clips, tweak FX, and crossfade with an actual crossfader, it becomes clear that the Akai APC 40 could go toe to toe with TRAKTOR or Serato if you chose your workflow as such.

Ableton is a very programmer-friendly software; It is so easy to MIDI map any external controller you have, whether it’s a made specifically for Ableton controller like the Akai APC 40, or a generic MIDI controller with some knobs. If you want to map a Cutoff filter to knob two on your keyboard, with one click, and one wiggle of the knob, it is done.

Ableton is ubiquitous in the production world as being renowned for its ease of use, and entirely different way of making music when it comes to Session view.

Ableton is very much alive and well when it comes to updates and with the now added Ableton Link, integration with iOS and other third party developers seems to be picking up steam. Updates, especially for the Ableton Push 2 (another made for Ableton controller), seem to occur every few months.

Bottom Line: With the different available editions of Ableton Live, there is a solution that makes sense for everyone, no matter your budget or skill level. So, which edition should you get? The intro packages like Ableton Live Lite and Intro (which come included with many different budget MIDI controllers) lack some of the instruments and track counts that Standard and Suite come with.

While Standard lacks many of the instruments and Max for Live that Suite comes with, Intro and Lite lack much more important features like Warp Modes and Ableton’s famous default FX.

Someone that already has a modest collection of favorite VSTs could definitely get by on Ableton Standard, while Suite is a good option for someone needing big instrument and FX libraries (though Suite is quite pricey).

We highly recommend Ableton Live if you’re ok with departing from the more traditional “two decks and a mixer” DJ standard. Remember, with Ableton Live you get both a DAW to create/produce/record music, and a live performance tool that transitions seamlessly to the stage. There’s a learning curve for sure, but you’ll be rewarded with limitless creative versatility if you stick with it.


If you’ve already got a computer, then it's easy to download a bunch of software demos to see what being a DJ feels like to you. The options range all the way from letting you set up playlists that play through automatically while you enjoy the party, to software that blurs the line between playing pre-made tracks and creating something entirely new in realtime. Somewhere in the middle there’s a very capable, if not somewhat lesser known piece of software called Mixxx.

In a saturated market of big money products from companies of all shapes and sizes, Mixxx is the open source offering. Open source means a couple things in this context: first, the software is 100% free. There’s no demo version to speak of - download the software and use it as long as you’d like with no nag screens, no question of legality, or any credit card transactions. Second, the philosophy of “open source” means that the underlying code is exposed and freely available to anyone who wants it. This means that if you have any inclination in programming, you could modify Mixxx to work however you’d like. The software is created and maintained not by one company, but by a community of people who work to improve it out of sheer love for the art and exercise they get by working on the project.

Free software in this case is, surprisingly, not an example of getting what you pay for. Mixxx is actually incredibly capable, runs on a wide range of hardware, and even supports integration with 3rd party hardware from many DJ gear manufacturers. On first boot, Mixxx gives you the standard two-deck system that would be familiar to most DJs. There’s a place for playback of tracks on each side, a mixer between them, and a music library beneath it. There are also a number of FX slots, and at the click of a button you can even bring Mixxx into 4-deck mode to mix more than two tracks at a time. There’s even a tab that allows you to set Mixxx up with a vinyl control system (DVS) such as Serato, Virtual DJ, etc. to allow you to control tracks with actual turntables.

In use, Mixxx sounds good. Running on a no-frills laptop with no external sound card, we don’t get any glitches or dropouts when playing multiple tracks with effects. Even with no external hardware, we’re able to load up tracks, pitch or sync them to each other, and mix them using the on-screen mixer and EQ. I can even load up a playlist of tracks, turn on “auto-dj,” and Mixxx will run through the list, cueing up tracks and fading between them in a decent manner.

When using external hardware, the experience really opens up into a professional workflow. Mixxx allows you to use external audio interfaces and configure them to your liking. You can route each deck to separate outputs, or route the master to one output and use another for monitoring. This means that you can mix using the internal software mixer, or just use Mixxx for playback through a hardware mixer you already know and love. Mixxx also ships with support for a wide range of DJ controllers from just about every manufacturer. The community has already provided quite a few mappings using every aspect of theses controllers - the pitch faders, the EQ knobs, the platters, jog wheels, and LEDs. If your controller isn’t supported, it’s fairly automatic to assign MIDI controllers to Mixxx functions.

This ability to deeply customize Mixxx is a bonus. If you don’t like the way it looks when it ships, there are other “skins” available - some even exposing functionality not available in other skins. Mixxx can look full featured, with every function on screen, or be stripped down for use as a display for an external DVS system or controllers. The level of customization really goes beyond any other software - you can tweak the type of EQ, write custom Javascript to make your controller behave exactly how you want, or go deeper into any part of the code and reprogram it how you like.

