Rekordbox VS Serato 2024 – which is better? – features compared

Table of Contents

What are Rekordbox and Serato?

Rekordbox and Serato are both DJ software for your Windows and Mac computer.
You can mix one track into the other with both software.

There is one clear distinction I have to make between Rekordbox and Serato.

Rekordbox is used to export your music library to USB drives (to use on AlphaTheta hardware), and on top of that it is DJ performance software.
Serato is DJ performance software exclusively.
You can not prepare USB drives with Serato to use on AlphaTheta DJ hardware.

Rekordbox has a separate export-mode (managing music library and exporting) and performance-mode (to play a DJ gig).
Serato has only one “mode”, the “performance mode”.

Both software supports basic DJ techniques like beat matching and EQ mixing.

In this article I look at several features of Serato and Rekordbox and give a five star rating (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) for each.

User interface

This is the export mode in Rekordbox.
In my opinion, most buttons are too small, also in the performance mode.
This software is supposed to be operated in damp clubs with sticky (mouse) surfaces or a slow/inaccurate touchpad.

I do find Rekordbox’s interface fairly crowded, and also icons are sometimes cryptic.

I think Serato is doing slightly better than Rekordbox in a couple of areas.
There is more color for example, which makes it easier to distinguish graphical elements.
But Serato does look a bit more outdated compared to Rekordbox.

But also the buttons in Serato are fairly small.
And I do like the modern look of the waveform in Rekordbox better.

I don’t think that both are great when it comes to Graphical User Interface.
Of course this is highly dependent on personal preference.
My personal favorite is still Virtual DJ in that regard.




Let me start by stating that both Rekordbox and Serato a perfectly capable of performing DJ gigs.

But I miss some tools here and there in Serato.
The cue-button being the most obvious one.
Strictly speaking, you don’t need it, but it makes things a lot easier, for example getting in the beat by tapping it.

Rekordbox has little menus everywhere hidden under buttons, I don’t like that.
I’ve been using Rekordbox for 8 years at the moment of writing, but I still find menus to this day I didn’t know existed.

Nothing major, but I think that both software have to issues to iron out when it comes to usability.




When it comes to compatibility it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

On one hand, Rekordbox is industry leading.
Every controller and player that matters (wich is every hardware from AlphaTheta) works with Rekordbox.
(Some DJ software like Virtual DJ and Engine DJ even allow you to import your Rekordbox library.)

On the other hand, Rekordbox only supports AlphaTheta hardware.
Serato supports a wide variety of DJ controllers and players, including a lot of AlphaTheta equipment.

Serato supports more controllers than Rekordbox, also controllers from other brands.
So make sure your controller is on the lists I linked above.



For beginners

Is Serato or Rekordbox better for beginners?

In my opinion one is not better than the other.
Both are not great for beginners to begin with.
One is not easier than the other.

But …
Rekordbox is the software of industry standard: AlphaTheta (formerly known as Pioneer DJ).

If you want to start DJing, you are better off with Rekordbox for two reasons:
1. Because you can grow with Rekordbox.
2. It’s free.

Rekordbox allows you to use the performance capabilities for Rekordbox when you are a small DJ.
Later you can use Rekordbox as library management software to export tracks to a USB drive.

All major clubs and festivals in the world use AlphaTheta equipment, which you can only use with a Rekordbox prepared USB drive.




When you import music, your DJ software will analyze the music to determine where the beats are in the music, and where the first beat of a bar is.
But also to determine the key of a song which allows harmonic mixing.

Which one is better at analyzing?

Rekordbox is the clear winner here, no doubt.
Only some of the tracks were analyzed wrong.

While Rekordbox is not 100% right all the time.
Serato was wrong with all of the 1000 imported tracks I tested!

Some tracks in Serato were completely off.
The rest was shifted ever-so-slighly back in time (see screenshot below)

This makes cue points and loops inaccurate!
In other words, you need to edit every track manually to correct the beatgrid.

Serato places Cue Points automatically for some tracks (which I really like), whereas Rekordbox does not.
However, Rekordbox analyzes phrases, which Serato does not.



Editing the Beat Grid

When the tracks are not analyzed correctly, how easy is it to correct the mistakes?

Rekordbox (shown above) offers more features to correct the beatgrid.
Both software supports the quantize function to stay in the beat more easily, however Serato misses a Cue-button which is present in Rekordbox.
It’s not a necessity, but it makes navigating just a little easier.

The icons in Serato (shown above) more descriptive than Rekordbox.
In Rekordbox you have to guess a little bit what the buttons do.

What is the button with the white and red line do?
It’s the first beat of the bar.

I’m missing the expand and shrink function in Serato.
I miss the lock feature to prevent accidental edits in Serato.
I also miss the double and half beat button in Serato.
(sometimes track are double or half the BPM than analyzed)

I’m also missing a metronome in Serato.
Sometimes you need audible feedback to determine if the beatgrid is correct.
Also, not a dealbreaker, but it makes things just a little faster and easier.

Editing in both software is painful, slow and clunky, but even more so in Serato.
When you realize you have to edit every single track in Serato, because it doesn’t properly analyze, Rekordbox is the clear winner here.



