Why Is There No Decent Dj Software?

K, so I’ve been shopping around for DJ software recently, and I must say, I’m absolutely appalled at the offerings so far. I’ve finally settled on M-Audio Torq due to VST and Rewire support, despite the fact that I’m only using Rewire as a workaround for poor effect support… that, and the fact that in comparison to all the other DJ packages I’ve tried, it kicks the most ass.

Seriously though, it’s still a pretty basic package.

IT BLOWS MY MIND how limited the featuresets are on these kind of apps are. Here’s a list of qualms I’ve got:

  • Most of the DJ apps out there have decent BPM detection, but ONLY for 4/4 tracks that don’t change tempo… and often times they get the downbeat entirely wrong. I wouldn’t care about this so much, but I’d at least like the ability to store the time signature with the track, and it would be nice if these apps would allow for changing tempos. Perhaps the DJ apps out there have support for this kinda stuff but I’m just not aware of it? I’M AN IDM LOVER… I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DJ IN 17/32 TIME IF I SO PLEASE … and HOW COME TORQ IS THE ONLY ONE THAT HAS LEAD-IN ON SYNC’D PLAY?

  • VST support - Is it really that hard to implement proper VST host support? Apparently it is, because even some of the biggest VST producers like Native Instruments can’t implement it in “award winning” software like Traktor. Of the apps that have implemented it (VirtualDL, Mixmeister, Deckadance) only Torq seems to actually send the BPM to the VST properly… and Torq only allows one VST effect per deck… which leads me to my next issue:

  • Shitty effect support in general - So even your internal effect support is shit? What? Do you really think all DJs want to do is fade two songs together and occasionally add some delay or reverb? I’m sorry, but I want to mangle shit up. I want to chop the crap out of things in realtime and make nasty transitions that will make the crowd get goosebumps… and I want to be able to do it all without having to use a midi controller. I don’t want to be told I can only use 3 effects on a track at a time, and I sure as hell don’t want to be told I can only use one. HOW COME NOBODY REALIZES THAT IT’S COOL TO QUANTIZE EFFECT ON/OFF TIMING???


  • Shitty interfaces - Ok, so you’ve got a GUI that looks like two turntables. Big fucking deal. How come half of your useful parameters are behind a config screen? How come I can’t map your parameters to my keyboard? How come when I can, it doesn’t let me map keys to trigger specific knob values? What? You want me to spend more money on an external midi controller? Fuck that shit. (thanks Torq for getting half of that part right)

  • Ableton fucking Live - King of the shitty interfaces, and although people seem to use it often as DJ software, I’ve yet to figure out how to do so quickly without much per-song prep work. It seems the only way to decently use Live is to have a nice big MIDI interface. Am I missing something here? … oh, and it CRASHES ALL THE FSCKING TIME

So yah, if you guys have any suggestions for me, please fire away. I’ve a bit of this covered with Torq, but I’d like to have all the flexibility I’ve mentioned here.

Live seems to have all that stuff covered except the Live-specific problem of Live itself being unstable, which is unfortunately a recent-but-very-big problem. They have announced their next couple of updates will specifically be to get back to a really stable state.

I guess I don’t understand the problem with wanting to use a control surface - pointing and clicking is a pretty terrible way to interact with knobs and sliders in the best circumstances, let alone in a live context.

I don’t know about any DJing apps besides Live, but in the case of Live you can set in the prefs what kind of warping behavior you want by default, and the “song prep” can be as simple as setting the first downbeat and the tempo if you want it to be that simple. In the case of DJing in 17/32, that’s pretty much what you’re going to have to do. The default behavior of these applications is - as you say - to make it easy for people to mix 4/4 music together. You can turn all the shit off that helps you with that and it will make it easier to do stuff that’s outside their happy-path use case but you’re going to have to recognize that if you do want to use software for something outside the happy-path you’re going to have to do some of the work yourself.

#1 reason: I’m cheap and consistently broke.
#2 reason: For the kind of manipulations I want to do, buttons are better than knobs, and my laptop keyboard has a tonne of those just waiting to be used :P

Also, my other qualm with Ableton is that the interface really isn’t set up for DJing

//you’re going to have to recognize that if you do want to use software for something outside the happy-path you’re going to have to do some of the work yourself. //
That’s a cop-out imho. This is “professional” grade software, it should give professional grade features. There’s no reason Traktor shouldn’t have VST support… there’s no reason these apps shouldn’t allow for alternate time signatures… there’s no reason we should be limited to 3 effects per deck.

Another type of cop-out is not writing the features yourself…


Because we all know that users should have to write their own software before they use it. :rolleyes:

That aside, Mixxx is severely lacking in comparison to all the apps I’ve mentioned. Had I time to actually take on the task of updating it to come even close to suiting my needs, it would probably still take me significantly more time and effort than it was worth, considering I can do most of what I need with Torq and Renoise.

I’m fully willing to pay for software that has the features I want… I just want the features.

Thus you are either using crippled demos or quite possibly buggy warez so many of your opinions and experiences are null and void.

I know people who use VDJ and on the whole it has very good VST support. You can create long chain and load and save them at will. It has a beat-slicer built in (although it could do with a double resolution/length option.) Seems to be better than most for breakbeat based music (strangely I noticed the BPM counters on my housemates DJM mixer seem to get the tempo correctly with breakbeat and jungle more than with techno, which seems very odd.)

