May 20, 2014 by Joey Santos (DDJT Team) 27 Comments Review Summary:Although it broadly retains the look and feel of the previous version, Virtual DJ 8 is a full rewrite from the ground up, that already sounds and works much better than its predecessors. Atomix - Virtual DJ’s developer - has always quietly incorporated high-tech stuff that others added later and then shouted louder about. So when Atomix began to tout a full rewrite of the software a couple of years back, of course excitement was high about how it would look and perform. Historically, Virtual DJ has taken flack because some DJs don’t consider it to be “professional” software for performance, which could be a result of Atomix having initially produced software that today would appear very simple, or that it has given away millions of copies of the free version making it many people's first stepping stone in DJ software, or maybe even just the name ("Virtual DJ" implies the opposite of "real DJ", after all). Virtual DJ 8 is the first DJ software to include compatibility with high resolution displays like Apple's Retina, bringing a much needed overhaul to its graphical user interface which nonetheless will be instantly familiar to previous users of the software.
Virtual DJ 8 on a Retina display looks absolutely crisp, however it still tends to look cramped if you've got a lot of zones open in your Browser.
With that said, if you thought the screen was cramped before, you might find it even more cramped still now: Your effects and hot cues now reside on either edge of the screen, and while this makes the area around the decks a lot cleaner, the overall interface just looks a bit busy, not to mention the extra windows at the bottom half of the screen where your songs are listed.
Virtual DJ is known for having one of the largest, if not the largest, list of officially compatible controllers that work straight out of the box (210 at the moment. Virtual DJ 8 comes with three different licensing options: First, if you plan on using Virtual DJ 8 without any other kit such as a DJ controller or mixer, it's free under the Home User licence. Once you've picked the licence you want, it's just a matter of downloading the appropriate mapping file from the Virtual DJ website, installing the mapping, setting it up in the preferences, and you're good to go.
Once you've purchased the licence appropriate to your needs, it's all a matter of downloading the mapping for your controller over at the Virtual DJ site, enabling it in the preferences, and you're all set. I've been using Serato DJ a lot recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that almost all the controls I've come to enjoy on my DDJ-SR didn't get lost in translation in Virtual DJ 8. What didn't seem to work was the DDJ-SR's Pad Plus mode which, when enabled, gives you even more performance pad combination options like Hot Cue Roll and Sampler Roll. Virtual DJ has been a popular platform for mobile and karaoke DJs because of its built-in video mixing capabilities, which let you stream visuals onto a projector or large screen while you mix.
The video crossfader can be linked to your mixer crossfader, which lets you mirror your audio mixing moves onto video, perfect for gigs where you have to control both the dancefloor's music and the visuals as well.
The Scratch window lets you view your waveforms in a vertical orientation, much like in Serato DJ, and is designed for scratch performance and routines. As you'd expect, the Master window contains controls that affect the entire audio output of Virtual DJ 8.
The Master window has volume, effects, and recording controls that affect all the audio going out of Virtual DJ 8.
While there may be some uses for tube saturation and a little bit of analogue overdrive as effects for certain parts while DJing, the Distortion effect in Virtual DJ 8 sounds to me like clipping: It's a harsh, bright sound that sounds like you're pushing your sound card's output beyond its optimal ceiling. The echo effect does as its name suggests: It creates repetitions of the music as the track goes along, creating an echo effect. Virtual DJ 8's onboard flange and phase effects are a far more pleasant affair: At very slow modulation speeds (eight bars), they sound like good plugins as found stok in most Digital Audio Workstations. The loop section provides controls for specifying loop in and out points, loop length, and the ability to create rolls and auto loops. Virtual DJ 8 lets you broadcast your mix to listeners, either through a direct PC to PC connection, a Shoutcast or Icecast radio server connection, or what it calls an "episodes" podcast. One of the new features in Virtual DJ 8 is Sandbox: This mode allows you to audition what a mix might sound like in your headphones before actually executing the mix, meaning you can jump through parts of the song currently playing or mix it in with what you have on the other deck without affecting what’s coming out of your speakers.
