For countless years the use of vinyl dominated the DJ market. In the late 90s the use of CDs became more widespread as Pioneer launched the very successful CDJ CD player which offered many of the advantages of vinyl without quite so many drawbacks. In recent years the use of digital DJ software has become much more prevalent as more and more of the CD faithful turn their backs on the format and embrace digital software.
There are many options out there, from Serato Scratch Live vinyl emulation software to Ableton Live down to open source alternatives such as Mixxx which I reviewed in a previous article. In this article however I will comparing two front runners of the digital DJ world – Atomix’s Virtual DJ Pro 7 and Native Instrument’s Traktor Pro 2. If you only choose one, which one should it be? Read on to find out.
Both Virtual DJ and Traktor Pro boast an impressive range of features, in fact I think you’d be hard pressed to find a similar software package that offered more. However, for many DJs thinking about moving into digital DJing, the choice between these two options can often be very difficult. Both offer a straightforward way to move from CDs or Vinyl while retaining the same level of functionality. On the surface both options offer a very similar level of features, for example (the now standard) automatic beat matching, automatic looping, the use of effects and automatic BPM detection, with Traktor perhaps just edging ahead when it comes to number of features. When you dig a little deeper there a number of differences between the two.
Virtual DJ has always been very compatible with a large number of external controllers and mapping a controller to Virtual DJ is a relatively pain free process. This makes Virtual DJ one of the easiest software options to begin using, in many cases controllers can be simply plugged in and away you go. The same cannot be said for Traktor Pro, which supports fewer controllers (it does still support a great deal) and in my own experience has been quite difficult to map to a controller, however Native Instruments do produce their own line of controllers (Kontrol X1, S2 and S4) which when purchased guarantees complete compatibility with Traktor.
Both Traktor and Virtual DJ offer the ability to record your mixes directly to your hard drive, a useful feature for up and coming DJs who might wish to upload their mixes to YouTube, burn to a CD to hand out to friends or more importantly promoters and club owners. A well liked feature in Virtual DJ that is excluded from Traktor Pro is the ability to download and use custom skins. While the ability to do this makes no difference to the functionality of the software, many users like to be able to customize the look of their software. In my opinion though, the unquestionable stability of the Traktor Pro code when performing certainly makes up for any lack of customization.
When directly compared, both software options naturally have pros and cons. Traktor surpasses Virtual DJ on the level of features and stability, yet Virtual DJ is easier to use and start using straight out of the box as well as including the ability to change and customise skins.
For me, this is where the major differences between the two products lie. Quite simply Traktor Pro looks so much more professional than Virtual DJ, the default interface for Virtual DJ looks positively amateurish compared with Traktor’s clean cut look. That being said I firmly believe that Virtual DJ is easier to work with, especially for new DJs or those new to digital DJing. Beat matching itself is much easier for beginner DJs with the layout of Virtual DJ as the waveforms of both tracks sit above each other (as shown below).
Both options keep the traditional layout of decks above the media browser, which is now more or less standard for a number of DJ software solutions and works great, allowing the next song to be found quickly and easily.
Personally I prefer Traktor Pro’s interface over Virtual DJ’s default skin, but this is down to individual preference so don’t let the look of either dissuade you from trying them.
While Virtual DJ and Traktor both do pretty much the same thing, in my opinion it is the way in which Traktor does things that allows it to pull ahead of Virtual DJ as being the better option for those wishing to move to computer DJing. A quick look at the interfaces side by side and it’s easy to see that Traktor is positioned to a higher market than Virtual DJ. Even the name ‘Virtual DJ’ leaves something to be desired.
Another gripe with Virtual DJ Pro is that there are so many other versions of the software (such as LE, Home or Pro Basic) out there, each adding a little bit more functionality than the last version. This gives me the sense that they probably could include more features in each version, but don’t because it would interfere with their pricing strategy. Speaking of price, Virtual DJ Pro 7 Full (what a mouthful) is currently retailing online at $299 or €240 whilst Traktor Pro 2 is on sale for €199 (roughly $260).
Given the price difference, the professional look and feel of Traktor over Virtual DJ as well as the increased stability. If I had to make the choice I would almost certainly go with Traktor Pro. That being said if ease of use and compatibility with a larger range of controllers is important to you then I would suggest trying Virtual DJ. But if you plan to DJ professionally then Traktor Pro is the better option of the two.