Want to jump straight to the answer? Our choice for the Best DAW Software is Pro Tools by Avid!
The lifeblood of Digital Audio is the DAW. Without Daw Software, recording to tape would still be the modern method of music production. Luckily, DAWs are available to the public at affordable prices compared to the amount of equipment required to make music purely analog. Picking a DAW, however, can feel like a monumental decision that will affect the rest of your career. Luckily, it is not. It shouldn’t be a stressful decision and we are here to help simplify the options for you all while giving you guidelines of how to choose.
Quick Look at Best DAW Software
- Best for Mixing and Editing – Pro Tools
- Best for Writing and Composition – Logic Pro
- Best for Budget DAW – Cakewalk
- Best for Electronic Music – FL Studio
- Best for Learning and Live Collaboration – Soundtrap
- Best for Flexibility – Reaper
What To Look For When Choosing a DAW
There are many components to keep in mind when choosing any software regarding audio production and studio work. While the DAW itself is the biggest factor, take a look at these details to consider when looking to buy a DAW software.
When you work on any project you want to have the right tool for the job. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to cut down a tree, so why use the wrong DAW software for what you do? All of these DAWs have the same basic functions but they also have their own strong suits. Looking through all of the DAWs we have put together you will see what each of them is best for and you can easily find out what matches your goals.
Affordability is one of the biggest struggles for new engineers. Finding a DAW software that works on a professional level all while being affordable is one of the hardest things to find. You’ll see some high-end options at low prices but you will also see options that are higher on the price scale. Take a look at your finances when you make the decision to decide which DAW is best for you.
Compatibility – System Requirements
There is no issue in finding a DAW software that will work with your operating system. Granted there are some DAWs that work solely on one OS such as Logic. That simply means you have to evaluate what it is you are looking for in a DAW which includes what type of computer you are planning on using it on.
Frequency of Use
You don’t want to purchase a DAW only to find out you do not like the workflow and never touch it again. Most DAWs have some sort of free trial or return period so you can find out if you want to continue using it or move on to another. You also should contemplate how often you actually will be using the DAW software. Sometimes you want to get the most expensive DAW and plugins but you only are working on one project a year and it will not be worth it to get a DAW like Pro Tools Ultimate.
There are different skill levels involved with different DAWs. DAWs such as Pro Tools and Reaper require more knowledge than one such as Sountrap, so you need to look at what your own skill level is and if you are trying to progress to the level of skill needed to use a DAW to its fullest capabilities.
Best DAW Softwares
Here are our choices for the best DAW software and what they each are best for.
1. Pro Tools
Best for: Mixing and Editing
Pro Tools is one of those industry standards that can feel incredibly daunting on your first interaction. Looking at it, you are at a loss of what to ask questions about because you don’t know what it is that you don’t know. Once you have spent some time in it and learned how to approach using it, you will see the endless possibilities for mixing, recording, and editing. It is one of the most popular DAWs for both professional and home studios and is compatible with both Mac and PC.
Who’s it for? Mixing Engineers- Mastering Engineers
- Monthly Subscription (Cancel any time)
- 1-year subscription
- Perpetual license
- Monthly Subscription (Cancel any time)
- 1-year subscription
System Requirements: macOS and Windows
|Operating System||10.13.6, 10.14.6, 10.15.3, or 10.15.5-10.15.7||Windows 10|
|Memory||16GB RAM (32 or more recommended)||16GB RAM (32 or more recommended)|
|Storage Space||15GB Disk Space for Installation||15GB Disk Space for Installation|
2. Logic Pro
Best for: Writing and Composition
Apple is a user favorite company because of how user friendly and easy it is. This is reflected within their programs and apps such as Garageband and Logic. Logic is super easy to use once you have spent a little time in it, and there are countless ways to learn about how to use it. It can easily be used for mixing and editing and I know of many musicians who like to track in Logic for their home studios and will sometimes export the tracks to another DAW for the finishing touches. The instruments that come with Logic are also some of the best that comes with any DAW out there, so if you are a Mac user, this is one of the best options for you.
Who’s it for? Mac users- Writers- Composers
|Operating System||10.15.7 or later||X|
|Storage Space||6GB for minimum installation |
72GB for full Sound Library installation
Best for: Budget DAW
So Cakewalk is the best for working on a budget because it is just FREE. However, that doesn’t make it a “cheap” DAW. This is honestly up to par with most professional paid DAWs. If I am not mistaken it might be the only free DAW that allows third-party plugins which are almost unheard of, but you don’t always need third-party plugins because they have a long list of high-quality effects that come with the DAW itself for you to use. This is the perfect way to transition into using professional DAWs for any engineer.
Who’s it for? Engineers on a Budget- Engineers wanting to learn a new DAW
|Operating System||X||Windows 7 (not fully supported), 8/8.1, and 10|
|Storage Space||X||5GB for minimum installation (20GB recommended)|
4. FL Studio
Best for: Electronic Music
When it comes to creating electronic music there are many aspects that are similar to working with other types of music. However, there are some key features that set electronic music apart from other styles. One of the biggest differences is that writing and creating the song involves mixing and editing throughout the process while normally you would track each instrument and mix them all afterward. FL Studio has created the perfect platform to work with electronic music from its innovations in patching/routing to the seamless use of MIDI in the DAW itself.
Who’s it for? Electronic Music producers- MIDI users
- Fruity Edition – $99
- Producer Edition – $199
- Signature Bundle Edition – $299
- All Plugins Edition – $899
|Operating System||10.13.6 or higher||Windows 8.1, 10 or later|
|Storage Space||4GB of free disk space||4GB of free disk space|
Best for: Learning and Live Collaboration
Learning Soundtrap is easily a gateway to becoming a professional engineer. It is the first stepping stone you need to learn basics and move into harder methods. Not only is it the perfect way to learn but it also is the perfect podcast production DAW. Since Soundtrap is owned by Spotify, you get access to upload your tracks directly to Spotify. This is perfect for new podcast creators wanting to have their episodes available on a large platform. And with the collaborative abilities of Soundtrap, you get the ability to work with other creators on Soundtrap to write, mix, and create full songs.
Who’s it for? Beginners- Podcasters- Students
- Music Makers Premium – $9.99 per month
- Music Makers Supreme – $14.99 per month
- Complete – $17.99 per month
System Requirements: All you need is a working internet connection for your browser of choice.
Best for: Flexibility
Reaper is an extremely unique DAW is how the user interface works. You have the ability to change the theme to make Reaper look like almost every other popular DAW out there. There are skins for Pro Tools, Logic, and there are also themes for your favorite version of each of these DAWs. Beyond just the physical looks, you can map the controls to any style that fits your needs if you are used to a different set of controls. With all of the professional capabilities it has, you would expect Reaper to be a fairly high price, but it is actually one of the cheapest DAWs out there.
Who’s it for? Veterans of other DAWs- Engineers wanting to learn a new DAW
|Operating System||10.5 – 11.0||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10|
Working in the Workstation
Once you have picked your DAW and spend a month or 2 on it, you’ll know you made the right decision. Every time you export a final project and get the seal of approval from a client, you’ll see that it was worth investing both your money and your time into yourself and your career. There will be ups, downs, and a never-ending river of knowledge to learn, but if your effort matches your desire to learn, you will do just fine.
If you are looking for ways to learn more about audio production, check out our Youtube channel. We also have whole sections of Audio Assemble dedicated to plugins and samples for you to check out and learn more!