Ported to version 8 is the Virtual DJ sampler that’s been redesigned: Instead of the volume faders and play buttons in Virtual DJ 7, what we have now is a folder and list structure that, while it feels more like browsing through Windows Explorer or Finder in the beginning, actually makes more sense if you’re using a large collection of loops and samples.
A Sample Editor is included in Virtual DJ 8, and it lets you do some very basic audio editing operations within the software itself. Maschine-style choke groups let you place samples in a bank whose playback is stopped whenever another sample form the same bank is played. Virtual DJ 8 comes with a vastly improved Browser section that is separated into three zones: Folders (which appear on the left side of the screen), File Zone (the middle which shows you your audio files), and Side Zone on the right.
Virtual DJ 8's browser is sub divided into three zones: Folders on the left, File zone in the middle and Side zone on the right. Filter Folders are 'smart' folders that pull songs in a parent folder based on a number of criteria that you can specify. Side Zone acts as an auxiliary window of sorts, letting you display Automix and Karaoke lists as well as entire folders of music that you can drag and drop here. You can dock Virtual DJ 8's Sampler in the Side zone if you want easy access to your samples with a mouse. The FX parameters in Virtual DJ 8 also appear in the Side Zone as windows, but it doesn’t let you slide them in and out of view. The File Zone lists all files inside a folder, and also has the LiveFeedback feature which suggests a song for you to play next.
Virtual DJ 8 automatically categorises portions of an entire song and assigns labels to them.
Virtual DJ 8’s most powerful new features are within the new editor functions that allow you to perform various audio-related tasks, some of which would be traditionally found in a Digital Audio Workstation like Pro Tools or a video editor like iMovie. This editor lets you create precise mix in and out points among songs in an Automix list, allowing for perfect transitions. The Automix editor allows you to fine tune your playlist for automated mixing, letting you specify mix in and mix out points as well as the types of transitions you would want between songs. All the Points of Interest that we mentioned earlier can be viewed in the POI Editor for convenience. The Points Of Interest Editor lets you see all the cue points, mix points, and other areas in a song that you've specified in one go. Virtual DJ 8 comes with a basic audio editor called Track Cleaner, which you can use to remove parts of a track that you don’t want, censor some inappropriate words by reversing them, or create edits by looping portions of a track to make some parts longer. It’s a bit clunky to use, to be honest, especially when there are simpler and more intuitive solutions out there like Audacity (free) or Reaper, but I guess it’s just fine for quick edits. The Track Cleaner is an audio editing feature that lets you reverse parts of a song that you'd want to censor, remove parts of a song that you'd want to omit and add portions of a track that you'd want to extend. You can do basic video editing functions within Virtual DJ 8, through the built-in video editor. The BPM Editor is where you get to set beatgrids and also properly indicate a track's BPM if its tempo varies throughout the duration of the song. Virtual DJ 8 comes with various skins for different screen resolutions, and it simply looks great on a Retina Macbook Pro. Virtual DJ 8 comes with a service that allows you to stream a song, karaoke track or video from the cloud, called Content Unlimited.


Content Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Virtual DJ from which you can stream and cache songs, karaoke tracks and videos. In previous years, Atomix has repeatedly delayed the release of this version of Virtual DJ, making its loyal fan base wait as the company add (and removed, as was the case with Timeline) features and cut out some bugs from the program. For long-time users of Virtual DJ, the update is a godsend: A brand new audio engine that sounds great, even wider Midi controller compatibility, and a crisp, modifiable graphical user interface that's made for the next five years. I’ve used a variety of editing software, simple and complex, through the years in my work as a sound engineer, so it’s safe to say that at the very least I’m familiar with the way audio editing software should work. The onboard effects could still sound a lot better, considering this is 2014 and software effect plugin technology has evolved to a stage wherein its gotten quite close to emulating the sound of high quality analogue and digital rack gear.
