Whether you are just getting started producing music or transitioning from outboard analog gear to digital music production on a computer, you’ll need to select the right software that’s the best fit for you.
Choosing the right DAW software can be daunting with all the options available on the market, starting from a few hundred dollars and running up into the thousands. In this article, we’ll be reviewing the most popular DAW software options and evaluating the features, pros, and cons of each one. We have our personal favorite, but this article will help you choose the DAW that is the best fit for you.
What is the easiest DAW for beginners?
The easiest and most versatile DAW software is PreSonus Studio One. It’s easy to use, affordable and is becoming widely used by many professional musicians, engineers and recording studios around the world. Read our full review below and our evaluation of some other great DAW software on the market.
Presonus Studio One Professional
Studio One by PreSonus is one of the newer DAW software options available in the market today. It was first released in 2009 and it is now up to version 4.6 at the time of writing this in 2020. Over the 11 years that have passed since it was first released, plenty of new features and workflows have been added and improved. According to urban legend, Studio One was developed by ex-Steinberg Cubase software engineers and as such the interface has some similarities to Cubase, as well as some notable differences. It’s an easy-to-use digital audio workstation and perfect for those who are starting out as well as those transitioning from other software.
In our view, Presonus Studio One wins the ‘easiest to use DAW’ badge because of its speed, versatility, and affordability. It’s straightforward for musicians and producers who are just entering the world of digital audio production. Where other DAW software options shine in certain areas but lack in others, Studio One is the best all-rounder. Whether you’re composing and producing electronic music, recording and mixing a live band or a bit of both, Studio One’s workflows and layouts feel natural and intuitive.
Audio Editing and Mixing ★★★★★
The audio recording, editing and mixing tools in Studio One are excellent. The latest version comes with input channel gain staging (very handy), phase invert, new grouping options for tracks and pre-fader and RMS metering. There’s also a full suite of tools for editing audio tracks as well as a useful set of batch audio conversion and processing.
Studio One also includes real-time audio stretching multiple automation patterns.
One of the unique things about Studio One is its ability to be customized to match the workflow of other DAW software. You can customize your keyboard shortcuts for all mixing and editing tasks to make transitioning from another DAW easier. In addition, you can save sessions out of other DAW’s into the industry-standard AAF format and open these directly in Presonus Studio One. (There are few recommended steps for this process including consolidating all your tracks so they are the same length).
Song Arrangement Tools ★★★★★
Studio one has a few unique features for song arrangement and MIDI editing including a separate chord track which detects chords from audio and MIDI tracks and provides options for transposition or substituting and more interesting chord progressions. This is very useful if you find yourself stuck using the same chord progressions over and over again (like I sometimes do!)
There’s also a clever arrangement track which enables you to assign different sections of the song and easily rearrange your song simply by dragging and dropping sections in the arrangement track.
Bundled Tools, Virtual Instruments and Plugins ★★★★★
Studio One comes with a sample library of over 30gb, 40+ processing plugins and 5 very useful virtual instruments
It has a dedicated drum editing interface design to make programming drums and beats intuitive and easy.
Ease of Use, Compatibility, Reliability ★★★★★
Studio One is developed on newer software technology in comparison to some other DAWs – as a result, it is stable, fast and optimized for modern hardware and operating systems. Out of all the DAWs we looked at, Studio One is one of the easiest to use.
The latest version (version 4.6 at the time of this writing) includes optimization for multi-core CPUs to deliver the best performance from your computer. There are versions available for both Mac and PC.
Studio one also has compatibility with the Mackie control protocol which means you can easily add industry-standard audio control surfaces.
PreSonus Studio One is supplied as a one-off licence as opposed to a subscription so you don’t have to renew a subscription each year. There are discounted upgrades available for users who already have an existing version of Studio One. The price is very affordable and is significantly cheaper than Pro Tool and Cubase – the two more expensive DAWs we looked at. Considering the excellent set of bundled plugins and instruments, along with the fully-featured audio and song composition workflows, Studio One is excellent value for money.
Features and Specifications (Studio One Professional)
- License: One Time Purchase
- Audio Resolution up to 384khz (we can’t imagine you needing this!)
