Do you find it difficult to choose a DAW that fits your workflow in your Home Recording Studio?
Most modern producers use DAW software.
But which DAW is suitable for you?
I think many of you still have an old tape recorder somewhere at home right?
…Let’s be honest with each other:
We are going to help you find the answers you need.
So let’s take a closer look.
The acronym DAW stands for ‘Digital Audio Workstation’…
…It’s a collective term for software (systems) that allows you to record audio, playback, and editing.
Cubase and Pro Tools are well-known names that you are familiar with, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
And if we’re talking about prices, features and possibilities the DAWS vary a lot.
And when it comes to advances in hardware performance, these programs are becoming more extensive.
But fortunately also better, more professional and user-friendly.
In the past you could use a tape recorder with a single microphone input to record a single source.
Nowadays we have digital storage devices like a hard drive and audio interfaces with multiple microphone inputs.
A DAW is a multiple track recorder which allows you to view and manipulate the tracks with markers and automated faders.
These are the basic function of a Digital Audio Workstation.
- Record Multiple tracks
- Automate Faders and Markers
- Saving sessions
- Editing Tracks
- stretching, time correction, and manipulation to tracks are limitless
Digitally-manipulated audio is easier to deconstruct and re-construct depending on need.
“It also allows accurate recordings that allow artists and engineers to achieve the sound they want a song to have”
DAWS are often developed for a specific audience or purpose.
…they often overlap each other when it comes to the possibilities.
- Live performance
- Music Production
- Video time-code playback
First off we’ve got “multi-tracking.“ You can also say; creating, editing and recordings of multiple tracks.
Protools by AVID has managed to develop itself as the ‘industry standard’ within the professional world of audio.
Then there is live-performance and a workstation like Ableton Live has many application possibilities to get this done.
As for music production it is possible to entirely produce in the box with a wide range of virtual instruments.
For every type of musician, there is a digital audio workstation, but it mainly depends on your personal taste.
Some DAWS have the ability to play back video with time codes for film music or audio production.
While other DAW’s have their own build in synthesizers and effects like Reason.
First of all, you’ll need a:
To play back audio channels with high resolution will require a lot of memory and speed from your computer (we didn’t include plugins yet).
Upgrades: For a better workflow and experience
- MIDI Keyboard to play Instruments live
- DAW Controller for ease of use
- Hard drives for extra space
- Solid State Drive (SSD) for faster performance
- RAM 16GB+
You should always check if your audio interface works perfectly with the workstation of choice.
The simple truth is…
to make a right decision which to buy you should go out and test the software yourself.
Always check if the software of choice has a TRIAL or DEMO version.
Ask yourself this!
1. What do you want to get out of the Software?
- You’ll want a DAW with a lot of Instrument and Effect Plugins included.
- Some DAW’s have a different workflow catered for producing example: FL Studio & Reason.
Recording Instruments and Vocals:
- A Linear Track based DAW (best examples: Pro-tools, Logic, Cubase, etc.)
- A good selection of dynamic processing plugins (example: EQ, Compressor, Reverb)
Mixing and Master:
- Also, a Linear Track based DAW
- A Mixing console which has the best workflow and functionality
- Non-Linear track and pattern based DAW’s (Best example: Ableton Live)
- A wide range of Live performance based Hardware compatibility
2. How much do you want to spend?
Most Digital Audio Workstations have multiple versions of the same software…
You can choose from free, limited, extended and full versions.
Free DAW software could either be free to use with limited features or can be “freemium,” where you’ll have to pay for certain features to work.
The limited, extended and full versions may include the following:
- Bundled content (samples and presets)
- Project page (Mastering, DDP, Red Book CD burning, digital release)
- Integrated compatibility with 3rd party software (example: Melodyne)
- Video playback and sync
- Extended FX Chains with parallel processing
- MIDI-mapping & Macros
- Effects & Instrument plugins
- Surround Sound
- Time Stretching and complex editing
- and more…
3. Which version of the Software do I really need?
If you are a beginning DAW user, you would want a limited version which accommodates your workflow.
