In today’s world of DJing, there are mainly two kinds of music sources used: USB sticks and laptops with DJ software. A DJ software is basically a program that allows you to DJ using just your laptop. The best DJ's and around the world are using Traktor DJ or Serato DJ.
Serato DJ Advantages
The advantages of such software are quite obvious: You can access your whole music library on your laptop using pretty much any setup. You can also create incredible setups with a laptop: Combining CDJs, turntables a mixer and controllers? No problem when you’re using software! But there are so many different DJ programs out there.
Here are a few advantages of Serato: Serato DJ Pro has the lowest latency in the whole industry, brings a lot of performance features (basically everything you need to DJ) and works with a wide range of hardware. And on top of that, it’s extremely reliable.
Sounds interesting to you? Then keep on reading as we go into the actual review now.
graphical user interface
The GUI of Serato DJ Pro in vertical view mode
The graphical user interface of Serato DJ Pro is simple yet professional: It’s a classical DJ software interface: Two decks or four decks containing a virtual platter each. You can also see a lot of the performance features of Serato DJ Pro in the interface itself and like every other DJ software, it displays the waveforms.
When your Serato hardware is connected, the mixer section will be hidden and there is no way to see it on the laptop. This might sound like an issue at first, but it forces you to focus more on your gear and your ears (which will avoid “laptop face”). While it’s not as customizable as Virtual DJ’s, the GUI of Serato still gives a lot of opportunities to make it fit your personal preference: In the top left corner, you can choose between 2 and 4 deck view. Nex to this option, you can choose between 4 view modes: Vertical, Horizontal, Extended and Library.
Vertical mode will show the virtual decks at the left and right with the waveforms displayed vertically in the middle of the interface; Horizontal is basically the same but with the waveforms displayed horizontally in the middle of the GUI; Extended will show the waveforms as big as possible, while the performance features on virtual decks get a bit smaller; Finally, library mode will hide the virtual decks except for a very small virtual platter and a few track info. At the same time, the library will be displayed as big as possible.
Next, to the view mode selector, you can hide or show the FX sections as well as the sampler of Serato DJ Pro. This leads us to the next aspect of our review:
The effects in Serato DJ Pro are powered by isotope which already speaks for itself: These are extremely high-quality effects! Serato DJ Pro by itself comes with 13 effects, but you can buy the FX expansion pack for 29$, which will give you even more FX. These reach from simple effects such as reverb and delay which you’ll need in a lot of everyday scenarios to very experimental and unique ones that will give you a lot of creative options.
Serato features 2 effect units that can both be routed to any of the 4 decks. You can choose between single effect mode where you have a lot of control over one effect (such as decay time and with for a reverb) per unit or a multi-effects mode where you can control the dry/wet for three effects per unit.
The sampler of a DJ software is probably one of its’ biggest advantages, as most gear (including Pioneer’s poplar CDJs) don’t have a sampler in standalone mode. And the Samper of Serato DJ Pro is absolutely worthy: It has four banks (A, B, C, D) that allow you to load in 8 samples each. The sampler’s output can be routed to any of the four internal decks plus the master output (which will be the most rational option for most scenarios). Besides the overall volume of the sampler, you can also control the volume of every sample individually. Features such as syncing between samples and virtual decks, tempo, and pitch stretching of the samples and looping of the samples allow you to use the sampler in many creative ways: For example, like a drum machine, to fire special FX samples or to play loops.
The effect units and the sampler of Serato DJ Pro
As you probably don’t want to control your DJ software using your mouse and keyboard, this is one of the most important aspects of any DJ program. And Serato is compatible with a lot of hardware including controllers, mixer, interfaces, and CDJs. Most pieces of Lite hardware are entry-level controllers. The second kind of compatibility is Serato DJ Pro enabled hardware. This means that the hardware unlocks Serato DJ Pro when plugged, without the need of any license. What many people misunderstand is that these devices do NOT come with a license.
DJ Upgrade Ready hardware
Another kind of compatible hardware is Serato DJ Upgrade Ready hardware. This is devices that will work Serato DJ Pro, but only if you own a license. Serato DJ Upgrade Ready hardware is NOT Serato DJ Lite compatible so in order to use it with Serato, you’ll need a Serato DJ Pro license. The last kind of compatibility is Serato DJ Official Accessories. These are devices that will only work in combination with Serato DJ Pro enabled or Serato DJ Upgrade ready/Serato DJ Lite hardware. This means that in order to use these pieces of hardware with Serato DJ Pro, you will need to connect a Serato DJ compatible mixer, interface or All-In-One controller.
Serato DJ Software won’t full MIDI mapping, which means that you won’t be able to map features such as jog wheels and shift buttons which is an absolute pity! And second, there is no way to use Serato with any not natively compatible hardware, without connecting some kind of Serato DJ primary hardware (such as a compatible controller, mixer or interface) to your laptop.
The Denon MC7000 – A professional, Serato DJ Pro Enabled All-In-one controller
Two Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS, a Pioneer DJM-900SRT and a Pioneer DDJ-SP1 used with Serato DJ Pro – one of the most powerful club setups ever
One of, if not, THE most important factors when getting a DJ software are its’ performance features. And Serato offers pretty much everything you need there: 8 colored hot cues per deck and track, 8 saved loops, auto looping, manual looping, key shifting, Slip mode, the already above-mentioned effects, and sampler and much more. All of these functions can be fully mapped to any MIDI controller, so you can extend your existing setup with Serato DJ Pro on your laptop and some kind of MIDI controller or remap any of the controls on your existing hardware that you don’t use otherwise.
Besides the “normal” Serato DJ Pro license, you can buy 6 expansions for Serato, that will give you, even more, features: Serato DVS, Serato Video, Serato Play, Serato Flip, Serato Pitch’N’Time and Serato FX. We already explained Serato FX earlier in this article. Serato DVS will enable you to use turntables or not natively supported CD/media players with Serato DJ Pro using timecode files. Serato Video lets you DJ with videos, Serato Flip allows you to save and later automatically replay live remixes/edits you did in Serato DJ Pro. Serato Play enables you to fully use Serato DJ (Pro and Lite) without any hardware and Serato Pitch’N’Time drastically improves the audio quality when changing the tempo of a song using key-lock. Serato pitch’N’time also lets you play Hotcues in different pitches. Serato Pitch’n’time’s time stretching algorithm is the best one if ever heard in a DJ software. Even when pitching a track at 50% with key-lock enabled, the audio quality will almost stay the same.
Serato DVS allows you to use the software with turntables in combination with a Serato DVS compatible mixer, interface or controller (a DDJ-SX2 in this case)
Serato DJ Pro is definitely one of the best choices of professional DJ software. Its’ huge number of features, great audio quality, clean GUI and big hardware compatibility make it a solid choice. However, the fact that the software doesn’t allow full midi mapping is a real downside and I hope that Serato will include this option a future update.