- 64-bit Audio Processing
- Unlimited Input / Outputs
- Unlimited Tracks and Busses
- WAV/AIFF, M4A (AAC/ALAC), FLAC/MP3 Export
- VST/VST2/VST3 Plug-In Support
- Video Track Support
- Video Export
- 45 Native Plugins Bundled including: Celemony Melodyne, Virtual Instruments, Impact XT, SampleOne
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★★
The latest version of Studio One Professional has 12 customer ratings on Amazon and an average score of 5/5.
Users like the intuitive design, the clever drag/drop interface, and the screen layout. Experienced producers enjoy the smooth transition from other DAWs.
A few users are reporting some compatibility issues with their existing hardware but generally the reviews on PreSonus studio one professional are very positive most of them being 5 stars.
Why would you choose Studio One?
- A good ‘all-rounder’ with intuitive workflows for recording, audio editing, mixing and music composition/arrangement.
- Fast performance
- Comes with a comprehensive library of samples, loops and plugins: effects, processing, instruments
- Workflow customization (If you’re transitioning from other software
- Good Value – Perpetual license that is affordable and doesn’t need to be paid each year
Avid Pro Tools
Pro Tools is perhaps the most popular DAW software for a good reason. It’s used by musicians and producers in home studios and professional recording studios all over the world. Pro Tools is loved and respected for its easy-to-use interface and it’s powerful audio editing technology which includes splitting and joining takes, Elastic Time and intelligent pitch correction. Pro Tools also includes Cloud Collaboration where you can connect and collaborate with other musicians, producers, engineers, and mixers—anywhere in the world.
All versions of Pro Tools come with an assortment of realistic sounding virtual instruments such as pianos, drums and synths as well as a full suite of audio processing plugins including equalization, compression, noise gate, reverb, delay and more.
Audio Editing and Mixing ★★★★★
Editing follows a logical process with the intuitive Pro Tools workflow. It’s easy to splice, fade and drag audio into the right position. The Playlist function enables you to manage multiple takes on a track and you can easily solo each individual take to quickly choose the best.
AVID’s innovative Multitrack Beat Detective and Elastic Audio allow you to easily correct timing on multiple tracks (such as all the drum tracks).
Song Composition and Arrangement ★★★
Earlier versions of Pro Tools were criticized by some for lacking MIDI functionality. This is understandable given that Pro Tools was originally developed for recording and mixing audio. In more recent years, however, Pro Tools have added a whole suite of MIDI tools which means it is now a fully-featured MIDI and audio DAW. On both the full and ultimate versions, you can run up to 1024 MIDI tracks, either controlling a virtual instrument, or an external MIDI device like a synthesizer or sound module.
Processing Plugins and Virtual Instruments ★★★★
Pro Tools comes with a basic suite of audio processing plugins including compression, noise gates, Limiting, EQ, Reverb, Delay and many more. There is also a pretty comprehensive set of virtual instruments, samples and loops. In addition, you can easily add more processing or virtual instrument plugins which are produced by many developers on the industry-recognized AAX (Avid Audio Extension) format. There’s enough to get started bunded with Pro Tools, but you’ll find yourself looking for third-party processing or instrument plugins pretty quickly as you outgrow the fairly basic set that’s included.
Pro Tools Features and Specifications
- Compose, record, edit, and mix high-quality music or sound for picture-on a Mac or PC
- 128 simultaneous tracks (@48khz)
- Over 60 amazing virtual instruments, effects, and sound processing plug-ins,
- Multitrack Beat Detective and Elastic Audio correct timing across all of your tracks
- Low-latency monitoring with Core Audio and ASIO hardware delivers smoother tracking
- Avid Cloud collaboration allows you to share audio and partner with musicians, producers and engineers all around the world
- Lots of handy and logical keyboard shortcuts for a fast workflow
- Support for up to 1024 MIDI tracks (2019 version onwards)
- OS Requirements – Mac: macOS 10.12.6 to 10.14
- OS Requirements – PC: Windows 10 or later
Ease of Use, Compatibility, Reliability ★★★
Pro Tools is a powerful DAW for recording, editing and mixing audio. In our view it’s workflow is one of the best in this area – easy to use and intuitive. It is not so strong in the MIDI composition and arrangement side of things, although it has improved significantly over the years. It works well on both Mac and PC. The compatibility and reliability with some hardware aren’t perfect – most Pro Tools users have experienced a dreaded ‘playback error’ or ‘DAE error’ at some stage or another.
Much as we like Pro Tools, it’s one of the more expensive DAWs we looked at. There are two pricing models, you can pay an annual or monthly subscription fee which gets you updates and support, or buy a more expensive one-time perpetual license.
