The mighty Ars Technica regularly takes on technically-intense reviews of processors and operating systems, but this time they’ve turned their attentions to something else altogether: DJ software. Dave Girard helms the review, with an exhaustive look at both basic DJ virtual decks (Disco, FutureDecks Lite, DJ1800) and full-featured software (VirtualDJ, Traktor DJ Studio from Native Instruments, and MixVibes Pro). (Thanks for the tip, Ryan Pollack!)

DJ Software for Windows and Mac OS X [Ars Technica]

The DJ apps get the full Ars Technica treatment, down to helpful figures explaining how DJing works for the uninitiated. Traktor DJ wins handily on Mac and Windows at the high end; for casual use on Windows VirtualDJ gets a nod. Girard also tests the hardware with the cheap Hercules DJ control surface / interface. This is exactly the kind of review from which I run screaming — round-ups are a total, life-sucking pain as a reviewer. (Yeah, I’m sure there’s a Logic 8 / Live 6 / Cubase SX 4 / DP 5 mega-review in my future, but in the meantime I’m going to try to keep enjoying life.)

The review also wins extra points for including an image of this business card. I wish Ashok had played my puberty party.

It’s a rare treat to see Ars doing DJ software, but there are some notable omissions.

djDecks — too hip for the room?

I can understand not covering Ableton Live. While Live has become a surprise runaway hit among DJs (and has arguably expanded the definition of what DJing is), the focus here was clearly on traditional 2-deck setups, which Live is not. But I’m surprised the Windows-only djDecks didn’t make the cut. At EUR38, this “indie” DJ app has robust features and hardware support usually found in apps costing eight times as much, time-coded vinyl support, mix recording, OGG support, library organizing, drag-and-drop from Windows Explorer, lots of build in effects … well, just read the incredible feature list.

Most notably, djDecks is the only DJ software I know of with not only full MIDI support, but compatibility with the Behringer BCD-2000, Hercules DJ Console, EKS XP10,FinalScratch, VirtualDJ, SSL and (my personal favorite) MsPinky vinyl records. And, Native Instruments, I hope you’re listening: unlike Traktor, djDecks has VST effect support. (Not that you need me to say this, of course; I think that’s been the topic of about 50% of the posts on NI’s own forums.)

The review’s definitely worth a read — just visit djDecks last; it could even be a reason to boot your MacBook into Windows XP. Live is still my top choice for creative music-making, but if I were a traditional DJ and not, well, me, djDecks would jump to the top of my list.

Fun Mac freebie

In other DJ app news, The Unofficial Apple Weblog recently spotlighted djday, a very pretty / Mac-like DJ app that’s free. Could be great fun to play with, but it’s missing some key features for hardware control, etc.; see comments.

Which DJ app would be in your round-up? (Particularly on Linux, which got left out entirely here but I know has some evolving offerings.)

  • How about Rane Serato Scratch Live? Finalscratch (essentialy traktor),Ms Pinky, or the upcoming M-audio Torq?

    i guess they weren't concerned with timecode controlled software…

  • Yeah, absolutely, Serato Live is also a huge one to miss. Torq I don't think is ready yet. Final Scratch is more or less covered in the Traktor review since they were focused on the software end of things, not the hardware, and Ms. Pinky likewise can be used with a number of these systems or its own included software. But Serato + djDecks definitely deserved mention.

  • Grave error to miss off dj decks! dj decks + behringer bcd2000 + control vinyl is one of the the cheapest and robust way to spin mp3s with vinyl control!

  • thisk ars technica should stick to the processor reviews….. "It may seem really redundant to have three 3-band EQs"

    …. ????!!!!!!?!?!

  • To tell the truth I didn't even bother to read the review. I read a "cpu reviewer" review of the Hercules DJ controller a while ago and it was a huge waste of my life, so I didn't expect this to be any better.

    However, loads of the "HAX0R MEIN BOX3N" set seem to be deciding that DJing is cool, so perhaps a review from their point of view may serve a purpose.

  • Dave Girard

    I didn't miss Scratch Live, Final Scratch. If you read the whole review, you will notice that it says that I only review software-based packages since this review is oriented towards people new to mixing, not established DJs. DJDecks and a few other packages (and all the hardware-based ones) didn't make the cut – I can't review every mediocre package out there and the review was already 15,000 words.

    testrack – it doesn't seem peculiar or redundant to have a choice of 3 different 3-band EQs for each channel?

    Jaymis – there's a thing they teach in Logic 101 called an argument stopper. Dismissing the article without reading it isn't doing anything for your credibility.

    I'm not sure why I'm responding to so many people who obviously haven't read the content. what a waste of time..

  • Dave, I did read the article, and djDecks seemed like a perfect fit for the focus you defined. It's neither hardware-based nor mediocre, and in terms of budget and features it seems aimed squarely at the kind of audience you were looking to.

    But I'm absolutely sympathetic — doing giant round-ups is a total pain in the arse and there's no way to cover everything, ever. I brought this up on my site because I was interested to hear what some experienced DJs would have included had they been writing, and they offered some frank opinions. That's not a waste of time for me.

  • Dave: Hardly an argument stopper. I've long ago made my own investigations into DJ software and decided what I'm interested in. I did have a quick look at your article, and discerned that it wasn't in my best interests to read 12 pages on something I've already researched and am invested in (for the record I dabble with Traktor and Live, controlled with a BCD2000 and BCR2000). The internet is a big place, I have lots to read every day, so I scan articles and make quick decisions on whether they're useful or not. I'm sure you are similarly skilled, that doesn't mean I'm dismissing you or Ars, just that I'm not interested in this particular article.

    I didn't dismiss your review outright: I said the gamer/tweaker set could get some benefit from it. When I'm looking for hardware comparisons or reviews I don't come to CDM, I look for a site such as Ars which specializes in that kind of thing. Similarly, if I'm looking for information on music software or hardware, I'll invest my time in a site like CDM or MusicThing, specialists in the field.

    I'm sure that plenty of people have gained valuable insight through your article, and that there will have been a flurry of downloads on the Traktor site 🙂

  • Dave Girard

    Jaymis – ok but your alluding to my being incapable of a good audio software review (the cpu reviewer comment) was out of line. I'm a graphic designer that has been DJing for 11 years and all my friends are tech/house producers who are quite respected (Any compilation of Montreal electronica would be mostly them) so I know what the real world is up to. The reason Ars doesn't review more audio hardware/software is because they stick to things they know – and I know what I'm talking about.

  • Hi Dave, I think you're still reading a little too much into what was a flippant comment. Instead of "cpu reviewer" perhaps I should have said "cpu and hardware review type site", but, flippant 3 second comment out of the context of your original review. This isn't a jibe at your musical knowledge or skill, it's merely a matter of audience.

    As you yourself have said: Ars isn't in the business of reviewing audio hardware or software, so your audience isn't used to reading about these subjects. So for a review on DJ software to be useful to the general Ars audience you have to cover the very basics. This very thing which makes the article particularly suited to your audience makes it less useful for the audience of CDM, and by extension, for me.

    In summary: flippant comment, sorry it offended, Ars is a great site, Dave is very smart and would probably rock the party if I was ever in Montreal 🙂