You can always upgrade to an extended or pro version when you need more functionality.
A full version of a DAW gives you complete professional control over almost any aspect of your audio.
Some pointers you should consider:
- The workflow should be enjoyable
- Don’t pick an audio software because of the bells, whistles or the shiny colors
- Intuitive learning curve
- Is it within your budget
- Buy online or offline
4. Good Start, Buy Smart
Sometimes, (hybrid) audio interfaces or DAW controllers have a simple DAW software included with them.
Presonus Audiobox USB includes a Studio One Artist Software.
Steinberg UR MK2 and Zoom includes a Steinberg Cubase LE Lite version.
Often, the bundles have a discount code, so you save lots more.
Ableton Live 10
Image Line FL Studio 20
So what is it you may ask?
FL Studio is a digital sampler interface and only partially a DAW.
…I wouldn’t call it a virtual instrument because it has multiple virtual instruments in its arsenal.
However, it contains:
- an emulated mixer
- unlimited number of instrument channels
- unique routing
- a large plethora of loops
- and the ability to export the instrument sounds when needed
Like Reason, FL Studio is a sample-based program.
Music producers could own an FL Studio Edition in the following tiers.
Signature is a bundle of FL’s Producer Edition with their Signature plugins.
The Producer edition allows audio recording and post-production, which functions as a DAW.
Fruity Loops also has an android version that allows you to create music wherever you go.
Fruity Loops’ long-time stay in the industry had earned them cookie points from me.
The program is stable while being a partial DAW, unless you’re getting the producer’s edition.
the Producer’s Edition isn’t exactly up to par with the accuracy of plenty of other workstations, such as Cubase and ProTools.
But its digital sampler is definitely a cut above the rest, along with its sample quality especially in the new FL Studio.
The mobile version is much better than most audio sampling and sequencing applications available nowadays, but of course, don’t expect too many great things to happen while you’re using it.
Of course, it’s more useful if you need an app for a live performance.
You only need to purchase FL Studio once.
You always receive the most advanced version and a lifetime of free upgrades.
And to make it even more attractive, you also get an Image-Line USB stick with all the installers included.
Apple Logic Pro X
You might say that Apple’s Logic Pro X is quite overrated even with high reviews, but I would honestly say that this is something else.
Anybody who owns a Mac would understand that GarageBand is one of the best, simple samplers to tickle your composition fancy.
If you did make a good arrangement in GarageBand, you could integrate your arrangements into Logic Pro X.
But if you’re a pro, I don’t think you’d use GarageBand for samples.
While it’s at a competitive price of $200, it outdoes some of its competition because of the following capabilities.
Very Friendly User Interface
Unlike some overwhelming interfaces, Logic Pro X looks simple to first-time DAW users.
Users could select audio for recording live instruments.
Have a MIDI Interface?
Don’t worry much about routing because its MIDI track easily interfaces with almost every audio interface available today.
The instrument track makes it easy for producers to combine audio and VSTs and synths, even vocoders!
Users could also use instrument images to help them identify the track’s instrument without having to view the name.
It’s a little thing, I know, but based on my experience, it actually helps save time looking for which track you need to work on next.
The Intelligent Drummer
If you haven’t a drum pattern to go with your songs, you could choose from Logic Pro X’s different arsenal of “Personality” drummers.
These digital drummers have their own names.
The only feature not found in other d.a.w’s, Logic’s Drummer each uses a unique set of drum samples and drumming personalities.
If you’ve found the lovely drum feel and pattern you want for your song, edit the MIDI and make it more apt for your taste.
It’s that awesome.
Logic Pro X keyboard and covers would go nicely with your workflow.
Editorskeys Logic Pro X Keyboard Backlit Mac
Editors keys Logic Pro X keyboard cover
Avid Pro Tools 12
Avid’s Pro Tools is probably the most celebrated (or most used) out in the market.
Only behind from Apple’s Logic Pro X, Pro Tools ranks very highly among music producers from Pop to Metal and Electronic Music.