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★
Musicians and Producers seem to have a love/hate relationship with Pro Tools. Many users use Pro Tools daily and know it like the back of their hand – they love the power and intuitive interface for audio editing. New users seem to find the learning curve steep and sometimes experience frustration with hardware configuration.
A few reviewers stated they had compatibility issues with their computers – but in most cases, those users appeared to be using an older computer or operating system. As long as your computer meets the system requirements you won’t have any trouble.
If you’re a debuting musician who wants to dive into the world of digital audio, or you’re looking to upgrade to one of the most widely used DAWs in the world, then we highly recommend Pro Tools.
Get more information and buy now on Amazon.com
Why would you choose Pro Tools from Avid?
If your primary focus is live audio recording, editing and mixing, then Pro Tools is one of the most powerful and capable DAW options out there. It’s used by many professional recording studios and is most likely to be around for a good while.
Steinberg Cubase is one of the oldest DAW software applications on the market – the original version was released way back in 1989 originally on the Atari ST computer and at the time it had MIDI support only. Not too long afterward Steinberg added support for audio recording and editing as well as support on the PC platform and in more recent years full support for Mac OS also. Steinberg is also the pioneer of the VST (Virtual Studio Technology) format, now one of the industry standards for processing plugins, effects and virtual instruments.
Cubase has come a long way since its inception and is now clearly established as a strong DAW software. It’s user-friendly interface is loved by many amateur and professional musicians around the world.
Audio Editing and Mixing Capability ★★★★★
Cubase has a comprehensive set of audio editing tools and a straightforward editing window. The workflow is quick and intuitive. Steinberg’s excellent audio processing tools include the ‘Audio Warp Quantize’ which enables you correct timing on single and multiple tracks (great for drum editing) and ‘VariAudio 3’ pitch editing for correcting vocal pitch and producing auto-tune effects. The Pro audio engine can handle unlimited tracks and you can mix in 5.1 surround.
Song Composition and Arrangement Workflow ★★★★★
Cubase started out as a MIDI sequencer and that’s still where it excels to this day with it’s fast and intuitive interface for arranging and composing music. The designers at Steinberg have produced a library of clever tools that are incredibly useful for musicians and songwriters composing and arranging music. These smart tools include a master ‘Arranger Track’ for establishing your song layout and Chord Assistant for developing and creating interesting chord progressions across your project. There is also a fully-functional score editor enabling composers to produce very usable music notation.
Included Tools and Plugins ★★★★★
Cubase comes with an extensive suite of over 90 high-end audio and MIDI VST effect processors, including Quadrafuzz V2, VST amp rack and VST bass amp guitar and bass tone suites, REVerence convolution reverb, frequency Eight-band EQ and many more.
There are 8 outstanding virtual instruments with over 3,000 sounds, including HALion sonic SE 3, Groove Agent SE 5, Padshop, Retrologue 2 and LoopMash 2
Ease of Use, Compatibility, Reliability ★★★★
Cubase has been around for three decades now and over that time the engineers have developed and fine-tuned the interface so it is very easy to use. It’s used by many professional musicians, including film composer Hans Zimmer.
The latest version of Cubase (10.5 at the time of writing this) is based on the award-winning 64-bit Cubase audio engine. This engine operates at a 64-bit floating point resolution and can deliver up to 192khz sample rates. There are versions for both Windows and Mac OS.
Some users have reported bugs with their hardware configuration and that it can take some time to get the software set up. There is a built-in video processing engine that has recently been added, however many people online are reporting lots of bugs with this.
Learn more and Buy at Amazon.com
- The full version of Cubase Pro is one of the more expensive DAWs that we’ve looked at. The full version costs $579 + Shipping. There is an option for a lower priced ‘Crossgrade’ from selected other DAWs – these include the following;
- Ableton Live 8 or higher (Standard and Suite / excl. Intro)
- Apple Logic 9 or higher
- Avid Pro Tools 9 or higher incl. subscriptions (Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD / excl. First)
- Cakewalk Sonar X2 or higher (Platinum and Professional / excl. Artist and Cakewalk by Bandlab)
- Cockos Reaper (Commercial license only / excl. discounted license)
- Imageline FL Studio 11 or higher (Signature and Producer / excl. Fruity)
- Magix Samplitude Pro X 1 or higher (excl. Music Studio)
- Magix Sequoia 9 or higher
- MOTU Digital Performer 7 or higher
- Presonus Studio One (Professional / excl. Prime and Artist)
- Propellerheads Reason 6 or higher)
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★
At the time of Writing Steinberg Cubase Pro has 28 reviews on Amazon and an average rating of 3.5 out of 5.
