DJ software has become ubiquitous in the DJ scene. The vast majority of modern DJs now utilize software to both prepare and play. But selecting the software that is right for you can be a challenge. On the surface, the major players all offer the same fundamental features. But beneath the surface, there are differences.
In this detailed guide, we compare Traktor vs Serato. Both are high-quality pieces of software with plenty of depth when it comes to features. But which one is the best? Read on to find out.
Pro DJ Software
There are plenty of DJ software options available and most of the best rated DJ controllers will come with the full version. But before Pioneer entered the fray with Rekodbox DJ the main two options were Traktor and Serato. Both established fan bases and helped usher in the new era of digital DJing.
Traktor Pro 3 Software
Native Instruments is a hardware manufacturer with a wide range of fantastic DJ products. In the year 2000, they launched their flagship Traktor software. Traktor DJ and Traktor Studio. After a few iterations, the Traktor software was rebranded as Traktor Pro in 2008. The most recent version Traktor Pro 3 launched in late 2018.
Traktor Pro 3 is a fully-featured DJ software suite. It offers deep integration with Native Instruments hardware. It also offers some support for a range of other mixers and controllers.
Serato DJ Pro Software
Serato is a name synonymous with the DJ scene. As a software-focused company, they innovated and changed DJing. They were the first to offer the ability to alter the tempo of music without changing pitch. This revolution sparked a new era in creative DJing of all types.
Serato DJ Pro is the latest version of their flagship software. It is feature-rich and offers a large amount of compatibility with a range of hardware. As a result, it has become the most popular DJ software platform available today.
Top 11 Features Examined
Pitting two pieces of DJ software against each other is not an easy task. Both Serato DJ Pro and Traktor Pro 3 are professional-level pieces of software. Below we cut through the confusion and see how each stacks up in certain categories to see who wins in the Traktor Vs Serato battle.
Hardware is usually the driving force behind most DJs’ decisions when it comes to software. If you have a certain setup in mind you’ll often only have one or two choices when it comes to software platforms.
Traktor Pro 3 supports all the hardware manufactured by Native Instruments. So if you prefer their products the natural choice is Traktor Pro 3. It also offers support for a range of other controllers but the compatibility list is starting to show its age.
NI produces a range of hardware under the Traktor brand name.
In one sense Traktor does feel like a closed system especially as time moves on. MIDI mapping can resolve compatibility issues. But unless you are already familiar with MIDI mapping it is quite the learning curve. It is that complex that people even sell MIDI mapping for various pieces of hardware.
Serato DJ Pro offers an extensive list of supported hardware. Their focus on software means they do not compete with hardware manufacturers. As a result, many DJ gear manufacturers license Serato for use with their hardware. This has made Serato the most widely available piece of software. It’s also made Serato a staple and often the default option for a lot of DJs.
While NI creates fantastic hardware the sheer number of options Serato offers makes them the winner in this category.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
User interface design is a subjective matter. I’m not a UI designer but I do know what I like and don’t like when it comes to interfaces. Both Traktor and Serato offer several options to customize the interface to your needs.
Each offers all the information you need when DJing. Waveform displays, detailed track information, access to FX, and more.
As with any advanced software, it does take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout and functions. This is often why some people prefer one piece of software over another. It all comes down to workflow and familiarity.
On a purely aesthetic basis, I’d have to lean towards Traktor Pro 3. The user interface is clean and well-organized. All DJ software can suffer from on-screen information bloat. But I feel Traktor gives you more tools to refine the UI to your preference.
Winner: Traktor Pro 3
Your music library will inevitably grow over time. This is why the library management capability of your software is so important. You want access to advanced tagging functionality and intelligent playlist organization.
A well-organized library is critical for large music collections.
For the longest time, Traktor was behind in this area. But Traktor Pro 3 has done a lot to address these issues. Serato also offers a solid selection of library management tools which is on par with Traktor. Both are capable of managing large collections.
This is a tough one to call. Traktor offers better playlist management that is great if you focus on a handful of genres. While Serato is more suited to open-format DJs with large music collections. Which one you’ll prefer will come down to your workflow.