Hot Cues/Cue Points

Rekordbox makes a distinction Cue Points and Hot Cues.
Hot Cues are jumping points in a song, which play automatically when activated.
Cue Points are song markers, to start a song at a certain position or to mark a change in the song.

Serato makes no such distinction.
Hot Cues are Cue Points and vice versa.

I really like Serato’s approach and don’t know why Rekordbox makes this distinction.



Performance compared

I’ve looked at the average CPU and memory usage of Serato and Rekordbox.
The tests were done on a freshly rebooted 10gen Intel Core i9 with 64MB of memory, a NVidia RTX 3080 on a Windows PC, and a PCIe-3 NVME SSD.

softwareRAM RAM AnalyzeCPUCPU AnalyzeGPUStartupAnalyze 1000*
Rekordbox1300 MB1800 MB6%65%12%9 sec13m 50s
Serato Pro5000 MB3000 MB3%96%19%17 sec6m 3s
* 1000 songs were analyzed (10x AIFF files, 4x WAV files, 986 mp3 files)

Data analyzed:
Rekordbox: Key, BPM, beatgrid, phrases
Serato: Key, BPM, beatgrid, cue points

Both Rekordbox and Serato are very resource intensive compared to other software.
A full performance comparison with other software, you can find in my article on the best DJ software.



System Requirements

OSWindows, MacWindows, Mac
CPUIntel Core 5, 7, 9 (6th gen or more, 8th gen preferred)
Ryzen 5 3000 or better
Apple M1 or higher
Intel Core 3, 5, 7, 9 (5th gen or more)
Ryzen 5 1000 or better
Apple M1 or higher
Memory8GB RAM, 16GB preferred4GB RAM, 16GB preferred
Storage15GB Hard disk/ SSD (recommended)2GB Hard disk/ SSD (recommended)
MiscInternet connectionInternet connection

Difference Serato and Rekordbox

Let’s compare features of Serato and Rekordbox:

RB = Rekordbox (=free)
RB$ = Rekordbox subscription
SRP = Serato Pro (without controller)
SRPC = Serato Pro with controller
SRS = Serato Suite

Perform (not lib. man.)✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
EQ mixing (via controller)✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
EQ mixing (on screen)✔️✔️
BPM/Grid/Key detect✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Phrase detect✔️✔️
Tempo Sync / timestretch✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Key Sync✔️✔️✔️
Active loop✔️✔️
Auto stem separation✔️✔️✔️✔️
Play stem tracks
Slip/flux mode✔️✔️✔️✔️
Beat jump✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Digital Vinyl (DVS)✔️✔️
Album art✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Smart playlists✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Max player decks442*2*2*
Key notation **CCCOCOCO
Record mix✔️✔️✔️✔️
Hot Cues✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Cue Points✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
MS OneDrive
Google Drive✔️
.AAC/MP4 (M4A) ***✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
.ALAC (M4A)✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Audio CD✔️✔️✔️
* depends on controller, if controller supports 4: it is 4
**Camelot or Open key notation (C = Camelot, O = Open key, N = Normal/classic)
*** Non-DRM AAC
**** Mac only

Rekordbox has more features than Serato.
However, nothing is really lacking from Serato in my opinion.

I miss EQ mixing in Serato Pro.
This is a really basic feature to allow proper mixing.




Both companies push their subscription model really hard.
I always would opt for a perpetual license, since a subscription is a tax on the stupid and the poor.

Rekordbox has no paid perpetual license.
Their only perpetual license is free.
The free version is pretty complete.
Rekordbox licenses are $9 – $30 a month.

Serato has two paid perpetual licenses:
Serato Pro $250 – check latest price on Amazon (affiliate link)
Serato Suite $450
The pro version is pretty bare bones, you probably need the Suite version.

For more information:
Pricing Serato: Serato website.
Pricing Rekordbox: Rekordbox website.



Do DJs use Serato or Rekordbox?

From what I’ve seen in the field, most DJs use either Serato or Rekordbox.

While Rekordbox is more often used than Serato, not a lot of DJs play gigs with Rekordbox.
They use Rekordbox mainly for library management to play their gigs (with a USB sticks) on industry standard AlphaTheta DJ club hardware (CDJs).

More accurate would be the question:
Do DJs use a laptop with controller or do DJs use CDJs.

Most DJs I know are CDJ DJs.
This is also my personal preference, because I like the physicality of real DJ hardware with buttons, instead of looking on a screen and controlling a slow mouse cursor.

I also did a poll amongst DJs with an interesting outcome:

Serato = Rekordbox

Hear me out, AlphaTheta (Pioneer DJ) bought Serato back in 2023.
In other words: the software might be different, but it is the same company.

My “fear” is that AlphaTheta will pick Serato bone dry and leaves it to die.
Of course, this is pure speculation, but something to keep in the back of your head.

Serato wasn’t doing that well, so what is the gain for AlphaTheta to keep Serato alive now they have gained their name, user base and technologies?

Conclusion: which is better Serato or Rekordbox?

Both are good, but neither are great.
But I do think that Rekordbox is better for the following reasons:

  1. Rekordbox is industry standard
  2. Rekordbox allows you to grow
  3. It’s free

A detailed look at Rekordbox, you can find in my Rekordbox review.
A detailed look at Serato, you can find in my Serato review.

Or take a look at my DJ software buying guide:

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