Serato DJ Review & Guide

Serato DJ

Serato started life as a company creating time stretching systems for music production way back in the summer of 1999. An experiment a year later between the founders of the company led to the invention of Noise map technology, the ability to control digital music using vinyl. This idea developed into 2004’s Scratch Live, the legendary DJ software that was adored by turntablists globally.

Becoming one of the most popular DJ software, Serato decided to rewrite their programmes in 2018, splitting their software into two versions based around ability. Serato DJ Lite is a free application used in conjunction with supported hardware. With limited performance features, Serato DJ Lite shares the same layout and library as the more advanced Pro version. Serato DJ Pro, adds to the intuitive design with more performance features and the ability to add expansion packs for power users who require the very best from digital DJ’ing.

Importing Music Into Serato DJ

Serato DJ Crates

Serato uses a crate system to store music within its library. To create a new crate, simply click the New Crate button which looks like this.

You can rename crates by double-clicking on their names and stack them by dragging one crate onto another. This creates subcrates which can help with organization.

To add music into a crate you can simply navigate to your music within Finder or Windows Explorer and drag it into the crate. Alternatively, you can use Serato’s inbuilt navigation by pressing ‘Files’ and dragging the tracks into a crate.

iTunes in Serato DJ

Using iTunes in Serato couldn’t be easier. Simply click the gear icon to access settings, then navigate to library and view settings. You will see the “Show iTunes Library” option.


Check this option to show your iTunes library above the crates section in Serato DJ. Please note that Serato will need restarting before any changes made in your iTunes library will show, so don’t add to your playlists in iTunes whilst Serato is running.

Streaming Music in Serato DJ

A recent addition to Serato, the integration of streaming platforms Tidal and Soundcloud Go, allows DJs to playback tracks found on either service. You will need a valid subscription with either platform to access the music in Serato. To link it to your software, navigate to the Library and View Settings, then log in to your streaming service account.


Once logged in, your playlists will show above the crates. You can add to playlists created within the Soundcloud or Tidal website and apps. Please note you can’t drag Soundcloud or Tidal tracks into other crates. You also can’t record your mixes while using streaming tracks, and at the time of writing, you need to be connected to the internet at all times to play. There is no offline mode to store songs from the streaming services.

Music Streaming In Serato

Music Streaming is now within Serato’s preferences.

Music Analysis

Once your tracks are loaded into your Serato library via any of the above methods, you will need to analyze them. Analyzing the track gives important information about the track such as its volume, the BPM and the key.


When you play a song for the first time in Serato, it will analyze it, but this can slow down your workflow as you await the BPM information to be displayed. It’s for this reason we recommend you pre analyze your library before any sets.

How to analyse your music in Serato DJ

Launch Serato without any hardware plugged in to enter preparation mode. From here we can select all our tracks from our library by pressing CMD+A on a Mac or CTRL+A on Windows.


Once all the tracks in our library or crate are highlighted, simply drag them over the ‘Analyse Tracks’ button, and it will begin. Once the analyze window has automatically closed, you’re ready to plug some decks in and begin DJing!

Equipment Supported by Serato DJ

Both Serato DJ Lite and Serato DJ Pro are only compatible with hardware that is officially supported. This means there is no messy MIDI mapping or Audio Routing to perform with the software to get it working. With Serato, you simply plug in and start playing. The equipment that is supported, ranges from beginner controllers through to flagship media players. As it’s only a beginner software, DJ Lite is only compatible with controllers and therefore limited to 36 devices.


All 36 controllers do unlock the software for free. Serato DJ Pro, on the other hand, is unlocked for free with 58 different pieces of hardware. These include controllers, sound cards, all in one unit and mixers. In addition to this, Serato DJ Pro if unlocked by licence code or hardware, is compatible with additional accessories.

