Home recording has come a long way over the past few years. These days everybody uses a DAW. There’s no doubt that this will take your music to the next level.
But which one is the best option for you?
It’s not easy to decide because there are many DAWs on the market. They’re constantly updating, and some of them have different features. Specific DAWs will be more suitable depending on your personal needs and the style of music you produce.
Let me make life easier for you! Today we’ll look at five of the best DAWs so you can enhance your home studio.
What Does A DAW Do?
The Digital Audio Workstation is one of the most important pieces of software for your home studio.
There are so many different roles you can use it for, like recording, editing, and composing. You can do this across hundreds of tracks before creating the final finished product. They are superb at streamlining these processes.
Another benefit is that you can play and program notes from your midi controller directly into your DAW. Then, you can use a variety of plugins to enhance your production.
It will change your world when you get one because it offers so many options and opportunities.
There are several points to think about before you rush out and buy a DAW. It’s a massive decision, so be patient and consider everything. Let’s look at these aspects now.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where money talks. DAWs are no different. While there are free options available, they’re usually limited in their output. If you’re serious about your music, you’ll need to fork out some cash.
If you have a restricted budget, you’ll have to shop around. Some DAWs are available for one-time purchase, while others have subscription options.
Computer Operating System
Do you own a Mac or a Windows computer?
Different options are available depending on your computer’s operating system. Some DAWs like Pro Tools work across platforms. But others like Logic Pro and Garageband are exclusively for OS. Meanwhile, Sonar Cakewalk is only compatible with PCs.
If you know that you’re going to work on different systems, consider a DAW that installs on both set-ups. It will give you more options and make life easier.
If all DAWs were the same, we wouldn’t be writing this article. The reality is that there are many.
Some are better for certain purposes than others. We’ll look at that in more detail soon, but right now, it’s important that you think about your goals. If you’re confused, most DAWs offer a free trial so you can see if it’s suitable.
Maybe you prefer electronic music or work mostly with live tracks. Perhaps you want to use virtual instruments or go for the full synth? Whatever the situation, there is a DAW for you!
Just make sure that’s the one you pay for.
A lot of DAWs require a significant amount of RAM. If you don’t have enough, your computer will lag, and the program won’t run efficiently.
Usually, they need between 2 to 4 GB of RAM. More is better. Make sure your computer can handle this before you download the software.
DAWs don’t work in isolation.
You’ll probably connect audio cards and external hard drives. Prepare by ensuring your computer can handle multiple USB and Thunderbolt ports.
Audio Plugin Compatibility
Make sure you know what plugin formats your DAW utilizes, as some may be incompatible. Nobody wants to waste their money.
Real-Time Audio Suite (RTAS) can only be used with Pro Tools DAWs.
Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is standard for both Mac and Window-based DAWs.
Audio Units (AU) are native to Mac but will work with some other systems.
If you’re a professional producer, you may be able to work off any DAW without a problem.
However, beginners will struggle with some systems. Some companies focus on presenting a user-friendly interface and make their software accessible. Others take a no-frills approach and are less intuitive.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because these DAWs are often some of the most powerful. But they assume that the people using them know what they’re doing. That’s why you should do your research and trial different options before committing.
1. Logic Pro X
Logic Pro is one of the most popular DAWs available today. This OSX software is one of the most accessible for beginners. It’s better than Garageband and is available for purchase on the app store.
This DAW has one of the best interfaces out there. Visually striking and clean, it’s much easier for newcomers to work with. But it’s also very popular with professionals.
That’s because Logic Pro is a great all-rounder. You can use it for writing music as well as recording and mixing. Meanwhile, users benefit from Apple’s amazing support system.
The stock plugins are excellent and some of the best of any DAW today.
You must have an Apple computer to run this DAW. It’s not compatible with PCs, so this could add significant expense if you’re intent on getting it.
Logic Pro is available for a one-time purchase. However, you’ll have to pay to download any software updates and download the package again. Arguably, the audio editing isn’t as effective as other DAWs.
Customers say that it’s easy to switch between production phases. They also like the robust audio track work system. However, they believe that this DAW falls short when it comes to sampling.
On the surface, Logic Pro X appears very cheap at $199.99. But remember that you will also have to pay for future updates.
2. Avid Pro Tools
This DAW is a veteran of the game. It was the first to make a significant impact on the music world and remains the industry standard today.
Few DAWs are as powerful as Pro Tools. It’s great for editing because it’s effective and has unbelievable capabilities. If you’re a professional, then this could be the DAW for you.
Meanwhile, it’s also great for adding layered sound design to videos. You can also use the integrated video engine to sync effects.