Analyzing your tracks is a fundamental step in organizing and preparing your sets. When you load a track into your collection both Serato and Traktor will analyze the track. This will give you valuable information like BPM, waveform, beat grids, and Key data.
Both do a fantastic job of providing this data but there are some differences. Traktor doesn’t handle variable BPM’s as well as Serato. This is crucial for any music with live drumming or stark jumps in tempo within a track.
With Serato, your access to manage beat grids is more advanced. But Traktor is more accurate for modern dance genres like Techno and House. This also makes it a better choice for DJs that use the Sync button to mix and perform.
It is worth noting that track analysis uses an algorithm and sometimes the software gets it wrong. That is why I still recommend you learn beat matching by ear.
The winner of this is dependent on what type of DJ you are and what type of music you play. So I’ll have to call this one a tie.
Taking your mixing to the next level via various performance features can set you apart from the competition. Both Traktor and Serato offer plenty of tools to create unique and interesting sets.
FX and Sample Decks are a great way to create unique sounding mixes.
Serato DJ Pro and Traktor Pro 3 offer an extensive selection of mixer FX options. Everyone will have their preferences here but it is arguably Traktor that offers the better-sounding FX. They also both offer extensive access to samplers and other performance features like remix decks.
But there is one thing that does give Traktor the edge in this category. The ability to manipulate stems is far more advanced within the Traktor Pro 3 architecture. This lends itself better to artists that play their own music. It helps blur the line between DJ and live performance. If you are that type of performer Traktor is the best DJ software for you.
Winner: Traktor Pro 3
Every DJs biggest fear when it comes to digital DJing is software failure. Freezes and crashes are the stuff of nightmares. Eliminating this anxiety is often at the top of the list when selecting software.
Thankfully when dealing with professional software these instances should be an extreme occurrence. Serato DJ Pro and Traktor Pro 3 both deliver excellent stability. Both are reliable and you’d be hard-pressed to find professional DJs that won’t put their faith in either platform.
If you want dependability both Traktor Pro 3 and Serato DJ Pro have you covered.
Software has become increasingly expensive over the last few years. The most common complaint I hear from people is the move towards subscription-based models. While some provide plenty of inclusions to justify the cost (Netflix) others appear more predatory in their pricing (Adobe).
The DJ space is not immune to this issue but they haven’t gone down the predatory track yet. Both Traktor Pro 3 and Serato DJ Pro offer outright purchase options. In this case, Traktor is the cheaper choice.
Serato does offer a subscription model if you don’t want to buy the software outright. It is reasonably priced and a good way to get started without a lot of upfront cash.
Both options are available on your preferred platform. Whether you have an Apple Mac to a Windows PC. But it is worth pointing out that compatibility with Apple Mac can be a little slow whenever Apple launches a major OS update.
Several pieces of hardware will also unlock the full versions. Serato DJ Lite is commonly found bundled with entry-level controllers. To unlock the full version you’ll need to spend extra or buy a more expensive piece of gear.
Traktor also offers a free version to try out before you need to commit to hardware. NI also includes full version software with their entry-level DJ controllers. This alone makes Traktor the cheaper and more value-packed offering, especially for new DJs.
Winner: Traktor Pro 3
One of the confusing elements for new DJs can be the range of expansion packs on offer. Serato in particular offers a bunch of extra packs that unlock new features.
For most DJs, the base software will provide you with everything you need. But if you want to push your DJing in a new direction there are some enticing options available.
Traktor Pro 3 doesn’t really offer much beyond the initial offering. But this initial offering is extensive. It includes several features which are paid upgrades in other software platforms.
The only real expansion is Traktor Scratch. This gives you access to a digital vinyl system using timecode vinyl. Serato used to offer a Serato Scratch DVS expansion pack for Rane hardware. But this has since been amalgamated into the main Serato DJ Pro offering. So DVS DJs are well covered on both platforms.
Both Serato and Traktor offer good DVS support.
Serato DJ Pro does offer a more expansive suite of options. Their packs extend the functionality of the Serato software. Packs like P’nT, Flip, FX, and Video all give you more creative tools to express yourself. But these are all additional purchases. Once you start to add all these up it can be rather expensive. Especially for new DJs.
