When you ask someone what moves their spirit, music is usually at the top of the list (or at least close to it). Some people create, others dance and many more listen. But DJs are distinctive music enthusiasts because they do something different — they unleash. As such, it’s no surprise that many of us become impelled to try our hand at dropping hot beats.
But before you can even think about booking major international gigs like DJ Khai Lim, you must first start with the basics. That means getting the best equipment for optimizing your musical performance. For those of you who prefer to hone your DJ skills on the computer rather than using traditional turntables, here are a few suggestions for quality software programs.
Mixxx is one of our favorite applications because it comes at the right price: gratis. That’s right, you can download this open source, music-making application for free. If you have the know-how, you can also dive into the code and modify its feature set.
The standard version of Mixxx offers twin decks (each with its own scrolling, scratchable waveform), four sample decks, iTunes synchronization, hot cues, loops and support for a breadth of track formats. It has BPM detection and sync, as well as an “Automatic DJ” function for when you need to take a breather (or just be lazy). Mixxx supports more than 85 controllers and timecode vinyl systems.
Originally developed for Pioneer DJ by French developer Mixvibes, rekordbox was significantly upgraded in 2015 in the form of “rekordbox DJ,” which is an enhanced “performance” version of the original application with full sampling, effects and mixing capabilities. It features a library browser with a tagging-and-track recommendation system, up to four decks of track control and per-track and master effects (each with multiple slots). It also includes a beat slicer, looper and eight-slot sampler.
As an added benefit, Pioneer DJ recently released Interface 2, which allows any DJ to access the rekordbox ecosystem, which previously had only been made available to those who use its mixers or controllers. Interface 2 is a two-channel audio communication tool that allows you to control and scratch the music on your Mac or PC using any setup.
The Mixvibes Cross has recently experienced various updates, which have resulted in a strikingly wide-ranging feature set. The best-selling Cross DJ is the free version, but Mixvibes also offers a “full-on” Cross version that includes video mixing options.
Mixvibes Cross boasts a highly-customizable interface that includes two eight-slot samplers, four decks, 14 different effects and eight assignable cue points. The program supports a range of digital vinyl systems and controllers (more than 80, last time we checked), and you can import your music library directly from the Pioneer rekordbox discussed above. Not only does the Mixvibes Cross include both SoundCloud and iTunes integration, but last year, Mixvibes Cross also added support for Ableton Link. You can also take advantage of a nifty iOS remote control app, which functions as a second screen for browsing tracks; it also allows you to remotely operate the software decks, which is darn cool.