You may be a beginner DJ not knowing which software is which or what to choose? You may even be an intermediate or advanced DJ looking on the market to transition to another type of DJ equipment setup. I’ve been there in both situations.
Rekordbox and Serato are very similar in functionality. Both provide DJs with the organisation of music with the use of meta data, automated playlists and music streaming platforms. The hardware compatibility of both softwares is very different, Pioneer solely with Rekordbox and Serato working with multiple DJ equipment brands.
I’ve moved from Serato to Rekordbox, so I thought I’d put together this article to share facts about both, exploring the ins and outs of the two softwares.
Rekordbox is only compatible with Pioneer related hardware and not any other brand outside of Pioneer products.
From my point of view this makes sense from a business point of view but might be annoying for a user and DJ perspective.
You can check out a full compatibility list of Pioneer hardware here on the Pioneer website.
Compatible product types for DJs include:
- DJ Controllers
- all-in-one systems
- DVS mixers
- DVS interfaces
Some examples of the DJ Controllers that Rekordbox is compatible with includes:
Finally just to point out on the Rekordbox software itself, there are different feature versions of the Rekordbox software. These include:
- Free (Hardware unlock is slightly different vs just normal ‘Free’ version)
The difference between them all is very slightly different, with Creative offering Cloud Library Sync and Vocal Position Detection, unique features attractive to certain DJs needs.
The price of Rekordbox is largely free for a lot of Pioneer related products.
However there are paid plans depending on the type of Pioneer hardware you purchase and the version of Rekordbox you are interested in.
Note: recently Rekordbox has updated to Rekordbox V.6. Meaning that a lot of DJs that are using V.5 will likely have to pay to upgrade.
There are some products that require a paid plan which you can see in the table on this page here on the Pioneer website.
Rekordbox is FREE for “Hardware Unlock” devices. This is a term used by Pioneer which means that when you purchase a Pioneer Product it’s possible to gain access to ‘Performance Mode‘ on Rekordbox.
The difference between downloading Rekordbox “Free” vs Hardware unlock are a couple of features including being to Record your mixes and share them online via Rekordbox.
Paid plans range from £9.99 to £14.99 a month with varied extra functionality for DJs to take advantage of, such as DVS control and cloud access. Check out there finer details on plans here.
Cloud connected means that it’s possible, at the most upgraded version of Rekordbox, that you can save your music to the cloud (Dropbox) and then access your music on multiple devices.
This is a really great feature especially if you’re looking for an easy way to manage your music. It’s also a great way to keep one main copy of your music and then potentially back up your music onto a separate device e.g. an external hard drive.
You can also access your music via a Rekordbox app on your phone which you can edit the same way that you edit/amend music on Rekordbox using a laptop, e.g. set cue points.
Connections to Music Streaming Services
At this moment in time streaming services that are compatible with the latest version of Rekordbox include:
- Soundcloud Go+
- Beatsource Link (v6)
- TIDAL (v6)
Check out more information here to understand the most common FAQs.
Sample recording & playback
Rekordbox allows for you as a DJ to record samples and play them back live. This is great for DJs out there that want to play around with vocal samples, DJ drops and even percussive sounds.
Recording DJ mixes
It’s possible to record your DJ mixes across the board for both free and paid versions on Rekordbox. This is great as a DJ because it’s all about sharing your creativity online with your followers, potentially leading to gaining DJ sets out in venues, such as bars and festivals.
Note that when using Rekordbox that it’s not possible to record DJ mixes directly via the software itself when streaming music from Soundcloud for example. This is due to copyright reasons.
DJing Performance Features
Reverb, delay, looping, sampling, beat jumping etc are all standard features which allow DJs to perform their DJ sets with extra vigour.
Due to the amount of competition in the DJ software scene and the rise of DJ controllers, a lot of these features are commonly found in both Rekordbox and Serato.
Rekordbox was apparently a library management software in its infancy, which is why the meta data that you can access is comprehensive.
Custom tags, star ratings, key and ID3 tag editing are only some of the great features that you can get into the nitty gritty of organising your music.
Intelligent playlists are an amazing feature which will automatically update your playlists, applying custom rules to narrow down an ever growing catalogue of music.
Related tracks is another great way to gain inspiration for organising your music. Rekordbox automatically provides ideas for related tracks that are in a similar key and BPM. You can then drag and drop all your tracks, inspired by the related tracks section, putting them into a dedicated playlist.
Key analysis is embedded within Rekordbox to help DJs identify which tracks work well together based on harmony.
Rekordbox historically has been known to of had some performance issues in the past, as in lack of stability and bugs causing crashes to occur.
Recently, due to a regular set of updates, Rekordbox seems to be catching up to a higher standard of stability. As a Rekordbox user I can back up that over the last 2 years of using the software I’ve not encountered any buggy type issues.
