What is a DAW? Well, a DAW is short for “Digital Audio Workstation,” which is a software application utilized by music producers to record, edit, and produce audio tracks. A DAW is essential to music production as is the audio interface, or the studio monitors. In fact, this is the essential trio to start making electronic music.
A DAW provides various tools and features for manipulating sound, including the ability to record multiple audio tracks simultaneously, apply various effects and filters, and mix and master tracks into a finished product.
In essence, a DAW is like a virtual recording studio that allows producers to create and manipulate music entirely within a digital environment. If you want to start your career as a music producer, you will need a DAW. The choice of which DAW to use largely depends on personal preference, workflow, and the type of music you want to produce.
There are many great DAWs available for music producers, each with its own unique features and benefits. Here are 10 popular DAWs (digital audio workstations), in descending order, that are widely used and respected by music producers:
10. GarageBand (for macOS only)
GarageBand is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software application designed for macOS and iOS devices. It is developed by Apple and is available for free on all macOS devices.
GarageBand includes a wide range of virtual instruments, including pianos, guitars, basses, drums, and more, that can be played and recorded using a MIDI keyboard or the on-screen keyboard. GarageBand allows users to record live audio using a microphone or directly from an instrument. Users can also edit and manipulate audio tracks by adjusting levels, adding effects, and cutting and pasting sections.
It also features a MIDI sequencer that allows users to create and edit MIDI data, including notes, velocity, and pitch. This feature is useful for creating electronic music and programming drum patterns. GarageBand includes a wide range of built-in audio effects, including reverb, delay, compression, EQ, and more, that can be applied to audio tracks to enhance their sound.
Also, it includes a mixer and mastering tools that allow users to mix multiple audio tracks together and create a final stereo mix. Users can also export their final mix in various formats.
GarageBand is a great option for beginner music producers who are just starting out and want to learn the basics of music production. It is easy to use and offers a simple and intuitive interface that allows users to quickly create and edit audio tracks.
While GarageBand is a good starting point for music producers, it may not offer the same level of advanced features and flexibility as other DAWs from our list. However, for those looking for a free and accessible entry point into music production, GarageBand is a great option.
9. Bitwig Studio
Bitwig Studio is a digital audio workstation (DAW) that was released in 2014. It is designed for music production, sound design, and live performance, and is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. Bitwig Studio offers a modular environment that allows users to customize their workflow by arranging and connecting devices in any order they choose. This allows for a more efficient and personalized workflow.
Bitwig Studio offers a range of built-in virtual instruments and effects, including synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and more. Bitwig Studio features collaborative tools that allow multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously, making it a great option for remote collaborations.
Bitwig Studio DAW is a highly customizable and flexible DAW that offers a range of features for music production and sound design. Its modular design and multi-platform support make it a popular choice among electronic music producers and sound designers.
You can visit the Bitwig Studio product page on our store (official distributor) to purchase the software with instant delivery. Bitwig Studio is available in two versions: Bitwig Studio and Bitwig Studio EDU (for educational purposes). The EDU version is available at a discounted price for students and teachers with valid identification.
Reaper (DAW) digital audio workstation is developed by Cockos Incorporated and offers a wide range of features for music production, audio editing, and sound design. It’s available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. Reaper offers a customizable interface that allows users to create their own custom layouts and workflows. This feature can be especially useful for users who have specific needs or preferences when it comes to their workflow.
You can record both MIDI and audio data simultaneously, making it easy to capture performances in real-time. It also offers advanced features for quantization and editing of MIDI data. Reaper offers advanced routing and mixing features, allowing users to create complex signal chains and routing schemes. This can be especially useful for advanced sound design and mixing.
A built-in scripting language allows users to create their own custom scripts and macros. This feature can be used to automate repetitive tasks or to create advanced custom workflows. Reaper supports VST and JS effects, which are a wide range of third-party audio plugins that can be used to enhance and expand the functionality of the software.
Cubase DAW is developed by Steinberg, a German music software company. Cubase software was first introduced in 1989 by the German company Steinberg. The initial version of Cubase was developed for the Atari ST computer and was designed to be a MIDI sequencing software application.