Despite the extra cost, Serato is leading the charge in developing new and innovative packs to take your DJing experience to a new level.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
Innovation & Updates
This is another area that new people often overlook. Technology is constantly evolving. Good software will take advantage of new advancements where applicable.
Serato has a long history of continuing to innovate and push the boundaries of what the software can do for you. Frequent updates not only add features but shore up the underlying stability and performance of the software.
Traktor is also an innovator. Their focus on performing has given life to a range of new and creative DJing options. But the progress and innovation dramatically slowed over the last few years. Once the gold standard, they are now falling behind their competitors.
In the Traktor vs Serato battle, Serato is a clear leader in this category.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
The shift towards streaming services is becoming more and more prevalent. As a result, it has become increasingly important for software to support these services.
For many DJs having access to a streaming service can be a huge benefit. The ability to search and locate obscure track requests and experiment with new music is fantastic. While I always suggest buying the tracks you fall in love with there is no denying how much freedom streaming offers.
Modern DJ software now supports streaming services.
Unlike Serato DJ Pro Traktor has taken its time to get behind this category. For the longest time, they did not offer any integrations. Thankfully they seem to now be moving in the right direction with Soundcloud Go+ and Beatport LINK. But Serato DJ Pro is still ahead with access to even more services.
Winner: Serato DJ Pro
Another developing area in the DJ space is cloud storage. Backing up your music library can be a tedious task. But it is very important. You’ve spent countless hours reviewing and purchasing tracks. The last thing you want is to lose it all due to a faulty drive.
Previously the only way around this was to duplicate your library across various sources. Taking it to the next level is to have those sources stored in different locations. Cloud support takes the hassle out of this and allows you to leverage online storage.
This is still new and developing technology that only Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ has explored. At this point, neither Traktor Pro 3 nor Serato DJ Pro offer cloud support.
Is Traktor Good For Beginners?
Like most DJ software Traktor Pro 3 does take some getting used to. But its simple plug-and-play compatibility with Traktor hardware makes it a good choice for beginners.
Do DJs Still Use Traktor?
Traktor is still a very popular piece of software for DJs. Some of the most famous DJs in the world still prefer Traktor over other software.
What Is Better Than Serato?
One of the biggest competitors to Serato is Rekordbox. It is the software used to prepare files for use on Pioneers club-standard hardware. If you plan on playing professionally Rekordbox may be a better choice than Serato.
And The Winner Is…
In the Traktor Vs Serato debate, it is difficult to call an outright winner. There are so many variables that you need to take into account. What type of DJ are you? What music do you play? Do you intend on playing in clubs? The list goes on and on. For certain DJs, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one over the other. But from a general perspective, the waters do get a bit muddier.
Understanding some fundamentals of where you are at and where you want to go can help guide your decision. Want access to the broadest range of hardware? Serato DJ Pro is an easy choice. Want detailed control for live performances? Traktor gives you the tools to express yourself.
Both pieces of software are fantastic in their own ways. But you came here for a winner, so let’s look at the summary.
As you can see the score is very close with Serato DJ Pro edging out over Traktor Pro 3.
Serato DJ Pro is also the most popular piece of software. The amount of hardware compatibility and constant innovation has put Serato software at the forefront. But that doesn’t mean Traktor Pro 3 isn’t a great piece of software. In some parts of the world, it dominates. It also has an extensive hold over certain types of genres.
Also, Traktor Pro 3 and Serato DJ Pro are not the only players in the games. Rekordbox DJ has rocketed into contention. Other popular platforms like Virtual DJ are also going strong. You can check out our head-to-head Rekordbox Vs Serato post to see how Pioneer’s software stacks up.
Despite some recent missteps I hope Traktor continues to have a bright future. Competition breeds innovation. Traktor also offers exceptional sound quality and a high-quality sound card is often the biggest feature they offer in their gear.
I’ve got a soft spot for Traktor as it was the first professional software I used. But since then I’ve explored all the various options out there. And in the Traktor Vs Serato battle, Serato DJ Pro takes home the top spot.
As a final thought just remember that software only goes so far. At the end of the day, your drive to learn and push yourself as a DJ is the difference. In that regard, both pieces of software give you all the tools you need to express yourself.