The latest push in music production software is happening online. Payment plans are starting to become subscriptions, and DAW technology is capable of living completely online in a browser.
The year 2020 has been keeping us all indoors and music production is on the rise. Production software is still increasingly going mobile, with brand name DAWs producing increasingly useful, and newcomers to the space making music creation easy for anyone.
The Best Music Production Software Highlighted
New technologies in modern DAWs eliminate latency when using wireless devices as interfaces or virtual instruments.
This year, we’ve also seen great improvements to the built-in virtual synthesizers included with music production software. You can expect your DAW to come with more built-in samples than ever — and more interesting ways to manipulate those samples to fit the needs of your project.
We will cover features and pricing for the best DAWs, best music production apps, and online music creation software. Some of the best options are actually free.
Any seasoned producer will tell you that choosing the best audio engineering software is more than comparing data points like pricing or percentage of usage – it’s a personal choice depending on what you are looking to accomplish.
The Best DAWs
1. FL Studio
- Who’s It for? Great for beginners
- Price: Between $99-$899, the most popular option is $199
- Compatibility: Windows, Mac
FL Studio is great for beginners as it is quite easy to learn compared to other DAW’s that have been mentioned on this list.
There are many VSTs and effects that can be used with FL studio, but that can also be said for the other DAW’s on this list.
2. Pro Tools 12
- Who’s It for? Audio professionals & musicians
- Price: New license $299 — Upgrades available for less
- Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Pro Tools had long been the industry standard for audio engineers, for over 30 years, but after its democratization in 2010, Avid solidified Pro Tools place in both the bedroom producer and modern mix engineer’s go-to recording software.
Read more about it in our review here.
When it comes to recording, Pro Tools has almost every imaginable configuration when it comes to handling actual audio.
Though Pro Tools may be the king of recording, it often received complaints and feedback for poor MIDI handling of all of its competitors.
3. Ableton Live
- Who’s It for? Intermediate producers, beatmakers
- Price: Between $99 – $749, Standard version is $449
- Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Ableton Live has basically taken grown in parallel with the rise of EDM. It’s a seamless transition from studio to the stage making it an easy and practical recording software choice.
Though Ableton should never be thought of recording software first, it does provide its users with really fun ways of handling and editing audio, which outside of quality is the most important part of the recording process.
Ableton’s ability to stretch, pitch and destroy sounds is simple and effective, which will always make it one of the best recording software options on the market.
4. Logic Pro
- Who’s It for? Producers & musicians, as well as Mac users
- Price: $199
- Compatibility: Mac
Logic Pro X has grown in demand in recent years. It’s an affordable and very capable DAW designed to work specifically for Mac users.
From the perspective of singer-songwriters that also produces their material, Logic makes recording as simple and seamless as its production processes are, but other features can be more complicated and require training.
Logic’s shortcomings in the recording process actually come in the form of its editing processes. Also severely lacking is a surgical, yet non-destructive, waveform editing tool.
5. ACID Pro 10
- Who’s It for? Beginner producers interested in speed and creativity and working with loops/samples
- Price: $199-$399 – Free Trial Available
- Compatibility: Windows
ACID Pro has expanded its feature set over the years, growing from a loop-based synthesizer into a full DAW. At the core, though, ACID Pro maintains the simplicity that has made it so popular for so many years.
ACID Pro makes working with samples incredibly easy by allowing you to import samples from any source and work with multiple file types within the same project.
This software also allows for virtually endless possibilities in manipulating samples. You can adjust the pitch or tempo without losing the sample’s original sound quality. When you add a new sample, ACID Pro automatically analyzes it and matches it to the groove of your existing track.
In spite of its age, ACID Pro remains a feature-rich DAW. The built-in mixer supports surround channels and sub-mixes. Their recently new advancements to the software include STEM MAKER 2, ACID Morph Pads, and the powerful MIDI Playable Chopper with Auto Slicing.
- Who’s It for? Users looking for advanced mastering and editing features
- Price: $399 – Free Trial Available
- Compatibility: Windows & a Mac Version Available
Another product brought to you by MAGIX, Sound Forge Pro, with a focus on audio editing and mastering. Sound Forge has been around for over 25 years and trusted by accomplished professionals, notably Anthony Casuccio, Joey Stuckey, Ted Perlman, and more.
If you are looking to get the most out of software that is geared toward audio editing than Sound Forge Pro is a good option.
While there is a Mac version available there has been some less than stellar feedback regarding support for that OS. If you’re rooted deep in Mac, you may want to try something else, like Logic.
Pricing starts at $399, but there is a free trial available.
- Who’s It for? Suitable for all levels of skill, budgets, and types of music
- Price: $99-$549
- Compatibility: Windows & Mac
Steinberg basically introduced the world to the modern age of music production. Literally inventing the game-changing VST format, and creating a billion-dollar industry, they forever altered the way music was made and the critical role that computers now play in the audio industry.
Though not always the first company that comes to mind in the ever-expanding DAW market, Steinberg has kept Cubase up to date with production and technology trends.
Cubase is an amazing piece of recording software that triumphs where Logic Pro struggles and excels where Pro Tools fails to improve in MIDI handling capabilities.
With the Control Room panel, users can quickly make better monitor mixes for whoever’s in the booth. The VariAudio tool allows MIDI-styled note editing as a Melodyne like a tool. Overall, Cubase is the most well-rounded vocal recording software.
Compare Music Software Pricing
|Acid Pro 10||DAW||$9.99/mo or $199|
|Sound Forge Pro||DAW||$17.99/mo or $399|
|Cubase Pro 10.5||DAW||$99-$549|
Music software is similar to any other product you may buy online, and there are multiple websites you can purchase from. As a general rule of thumb, you should purchase from reputable sources. Musician’s Friend is one good option.
Each music software product handles trials differently, and not all of them have a free trial. You will need to research active deals or promotions or try one that has an ongoing free trial offer like ACID Pro.