It is designed for Windows and macOS operating systems and offers a range of features for music production, audio editing, and sound design. Cubase offers advanced audio warp features that allow users to manipulate and edit audio files in a variety of ways, including time-stretching, pitch-shifting, and more.
Cubase comes with a range of built-in virtual instruments and effects, including synthesizers, samplers, a wide range of audio effects, and advanced MIDI editing features, including quantization, chord detection, and more.
VariAudio is a unique feature in Cubase that allows users to edit and manipulate the pitch and timing of individual notes within an audio file. MixConsole is another feature in Cubase that offers advanced mixing and routing capabilities, including channel strip controls, EQ, and more.
Chord Track is a unique feature in Cubase that allows users to create and manipulate chord progressions, making it easier to create complex arrangements and harmonies.
Its advanced MIDI editing, audio warp, and mixing capabilities make it a popular choice among music producers and sound designers who require a high level of precision and control over their workflow.
6. Pro Tools
Pro Tools is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software application developed by Avid Technology. Pro Tools was first introduced in 1989 and has since become a standard tool in the music, film, and television industries for recording, editing, and mixing audio. Pro Tools is compatible with both Windows and macOS operating systems.
Pro Tools provides a range of advanced audio editing tools, including non-destructive waveform editing, sample-accurate editing, and real-time fades. Pro Tools supports multi-track audio recording with a range of input options, including mic preamps, line inputs, and digital interfaces.
Pro Tools is known for its integration with hardware, such as Avid’s own Pro Tools HD systems and other third-party hardware interfaces. The Pro Tools software is widely used in post-production for film, television, and other media, with features like surround sound mixing and synchronization with video.
If you are working in a professional setting or need to collaborate with other professionals in the industry, Pro Tools may be the best choice for you. However, if you are just starting out or have more basic needs, there are other DAWs that may be more suitable.
5. Studio One
Studio One is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software application developed by PreSonus. It was first introduced in 2009 and has since become a popular choice among music producers, engineers, and artists.
Studio One is used for music production, audio recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. It offers a range of features for creative and professional workflows, including a customizable user interface, virtual instruments, effects, and advanced audio and MIDI editing tools.
The Arranger Track allows users to quickly and easily create and rearrange sections of a song. This can be especially useful for arranging complex song structures.
Scratch Pads allow users to experiment with different ideas and arrangements without affecting the original project. This can be useful for trying out different ideas or for creating alternative versions of a project.
Harmonic Editing allows users to edit chord progressions and melodies directly, making it easier to create and manipulate complex harmonies. Impact XT is a built-in drum sampler and sequencer that allows users to create and edit drum patterns using a variety of sounds and samples.
Multi-Instrument allows users to use multiple virtual instruments in a single track. This can be useful for layering different sounds and creating complex textures. Presence XT is a built-in sample player and virtual instrument that offers a range of sounds and samples. It also supports third-party sample libraries.
All these unique features make Studio One a popular choice among music producers who require a high level of flexibility and control over their workflow.
Reason DAW is developed by Propellerhead Software founded in 1994 in Stockholm, Sweden. Reason music production software was first introduced in 2000 and has since become a popular choice among music producers and sound designers.
The company has a strong focus on innovation and creativity and is committed to providing powerful and intuitive tools for music production and sound design. Reason offers a modular environment where users can create custom signal chains and routing configurations. This allows for a high degree of customization and creativity in sound design and processing.
Reason’s virtual rack provides a visual representation of a hardware rack of instruments and effects. Users can add, remove and move virtual instruments and effects, and connect them with virtual cables to create custom signal chains. Rack Extensions are plug-ins developed specifically for Reason that can be added to the virtual rack. The modular nature of Rack Extensions allows users to customize their Reason setup to fit their specific needs.
Rack Extensions are similar to VST plug-ins, but they are specifically designed to work within Reason’s virtual rack. Producers can add and remove Rack Extensions as needed, and they can create custom signal chains to achieve unique sounds and effects.
Blocks allow users to create custom signal flow patterns that can be saved and reused in different projects. This can be useful for creating complex arrangements and workflows. Audio to MIDI allows users to convert audio files to MIDI data, making it easier to edit and manipulate audio recordings. This can be useful for extracting specific elements from a recording or for creating new melodies and harmonies from audio files.