Controllers

Serato DJ Lite is compatible with 36 different controllers from manufactures such as Pioneer DJ, Numark and Hercules. All Serato DJ Lite hardware unlocks the software for free and can be used with Serato DJ Pro if you decide to purchase the licence. Serato DJ Pro can be used with 28 controllers free of charge. These range from the recent Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT to the older Vestax VCI-300.

Pioneer DDJ SB2

Mixers

Serato DJ Lite is only compatible with DJ controllers, however, Serato DJ Pro is unlocked for free with 15 mixers including the Numark Scratch and Pioneer DJM-S3. A further eight mixers are compatible with the purchase of a licence code. These include the club-standard Pioneer DJM 900 and Allen & Heath XONE DB4.

Soundcards

Serato DJ Pro is compatible with four soundcard interfaces. These include the Rane SL2, SL3, SL4 and Denon DS-1, all of which unlock the software and DVS expansion pack free of charge.

All In One

Serato DJ Pro is currently compatible with two all in one units, both of which are flagship devices. The Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ and Denon DJ Prime 4.

Denon Prime 4

CDJs / Media Players

Serato DJ Pro works with 10 CDJ and Media players including the Denon SC5000 and Pioneer CDJ2000 however these are in HID mode only. The players are seen as accessories to Serato and as such can only be used to control Serato, not output it. This means a sound card, mixer or controller will need to be used alongside a CDJ player in order to output the audio and unlock the software. Learn how to set up HID mode in this article.

Performance Pads / Accessories

As we have already mentioned, 10 CDJ Media players can be used as accessories to control the virtual decks within Serato DJ Pro. In addition to these players, eight performance pad accessories can also be used to control the software. These include the popular Pioneer DDJ-XP2 and Reloop Neon.

 

Performance features in Serato DJ

Both Serato DJ Lite and Serato DJ Pro offer four virtual decks complete with effects, performance pad modes and sampler.

Effects

Aimed at beginners, Serato DJ Lite features six effects in two banks of three effects that can be combined together. Serato DJ Pro also features two effect banks that can be kept in two banks of three effects, or changed to tune and control just one effects parameters more precisely. In DJ Pro the number of effects is increased to 22, with expansion packs available separately to take the DJ up to 46 studio-quality effects.

Performance Pads

Serato DJ Lite features basic pad modes including Hot Cue, Sampler and Loops. Specific hardware enables different modes such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3’s pad scratch mode and Hercules DJ Control Starlight’s Pad Effects. However, these are specific to these controllers and not available in the software separately.


Serato DJ Pro performance pads feature Hot Cue, Roll, Sampler, Slicer, Beat Jump and Pitch Play (Pitch and Time expansion pack needed) modes. These modes require controllers or accessories to access, however, it is possible to MIDI map the functions to other buttons.

MIDI Mapping

Serato DJ Pro also allows users to MIDI map plugged in hardware, should you wish to change your controller or accessories layout.

DJ Tools

Serato DJ Pro includes a quantize feature that will lock the DJ’s button presses to the beat grid. This tool can be changed from 1 beat down to 1/16 of a beat to help keep the DJ in time when pressing a hot cue, loop or reverse. Sync is also available to the DJ on all four decks with simple and complex modes.

Ableton Link

Ableton Link is a system that synchronizes musical beat, tempo, and phase across multiple applications running on one or more devices. Serato DJ Pro can sync its playing decks with an Ableton project as long as the project is being run on a computer inside the same network. At the time of writing, there are over 190 applications that can sync with Ableton Link, including other DJ applications such as Rekordbox, Virtual DJ and Traktor.

Expansion Packs

Video

Serato Video brings videos into your Serato DJ Pro performances. With inbuilt transitions, effects and image overlays, Serato Video treats the video files just like audio, making it easy to DJ video performances. Serato Video expansion pack is available for $99 or as part of the bundle subscription pack which includes every expansion pack for $9.99 a month.

DVS

DVS (Digital Vinyl System) allows users to control the virtual decks with external timecode, typically from a Vinyl or CD source. It was Serato’s initial development of the technology that led to the software’s popularity. DVS is unlocked for free with supporting hardware such as the Rane SL sound cards or purchased separately for $99. A $9.99 per month subscription is also available for all expansion packs.

