Choosing the best digital DJ controller is often the first thing new DJs research. DJ software is equally important and an integral part of any modern DJ setup. Whether you are a beginner or pro you’ll likely end up using DJ software to prepare your sets and perform.
In this detailed guide, we pit Rekordbox vs Serato to see which one is the best. We’ll compare the essential features and how they stack up against each other so you can make an informed choice on which platform is right for you.
The Two Heavyweights
While there are several digital DJ software platforms available there is no denying which two dominate the space. Rekordbox and Serato are the two juggernauts of the industry. While Traktor vs Serato is another hot topic.
Rekordbox DJ Software
Rekordbox DJ is the proprietary software platform from Pioneer DJ. Pioneer has a firm grip on the professional scene. Their DJ hardware is what you’ll find at the majority of bars, clubs, and festivals. They are often regarded as the top company in the DJ industry.
Rekordbox DJ was originally just music management software. But it has since evolved into a comprehensive DJ software suite that supports all aspects of DJing. But Rekordbox does not support non-Pioneer DJ hardware.
Serato DJ Pro Software
Serato is a dedicated software company. They do not manufacture hardware and specialize in a large range of DJ performance software applications. Developed in New Zealand their range of products is among the most widely used by a variety of DJs.
Serato DJ Pro is a fully-featured software platform that supports a wide variety of hardware options. This ubiquity has made it a favorite of DJs that want flexibility when it comes to hardware choice.
Top 11 Features Compared
Both Serato and Rekordbox are fantastic pieces of software. But there is a notable difference between the two in certain categories. Below we cover the most important features and how they compare to each other.
Unless you are a laptop only DJ the hardware you choose will likely determine which software you’ll end up using. But depending on how you plan to evolve as a DJ the software you start with might be more important than you think.
Rekordbox DJ is a closed system. It only works with compatible Pioneer DJ hardware. This can limit your choices when it comes to gear. But it is also the platform best suited for club-level gear. If you have ambitions to play at clubs and festivals you’ll have to use Rekordbox software at some point.
Pioneer hardware is the most common gear at clubs.
Serato on the other hand gives you an extensive range of hardware choices. This includes most of the major brands in the industry. This gives you full flexibility to change hardware without having to adapt to new software.
In this category, you can’t beat the overarching flexibility that Serato offers. But it is a narrow victory and is dependant on your ambitions. If you plan on using Pioneer CDJs choose Rekordbox DJ.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
User interface design is subjective and often comes down to both personal preference and familiarity.
Both Rekordbox and Serato Pro offer a similar appearance. Both feature all the information you’ll need to prepare and execute your sets.
Both Serato and Rekordbox are feature-rich with a comprehensive range of options to fiddle with. But as with all software, it does take some time to get used to.
There are plenty of tutorials available. Both official and unofficial. If you are already familiar with one platform it won’t take you too long to adjust to another.
While both platforms offer an extensive range of features the Rekordbox DJ user interface is cleaner. It’s sleek and modern and a little bit more intuitive compared to Serato DJ Pro.
Winner: Rekordbox DJ
Rekordbox and Serato offer detailed music library management options. You can analyze and prepare your tracks with ease. From there you can develop folders, playlists, and more.
Good library management makes it easier to find the track you want to play next.
Keeping a well-organized music library is critical when preparing a set. It becomes even more important for freeform sets. This is where Rekorbox has a slight edge over Serato. Rekordbox started as music management software and it shows. It offers a more comprehensive suite of tagging options and tools.
These extensive library management options open up a detailed world of customization. The ability to export and use this information on club-level gear also sets it apart from Serato.
Winner: Rekorbox DJ
When you first add a track to your music library both Rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ Pro will analyze the track. This will capture important data. Music metadata, waveform, BPM, beatgrid, and Key. But this is all based on an algorithm so it may not always be accurate.
Both platforms are highly accurate, especially with most modern electronic dance music. But there are better software options for Key Tagging like MixedInKey.
Both software platforms also give you the choice to display classic Key information or in the alphanumeric Camelot style. Having an accurate Key value will make executing harmonic mixing easier.
Serato DJ Pro has a higher success rate than Rekordbox DJ. While both are highly capable you’ll spend less time adjusting the beatgrid of your track or changing Key information with Serato.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
Performing is at the heart of DJing. Both Serato and Rekordbox offer extensive performance features. You can access FX, sample decks, remix decks, and more. These give you all the tools to create an interesting DJ mix to set yourself apart.
Both platforms offer you the tools to create unique mixes.
I will note that Pioneer FX is generally more well regarded compared to Serato FX. Also, some of these features are exclusive to certain subscription levels. But most essentials are available on the standard plans.
Rekordbox also offers extremely tight integration with Pioneer hardware. Picking up a Pioneer DJ controller gives you very refined access to Rekordbox features. Serato also offers deep integration with some controllers. But sometimes some features are inaccessible on your controller.
This is a tricky category to judge as it often depends on what type of DJ you are. But if I had to determine a winner I feel that Serato is ahead of the game here. Serato DJ Pro prides itself on its range of unique performance features. They continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what digital DJing can be.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
Software of any nature needs to be robust and dependable. Even more so as a DJ. The last thing you want is persistent crashes or instability when performing. Both platforms are highly dependable. Originally Rekordbox was prone to more frequent issues but after several updates, it is catching up.