Although it can be quite annoying having to update the software every so often. That is a minor point though, I’m just not a fan of updating software, as I just want to crack on and DJ.
Serato DJ software offers a range of different software products including:
- Serato DJ Lite
- Serato DJ Pro
The DJ hardware equipment brands that Serato is compatible with are massively varied in comparison to Rekordbox.
For the whole list of brands and to browse the compatibility of the various DJ softwares and hardware, check out this page on the Serato website.
Note that the compatibility of DJ equipment products is impressive including:
- DJ controllers (Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX)
- Mixers (DVS) (Numark Scratch)
- Interfaces (DVS) (Rane SL4)
- CDJs (Pioneer XDJ 1000)
Serato DJ Lite is Free!
Serato DJ Pro is not free. Costing between the ranges of 9.99 to 14.99 USD per month. It is of course possible purchase the software as a one off price too. Each version offering slightly different additional features to benefit DJs in some way including FX and video controls.
Check out the full details on pricing and the different variants on the Serato website. Add-ons which are called Expansions on the Serato website also are featured on this page.
Connections to Music Streaming Services
Connections to music streaming services such as the below, are featured on the Serato DJ Pro version. Which is great if you’re a serious DJ about to purchase Serato DJ Pro.
Similar to Rekordbox, the opportunity to use beatsource Link and Beatport Link is available but in the future. So Serato and Rekordbox will be on par with one another soon in terms of their music streaming offering.
Recording your DJ sets with Serato is easy, very similar to Rekordbox in the way of setting preferences to save your DJ mix to a certain folder and click record to get your mix recorded.
DJing Performance Features
FX, looping, sampler and beat jumping are all pretty much standard features in DJ software which Serato delivers very well.
Unique to Serato the DJ FX they use are from an industry leader in DJ effects called izotope which a lot of producers use for music production as plugins.
Reading online there are some DJs preferring the FX sounds in Serato vs Rekordbox. Although this is important, I wouldn’t say this is a deal breaker when deciding between the two softwares.
Library management from a Serato point of view is very similar to Rekordbox.
Editing ID3 tags is super easy, adding and removing files from and to certain folders is easy, key of tracks is available to help for harmonic mixing and all the helpful columns such as bpm, length of track, record label name etc helps for managing your music.
Smart crates for automated playlists can easily pull together a your music based on a set of rules you put in place. This is great for saving you time and not having to waste time on pulling together DJ sets when you’re building a music collection.
Locking tracks is possible to help maintain any edits that you make to your music.
Custom crate columns. This is a great feature to help customise the columns that can feature in the different crates. If you move the columns about in different orders for various crates, Serato will remember to keep them in those orders. This can help with various genre crates that you’ve put together.
Over the past 5 years, Google trends data is showing that Serato has been declining in search interest, whereas Rekordbox has been increasing and catching up with Serato. However Serato is still king, likely due to how long Serato has been around and associated with DJing equipment.
Point being is that it’s a very close call in how popular both DJ softwares are.
Both Rekordbox and Serato have very similar functionalities and offerings. The only edge that I would say Rekordbox has over Serato is the cloud library connections for saving music. This does come at a price, so when comparing basic DJ software editions like for like they are both very similar.
Rekordbox only offers compatibility with Pioneer products, so if you’re not into Pioneer as a brand but love Rekordbox then too bad. Prices of Pioneer products can be slightly higher than other brands e.g. Numark, which are likely much cheaper for entry level DJing equipment such as DJ Controllers.
Rekordbox does seem to have a lot of updates that pop through now and then, so will require you to update the software. I’m sure this is the same for Serato, probably not as much though due to how established the software is at the moment.
Serato has a lot of extensions to add on to existing packages that you may already have. As a DJ I find this quite frustrating due to being up sold on things. I prefer to buy something that does that job at first purchase.
The Deciding Factors
Ultimately hardware compatibility, as in the type of DJ equipment that you are going to use, is likely going to be the biggest driver in which DJ software that you end up using to DJ with.
Laptop that you have and the stability may become a point to consider. My 2009 Macbook can still run Serato for my DVS setup which is smooth and no latency. I’ve not personally tested Rekordbox on the same computer, however the point here is that Serato are known for stability, so could benefit you as a DJ, beginner or advance, by negating the need to buy a newer upgraded laptop computer.
Choosing DJ software can come down to your DJ setup, e.g. DVS or DJ Controller, however can be a choice due to favouritism. My choice of DJ software has always come down to the equipment that I require, e.g. DJ controller that I’m using at the moment.
It hasn’t bothered me transitioning over to Rekordbox from Serato, I’d say 90% of the abilities of both are pretty much the same. It simply comes down to getting used to the look, feel and usability over a couple of days.