Atomix Productions' Virtual DJ Free not only mixes and mashes beats from a classic two-deck console, but also it serves as audio central for your system since it also records audio and video, burns discs, and even broadcasts online using a radio server or your own PC as a client-limited server. A survivor, Virtual DJ has been making music for millions of users for more than a decade. The latest version adds new controllers and full compatibility with Windows 8 multitouch surfaces. And it's still free.
Like similar tools, Virtual DJ takes its functional and style cues from the traditional pro DJ console, with the side-by-side, turntable-style scratch pads surrounded by duplicate control sets. You can change its skin from the Config. button on the top edge. The lower half of Virtual DJ's interface is tabbed for those features you need the most: Browser, Sampler, Effects, and Record; each with a submenu accessing main features. For instance, under Record, we could Record Audio, Burn CD, Broadcast, and Record Video. The Sampler has 12 tracks with large, easy-to-see sliders and Play and Rec buttons, while the Effects tab offers both Sound and Video Effects as well as Video Transitions. We started with the Browser, which is anchored by a specialized, music-oriented tree view in the left sidebar. We dragged some MP3s into the right and left decks. Virtual DJ showed each song's spectral energy in a small graph in each deck and in a larger graph along the top displaying sampled selections. Virtual DJ automatically integrated our selection into the main spectral view (which can be grabbed, dragged, and altered) and loaded it on the scratch pad. A cool touch: Virtual DJ illuminates and aligns sampled tracks on the pad's rim, just as if they'd been the grooves on vinyl records.
The only beef we could muster over Virtual DJ is actually common to all such programs, and they inherited it from the real deal: The need to cram two full sets of as many highly-visible controls as will fit into an ergonomically useful space. Even there, Virtual DJ Free has them beat.