The cleanliness, neatness and the beautiful outline of Avid’s Pro Tools make it one of the best available for any aspiring music producer.
Because it runs in 64 bit, you could have up to 128 audio tracks and 512 MIDI tracks in a single session.
Piano roll and score editing have remained throughout the different versions of the device.
Now, it also has an offline project bouncing.
One major complaint a friend and I had with Pro Tools was that it took so much time to bounce a track because you had to listen to it.
Sometimes, it helps because you could find some errors by listening to the track as a whole.
However, there are occasions wherein you have to rush your renders because you’ve got a flight coming on or something, and previous Pro Tools rendering made this a pain in the neck.
Good thing for the offline bouncing indeed!
However the newest Pro Tools version is still not perfect.
Yes, it does have some of the best plugins for compression, equalization, sound effects and filters, drum machines, synthesizers and drum machines, pianos and even a guitar emulator with very high quality sound, but it does not support expanded third-party plugins that do not sport an AAX-format.
This is sad because one of the best things about being a music producer is endless expansion by trying out different ones.
If you’re getting a Fast Track Solo or Duo, this is where Pro Tools truly shines.
With low latency, you could turn your laptop into a songwriting and audio recording system with a solo mic preamp (for the Fast Track Solo) or a dual mic pre-amp (for the Duo).
In a studio, an 8×8 simultaneous parallel channel, four mic inputs with efficient pre-amp and more line level inputs and MIDI could only come with Mbox Pro.
I would say that editing audio in Pro Tools is really awesome, but there’s a huge pay-off, especially if you love expanding your plugins library with a DAW to support it.
There’s a workaround just by buying a cheaper version and using it to bounce your tracks with plugins you like.
But that would take time and can be really frustrating, in my opinion.
Propellerhead Reason 10
Steinberg Cubase 9.5
Steinberg continues to build on their Cubase Imperium.
And this DAW has been around for 3 generations long.
Many well-known producers are familiar with Cubase.
For those not wanting to spend so much for a Pro Tools suite but need something more useful than an open-source program, you’ve got Cubase.
Cubase is in many ways, a bit favourable for starting to amateur musicians.
Cubase Artist is both a recording interface and a live DAW interface that allows musicians to automate their tracks and settings for live performances.
Meanwhile, Cubase Pro is used by most professional studios and producers.
Unlike Pro Tools, Cubase is expansive, allowing third party plugins and bridging even 32-bit plugins on its 64-bit architecture.
This beats Pro Tools for the price. However, Cubase’s interface takes some time to get used to.
Cubase Elements is its own Reason ReFill or Rack Extension.
It has a great number of addition for the Cubase package for a very low price.
Don’t mistake it for a riding-the-fame product that most add-ons usually have.
However, Elements has a limited number of tracks to choose from.
Originally intended for first-time users, I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.
But to a professional producer, this is the cheapest, simplest one there is with very high quality.
Cubase has a wide array of plugins that are definitely useful. Its basic compression, limiter and equalizers (normally built-in with every rack) are on every aspect a big help, but I’d have to say that Cubase could have done better for these stock plugins.
But then again, there are tons of free plugins available everywhere.
When you use them with Cubase, you get the best results you could have.
Steinberg Nuendo 8
Cubase is focused on music production and recording. Cubase’s Nuendo counterpart is focused on professional audio post-production.
Nuendo is more than just a recording program for music. It’s intended for filmmakers, media producers, dubbers, voice recorders, game sound design and more.
It won’t be right up a musician’s alley (but basically, they could use it like Cubase, much for recording rather than live performances), but it could be used for recording purposes.
The first impression I had with Nuendo was that it had complex loudness metering and lane concepts that allow it to be compliant with EBU R-128 productions for TV and advertising productions.
Where Cubase is focused on two dimensions of audio intended for two speakers and PA systems, Nuendo is designed to cater more to the Surround Channel mixing engineer.
Channel visibility management, the IOSONO Anymix Pro Plugin and comprehensive automation systems for film-mixing, Nuendo expands more for sound and film effect production.
