Professional mixing software for DJs
Virtual DJ is virtual mixer software for DJs. It features a new layout with variable modes to suit the needs and preferences of the DJ, and packs the reliable workhorse capabilities of a DAW. Virtual DJ places more focus on professionally live streaming music with or without the use of a controller. The default version can be downloaded for free on either Mac or PC.
Powerful tools, familiar interface
Virtual DJ accomplishes a balanced blend of consumer and professional needs by integrating easy, logical controls. These intuitively enable users to cross-fade, change track speeds, apply a variety of SFX, and even set cues to be recalled on demand. Macbook Pro users will be able to set, loop, and adjust on the fly via the keyboard touchscreen.
Regardless of whether you're using a Mac, laptop, or PC you can use Virtual DJ to organize your track collection any way you like, grouping and deploying filters quickly. You can also filter tracks by complementary keys and beats per minute, which opens the door to some truly creative mixes. If you're operating while online you can even browse the Internet and stream from SoundCloud directly.
Besides being a free dj mixer, Virtual DJ can also play music videos or display lyrics for karaoke events. Lyrics and video can be displayed on large-screen television, club screens, or walls. Virtual DJ can be directly integrated with VJ'Pro for video, and the event schedule feature takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it lets you synchronize any permutation of music, videos, or image.
Virtual skins to suit your preference
One of the biggest criticisms aimed at past versions of Virtual DJ was the appearance. The newest version addresses these complaints in stride: The aesthetic for Virtual DJ is entirely up to the end user, offering a selection of five different layouts: Controller, starter, essentials, pro, and performance. Further fine tuning opens a wheel of color schemes, waveform display options, beat counters, and jogwheel displays.
For experienced DJs the pro layout is a good starting point, with two decks taking center stage and the wav being displayed beneath the top border. If not, all visual options are readily available via a simple drop-down menu. For DJs who don't want the spotlight at the club there's even a dark mode you can toggle that works great when working from a booth behind the scenes.
Virtual DJ or Serato
Rekordbox and Serato are two of Virtual DJ's biggest competitors. All three are established names in the field and are used by professional DJs worldwide. Both Virtual DJ and Serato allow users to mix music that is either stored on or streamed from your computer, and enable mixing, scratching, and controlling tracks using turntables, media players, controllers, or directly off of a laptop.
If you're looking to DJ live in a club environment, however, Serato is a great alternative to Virtual DJ. Serato offers a streamlined interface with little to get in the way, while the UI and layout of Virtual DJ is altogether busier and more claustrophobic. Virtual DJ does have a leg up when it comes to file management, however, and superior video capabilities. There are also a number of other alternative mixing programs and apps available.
Fighting the learning curve
Virtual DJ is growing into an undeniable heavyweight in the free DJ mixer competition, but for newcomers to the DJ game how steep is the learning curve? The answer is that it's pretty steep. Luckily tutorials are available right from within the product. At the time of writing this article, the same cannot be said of Serato or Rekordbox.
These tutorials include lessons on how to start mixing, sampling tracks, enabling and managing performance pads, syncing your tracks, recording or broadcasting over Facebook, and auto-mixing. While it isn't hard to do a quick search on the Internet for tutorial videos or FAQ for Serato or Rekordbox, having the resources available directly within the program is a welcome handicap for novice DJs.
A free DJ mixer for professionals
Virtual DJ offers a staggering array of tools, yet still remains easy to pick up and use when compared to the competition. It stands at a strong midpoint between consumer and professional, with Virtual DJ LE being a good recommendation for dubious newcomers to the software. This version comes bundled with controllers and external sound cards which will work on both PC and Mac.
The visual quality of Virtual DJ is the biggest and most welcome change. While recent updates have also improved the program's overall stability, extensions, and accessibility (mostly in the form of expanding the streaming library compatibility), the change that turned the most heads was the mixer's overall aesthetic. These changes alone make the program worth checking out, especially if you've never used it before.