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I'm looking to purchase an all-in-one DJ controller, as I can't afford a modular DJ setup. I've had some practice with Serato in a classroom environment, where we used Technics (vinyl) connected via Rane. Currently I'm aware of four software options: Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ, and DJUCED, and I've read a fair amount about each online to understand basic pros and cons, but I'm confused as to what determines whether a certain DJ controller will be compatible with a certain software. Can any software be used to control any controller?

For example,

  • Gemini DJ G4V appears to "ship with" Virtual DJ but I see someone saying there are "maps" available to use with Traktor. (I'm vaguely familiar with what this means.)
  • Vestax VCI-300MKII seems to be a collaboration with Serato; no mention of Traktor or Virtual DJ.
  • Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 "includes" Serato DJ Intro but can you use Traktor or Virtual DJ?
  • All Hercules products appear to ship with DJUCED, but can you use other software?

What is it that has to match up between the hardware and the software for the two to be compatible?

  • I realize this appears to be a "shopping" question but in preemptive defense, I think this question is more about "instrument setup." I don't need help choosing a product; I need help understanding how these "instruments" work / go together. – Andrew Cheong Dec 20 '15 at 21:20
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    (Too opinionated & vague to be a full blown answer, but...) While most DJ controllers could be used with most DJ software, the general wisdom is to to respect that many are more ... tightly integrated. e.g. Serato requires a licensed controller. Traktor is "better" with a NI controller because they use a higher res protocol and the mappings are fully supported, etc. It's probably best to either pick a software, or a controller, that you'd prefer and then see what would work best for you with that choice. – D.G. Dec 23 '15 at 20:27
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Most (if not all) DJ control surfaces designed to control DJ software use MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to communicate with the program. And all the top DJ software accepts MIDI as input. This means that as long as your control surface uses MIDI you should be able to use it with any DJ software.

I'm not aware of a modern DJ control surface that doesn't use MIDI, but just to be sure check the manual, data sheet (Amazon's suck, check the official one), or contact a representative before purchasing.

Sometimes a control surface layout is designed around a specific software, in which case you might want to use that software since it might add extra functionality and/or easy of use. But that doesn't mean that you can't use it with other software. It's more common that a control surface is designed for any MIDI capable DJ software in general though.

Sometimes the included software is just an extra. Sometimes it's because the surface was designed with that software in mind. Check the manual, data sheet, or ask a representative to be sure.

"Mapping" refers to how the controls in the surface (knobs, buttons, plates, sliders, etc) map to the controls in the software. The DJ software will let you specify which controls do which actions. Some controls include mapping for all or some DJ software, and some DJ software include mapping for some DJ control surfaces, so you don't have to do the mapping manually.

Just check if the control surface used MIDI (all DJ control surfaces should be able to do this, I haven't see one that doesn't, just make sure to check if this is the case just to be sure), and you will be able to use it with any of the top DJ software.

Check the specifics of the software you are using before deciding though. Serato can be used only with supported hardware, so check their list of supported controllers first.

  • Serato requires a controller which was designed and licensed for use with that software. It is possible to use additional midi controllers, however a main Serato controller is required in order to use both the intro and full versions. – D.G. Dec 23 '15 at 20:19
  • @D.G. It doesn't need to be a special Serato controller, any supported controller will do. Can't you just map an unsupported controller? That sounds wrong but I haven't used Serato in ages. – ByBw Dec 23 '15 at 21:44
  • No. Only Serato supported hardware will launch the program past the preview player. – D.G. Dec 23 '15 at 21:59
  • @D.G. What a way to shoot themselves in their feet! No wonder why Traktor is so dominant in the market share. I'll edit the answer. – ByBw Dec 23 '15 at 22:04
  • NI are pushing their own hardware with tighter and tighter integration into Traktor, too. 3rd party controllers aren't shipping with official Traktor mappings these days. – D.G. Dec 23 '15 at 22:09

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