Nuendo’s newest versions allow video game music designers and scorers to direct a design relative to the position of a game character in First-Person Shooter games.
I love Call of Duty and I know the effects these guys do in-game is no joke to produce, and is no joke to post process.
Nuendo now supports IOSONO’s Proximity, which allows the localization of game sounds by emulating a position’s sound effects and dialogue in a surround field.
All I can say is that can your Pro Tools handle that? (I’m not dissing Pro Tools in any way, just saying.)[/read]
Cockos Reaper 5.0
If there’s one truly stable and expandable studio recording program in the business today, it’s gotta be Cockos Reaper.
Not only is it stable than Cubase, it’s also the most affordable I’ve found throughout my experience as an audio engineer.
I love everything about Reaper.
From changing the skins to suit your style of production neatness to its endless support of 32-bit plugins on its 64-bit architecture, that $225 you’re paying for a full commercial license is definitely priceless.
However, if you’re just someone who uses this amazing editing software and earns less than $20,000 yearly on using the software and you are an individual using reaper for personal use, then you could just purchase the $60 discounted license.
What a steal right?
Now, it’s stock plugins may not be much (most of them have very difficult interfaces somewhat, especially if you’re used to graphic or object-style plugins), but they can sound great if you use them right.
It’s support for limitless numbers of plugins makes it one of the best out there especially for those starting out in using DAWs
Cockos is also very caring for its consumers.
According to its website, you could download an evaluation version of their product and see if the hardware works effectively with your system.
You could use the full features of the evaluation version of Reaper for 60 days until you decide to make a licensed purchase.
And amazingly, it’s just 43MB. It even has a portable disk version, meaning you could store it on your USB and use any computer to edit your audio.
This is definitely helpful.
This is amazingly one of the best there are.
I have one on my laptop.
For control mapping, you could even use a game controller. Sweet!
Sony ACID Pro 8
If you’re familiar with Sonic Foundry’s Acid interface, which sported some very decent MIDI support for recording, then you know that Sony’s Acid Pro 7 is its grandchild.
Of course, it has has expanded to bigger and better options for audio engineers.
While nowhere near the likes of Pro Tools or even the valiant Reaper, ACID Pro is tidy and every part of it has a significant use for every session.
However, I wasn’t fooled with the clean and neat appearance of the interface.
I knew it was something very complex to understand. However, it has very powerful MIDI support and has 1,000 loops in store for users.
If you’re very patient, you could understand how its proprietary looping technology and video integration (probably from Sony Vegas) works .
One thing most friends of mine said about it was that it could be run on a very low-spec PC without much trouble.
However, it often crashes, even on top-end systems, which makes it a troublesome workstation at best.
However, it’s pretty good if you know how to use it, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Loading multiple tracks on Sony ACID Pro could be quite a pain too.
It’s troublesome to have multiple track recordings that would just crash later on. It’s really bothersome for me.
Even if I may find myself one day integrated to ACID Pro as if it was a part of my body, I would gladly change for something more intuitive and stable.
MOTU Digital Performer 9
If you have a small laptop, this is the best interface that you could use.
However, for its price, I don’t think you’d like this as your emergency DAW, but then again, MOTU’s digital performer is more than just a recording interface.
For your small screen, you get a powerhouse with a MIDI composition and film scoring module.
MOTU’s plugins also have ample audio-editing tools that allow multi-track recording.
However, if you have a studio, you wouldn’t want MOTU Digital Performer alone.
You’d want something that allows you to use a single track to channel all your MIDI tracks.
You’d also want better VSTs. Also, you’d need better audio-stretching.
However, it works for all purposes.
You could even record a guitar with its plugins and its 64-bit architecture ensures that you could expand everything to multiple tracks.
Now, Digital Performer is available for Microsoft Windows Users.
It’s been made only for Macs, but I guess it’s about time to expand the market.
Magix Samplitude Pro X3
Why should you even consider the Magix Samplitude?