Reason is suitable for music producers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced users. However, as with any DAW, there is a learning curve, and it may take some time to fully explore all of Reason’s features and capabilities. With practice and experimentation, users can unlock the full potential of Reason and create music that is truly unique and expressive.
You can visit the Reason product page on our store (as the official distributor) to purchase the software with instant registration code delivery, no membership, or a monthly subscription.
3. FL Studio
FL Studio (formerly known as FruityLoops) is a digital audio workstation (DAW) and music production software developed by Belgian company Image-Line. It is a popular DAW among music producers, particularly those who specialize in electronic music genres. FL Studio is also well-suited for producing Trap and Hip-Hop music, as it has a range of built-in instruments and effects that are commonly used in these genres.
One of the key features that set FL Studio apart from other music production programs is its step sequencer, which allows users to quickly create complex rhythms and patterns. FL Studio has a visually appealing and intuitive interface that is easy to use, even for beginners. It allows users to quickly create music and experiment with different sounds and effects.
This music production software supports a range of MIDI controllers and other hardware, making it easy to integrate into a hardware-based production workflow. FL Studio includes a live performance mode that allows users to trigger clips, play instruments, and apply effects in real-time. FL Studio supports multi-touch displays, which makes it easy to use on touchscreen devices like tablets and laptops.
Additionally, FL Studio has a large community of users, so there are many tutorials, guides, and resources available online to help beginners learn how to use the software. Check out our FL Studio Facebook Group and join thousands of active members.
FL Studio is regularly updated with new features and improvements, and Image-Line, the company that develops the software, provides excellent customer support to its users. Image-Line offers free updates for FL Studio for life, so users can always stay up-to-date with the latest features and improvements.
FL Studio is more affordable than many other music production software on the market. FL Studio pricing varies depending on the version and licensing options. The Fruity edition, which includes basic features, starts at $99.
2. Logic Pro X (for macOS only)
Logic Pro X is only available on Mac computers, which means that it is optimized for Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem. This integration can provide a seamless and efficient workflow for users who already use other Apple products.
One of the strengths of Logic Pro X is its extensive library of virtual instruments and effects, which allows users to create a wide range of sounds and styles. Logic Pro X also has a range of powerful tools for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio, which makes it an ideal choice for professional music producers.
Logic Pro’s MIDI editing tools are some of the most powerful and intuitive on the market. The software offers a range of tools for manipulating MIDI data, including the ability to easily adjust note velocity, length, and timing.
Logic Pro’s Flex Pitch and Time features allow users to manipulate the pitch and timing of audio recordings. This can be useful for correcting pitch errors, adjusting timing issues, and creating unique vocal effects.
Logic Pro X is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and versatile music production software on the market. While Logic Pro may be overkill for beginners, hobbyists and students who are serious about music production can benefit from the software’s advanced features and extensive library of virtual instruments and effects.
1. Ableton Live
Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software that is designed for live performances as well as music production. It was first released in 2001 and has since become one of the most popular music production software used by electronic music producers and live performers.
One of the main features that sets Ableton Live apart from other DAWs is its session view, which allows users to trigger and manipulate loops and samples in real-time, making it ideal for live performances. It also has a powerful arrangement view for more traditional linear music production, as well as a comprehensive library of virtual instruments and effects.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Ableton Live’s unique session view and real-time manipulation features may require a bit of a learning curve for some users, especially if they’re used to working with more traditional linear DAWs. However, there are plenty of resources available online, such as tutorials and forums, to help users of all skill levels get the most out of Ableton Live.
Ableton Live is definitely worth buying if you’re a music producer or live performer looking for a music production software that can handle both live performances and music production. The price for Ableton Live varies depending on the version and any upgrades you may need. As of April 2023, the price for Ableton Live 11 Standard is $449 and the price for Ableton Live 11 Suite is $749. There is also a free trial version available for download.
In terms of which DAW is better for music production, it ultimately depends on the user’s needs and preferences. It’s a good idea to try out demos and trials of each DAW and see which one feels the most intuitive and comfortable to use.