Have spoken to a fair few people who have switched to Deckadance, one of the main reason being that many don’t support, or have poor support for FLAC files. Also VST support was better than the competition a few years ago.

I believe VDJ also lets you assign computer keyboard shortcuts to parameter value changes of your choice. Quick search to check brought up this but you might want to look into it deeper.

I feel stupid with DJ softs they are allways far from the 2 decks and a mixer I’m used to… mixxx has the advantage that it doesnt overwhelm you with features - and it is cheap :) Torq is pretty good as pro DJ softs come though…

However 2 tracks in renoise and a hydra device for a cross fader and youre half way there :P

Brilliant deduction. I’m sure my pirated software is somehow lacking features. Brava! golf claps … also, you’ll note that I said I’m perfectly willing to pay for apps that have the features I desire.

I’ll admit I haven’t yet tried the VST support in VDJ, mostly due to the fact that it doesn’t let you assign a VST folder… you’ve got to copy your VSTs over to VDJ’s folder. The built in effects though, only let you use one at a time per deck, which is the epitome of lame.

I can’t get Deckadance to send BPM info to VSTs like Buffer Override properly. Perhaps I’m on crack?

VDJ does indeed seem to have better parameter mapping capabilities than Torq, but the fact that I have to bring up a config screen to map keys is somewhat irksome. Torq does it with a simple right click.

Not missing but often features are very buggy in cracked version which work smoothly in the official release. That’s why I said crippled demo or buggy warez.

Really? I have to admit I’ve only used it when I’ve been around my brother’s and had a quick play on the config he has. Does allow you to set up VST chains but he had issues with it reload/initialising but believes it’s due to the crack he’s running (see point 1.)

Not actually touched it myself. Think it was IHateBreakcore I saw it recommended a year or more ago and if I remember main reason was FLAC (plus at least some VST) support. Shame to hear tempo isn’t properly transmitted, you would think that would be one of the more simple things.

Right click to set keyboard shortcuts seems a little strange to me, I would expect it to be done through a Preference type window, al la Renoise and most other programs I have used. You’re only going to set it once and then use it when needed.

Sorry if I came across a bit harsh. Have looked at a few myself but not for a while. Have to admit Torq is one I either missed or wasn’t overly active at the time. Still interested if anything really decent seems to come about although currently I do zero digital DJing. Bit of a vinyl dinosaur to be honest. Interested in hearing your findings though, as you seem to be going at this is quite a serious manor.

Turns out Torq has tempo anchors which allow for changes in tempo, and more accurate beat matching on acoustic or live tracks. +1 for Torq! :D

Haven’t tried Serato or DJDecks… I’ll grab those tonight and mess about with them ;)

MixMeister Fusion, I totally love it… vst support and above all it doesn’t have that shitty turntablelook

Yah, that’s another one I couldn’t get the VSTs syncing properly to the tempo… am I missing something?

Well, I can’t say that I have twiddled intensively with the vst capability of it, but no problems encountered up to date, I just prefer it above the other dj-software residing on my hd, renoise is and will stay my favourite time consumer anyway :)

I was in the same spot as you and I chose VDJ. It does what I want very well (play two songs at the same speed and apply effects to them) plus the timestretching and harmonic mixing capabilities are good enough for me. You may have to put some work to get the tempo and downbeat right on some tracks (never had a huge problem with this) and the cue-point-management is bliss.
I use a Korg Nanocontrol to push buttons to trigger stuff (like effects) and go trough an external DJ Mixer.

As for looping: When something is wrong with the arrangement of a song I usually just do an edit. Can’t be bothered with live-looping.

The biggest downside of this program is the (indeed) fisher-pricey GUI, on the other hand I was always too lazy to choose/make another skin, I just want to play dancable electronic music to people from time to time.

Though I was recently thinking about learning to DJ with Live, a friend of mine uses it and is very happy, maybe I get why when he shows it to me.

serato scratch live is indeed excellent, however i think it won’t do what you are asking for here. the thing is that serato is good because its rock solid, and the support for and update for the software is very good. but at present i believe you cannot use VSTs or anything like that, and the basic version doesn’t have effects. I don’t think it has rewire yet either which is the main reason i ended up selling it. it isn’t flexible in the way that stuff like torque or ms.pinky (for max/msp) appear to be, however. but i had it for years and it never crashed, or became obselete + when i eventually sold it, i got very close to what i paid for it. and btw. screw traktor, final scratch and the n.i. stuff and derivatives. i owned Final scratch 2 and it was crap, seriously. and then they stopped supporting it and n.i. bought out their own version. if you look at timecoded vinyl i think you’ll find torque or serato are the best options. purely because stability should be your number one priority. serato has this bridge feature with ableton live which may be of interest (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI_V-YxIAe8), but it sounds like torque is what you are after, or you need to spent more time with ableton. if you want things to automatically sync properly then timecoded vinyl may be barking up the wrong tree; after all the point is to mix and scratch digital tracks in the traditional way. with torque you can add what effects and stuff you want via rewire, and its cheaper than serato though.

I should point out: I’ve got no timecode vinyl.

Timestretchers won’t do any magic on those either i guess…


Byte, did you have any luck/fun with torq? I tested the program for a while and jesus, it has some serious usability-flaws. Or it’s simply too different from VDJ, I don’t know, I just could not get my head around it.