I would've wanted to see what the new Broadcast capabilities of the new Virtual DJ site could offer, especially in today's landscape where Mixify seems to dominate that niche. In the end, though, Virtual DJ 8 is a fantastic update that comes highly recommended: It's a great rewrite that already sounds and works much better than its predecessors, and is ready to be used straight away. Virtual DJ 8 is a sufficiently impressive answer to naysayers who continue to belittle the brand for any past shortcomings.
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While some of the new features aren't as smooth as they could be, they are also breaking new ground for mainstream DJ software.
After years of waiting, Virtual DJ 8 brings the popular DJ app into 2014 with a host of new features and performance improvements.
Video has been with Virtual DJ for many years, for instance, and their VDJScripting editor for deep configuration of the VDJ engine continues to give immense flexibility and compatibility for users who want more than the usual digital DJ experience. I am sure the company itself would admit it's been too long in the making and that expectations may have soared unreasonably high, but that's all in the past now: It's here, it exists, and it's being used right now by real DJs worldwide. The graphical user interface has, until now, been a point of contention for some DJs: It was cramped, didn't scale properly and was starting to look frankly a bit dated. There are some tabs and drop-down menus to navigate, so you’re definitely going to want to use a trackpad to go through them unless you've got a robust controller.
Second, if you're going to use it for non-commercial, non-professional purposes (ie you don't make any money off of DJing) but you want to use a controller, there's the Advanced Home User licence, whose price varies from US$49 to US$199 depending on your controller model (you can check out how much a licence for your controller costs on the Virtual DJ homepage).
Hot Cues and Rolls were effective on the performance pads, the Sampler button engaged Virtual DJ 8's Sample player as it should, and even Slicer worked exactly like it does in Serato DJ! The fourth knob in the FX section on my controller also wasn't properly mapped to the software. In the middle you have your basic EQ sections with low, middle and high knobs, as well as filter and gain knobs.
The software simplifies this by giving you the option to tie in the audio crossfader to the video crossfader, making your moves parallel for both music and visuals.
Clone Deck buttons allow you to make instant doubles of either deck for a quick setup if you're beat juggling, and Beatlock keeps both decks in sync even while scratching.
A myriad of scratch-related functions reside here, such as Clone Deck which lets you create a duplicate of one deck to another.
However, there are some other features tucked in here, such as the Broadcast panel which lets you stream your mix live, the Mix record button, and a Master effect drop-down menu which lets you apply FX that affect everything coming out of Virtual DJ 8.
While the Hot Cues number up to only six here, you can have more than that (I can have eight to maximise my performance pads on the DDJ-SR).
Some agree that the previously included modulation effects such as Reverb and Flange just sounded plain terrible, and there were precious few FX to choose form in Virtual Dj up to 7.4, too.
It's a digital sort of distortion sound, worlds apart from the warm, harmonic content-inducing sound associated with overdriving a piece of analogue or tube gear. You can even set a loop size and move that around, enabling and disabling whenever you want to use it at certain points in a song.
You can also use the PC-to-PC Direct option which, instead of generating an IP address for other listeners to connect to, lets Virtual DJ 8 generate a page that listeners can point their browsers to in order to listen to your broadcast. Alternatively, you can also do a PC-to-PC direct broadcast or an episodes podcast by logging on to their site which will provide you with an html5 player, streaming links and other tools. This is great for checking out mix in and mix out points when you’ve already got a track playing, and also a great way to figure out how songs sound like blended and stacked together when you have more than two decks playing at a time. This lets you classify it as a “Drop” (one shot) or as a Loop that repeats until you stop it. You can shuffle these zones in and out of view if you want them to take more or less screen real estate. The Side zone can be configured to display music folders, automix playlists, or in this case, the Sampler.
There is also the ability to create Favourites folders, Virtual folders and Filter folders, which are essentially playlists nested within a parent folder that contains audio that matches criteria that you can specify.
