- Price: Rekordbox 5.0 is free. Modules come at a cost (Rekb DJ: 139 USD, Rekb DVS: 109 USD, Rekb Video: 159 USD)
- Manufacturer: Pioneer DJ
- More Info: Rekordbox product page
- Availability: Now
Rekordbox 5.0 was launched last week, and today we dive deep into its features! Is Rekordbox, and its performance module Rekordbox DJ, becoming a serious contender for the title of best professional DJ software? Let’s find out!
Without question, the design has improved. Vastly. Rekordbox and Rekordbox DJ where a decent looking piece of software in previous iterations, but here it has reached a level of usability that is very comparable to Serato DJ. Probably if you ask Pioneer DJ engineers, they will, at least behind closed doors, admit that Serato DJ was an inspiration. And that is not a bad thing, on the contrary. Copy with pride, but copy the good parts and improve on them, that is what most successful software and hardware companies do.
Pioneer DJ is taking stability and performance seriously, and to optimize that, they developed an entirely new core engine called Koretech. In their own words:
When developing rekordbox ver 5.0, we re-examined the audio, graphic and video signal processing program to create the next-generation engine KORETECH, which makes rekordbox a more lightweight and stable application offering powerful features and performance.
No real explanation on how it actually works, but it’s easy to read between the lines, and the graphic above explains that engineers have separated, on a code level, the GUI (user interface) from the actual audio, graphics and video signal processing (what they call Koretech) and the OS layer (Windows or Mac). This is how modern apps should be written and generally result in more robust and stable operation, and easier maintenance.
How does it affect Rekordbox 5? We need to test it more extensively, but from my first tests, the performance part is snappier and quicker than the 4.5 version.
With version 5.0, Rekordbox DJ has also undergone a major re-design. The overall look is very flat and balanced, gone are the 3D shade effects on buttons that really have no place in modern DJ software. This makes all the sections clearer, and easier to understand/navigate.
Features & Functionalities
Rekordbox DJ is all about performance, and in version 5, the number of possibilities have greatly been expanded.
Deck Display Options
The overall design improvement of Rekordbox DJ cannot prevent that Running 4 decks on a 13-inch laptop screen leaves little room for library browsing.
If you are planning to run 4 decks, I recommend getting a 15-inch laptop for comfortable use. I really hope Pioneer DJ soon will start to roll out more controllers with built-in screens, as that makes things easier for DJ’s that use 4 decks and want to reserve their laptop screen for browsing (Rekordbox DJ can be set to browse mode which minimizes the decks).
The performance pads on Rekordbox DJ have now expanded functionality compared to the previous version. There are a total of 10 different performance modes, let’s quickly review the most important ones:
- Hot Cue: No need to explain. Set a maximum of 16 hot cues.
- Pad FX: Use a series of FX instantly with the pads, or use the SLIP LOOP feature
- Slicer: Slice a part of the track and loop portions of it while the track continues to play underneath
- Beat Jump: Jump a certain amount of beats back and forth in a track
- Beat Loop: Use the pads to engage loops of a certain length
- Keyboard: Similar to Serato’s Pitch n Play. Allows you to pitch up and down a certain hot cue.
- Key Shift: Instantly shift the key of a track up and down with the pads.
All these modes support up to 16 (!) pads at the time. To take full advantage of this, you do need a controller that has 16 pads per deck such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-XP1.
The performance options are fantastic. There is so much to choose from and when you start experimenting with this you quickly realize how far you can actually customise your performance to sound unique.
The effects section in Rekordbox DJ is quite extensive and offers plenty of different options. Let’s break it down.
It’s possible to set different types of effects. Beat FX allows setting 3 effects at the same time or 1 effect with a more extensive fine-tuning option, set to the BPM of the deck or manually by tap. The effects are Pioneer DJ quality, same that you will find on their high-end DJM mixers so needless to say, they sound very good.
The second option is the CFX (sound color effects) that, depending on your gear, can be controlled by specific knobs on the mixer or through the filter knob. Here you can or configure 1 effect for all the channels or different effects per channel. If your DJ controllers DJ mixer has built-in CFX, they are hardware and work with external inputs as well.
Lastly, Rekordbox DJ has also Release FX (echo, vinyl break, and backspin), ideal for transitions.
The sampler in Rekordbox DJ works as in most other DJ software. Samples can be set to one-shots or continuous play and sync them, amongst other features. Launching samples happens through the performance pads on compatible controllers.
The Rekordbox DJ sequencer does what Flip does for Serato DJ: capture loops, edit them with the performance pads and record the result that can be stored in the software. Again, more possibilities to get creative and remix your tracks live.
Midi controller support
Rekordbox DJ is designed to work with Pioneer DJ controllers only, the same as these controllers are made to work exclusively with Rekordbox DJ. Pioneer DJ is taking the closed ecosystem route that made Traktor Pro the tightly integrated DJ solution it is today, and so far it seems that this choice is paying off for Pioneer DJ.