Countless years of experience and the dedicated focus on software set Serato apart. It just works. It is also the reason why so many professional DJs swear by it. For the time being, Serato DJ Pro is still the top dog in this category.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
For most beginner DJs the cost of the software is often a hidden component of your initial setup. Most tend to just focus on the cost of a DJ controller or DJ gear.
Serato offers a free Serato DJ Lite version which you can experiment with. This version is often included with many of the budget controllers out there. But to unlock full functionality you’ll have to upgrade to the Pro version. This becomes even more important if you want access to recording your mixes. But many of the more expensive pieces of gear include a full version of Serato DJ Pro. Serato also offers a subscription model but for most people an outright purchase is the best choice.
Pioneer entry-level controllers come with hardware unlock for Rekordbox DJ.
Rekordbox DJ is free to download if you are only interested in library management and exporting to USB to use with Pioneer players. But to unlock performance features you’ll need to subscribe. Pioneer doesn’t offer an outright purchase option. Despite this Pioneer does include performance features with the majority of its hardware. This can make a Pioneer entry-level controller a better value buy compared to others.
Both have similar subscription costs. I don’t like the shift to a subscription model for both platforms. But I appreciate that most hardware does unlock the important features. Serato possibly has a slight edge here since it offers an outright purchase option. But the fact that a lot of controllers come with just the Lite version balances this out.
DJ software continues to evolve and mature. As a result, there is a range of additional expansion packs you can purchase to enhance your workflow. Options like DVS compatibility to spin with timecode vinyl setup are often top of the list. But there are other add-ons available including lighting control, the ever-popular Serato Pitch ’n Time, FX, and more.
Pioneer does offer many of these upgrades via hardware unlock. Just buy the gear and you’ll have access to the upgrade. But Serato does offer a more comprehensive suite of expansion packs. At a cost. But the benefit of Serato is the ability to purchase a lifetime license for the add ons. So it wins this category.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
Innovation & Updates
Innovation is important in the DJ industry. The digital revolution has opened up a vast array of new features. The explosion in DJ controllers has also made DJing more accessible than ever before.
This change has helped new DJs get started. It’s also allowed experienced DJs to evolve and create more interesting and unique sets.
Serato is the original innovation king. Their software helped lay the groundwork for everything that has come since. But Rekordbox is continually updating and evolving its software platform as well.
Both companies are displaying a keen interest in pushing new boundaries. Plus both roll out new updates and bug fixes regularly unlike some other DJ software (I’m looking at you Traktor!).
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll be well aware of the increased dominance of streaming. Whether it is movies, TV shows, or music it is becoming increasingly common.
While it has taken a bit of time, both Rekordbox and Serato now offer compatibility with some streaming services. This allows DJs access to a staggering amount of music at their fingertips. This is especially great for mobile and wedding DJs that have to field obscure requests regularly.
Access to streaming services is a great way to handle requests at parties.
If you are into the idea of streaming music for DJing both support Beatport LINK, Beatsource LINK, Soundcloud Go+, and TIDAL.
Stability has always been my concern with streaming. It introduces another potential failure point. Becoming dependant on a stable internet connection induces far too much anxiety for my liking. But new DJs will love not having to spend hundreds of dollars on acquiring a music collection.
Another popular trend in the digital space is the move towards cloud storage. If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail and lost years of music you’ll know why it has become popular.
This is one area where Pioneer is a clear leader. They support cloud storage with Dropbox on their Professional plan. You can upload tracks and playlists. It will also store all your cue data.
This can give you instant access to your collection when connected to compatible Pioneer DJ equipment. Showing up at a venue and having the ability to access your full collection is an innovative and useful feature.
But if you do have a large collection it can be tedious to sync to the cloud. Plus once again you introduce the dependence on an internet connection. For some DJs, this feature is not something that will interest them.
At the moment Serato doesn’t offer any cloud support but this can change in the future.
Winner: Rekordbox DJ
Is Serato Similar To Rekordbox?
Serato and Rekordbox are both DJ software platforms with similar features. Both allow you to manage your music library and perform DJ sets with compatible hardware.
What Is The Easiest DJ Software To Use?
There are many basic DJ apps out there. Serato and Rekordbox offer free versions of their software for you to try out. They also have a range of easy-to-follow tutorials for new DJs.
Can I DJ With Just A Laptop?
Yes, you can DJ with just a laptop. All the features of DJ controllers are accessible with your mouse. But it is more intuitive and easy to do if you are using DJ equipment.
Which One Is The Best?
As with many things in life the answer is not black and white. Even more so in a Rekordbox vs Serato head-to-head battle. Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox DJ are fantastic pieces of software. Feature-rich and capable. Both have adoring fans and personal preference plays a big role. Even certain parts of the world lean more heavily towards one or the other.
They are also not the only players in the game. There is a growing number of alternatives. But when it comes to the two biggest and most popular options there is very little that separates the two.
There is a reason why Serato DJ Pro is the most popular DJ software platform. Its vast compatibility with a range of DJ equipment gives it great flexibility. This is even more pronounced for scratch DJs who swear by the accuracy and reliability that Serato offers.
But it is hard to resist the dominance of Pioneer in the serious DJ space. If you came here for a definitive winner I’ll have to recommend Rekordbox as the best. But only by the smallest margin. Its seamless compatibility with DJ hardware produced by Pioneer is a big tipping point. If you want to become a superstar DJ you’ll inevitably have to use the software at some stage. Becoming familiar with it from the outset will make things easier down the line.
No matter which one you end up choosing you’ll have access to everything you need for your digital DJing journey.