A number of users reported that they found the user Interface difficult to figure out so Cubase is probably better for experienced musicians and engineers.
Why would you choose Steinberg Cubase Pro?
- Cubase is an excellent ‘all-rounder’ with well-designed tools for both audio and MIDI
- It ships with an excellent collection of bundled plugins, virtual instruments and samples
Apple Logic Pro X
Apple’s Logic Pro, unsurprisingly only works on Mac OS. For Mac enthusiasts that’s great – and many creatives love using Macs. For those who are on a PC, or perhaps starting from scratch and want to conserve their studio budget, Logic Pro might no the best choice. (We have nothing against Mac’s and we think they are very stable and easy to use. Apple Mac computers do generally have a significantly higher price tag compared with a PC of similar performance. If you want your studio setup budget to go further, you could consider buying a high-performance PC – which automatically rules out Logic as your DAW!)
All of that Mac vs PC debate aside, Logic Pro X is an excellent DAW with a full range of features and tools. The interface is very similar to Apple’s Garageband – which means users moving up from Garageband will have a seamless transition to Logic.
Audio editing and mixing capability ★★★★
There’s a full set of audio tools like splitting, crossfading, trimming as well as an easy to use system for comping multiple takes. The recording and editing workflow is not quite as straightforward as Pro Tools, but everything is there once you get the hang of it. The primary mix window provides large faders, mute, solo, panning and all your insert patching. Each track has it’s own VU meter – it would be nice if the meters were a bit bigger though.
Song composition and Arrangement Workflow ★★★★★
For composition and arrangement of music, Logic has an excellent working space which enables you to focus on being creative, without the interface getting in your way! Splitting, looping and editing patterns feels natural and easy. The multi-mode window at the bottom of the screen can switch between a piano roll editor, score editor, mixer or sample editor.
There’s a number of useful tools including the smart tempo feature which automatically quantizes audio and MIDI files. Flex time and flex pitch enable you to manually move a missed beat or fix a wrong note. Pitch correction is excellent and feels more natural than the built in tools in many other DAWs.
Included Plugins (processing and instruments) ★★★★★
Included in your purchase price, you get a massive collection of excellent quality effects, plugins, VSTs, instruments and world-class audio processing tools. In fact, unlike some DAWs (like Reaper or even Pro Tools) you can absolutely produce professional music using the bundled plugins, without needing to purchase any third party tools. If you want to access all the included tools, samples, loops and resources, there’s over 51GB worth of downloads – all available with your purchase of a Logic Pro license.
According to Apple’s website, the sound library included with Logic provides the following;
- 2,900 Patches for Audio, Auxiliary, Software Instrument and Output tracks
- 10,000 Apple Loops covering a wide range of genres
- 1,000 EXS24 Sampler instruments
- 4,300 plug-in settings for 101 plug-ins
- 38 Ultrabeat electronic drum kits with 950 unique drum sounds
- 660 reverb spaces and warped effects for Space Designer
- 54 groove patterns for Arpeggiator MIDI plug-in
The instruments and samples are organized in the ‘Library’ which is easy to navigate and find what you need.
If you want to add third-party plugins you can do that easily. We give logic 5 stars for the amazing included resources.
Performance, Compatibility and Reliability ★★★★
Logic has incredible versatility – it can scale all the way up to 1,000 tracks of audio and 1,000 MIDI tracks – more than we can imagine most people need. Even for large projects, the performance remains stable. Even on mid-range hardware, Logic will perform well – and Apple provides some clever ways to optimize CPU power.
There’s a long list of industry-standard control surfaces which are all supported by Logic – view the full list here.
As we mentioned, Logic only works on an Apple Mac computer – this isn’t a problem for many musicians and songwriters who prefer Macs anyway! Logic works with most Core Audio–compliant MIDI and audio hardware.
Ease of Use ★★★★★
Logic Pro has an intuitive and er… logical workflow for composition, recording and audio editing. For users just getting started, the menu structure and interface feel familiar and straightforward. For more advanced users who need to dig deeper into the tools, everything still works naturally and easily. We give Logic Pro a 5 out of 5 for ease of use.
