In music production, digital audio workstations (DAWs) are used for recording, mixing, and mastering music.
In other words, DAWs cover the entire music production process – and that’s why modern producers can’t do without them.
But there are many different DAWs out there, each with its own price, set of features, and highlights.
So to help you find the right DAW for you, we made a list of the best DAWs in the world right now.
Let us take you through their main features and highlights, so you can start creating tunes as soon as possible!
1. Ableton Live – Best digital audio workstation
Ableton Live is hands down one of the best DAWs you can find.
It’s also one of the most widely-used DAWs in the world, offering fast and creative workflow and top-of-the-line built-in devices.
Live is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering music.
It’s ideal for crafting beats, reworking sequences, and creative sound generation, and it provides a wide range of instruments and generators.
It’s fast and easy to use, although it does require some time to get used to it, especially if you’re a beginner.
But there’s also a more beginner-friendly version of Ableton – Ableton Live Lite.
Ableton Live Lite is the stripped-down version of Live, and it comes with many hardware products for free.
It provides a total of 16 tracks with any combination of audio and midi channels and allows up to four inputs and outputs at the same time.
Lite doesn’t provide the same set of features as Ableton Live, but it’s based on Live’s workflow, and it’s actually a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable DAW.
Regardless of what you opt for, Ableton Live will meet your expectations.
2. Cubase – Best DAW with a long-standing reputation
Cubase is another household name in music production.
The first version of the Cubase digital audio workstation was released in 1989, so it’s fair to say that this popular DAW has a long-standing reputation.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned producer, Cubase will provide you with everything you need to create music at home in a smooth and flexible way.
The program features carefully crafted channel strip modules that deliver professional mixer quality, and it comes with a chord track, drum editor, and Logical editor for the more advanced functions.
It’s ideal for quantizing multiple audio tracks at once, and it’s generally designed to provide a fast and flexible workflow.
It has many excellent plugins and an extensive sound library.
You can use Cubase for 60 days for free with its free trial version, which is a great opportunity to test the waters.
But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly DAW, you should check out Cubase LE.
LE is a free “lite” version of Cubase Pro, allowing you to record up to 16 tracks of audio and up to 24 virtual instrument tracks.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with Cubase – it’s a top-notch DAW ideal for composing, mixing, and editing.
3. FL Studio – Best for EDM producers
FL Studio is another top DAW worth checking out.
It’s a fast and intuitive DAW known for its amazing piano rolls and a wide selection of virtual instruments.
FL Studio allows you to arrange everything in the Playlist editor, and it provides top-quality samples and loops and a variety of presets made for FL Studio’s plugin instruments.
That said, FL Studio is ideal for EDM producers.
Thanks to its user-friendly interface, it’s also very easy to navigate, so it’s suitable for beginners as well.
But one of the best things about FL Studio is the opportunity to get lifetime free updates, which can actually save you some money in the long term.
Either way, FL Studio offers great value for money – it’s a unique DAW that will make your music production process efficient and enjoyable.
4. GarageBand – Best for Apple users
If you’ve been researching the best DAWs in music production, you’ve probably heard of GarageBand.
GarageBand is popular among producers around the world for a good reason – it’s flexible, intuitive, and versatile.
And it’s completely free to download.
GarageBand allows you to play, record, create, and share music, and thanks to its user-friendly interface, you can do it in a rather easy way.
The app also provides an array of realistic amps and effects, a variety of built-in instruments, and thousands of loops from popular genres like EDM, hip-hop, and indie music.
It offers great tools for making beats, such as time quantization, automated panning, drumming, and pitch correction.
Plus, it supports 24-bit recording and third-party plug-ins.
If you are an Apple user, you can install it on your device and work on your music anytime, anywhere.
That said, GarageBand is a convenient and well-designed DAW ideal for Apple users and producers of all levels and genres.
5. REAPER – Best affordable DAW
Speaking of the best free DAWs, REAPER is another DAW with a great reputation.
REAPER isn’t exactly free, but it offers a long free trial period that allows you to use its music-making tools for free for 60 days.
And if you want to use it after the trial period, you can buy it for a reasonable price.
It would certainly be worth the money – we’re talking about a fully-fledged, professional DAW with unlimited tracks and full VST compatibility.
REAPER can be used in Live mode for live performances or audio recording and in Studio mode for creating studio-quality recordings.
It’s completely open-source so you can customize it with user-generated skins and mods.
And it has a clean, easy-to-use interface, so it’s suitable for users of all levels of expertise.
REAPER can indeed be used for a variety of music production tasks, and it’s a top choice for anyone looking for a reliable, affordable DAW for making music.
6. Bitwig Studio – Best for Creativity
It’s similar to Ableton Live, but it does offer a more diverse visual experience.
In fact, Bitwig has a reputation for being one of the most innovative DAWs in the market.
It comes with more than 90 instruments, effects, and other creative tools ideal for recording, live performance, and sound design.
It has a modulation system that allows you to easily modulate any device, and its Sampler features several playback modes, dynamic note-based modulations, and a powerful multisample editor.
All in all, thanks to its flexible modulation system and built-in modular environment, Bitwig is ideal for producers who want to add more creativity to their tracks.
But it’s also suitable for beginners who want to learn how to make a track from scratch.
7. Pro Tools – Best for versatility
Of course, we didn’t forget about Pro Tools.
Pro Tools is the industry standard for DAWs, so it still strongly holds its place among top digital audio workstations.
Pro Tools offers a variety of loops, effects, and instrument plugins ideal for creating any type of music.
And with new sounds and loops added every month, there’s always something new to explore.
It also provides easy-to-use MIDI tools that allow you to create realistic-sounding tracks, while the Elastic Audio feature allows you to easily fix timing, beat match audio, and correct notes.