Well, I’ve found there are many cases this awesome little DAW could really help you out with.
It’s actually the Windows rival to the Apple-dedicated MOTU (which I previous mentioned now has a Windows version).
However, Magix Music Maker could be pretty intimidating at quite a high price at $500 apiece.
However, the new version supports a full 64-bit operation, meaning more tracks and plugins, and more stability.
I could attest to that.
Tempo-mapping is quite easy and you could actually use it with Avid’s Artist series DAW controllers.
Magix takes it to the next level by pulling a Nuendo.
It actually supports surround mixing and improved visualization of audio.
Between you and me, I really appreciate what they did with that.
However, it could look intimidating to first-time users because it really looks quite busy.
But then, when you learn how to use it, it becomes seamless.
Adobe Audition CC
- Adobe Audition CC | 1 Year Subscription: Amazon
Creative cloud is the meaning of that CC, and it should have helped many engineers with their stuff.
I mean, one only needs an Internet connection to get all their files and presets.
This means they could travel to any computer at will when needed.
Unfortunately, my friends and I found that subscription pricing is not worth the payment you give for an Adobe Audition.
Sure, it’s in 64-bit and it’s quite faster in slower systems capable of supporting 64-bit, has a convenient Sound Remover tool similar to Izotope RX’s line of super-awesome audio fixing machines and also a pitch shifter that enables you to change the track’s pitch and even stretch it.
It kinda reminds me of the free-form tool in Adobe Photoshop, but only in audio.
But still, the subscription pricing hurts the budget on this one.
Around $50 monthly isn’t worth it if you’re just a personal user.
Just get the $60 one time license for Reaper for your personal use and you’re all set, honestly.
Bitwig Studio 2
This peace of software, produced by ex-Ableton engineers, is a unique digital audio workstation, but it’s actually pretty good especially when it’s fighting a new kind of market out there.
It looks and feels like Ableton, but it runs on Windows and even Linux.
That said, it’s different from Ableton because it feels like usual DAWs, even the instrument and audio tracks.
However, it does not support VST too much. MIDI routing isn’t quite available in this VST.
However, you do get a sample of classic drum machines and acoustic drums.
It even has an original Wurlitzer that actually doesn’t sound half bad.
Acoustica Mixcraft 8
- Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home Studio
- Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio
- Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Recording Studio
Perhaps the easiest out there for starting musicians and artists would be Acoustica Mixcraft.
It’s quickly referred to as the Garageband equivalent for Windows.
However, it doesn’t have any MIDI support.
One thing I also didn’t find nice about it is that it has an inconsistent look when you use it.
You also find some gaudy looking buttons and dropdowns, which doesn’t really feel like someone spent a whole lot of time making it.
Of course, looks aren’t everything when you are rating DAWs.
It’s actually as great as Pro Tools if you know how to use it, and of course, if you’re using third-party VSTs that would shape up your works.
If you’re just starting out into the world of mixing music, Garageband is for you.
Most Macs and laptops have this program pre-installed.
However, it isn’t too advisable if you’re looking for a professional sound.
You could have fun creating your own music with its instruments, samples and loops, but you’re going to need a better DAW if you want to improve your skills.
Do you remember “Fasttracker” or “Protracker” from back in the days?
Perhaps if you’re a keyboard junkie when it comes to your VSTs, Renoise would be heaven for you.
It’s a keyboard oriented program designed to help you spend more time playing than spend more time messing around the piano roll
Between me and you, Renoise is great if you’re not overly patient when it comes to composing and creating samples from your songs.
However, it could really be confusing at first, but when you understand it, you’ll be rewarded with a faster workflow.
Most Used DAW’sRead more...
Logic For Mac
You’ve probably used GarageBand, I’m pretty sure. GarageBand is fun with all its instrument loops. You could even select a root key for all your instruments. While it lacks automation, it helps open any Mac user’s mind to DAW and song-creation principles. Macs encourage your creativity, to be honest.
Apple developed its Logic brand around the idea that it’s an enhanced GarageBand e