Logic Pro X at the time of writing is a very reasonable $199. In our view, the value for money with this is unsurpassed, especially when you consider the amazing set of included plugins, instruments and tools all included within the purchase price. A cynic might suggest that Apple is subsidizing the price of Logic to keep users on their Mac hardware! Either way, if you’re on a Mac computer we’d say that Logic is very good value for money – you get amazing bang for your buck.
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★★
Logic Pro is only available for purchase directly from Apple through the ‘App Store’. So, there are no reviews on Amazon, Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend or any other places musicians look to buy equipment. That being said there are lots of detailed reviews online. We had a look on www.g2.com – an independent software review site and found – 117 Logic Pro Reviews 2. Of those 117 reviews , 95 of them are 5 star, indicating that Logic Pro really is a well-liked DAW.
Some users reported bugs and hardware compatibility issues with recent updates, but generally, Logic is well regarded as reliable. A few users mentioned that frequent Apple OS updates can upset some of the plugins and their advice is to hold off on installing Apple OS updates if you’re in the middle of a big project in Logic.
Why would you choose Logic
- Logic’s interface and design is very easy to use
- There is a massive selection of plugins, loops and instruments – unsurpassed by other DAWs
- Logic is a great ‘All-rounder’ – good for midi composition and arrangement as well as audio recording, editing and mixing
Why wouldn’t you choose Logic
- The obvious one is of course, it only works on a Mac!
- Metering is a bit small
- If you’re doing dedicated audio recording and editing only, Pro Tools is still the best
- Logic is becoming more widely used in higher-end professional studios, but Pro Tools is probably still more well-regarded at top studios. If you want to learn the DAW that top engineers and studios use, Avid Pro Tools is the one.
FL Studio by Imageline
FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops) was first released in the late 1990s. Eventually, after a run-in with Kellogg’s they agreed to rename the product to FL Studio – I guess there was some concern that the DAW software would be confused with ‘Froot Loops’ the breakfast cereal! All of that aside, FL Studio is now a well established DAW software that has been around for over 20 years. It’s most commonly used by electronic music producers as is used by some well-known artists including Bassjackers, DeadMau5, SeamlessR, Basshunter, Seismic Crew and many others.
Audio Recording and Editing ★★★
FL Studio has a built-in audio recording and editing module called the ‘Edison editor’. In my view the audio editing functionality is a bit limited compared with other Daw software
Composition and Arrangement ★★★★★
The main ‘channel rack’ view is based on a simple step sequencer. The interface will be immediately familiar to users of hardware samplers and sequencers and drum machines such as the Akai MPC range and the Roland TR-808 or TR-909 drum machines. While you’re in ‘pattern mode’ you can quickly program a rhythm and notes in a pattern assigned to a particular instrument.
If you want to adjust the pitch of a note or make more complex rhythm patterns, you can work in the well-designed piano roll view. The piano roll view is pretty intuitive to use and matches the same interface as many other DAW software.
The unique playlist in FL Studio enables you to arrange and construct your song based on the patterns and loops you’ve created in the ‘channel rack’ window. You can also add audio tracks and samples.
Included Tools and Plugins ★★★★
FL Studio comes with a pretty full set of instruments, sample packs, and processing plugins. You can absolutely create and mix pro-level tracks using everything that’s bundled with FL Studio Producer Edition.
Ease of Use, Compatibility, Reliability ★★★★★
FL Studio is one of the easiest DAWs to use – it has a simple and intuitive interface that beginners can pick up quickly. The ‘Channel Rack’ and Piano Roll views are well designed and make it easy to quickly program patterns and get ideas down. You’ll find yourself in creative mode all the time – the interface isn’t a distraction from producing music!
FL Studio is now cross-platform – available on both PC and Mac. It works well with most hardware interfaces- it supports ASIO, Windows Directsound as well as CoreAudio on Macs. FL Studio acts as a ReWire device so you can operate it inside another DAW as an instrument. I’ve been using FL Studio for years for composition alongside Pro Tools for audio editing and mixing – a powerful combination. FL Studio is reliable, stable and fast (as long as your computer system meets the minimum requirements).