There are several Pro Tools versions to choose from, including Ultimate, Artists, and Standard.
There’s also a free Pro Tools version, which is a great way to get started with Pro Tools and music production in general.
8. Cakewalk – Best free DAW
Cakewalk by BandLab is another great DAW you should check out.
It has a customizable Skylight interface that is very easy to use so it’s great for beginners, but it also has a built-in sequencer for creating more complex arrangements and rhythms.
It’s compatible with PCs, and it comes with flexible ProChannel modules and a 64-bit mix engine.
Moreover, it offers a variety of effects and plugins, and if you download it, you can always count on new features and fresh updates.
This is also an excellent choice for those looking for a free DAW – the free version of Cakewalk DAW truly has a lot to offer.
Regardless of what you opt for, you can rely on Cakewalk and its top-notch tools for creating music.
9. Logic Pro – Best value for money
Apple Logic Pro is hands down one of the best DAWs for Mac.
As the name suggests, this is a pro audio software product, ideal for professionals.
It offers powerful tools for mixing, beat-making, editing, and songwriting, and there’s a wide selection of sounds, plugins, synthesizers, and multi-sampled instruments.
But one of the features that make it stand out from the crowd is the possibility to mix and export songs as spatial audio with its integrated Dolby Atmos tools.
Apple spatial audio creates a theater-like sound that will bring your tracks to the next level.
Considering how professional Logic Pro feels, you would expect a hefty price tag, but this is actually a very affordable DAW.
That said, if you’re looking for a high-end DAW that won’t cost you a fortune, Logic Pro is a safe choice.
10. Audacity – Best for beginners
In a way, Audacity is more of a digital audio editor than a DAW.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of consideration.
On the contrary – Audacity is often referred to as one of the best beginner DAWs in the market.
We’re talking about a free music production software program, so it comes as no surprise that it’s so popular among beginners.
But affordability is not the only reason Audacity deserves a place on this list.
It’s an extremely convenient music production app, compatible with all operating systems, and easy to download.
Audacity offers everything you need to make music at home.
It has a multitrack editor that allows you to record and edit multiple tracks simultaneously, and there’s also an option to record live audio through a microphone or mixer.
Tracks and selections can be fully manipulated using the keyboard, and you can easily use effects and plug-ins or you can write your own plug-in.
Why Do You Need a DAW?
As we mentioned in the introduction, DAWs cover the entire music production process, from recording to mixing and mastering.
These music production software programs are designed for making music in a convenient and simple way, so many DAWs are suitable even for complete novices.
In fact, if you’re just starting out with music production, a good, beginner-friendly DAW will help you get things started.
DAWs will introduce you to the world of music production, and they will allow you to turn your ideas into reality.
And this is precisely why you need to choose a DAW you’re happy with.
DAWs are important, so take your time to get comfortable with your chosen DAW.
Using a DAW can seem a bit confusing to newcomers, but they are actually not so complicated to figure out.
After all, all the best DAWs have manuals and YouTube tutorials (if you prefer a video) on how to use it.
Some programs come with a ton of features, so take it one step at a time.
Once you gain some experience and improve your skills, you’ll be able to take the most out of your DAW.
How to Choose the Right DAW
Choosing a DAW is not an easy task.
But if you know what you’re looking for, you’re already halfway there!
First and foremost, you need to choose a DAW that works best with your computer or hardware.
Most major DAWs are compatible with both Mac and Windows, but some of them work best for only one operating system.
Another thing to factor in is the price.
The price of a DAW varies – they run anything from $50 to $2599.
But some DAWs are also free to download, so you can start making music at home even if you have a limited budget.
Using a free DAW is also a good way to learn the basics and see whether music production is something you want to dive into.
Either way, try to determine what your budget is before searching for DAWs, as this will significantly narrow down your list.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal choice and specific situation.
Choose a DAW that fits your budget, level of expertise, and goals.
But also look for a DAW that provides an intuitive workflow and easy-to-use tools – some features and characteristics are important no matter what your level and goals.
How to Start Making Music at Home
Once you buy or download the DAW that meets your needs, it’s time to make some music!
Creating a track from scratch might be intimidating at first.
But your chosen DAW will help you get started in a smooth way.
Just don’t rush and take it one step at a time.
DAWs offer an array of sounds and loops you can use to create a song from scratch, and they are also used to mix and master tracks.
Besides using a DAW to edit and finalize your track, you can also use it for the early stages of the music production process like recording.
DAWs allow you to record live vocals and instruments, and they do so through a microphone hooked up to an audio interface.
Now, DAWs work only with digital audio, so analog audio input must first be converted into digital audio signals, and that’s why you’ll need an audio interface.
When you have your basic music production equipment set up, you can run your DAW and get it ready for use, which usually includes:
- Creating a new track in the DAW
- Setting the track input(s)
- Setting the levels by launching the mixer view and monitoring the level of the meter
- Enabling monitoring (the ability to hear what you are playing)
- Setting the tempo/metronome if necessary
All the recorded tracks are fed directly into the DAW, so you can then label, trim, and organize them.
You can then edit and finalize your track and add background vocals, percussion fills, and sound effects.
The last part is mixing and mastering – you can use tools such as EQ, compressor, and reverb.
Once your track is polished, you can export it and distribute it!
Best DAWs – Final Thoughts
Choosing the right DAW for you might seem a bit daunting, but if you know what you’re looking for, it’s actually not that difficult.
By the way, many DAWs provide free trials, so don’t hesitate to test the waters first.
Either way, we hope our reviews of the best DAWs for making music helped you with your search.
Regardless of what you opt for, we’re sure you’re going to have an efficient and creative music-making experience!
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