Best Laptop For Djing

However, this ability to customize and reprogram might actually be a reason to think twice about using Mixxx. Being open source and not tied to a company or product, you will have to do a little bit of configuration and tinkering to get Mixxx working with your gear. Settings for 3rd party controllers might not exactly match what the controller would do with its intended program. Another important fact to consider is that because it’s lesser known, right now you are unlikely to encounter it out at a gig where you use someone else’s equipment. Mixxx is free and very capable, but it is also for the adventurous, as there are no guarantees it will work perfectly in your setup.

Bottom Line: Mixxx can work right out of the box - and the cost certainly doesn’t cripple it. It might not be the slickest looking program at first glance, and in a market so concentrated on “industry standards,” it might not help you if you are using someone else’s system, but Mixxx is a winner when it comes to the most cost-effective DJ solution available today. Best Bang for your Buck.

MixVibes Cross DJ

MixVibes Cross is a DJ software that tends to play second fiddle to the big guys like Serato and TRAKTOR. And yet, over the years it has amassed tons of fans in the DJ community, many of which opt to use it as their DJ software of choice, both in recreational/hobby applications and pro/working DJ applications. Considering how well MixVibes Cross is keeping up with its stiff competition, one of the main things it has going for it is its ridiculously good price (it even has a free - albeit more limited - intro version). Furthermore, it’s an open-platform DJ software, meaning it’s compatible with numerous virtual DJing systems and controllers.

MixVibes Cross comes in three editions, and each adds features to the one before it. The basic version is called CROSS DJ FREE and is limited to 2 decks and 3 effects. The middle (and very modestly priced) version is CROSS DJ and has 4 decks and 14 effects, and the top-of-the-line version is simply called CROSS. You can take free mode for a spin (no pun intended) to see if you like the MixVibes Cross interface, but we suggest at least investing in the CROSS DJ edition so you get the sampler decks, slip mode, quantize, and practically all the open-platform benefits that the free version doesn’t have (rekordbox sync for instance). In this review, we’ll cover the features you get in the paid editions.

The feature set in MixVibes Cross is impressive, as frankly you would expect from a top tier DJ software. As mentioned, you get a 2-deck or 4-deck layout, with different combinations of players and 8-pad samplers. 4 decks are accompanied by a 4-channel mixer with 3-band EQ (modeled after Pioneer’s DJM EQs). If you don’t feel like beatmatching there’s Sync, and a Beatmatcher view which shows you your decks’ waveforms to help with mixing. You get two FX Units with pretty flexible routing, each letting you choose between 14 effects. With each track you also get 8 hot cues/loops. The Beatgrid Editor is particularly good in MixVibes Cross; we’d say it’s the best one out there. You have a lot of editing tools to fix/adjust the beatgrid in case your tracks have funky BPM. Cross has an internal recorder to record your mix, and it can save your audio to a wide variety of file types. There’s plenty of versatility here as you can choose which decks you want to record (or the master out of course), which will result in separate audio files with whatever you selected.

MixVibes makes getting your tracks into Cross straightforward, with the ability to import from iTunes, rekordbox (fun fact - MixVibes actually made rekordbox for Pioneer), TRAKTOR, Virtual DJ, and more. You can even connect Cross to a regular SoundCloud account, and load up your SoundCloud sets, favorites, stream & tracks. Maybe not something you want to do as you’re performing, but to practice or prepare a set this is pretty awesome. There are all sorts of great tools to manage your media within Cross. You can analyze the BPM and beatgrid for your tracks in bulk, and once Cross detects a track’s key, compatible tracks are highlighted in orange, for harmonic mixing. It even stores history of what tracks you played with what other tracks, which you can reference if you previously mixed something you were pleased with and want to replicate.

In terms of MIDI mapping and controller support, MixVibes is pretty impressive. It’s compatible with quite a large selection of controllers (on the website they claim over 80) from Hercules, Denon, Pioneer, Vestax, Gemini, Numark, Native Instruments, and the list goes on. Be sure to check the full list here. It has HID integration, which means you can get a spot-on integration and mapping of a Pioneer CDJ setup (watch a quick video on that here. Cross can even be controlled using timecode vinyl records or CDs.


Bottom Line: All in, MixVibes Cross is a bit like if rekordbox and TRAKTOR had a baby. There’s a lot to like here. Considering how budget-friendly this DJ software is, it’s remarkably full-featured. Even more impressive is how many former Serato and TRAKTOR DJs we’ve come across that never looked back after using MixVibes Cross. Cross also has iOS and Android versions, which have been well-reviewed (you can even control Cross wirelessly using the Cross iOS app as a remote). We didn’t touch on the video/VJ capabilities of Cross 3 as that’s not the focus of this review, but rest assured they’re quite impressive. Whether on macOS or Windows, and regardless of if you’re just getting into DJ software or exploring alternatives, definitely try MixVibes Cross and see what all the fuss is about. The good news is it won’t lighten your wallet too much.

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