Affordability ★★★★★ +
FL Studio is priced very reasonably at $199 for the Producer Edition and $299 for the Signature Bundle. (The signature bundle comes with extra instruments and plugins including the Harmless Synth, Hardcore guitar FX, Pitcher, Gross Beat, DirectWave Full Sampler and the Fruity Video Player tool).
One of the great things about FL Studio is that once you’ve bought the license you get lifetime updates for free – you don’t have to pay for new versions in the future. We think this makes for amazing affordability – so we’re giving FL Studio a 5 star + rating!
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★★
FL Studio Producer Edition has 214 customer ratings on Amazon with an overall score of 4.5 out of 5. Many reviewers commented on the easy-to-use layout, the great-sounding instruments that are included and the overall value for money.
There wasn’t really much negative said about it at all except a couple of people commenting that they didn’t receive a USB stick or CD with the box when they ordered on Amazon. Overall there are many users who really like FL Studio.
Why choose FL Studio?
- Friendly user interface
- Click-and-drop audio arrangement in Playlist view
- Fantastic composition and arrangement workflow
Reaper is not only one of the more affordable DAWs out there, but it’s also incredibly capable. For personal use, Reaper costs only $60 for a lifetime license – and for commercial use, it’s a very reasonable $225.
Reaper’s 60-day trial is fully functional to allow you plenty of time to get used to the interface and understand if it’s going to work for you.. Reaper is a little more technical when it comes to its tools, but there are plenty of tutorials out there to help you navigate through.
Audio Editing and Mixing ★★★★
Reaper is a fully functional Digital Audio Workstation with multitrack audio recording, editing and mixing capabilities. The interface is similar to many other DAW options on the market and it features a full set of editing tools (trim, split, crossfade and volume automation). It’s a little bit clumsy the first few times around – but once you get the hang of it, you’ll pick up speed. It supports multiple takes in an easy workflow. Mixing and processing is straightforward and the Mixer window is intuitive with standard functions like mute, solo, routing and effect/plugin patching.
Composition, Arrangement and MIDI Capabilities ★★★★
Reaper has a full suite of MIDI tools for sequencing and multitrack MIDI recording and editing. You can import a MIDI file pretty easily or record directly from MIDI devices. The Piano Roll editor/sequencer tool has all the standard midi tools including quantize, humanize, transpose as well as the ability to edit note velocity, pitch and other standard MIDI program controls.
Included Plugins and Tools ★★★
By Default, Reaper comes bundled with a fairly limited set of basic plugins including dynamics processing (compression and gate), gain adjustment, EQ, and some basic effects like delay, reverb and pitch correction. It’s enough to get started with, but lacking in comparison to all the other DAWs we’ve looked at. Reaper does support VST plugins, enabling you to easily add other processing tools and virtual instruments as you need them.
Support and Development
One of the other great things about Reaper is the community knowledge base with lots of active Reaper experts who can help with questions and give helpful advice.
The developers for Reaper are releasing constant updates – adding new features, improving the workflow and fixing compatibility issues with new hardware as it is released. There are Windows and Mac OS versions available (both 32-bit and 64-bit on both platforms) and even an experimental build for Linux.
Another point of difference for Reaper is its ability to be customized through custom scripts and macros. This is more of an advanced feature but useful for those who understand it!
Control surface support
REAPER has built-in support for the following control surfaces;
- Behringer BCF2000 – Behringer’s motorized faders control surface, USB/MIDI
- TranzPort – Frontier Design Group’s wireless transport control
- Frontier Design AlphaTrack control surface
- Mackie Baby HUI control surface
- Mackie MCU – “Mackie Control Universal” control surface
- Presonus FaderPort control surface
Reputation and Reviews ★★★★
Reaper is only available for purchase directly through reaper.fm, so there are no ratings on Amazon. We found 17 reviews on G2.com with an average rating of 4 stars. Lots of people love the platform – probably because of it’s overall affordability and full feature set. A number of people commented that the MIDI editing capability is limited and there is a steep learning curve for beginners.
Why would you choose Reaper?
- It’s a complete, all-around software – you can use it for audio editing as well as MIDI composition and arrangement
- It’s very affordable for users getting started at just $60 for private use
- It comes with a fully functioning 60-day trial
Why wouldn’t you choose Reaper?
- The user interface is a bit clumsy and unattractive
- Can be a bit buggy and incompatible with many hardware devices and plugins
- There is a steep learning curve for beginners
- You’ll soon outgrow the very basic bundled plugins and virtual instruments.