One of the benefits of Pro Tools is that it works on both OSX and PC. Once again, if you’re working on multiple projects in different places, it could make life easier. There is also an excellent library of plugins.
There are three versions of Pro Tools. These range from a free beginner download to the Ultimate edition which is a subscription program aimed at professionals.
There’s no hiding the fact that the interface looks dated. It’s definitely not the most user-friendly for beginners.
Avid has very mixed reviews on Amazon. Few complained about the company support system and claimed that the system was very buggy. However, some say that it’s extremely powerful and no other DAW touches it.
Pro Tools operates a subscription model with several different packages. Their basic one-month deal is $35.
They also have two one-year subscription deals. You can pay $30 per month or $299 at once for the full year.
3. Ableton Live
This DAW is very popular with electronic producers and D.Js. If this is your specialized area, then look no further.
Dubstep artists like Skrillex and DeadMaus use this software.
Like Pro Tools, Ableton works on both OSX and PC. It’s amazing for harnessing live music and crafting new music within the DAW.
One of the coolest features is the ‘session view.’ You can alter and sample individual tracks in real-time. It also has very fast tweaking, so it’s great to work with.
Ableton Live isn’t a linear DAW. Instead, you’ll find yourself reconstructing music from individual bits and clips.
As a result, it’s also one of the best DAWs for live sets.
The native plugins aren’t as effective as some other DAWs. It can also be expensive, and the interface isn’t as intuitive as some competitors.
You’ll also need a powerful computer.
Like other DAWs, Ableton Live has mixed reviews. One user wrote on Trustpilot that the software ‘does it all.’ Another said that the Live Suite is an excellent feature.
However, several reviewers complained about the lack of customer support. This compares negatively to Logic Pro X.
Ableton Live comes in three editions. The intro is the most basic form and is just $99. Standard is their middle-tier offering at $449. Finally, Suite is their premium full-package and costs a hefty $749.
4. Steinberg Cubase Pro
One of the best for MIDI editing, this is one of the most solid and stable DAWs today.
Cubase offers amazing stock plugins. This is probably the area where they are industry leaders. They also have great stock instruments and samples.
They’re also one of the oldest brands available. Cubase is actually a year older than the more famous Pro Tools. But it has built up a loyal following, as its longevity suggests. These days it is regarded as a great all-rounder.
Like Pro Tools, Cubase works on all platforms. This is a great feature.
Beginners might find it a struggle because it’s not the most user-friendly interface. Steinberg could streamline some of the drop-down menus and make them less complicated.
Most consumers agree that this is one of the best DAWs out there. One customer said that it has every type of tool imaginable. Another claimed that it’s great for composing.
There were some criticisms about the dated interface.
Cubase comes in three forms. The full version costs about $650, which makes it more expensive than some competitors. Meanwhile, the most basic edition is about $120.
5. Imagine Line FL Studio
Renowned for being beginner-friendly, this DAW is popular amongst electronic music producers.
As you’ll notice, a lot of DAWs can be very complicated. FL Studio is up there being the most accessible. Even non-musicians can make music on this platform.
You don’t even need a MIDI controller to produce beats on this DAW. It’s great for electronic music producers who prefer modular software.
Meanwhile, it has a massive online community, so you can share projects and templates. This makes it one of the most fun and interactive DAWs.
It also works across platforms.
While it’s great for beginners, it’s easy to become cluttered and disorganized. Audio recording can be a little complicated too. Meanwhile, it’s less powerful than some competitors like Pro Tools and Logic Pro X.
This DAW has some limitations that will turn off a lot of producers. It’s flexible without being the best all-rounder. Anybody working with rock bands will probably prefer another platform.
Reviewers believe that it’s a fantastic DAW for making music. One said that you could make a beat in just ten minutes. It’s also amazing for making melodies.
However, they said that the routing isn’t great, and the UI sometimes feels cluttered.
There are five versions of FL Studio available. The price ranges from $99 for the entry edition to $499 for the All Plugins edition. Their most popular Studio Producer Edition costs $199.
Your DAW is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a would-be producer.
Don’t rush into a decision that you may regret. They’re not cheap, so you should take advantage of free trials and test the waters. You can always watch YouTube videos to see if you like the look of a specific type.
Know your requirements and try not to compromise because there are specialized DAWs for different purposes. Also, bear in mind that some don’t work on OSX or PC.
It’s guaranteed that they will change your world because you’ll work with it for years. DAWs streamline your productivity and save an incredible amount of time. Buy the best version that you can afford because it will be worth it.