Most of the Pioneer DJ DDJ-XX controller line is compatible with Rekordbox DJ, as most media players from the CDJ and XDJ lines. Check the full list here.
The DDJ-S* series that Pioneer DJ released during the last few years for Serato DJ (DDJ-SB2, DDJ-SX2, DDJ-SZ and in the future DDJ-SZ2 and DDJ-SR2) are backward compatible with Rekordbox DJ as well.
Our top picks
The line of dedicated Rekordbox DJ controllers is ever growing, and amongst those, we do have our favorites.
In the compact class: Pioneer DDJ-RR
The DDJ-RR is compact, fully featured and has a hardware mixer that supports Rekordbox DVS.
It features 8 performance pads per channel, a 3 band EQ per channel, support for Rekordbox Sequencer and professional grade inputs and outputs.
Each deck has a touch strip for quick track browsing, and 3 knobs to control Rekordbox DJ effects.
In the professional class: Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ
The RZ is a huge beast. It features CDJ sized jog wheels with center LCD display, a 4 channel hardware mixer with integrated sound color effects, professional-grade inputs & outputs on the back and double USB inputs for easy DJ changeovers.
The RZ has a hardware mixer as well, which allows connecting CDJ’s and turntables to it.
Essentially, it’s the closest a DJ controller comes (except for the DDJ-RZX) to emulate a CDJ/DJM setup.
Rekordbox doesn’t have an IOS/Android version of the Rekordbox DJ software, but it does have an IOS/Android app for music preparation. It is quite handy to prepare tracks on the go and then transfer them to your computer, but keep in mind that the transfer can only happen through wifi. I will look into the workflow in a separate piece in the near future.
Pioneer DJ recently brought out the WeDJ app, that mimics Rekordbox DJ on several points but it’s more directed to starting DJs. I will look into mobile DJ apps in a separate piece as well, including the WeDJ app.
Rekordbox being originally a music preparation application, the options to organize, import, export and overall manage music are extensive. The same goes for the options for analyzing and correcting tracks. The interface to do this is very convenient as it is separate from the performance part, with a big central waveform to facilitate work.
When setting the track analysis options, it’s possible to go for a normal or dynamic analysis mode (in order to correctly beat grid tracks with variable bpm) and there is the option to set a bpm range as well. You can also analyze the key at the same time if you want to go for harmonic mixing.
Rekordbox 5.0 analyzes tracks quickly but stops for 10 to 15 seconds at 98%. I assume this is due to better analysis, or maybe this is just a glitch that will be ironed out in future updates. Time will tell.
Rekordbox’s export module hasn’t changed on the surface, but under the hood now allows to use any Rekordbox USB stick to be used on any computer running Rekordbox 5.0! This is absolutely great and allows DJ’s that carry around Rekordbox USB sticks to use them to DJ on Pioneer DJ controllers connected to Rekordbox DJ computers. More flexibility, and more chances for CDJ DJ’s to give controllers a try.
Rekordbox DVS is the dedicated add-on for DVS (Digital Vinyl System) that costs € 109. You need the license to Rekordbox DJ and, of course, Rekordbox itself.
Rekordbox DVS has two modes:
- Absolute Mode: replicate the experience of scratching with traditional vinyl.
- Relative Mode: access digital features such as Hot Cues and Sync, and scratch freely – regardless of where the needle is on the Control Vinyl.Plus you can use Rekordbox MIDI Learn to assign features to your controller for even more flexibility, while keyboard shortcuts give you quick access to Hot Cues and other tricks straight from your laptop.
Rekordbox DVS can be used with a compatible controller, or you can combine it with Pioneer DJ’s Interface 2 and use any mixer you already own to spin vinyl.
Rekordbox Video allows for video mixing and supports a range of controllers, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX being the ideal (but very expensive) top choice. Rekordbox video allows you to mix live video coming from connected cameras, apply overlay text and effects to your video transitions, and more. Check out the video below for a tour of the Rekordbox Video features, and those of the DDJ-RZX.
So is Rekordbox DJ your DJ software of choice? It might be, but a few things are important to keep in mind when making your choice:
- Rekordbox DJ is a part of Rekordbox. The big advantage of this is that preparing your tracks in Rekordbox not only prepare them for Rekordbox DJ, but also for use with CDJ and XDJ media players from Pioneer DJ. So going from your bedroom to the club with your USB stick containing nicely beatgridded and prepared tracks is a breeze.
- If you need support for DVS and/or for video, Rekordbox is a good choice. With the release of Interface 1, DVS is now possible with any mixer.
- Rekordbox DJ is tightly integrated with Pioneer DJ controllers, and with Pioneer DJ controllers only. This means optimal performance, but not much controller choice compared to other solutions.
- Rekordbox DJ is very performance oriented, with a lot of ways to trigger effects, many functions behind the performance pads and features such as a sampler & sequencer. If you are performance oriented DJ, Rekordbox DJ won’t disappoint.
If all the above boxes tick off for you, Rekordbox DJ might well be your software of choice!