At the end of the day, it’s not the recording software you choose that matters the most, but rather what the music you’re making means to you.
Choose the DAW that is best suited for your style of music, your ability level, and the way you’ll be working.
If you’re starting out in the world of computer audio production, Presonus Studio One is one of the easiest to use, all-around DAWs with an impressive bundle of instruments and tools and great value for money. It’s stable and fast and supports both Mac and PC platforms.
If you’re on a Mac, Logic Pro X is another great option – again excellent value for money with a straightforward and intuitive workflow.
If you’ll be recording and editing lots of audio tracks, Avid Pro Tools is the most well-equipped and widely used for pure audio recording, editing, and mixing. Avid’s subscription model makes Pro Tools the most expensive DAW, but it’s definitely at the top of the line when it comes to audio.
Steinberg Cubase is another great all-rounder – with a very good set of tools for recording, editing, and composition. It’s priced in the higher end and has a steeper learning curve, but it’s well-loved and used by many professional musicians and engineers.
If you’re producing Electronic Music, Imageline’s FL Studio has a fantastic creative workflow that helps you create beats, patterns, and sequences with ease.
If you’re really just dipping your toe in the DAW water, Cockos Reaper’s very affordable $60 license for private use will get you started. Once you start creating, you’ll soon find yourself hunting around for third party VST processing plugins and instruments – there are plenty of free ones out there, but you’ll probably waste a lot of time fiddling around. If you’ve got unlimited time, that’s great, but in our view, you’d be better off investing in a DAW that comes with a usable set of plugins and instruments, so you can focus on creativity.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DAW?
DAW is short for Digital Audio Workstation. The term DAW usually refers to audio recording software, but it can also refer to a hardware device capable of recording, editing and mixing digital audio. These days, DAW recording software has almost completely replaced hardware DAWs and DAW software provides much more flexibility, power, and compatibility for musicians producing and sharing music.
DAW software allows you to record, edit and mix digital audio tracks on your computer and will turn your computer into a music-making powerhouse! On top of that, they allow for plugins, which can emulate hardware gear like compressors, equalizers as well as virtual instruments.
Each DAW software has a slightly different user interface and workflow but they all have the same purpose; to help take your music-making to the next level!
What to look for when choosing a DAW?
We’ve considered a number of factors and built a framework of key things we’re evaluating on each of the DAW’s we’ve reviewed. We’ve given each DAW a star rating out of 5 in the areas below.
1. Audio editing and mixing capability
Since after all, we are talking about Digital Audio Workstations here, one of the most important features is the ability to edit, process and mix audio in a way that is straightforward and intuitive. We’ll be evaluating how strong each DAW software option is in this area.
2. Song composition and Arrangement Workflow
A big part of digital audio production these days is the composition and sequencing of music. We’ll evaluate how easy and intuitive each DAW is for this.
3. Included Plugins (processing and instruments)
Some DAWs come with an extensive library of audio processing plugins, virtual instruments and effects, while others are lacking in this area. We think this is an important part of the whole picture as you consider the DAW that is the best for you.
4. Ease of Use, Compatibility, and Reliability
We’ve evaluated each DAW to consider how easy it is to learn and use. Do the workflows make sense, is it intuitive for beginners? We’ve also looked at how stable and reliable the software is and how compatible with different hardware.
There’s a significant range of prices across the DAWs we looked at – some are more affordable than others.
6. Reputation and Reviews
Lastly, we’ve looked at how well-regarded each DAW is in the market, by checking reviews across a number of platforms.
What is the Easiest DAW to learn?
Our choice is Presonus Studio One Professional. It’s got an intuitive and easy-to-understand interface and it comes with a great bundle of virtual instruments and plugins.
What industry-standard DAW do most professionals use?
Avid Pro Tools is considered to be the industry standard and used by many professional mixing and mastering engineers and is found in just about all professional recording studios. Pro Tools has been around for many years now – although it takes a little longer to learn than some DAW’s it’s very fast and powerful.
Final DAW Thoughts
It’s also important to note that when it comes to producing studio-quality tracks, your mixes and masters will depend on the quality of your recorded audio, so make sure you invest in the right recording interface and microphones too!
This article is as much for us as for you. We’ve been using Pro Tools for a number of years, but given the expensive ongoing licensing that Avid has now introduced, we’re investigating what else is out there. We thought it would be useful to document and share our research process and some of the points we considered.
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