Serato Flip

Serato Flip allows DJ’s to record routines and edits of a track and then save them for playback later on. Learn more about this creative expansion pack in our to five ways to use Serato Flip Guide. Serato Flip costs $29 to buy outright, or you can subscribe to all the expansion packs for $9.99.

Serato Pitch n Time

Pitch ‘n Time is Serato’s legendary Time-Stretching and Key-Shifting algorithm that they first debuted back in 1999. This expansion pack allows the DJ to shift and sync the key of your tracks, as well as speed up and slow down your tracks to extreme tempos without a quality loss in audio quality. It is available as part of the $9.99 subscription to all expansions, or to purchase separately for $29.

Serato Play

Serato Play allows DJ to play with Serato DJ Lite and Pro without any hardware connected and access advanced features such as EQ, FX, Filters, your other expansion packs and more. The expansion costs $29 or you can subscribe to all the expansion packs for $9.99. Learn more about Serato Play in our dedicated guide.

iOS Serato Remote

Serato Remote is an application available on the Apple App Store for iPad and iPad mini. It connects over Wi-Fi, allowing the DJ to control Serato DJ Pro. The app can control 8 Cue Points, Loops and Samples, load tracks, browse your library and manipulate effects.

Pricing Plans

Serato DJ Lite is a free download that can be used with either the Serato Play expansion pack ($29) or any compatible DJ controller. Serato DJ Pro costs $129. The software can also be unlocked for free with supported hardware.

The subscription models below allow DJ’s to access Serato DJ Pro and the expansion packs with a lower initial outlay. Each expansion pack is also available to purchase separately to enable DJ’s to tailor the software to their needs.

Subscriptions

Serato DJ Essentials$11.99 per month Serato DJ Essentials provides DJ’s with the software with some popular expansion packs.

  • DJ Pro 
  • Play 
  • FX 
  • Flip 
  • Pitch ‘n Time DJ 

Serato DJ Suite$14.99 per month ($299 one time purchase) Serato DJ Suite unlocks the Pro software and every expansion, making it the ultimate Serato Set Up!

  • DJ Pro 
  • Play 
  • DVS 
  • Video 
  • FX 
  • Flip 
  • Pitch ‘n Time DJ

Serato DJ Expansions$9.99 per month Serato DJ Expansions requires Serato DJ Pro to be unlocked with hardware or a licence code.

  • Play 
  • FX 
  • Flip 
  • Pitch ‘n Time DJ 
  • DVS 
  • Video

Conclusion

Serato DJ is one of the best software currently available and has been highly regarded for many years. We are particularly impressed with the simplicity in setting up, with every piece of hardware being plug and play. Being compatible with hardware from various manufactures, DJ’s from various backgrounds and budgets can take to Serato DJ and enjoy the same experience.


Unfortunately with Serato not creating hardware as a company and the software only compatible with licensed hardware, users can sometimes be left with new hardware either not being supported or a delay on the device being added to Serato. This has been the case with many of the offerings from Pioneer DJ and Denon DJ, which can be frustrating for users who play in different venues.


That said, the rock-solid stability and vast expansion pack options mean that Serato DJ is one of the most versatile and complete products currently on the market. The transition between Serato DJ Lite into Serato DJ Pro is simple, and the wide variety of hardware means DJ’s from all backgrounds and styles can grow and develop with Serato equally, a feat not matched by any of its rivals!

Learn to DJ with Serato DJ

Our online DJ courses for Serato DJ will help you go from a beginner to advanced DJ! Learn everything from fundamental mixing techniques, EQ control and transitions to advanced sampling, sequencing and mash-up mixing.

Published: 5th May 2020

★★★★★
Price as tested: Free Download
Serato DJ Essentials – $11.99
Serato DJ Suite – $14.99
Serato DJ Expansions – $9.99

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