has skyrocketed in popularity over the past five years and it's no
wonder why. Compared to a full vinyl setup with all the hardware and
physical media it requires, an MP3-based mixing station is extremely
simple and cheap. There's even free software to get you started, and one
of the most popular programs available is Virtual DJ.
Virtual DJ is
often packaged with USB-based hardware mixing consoles from the likes of
Hercules and Numark, and, in fact, if you really want to delve into the
full array of features, such devices are going to be a necessity--and
they'll require a $99 license fee to upgrade to the Pro version of the
software. That said, you can download the app for free by itself and
make very basic mixes and playlists.
While the program
isn't specifically geared at newbies, it is intuitive enough for a
musically inclined individual to use right off the bat. Once installed,
Virtual DJ automatically populates a folder tree in the bottom left
corner where you can easily access your music collection. The bottom
middle serves as a tabbed, multifunction area where you can browse
tracks, sample music bites, add effects, and make recordings.
The top of the
window is dominated by two digital turntables, which are distinguished
by color: blue on the left and red on the right. Each one has the
ability to cue, loop, adjust pitch, scratch, and shift (among other
features). In the middle is the mixing console, where you can adjust the
gain and master volume, as well as transition between the two tracks.
Once the songs have been dragged and dropped into the console, a bar
along the top displays the sound waves of each to help with visual
mixing. There's also a video input option that lets you create montages
to the music.
interface and high number of features score points, but learning how to
use the program is a hit-or-miss proposition. To be perfectly honest,
using it without mixing hardware (that is, just a mouse and keyboard) is
a challenge, and not one we enjoyed, so we recommend hooking up a
compatible USB controller. Also worth a look: the thorough online user
Virtual DJ is free, fully featured, and well-laid-out. It's a useful option both for aspiring mixers and newbies.