The Sampler button displays your sample banks in pad format, making it easier to view and click samples you’ve loaded when performing.
This is also where album art is displayed, and it scrolls like a carousel as you go through files in your collection. These portions are called “Points Of Interest,” and can be used throughout the entire Virtual DJ 8 ecosystem.
I think using the editors during a performance would be a bit counter-intuitive as it’s more “computer” type work than actual DJing, so I’d imagine that DJs would use these when they’re not at the club to create edits, Automix playlists and beatgrids. It’s a bit like creating a mixtape in Ableton Live, where you can automate certain volume fades between two songs so it sounds like you’re fading one song into the next. It allows you to manipulate the position and function of each POI, such as a “Mix ‘Fade’ Start” point, or to set any number of Cues. I did find it a bit of a struggle jump around the track and find precise cut points, especially since there don’t seem to be any hotkeys for editing, or even a scrub for playback (the spacebar is commonly used for Play, for instance, but this is absent in Virtual DJ 8).
Basic editing can be done in this window: Aside from editing the start and end points of the sample and a few attributes of the sample like Gain and Mode, the only other thing you can do is adjust the transparency and position of the video image and change the background colour. Although the software detects BPM and sets beatgrids for you automatically, this can be an issue when dealing with songs with wavering or varying tempos.
As you might expect, lets you add information about a song and store them as metadata within the song, and is quite useful when used with Virtual DJ 8’s Filter Folders feature. However if you’re planning to use this on a touch device such as a Microsoft Surface, it’s been optimised for that too. This vacuum has been filled by the words of naysayers and critics, with new questions arising arose and faithful expectations escalating as rumoured release date after rumoured release date came and went. These headline features are only the tip of a feature-deep iceberg that plunges to depths previously unexplored by any other digital DJ software.


So when I tried out the sound and video editors in Virtual DJ 8 I was disappointed, as they'd sounded like great ideas on paper. With more DJs using FX during their set to create fresh passages and edits on the fly, I believe having a solid suite of onboard effects that are up to current standards is a crucial part of the entire digital DJ experience.
It's a clever feature that's still in its infancy, but it could potentially bring about the possibility of reaching beyond four-deck mixing by being able to preview a mix of dozens of tracks in an alternate output route. What also greatly interests me is the Content Unlimited service, as things like these seem to push us ever forward to a cloud-based streaming solution where we can pull virtually any request from an online catalogue, making insincere apologies about tacky requests ("Pitbull, is it? If you're not a Virtual DJ user, are the features in the latest version of Virtual DJ enough to make you consider switching over? Let’s not forget that Virtual DJ had key detection built-in before anyone else did, and its support of the widest possible range of hardware has always endeared it to working DJs, too.
And while fans argued that the look could easily be remedied by downloading user-created skins, should you really have to, detractors asked? Once you’ve seen just how sharp everything looks, you’ll wonder why NI and Serato still haven’t implemented this in their software. You'll need to use your trackpad anyway if you want to explore all the extra editor features that Virtual DJ 8 has (more on that later in this article).
In contrast to software like Serato DJ whose compatibility is exclusive to a select few controllers, Virtual DJ breaks all walls, letting you use it practically with any controller you want - even one you build yourself, provided you've purchased the proper software licence. Lastly, if you're going to be using Virtual DJ for shows, mobile gigs and other money-generating activities, there's the Professional User licence.
I couldn't control decks three and four on the DDJ-SR, so this must be a mapping oversight as well. The volume faders for both channels are here in the middle with their accompanying meters and headphone cue buttons (for previewing songs in your phones), and below is the crossfader. There is also a Mute Reverse function that automatically mutes the track whenever you pull the track back (as in when you pull your jogwheel counter clockwise), which would make for some interesting scratch combinations. You can also control the volume and record any audio coming out of the Master section here, as well as record whatever is coming into the Mic input. Theoretically you can have as many cues as you want, but you're going to have to find a way to trigger them on a controller since Virtual DJ 8 only displays six cue points on the main interface.
