Have you chosen the best DAW for your creative workflow? Most of us don’t have the time to try them all. So instead, let’s look at some tried and tested options and learn some of the basic differences between the DAW systems you’ll come across today.
When you’re just starting out in music production, the range of DAWs available makes it hard to know which one to use. Moreover, when you don’t have much experience creating music, the tools you use can shape the direction of your approach.
This limitation is certainly the case with software. However, while DAWs all offer a similar set of features they each have strengths in different areas. So it’s important to find one that compliments your own creative process, allowing you to grow in the future.
Which is the best DAW for your music production workflow?
Each DAW has its own specific background as to how it was developed and some have become an intrinsic part of the music industry over the past 30 years. We’ll discuss some of the most popular DAWs available today, and hopefully, we can find one that suits you best.
We’ve chosen each DAW according to workflow, features, design philosophy, and price. With the idea of covering a wide scope of options, there are also alternative suggestions in each case. So be sure to check these out!
It’s possible to find a decent DAW on the budget end of the market, and Reaper is a prime example of this. Since its introduction in 2006, Reaper has steadily built a following with professionals and home recording enthusiasts alike.
Almost every aspect of the workflow is customizable, and its one of the most resource-efficient DAW systems available. The entire download package (for Mac) is only 25MB, and it also offers compatibility with Windows and Linux.
Apart from the included ReaPlugs 64-bit plug-in suite, Reaper also supports VST2, VST3, and AU. Additional features like oversampling allow you to run plug-ins at higher sample rates than your global setting and auto-bypass on silence lessens the strain on your CPU.
As an alternative, Bandlab Cakewalk is a free DAW with years of development behind it.
Apple Logic Pro
Although Apple bought it in 2002, Logic began as C-Lab Creator in 1987 on Atari ST which, in turn, evolved into Emagic Notator. As it developed, Logic became sought after for the power of its software instruments and effects, some of which were sold separately at the time.
These same Emagic instruments, like the ES1 and ES2 synthesizers, for example, are still part of Logic Pro today. Moreover, the amount of included content and overall creative power has always been an aspect that drew many users to the platform.
The accuracy of Logic’s audio features has gradually caught up over the years, and it remains one of the best value options for making music on MacOS.
If you like Logic’s workflow but aren’t a Mac user, check out Presonus Studio One as a possible alternative.
- More about Apple
Presonus Studio One 6 Professional Download
If you’re looking to make electronic music, Ableton Live is arguably one of the best-suited DAWs for this purpose. With the combination of easy-to-use plug-ins and the intuitive session view, it provides an excellent platform for formulating new ideas quickly.
Another area where Live stands out when compared to other DAWs is the way in which it interfaces with external hardware. In terms of latency, stability, and clocking flexibility it offers outstanding performance which is why it’s generally the preferred DAW for use on stage.
In addition, features like Racks and Max for Live bring a unique level of customization to its creative arsenal that certainly appeals to some users.
Another DAW with plenty of overlapping features, but a slightly different approach is Bitwig Studio.
- More about Ableton
Ableton Live 11 Suite Download
Reason Studios began as Propellerhead Software with offerings like ReCycle in 1994 and the cult virtual studio ReBirth RB-338 in 1997. With a visual approach to software instruments, Reason was launched in 2000 with internal MIDI sequencing capabilities.
It wasn’t until version 6 that Reason could in fact record audio, and features like Rack Extensions and VST support followed in subsequent versions.
The virtual studio rack lends itself to a different type of creativity, and being able to create your own internal audio and CV routings, as well as Combinator instruments has a unique sensibility.
If you aren’t taken with the Reason approach but you’re looking to make Hip-Hop or EDM, FL Studio is a great option used by many top producers.
- More about Reason Studios
Reason Studios Reason 12 Download
Avid Pro Tools
Pro Tools began as a basic 4-track digital production suite in 1991, with a separate editor and mixing workstation. The design philosophy was to replicate and exceed the recording quality standards set by SSL consoles and tape machines.
In addition, Digidesign began offering hardware integration with multiple linked DSP cards alongside Pro Tools, which meant that the processing demands weren’t reliant on 3rd-party computer technology.
This, among other features quickly defined Pro Tools as the industry standard recording system used in studios globally for any application. Today, faster chips mean we don’t rely on external DSP as much, but Pro Tools is still one of the most reliable DAWs available.
If Pro Tools isn’t for you, but you’re looking for a similar level of digital accuracy, check out Steinberg Cubase.
- More about Avid
Avid Pro Tools Studio Perpetual Download
More about the Best DAWs:
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- Reaper: White Sea Studio
- Apple Logic Pro: Apple
- Ableton Live: Ableton
- Reason: Reason Studios
- Avid Pro Tools: Avid