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The future of music is here with the digital age. As electronic music becomes more popular, there is more software being developed to produce it. These digital audio workstations (DAWs) can be used for everything from mixing new songs to creating sound effects for films. If you are looking to get into the world of digital audio, a DAW is a must have. Here is a list of some of the best DAWs. Some are free, some are expensive, but there is almost certainly one for everyone’s needs.
The Best DAWs
Okay, let’s get the super obvious one out of the way. If you are a Mac user, you should be using Logic Pro X. Not only is it one of the most sophisticated DAW programs out there, but it is basically guaranteed to work with any audio interface. Whether it is a basic keyboard or an advanced studio sound board, it is probably compatible with Logic Pro X. Plus, Logic Pro has hundreds of instruments and sounds to manipulate and play with. It comes with a pretty steep price, though. But, for $200 you are essentially getting the best DAW around.
With Logic Pro X, you can do everything from recording instruments, creating drum tracks with 28 unique styles, and create/edit MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) samples. Plus, you can mix from virtually anywhere with the Logic Remote app on iPad.
Essentially the Windows alternative to Logic Pro, FL Studio (also known as Fruity Loops) is a massively popular DAW and easily one of the best DAWs. While not available on Mac, this workstation has all the bells and whistles you need to create great electronic music. Recent updates gave FL the ability to record audio, which opened up even more possibilities for the software. However, FL Studio is still geared toward electronic music, so anything beyond that is a stretch for the program. FL Studio also comes at a steep cost. To access all of FL Studio’s features, be prepared to shell out $737, nearly 4 times the amount you’ll pay for Logic Pro. If you’re a Windows user aiming to make electronic music, though, it may be well worth the investment.
Ableton Live is a powerful and versatile DAW, much like FL Studio and Logic Pro. Unlike the competition, though, it was initially geared toward live performance and still holds that as a central selling point. If you’re a producer aiming to perform in front of an audience, Ableton Live is undoubtedly a software you will want to consider. The price for the software is still pretty steep, though. At $499, you can expect to get some of the best live-mixing software around. If you want to use Ableton Live at maximum potential, though, you will want to consider purchasing a MIDI keyboard for it as well.
Bitwig is a dream for anyone looking to customise their software. This software supports virtually any 3rd party plug-in and, unlike other DAWs, the whole system won’t crash if a plug-in doesn’t work. The program also has a customisable workflow that can work on up to three monitors. Bitwig is working on a unique touch screen integration that will put the full features of the software at your fingertips. You can dive right into the coding of the program and hardware you use and customise the scripts to your desires. The program is also a lot more affordable at $299 (well affordable compared to FL Studio and Ableton Live). For a program you can take complete control of, Bitwig may be the best option for you. Bitwig’s customisation is what makes it one of the best DAWs.
For someone looking for a quality DAW without paying hundreds of dollars, Studio One 3 is the best option for you. In its third version, Studio One easily competes with heavy hitters like Logic Pro and FL Studio. It comes with all the bells and whistles, with one unique twist. Studio One has a “scratch pad” allowing you to experiment with sounds without directly integrating it into your project. This gives you the freedom to experiment without the hassle of editing and undoing a lot of your work. Plus, Studio One 3 has a free limited version and the upgraded Artist edition is only $99. For a professional DAW without the professional cost, Studio One 3 is hard to beat.
Some Free Options
DAWs are expensive, especially when you’re looking at some of the best DAWs. Here are two great free options to get you started in the world of digital audio. Also remember, many of the programs listed above have limited free demos that are great for experimenting.
Audacity is a great program for recording and editing audio. It isn’t a full-fledged DAW in the traditional sense (i.e. it doesn’t have multi-tracking or MIDI control). However, it is a great program with tonnes of unique features, and it is the perfect way to get started with digital audio. It is also completely free.
Garage Band is one of the prime examples of why music lovers should get a Mac. The program has a gloriously simple interface, yet has a surprising amount of complexity. The program gave many musicians their start in digital audio. Garage Band also gives its users all the skills they need to upgrade to Logic Pro. Oh, did I mention it is completely free with every Mac?
Those are just a few examples of the great DAWs out there. Remember that finding the right program for you depends on your budget as well as the types of projects you want to create. What do you guys think are the best DAWs? Let us know in the comments!