Personally, having gone through the stock effects on Virtual DJ 8, they're nothing to write home about, and some are rather poor in comparison to Traktor's and Serato DJ. It sounds digital to my ears so you have some harshness in the highs with the resulting echoed sound (ie it's not like a warm "tape echo"), which may or may not be to your liking. At the moment of this writing, this feature hasn't been implemented yet, but expect to see an embedded HTML5 player with links for your favourite streaming software like iTunes, as well as tools that help you maintain episodes of your DJ podcast.
Remember that Virtual DJ 8 gives you up to 99 decks, so Sandbox mode gives you a unique preview option when you’re doing a show and you’d like to do an impromptu octodeck live edit! Virtual DJ 8 now lets you create “choke groups” within sample banks, meaning it’ll stop playback when you trigger a sample within the same group: Handy for finger drumming. This is a powerful way to pull a handful of songs from a large collection, provided you’ve properly tagged your music. As we’ll see in some of these editors, the user interface and general operation can be rather awkward and unresponsive, especially if you’re used to using other software for editing video and audio. Automix has three options: Smart, which automatically determines the best parts in a song to mix in and out of, Fade, and None, which just plays one song after another without any mixing.
Think of the POI Editor as an index of all the Points Of Interest that you’ve made and that Virtual DJ 8 has created for you automatically. It’s really bare bones and I had a bit of difficulty getting it to display my videos properly.
The BPM editor lets you set them manually for perfect beatgrids, and you do this by placing markers at transients (eg kick drum, snare hits). Tablet mode transforms Virtual DJ 8 into a touch-friendly surface that makes it a joy to use on portable devices. This, if anything, is the pedigree of the Virtual DJ brand: It's for the disruptors and the renegades. Working with audio and video can be challenging and even rather difficult at times, but it shouldn’t be frustrating at such a fundamental level.  Of course, we can only expect Atomix to address all these issues as that's usually the case with new software, but it’s a shame that they don’t work so well to begin with as they were one of the things that got me quite excited in the first place.
The suite of editors is a bold, forward-thinking move, and I do sincerely hope that Atomix now makes them easier to use. This licence gets you access to all controllers, podcast storage and the ability to use custom mapped Midi control definitions.
I know I sound like I'm gushing, but it's the truth: Once you've gotten accustomed to DJing on a display like that, it's hard to go back to Traktor and Serato's land of jagged fonts. Perhaps a future version of this mapping will include these and I could actually just map them myself, in fact, but as I've said these are very, very minor concerns.
To load songs, all you have to do is drag your selected track onto any of the two decks (four if you're DJing in four deck mode). In the Windows version, Virtual DJ 8 can host VST plugins, but at the moment there isn't such support for Macs. It's a good thing there are high and low pass filters, so technically you can just "round out" the sound by removing the extreme highs (the highpass ends at 20kHz). This basically suggests a song for you to play next based on a track that's currently playing, which could come in handy in a pinch. Beatgrid markers get saved as Points Of Interest as well, so this is Atomix’s way of putting all of these cues and markers under one umbrella for easier viewing and editing, as we will see later on in the POI Editor feature. The POI’s that Virtual DJ create are quite accurate, but I did find some labelling and position problems with non-EDM tracks.
But, as with anything just beyond our grasps technologically, it's probably inevitable that shortcomings have weaved their way in. You can opt for a one time payment of US$299, or an ongoing monthly payment of US$19, ie a subscription model too. These can be fixed by manually correcting them, but this is a laborious task reserved only if you really need a fully accurate list of points, most of which won’t affect most performances anyway. Dragging the playhead here to add markers is the same frustrating experience as it is when using the Track Cleaner or Sample Editor. I found this a bit puzzling but it works for SaaS companies, so maybe they just decided to give it a go.



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