Written by Eitan Zilkha (djkit.com)

Serato DJ v Rekordbox The most common question we get asked from both complete beginners and seasoned DJs looking to get into digital is “which software should I go with?”. The choice normally boils down to the 2 most popular options, Serato DJ or Rekordbox. So we’re going to run through the pros and cons of both taking into account the latest versions in 2021.

Serato is a New Zealand based company with a background in studio software, they entered the DJ market with Serato Scratch Live a DVS bundle that was hugely popular with hip hop and scratch DJs. Once the digital controller market took off, Serato introduced Serato Itch, a simplified DJ software that worked with specific hardware. They later went on to create two versions of their software, Serato DJ Lite for the more basic and affordable controllers and Serato DJ Pro for the higher end ones and DVS. The key things that have kept Serato DJ popular have been its ease of use with a plug ’n’ play philosophy and a great selection of hardware from various brands.

Rekordbox started life as a library software to analyse and organise tracks and export to USB sticks for playing out on Pioneer media players. It evolved to a full blown DJ software working with Pioneer DJ controllers. Rekordbox has some great add-ons including lighting control. The main attraction to Rekordbox is that it uses the same library for both exporting to USB and performing with a controller.

The differences:
Let’s start with the basic feature comparisons. Both have the basic functionality of analysing your music collection for BPM, key and beat grids. You can also create playlists and organise your music in the preparation modes.

Without any hardware connected, both are free to use in limited form, letting you prepare your tracks, playlists, cue and loop points. Rekordbox has a slight edge here with a unique feature called “related tracks”. This analyses your collection and suggests similar tracks to the one currently playing. It’s great for those with massive collections built up over years to help find a track you may have forgotten about or didn’t think would match. Rekordbox also has a new way to analyse tracks and detects phrases and beats.

Rekordbox Related  Tracks and track preview


Rekordbox also has a more comprehensive library display with mini waveforms next to each track which not only lets you see the structure of a track before you load it but also lets you preview it and scrub through the waveform.

Another important feature on Rekordbox is the original reason it came about, the ability to export the tracks to USB sticks. This means that your collection you DJ with at home, with your Pioneer DJ Rekordbox controller, no matter what price, is the same collection you can play out with at a venue or friends house with Pioneer DJ kit.
Overall, Rekordbox has more features than Serato DJ, with more settings and customisation. However, this could also be a bit much for the average beginner. Serato has always been a clean and simple interface, making it really straight forward to see everything you need and just get going.

Performance features

Once you add a compatible controller both softwares “wake up” the performance features. This is known as hardware unlocking, there is no need to input a serial number or register the software to activate it. Both will detect if the connected controller is compatible and switch on the associated functions.

Here is where there’s a slight split with the two. Pioneer DJ Rekordbox controllers all include the same, full blown version of Rekordbox. From the lowest priced to the flagship models, you get the same software. Serato, on the other hand, has two versions depending on the controller. The entry level units work with Serato DJ Lite and the mid to high end units work with Serato DJ Pro. There are some key differences between Lite and Pro and all Lite users can still use a basic controller with Pro if you upgrade the license. For the sake of this article we’ll compare Rekordbox to Serato DJ Pro.

Both Serato DJ and Rekordbox let you switch between preparation and performance mode. As standard you get features like multiple hot cues, loop points, slicers and sampler. You get coloured waveforms which can be viewed horizontally or vertically and also in 2 deck or 4 deck mode. Once again, Rekordbox has a much more in-depth configuration setup and layout with the ability to customise multiple settings while Serato DJ opts for a simple, limited amount of essential options.

Both let you record your mixes (Serato DJ Lite does not), have multiple effects and sample players. You can also stream music from premium services Tidal, Beatsource Link, Beatport Link and Soundcloud Go +, however Serato DJ only lets you connect to one of these at a time. With Rekordbox you can stream from multiple services at the same time. It’s worth remembering that built in recording is disabled when streaming from all DJ devices and software.

Rekordbox and Serato DJ both let you send your mixed output to another program for broadcasting or live streaming like OBS.

Rekordbox Sampler (top) Serato DJ sampler (bottom)

Rekordbox has two effects banks with the ability to overlay up to 3 effects on each and add a release effect for creating transitions. You can choose from 22 bpm linked effects and 3 release effects.
Each bank can be assigned to any of the 4 decks, the sampler or the master output.

Serato offers you two effects banks, with 3 effects each and a choice of 12 effects.

Serato FX (top) , Rekordbox FX (bottom)

Costs & Extras:
Rekordbox is free in its basic form, to analyse, prepare and organise your tracks.
The performance features listed above are unlocked with all their DJ controllers and some of their individual players or mixers.

You can get a full list here: https://rekordbox.com/en/support/link/
There are two subscriptions available, the Core at £9.99 a month adds DVS control (although you can just buy a device like the DDJ-XP2 to unlock this) and the Creative at £14.99 which adds all the extras like Cloud syncing, video mixing, lyrics display, sequencer and RMX effects.

Rekordbox also has a lighting control with an optional DMX interface which uses the track analysis and a fixture database to build an intelligent light show with minimal fuss.

Serato in the same way is also free for basic, organising and analysing with main features unlocked when the appropriate hardware is connected. One advantage here is that there are many different controllers across different brands and price points. So you have a wider choice of hardware and can even opt for a lower price “Lite” controller and upgrade to the Pro software.

Speaking of which, Serato also has a subscription plan but currently also lets you pay a one off fee to upgrade to Pro and purchase expansions which add extra features like DVS and Video. For example, if you purchase and entry level controller you get Serato DJ Lite, you can pay an upgrade fee of approximately £99 and get Serato DJ Pro, for life and you get to use it on any compatible controller.

Some controllers and mixers are DVS enabled, others are DVS “ready” which means you will need to pay for the expansion pack. Other expansions include multiple effects to add up to 30 presets and Serato Flip which is like saving macros of pad actions.


In summary, there is no right or wrong one to choose. Rekordbox ticks a lot of boxes, it has more to offer, and is the go to platform if you’re going to be playing out using a USB stick on Pioneer DJ gear.
It is also more complex and you can easily mess up the settings if you poke around under the hood too much, plus you can only use it with Pioneer DJ hardware. One Great bonus for beginners is that even the entry level controller includes the full version of the software.


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