6 Top Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Six Top DAWs for Recording, Producing and Mixing

Posted on .

A rundown of six of our bestselling digital audio workstation software titles.

By definition DAW software is deep, very deep. The most capable DAWs include a vast range of recording, mixing, and mastering tools. Many come with huge sets of virtual instruments, effects and other plug-ins. And the most well-rounded packages incorporate robust workflows and tools for composing, arranging and collaborating. Some include video and surround sound capabilities.

But for musicians just getting started recording and mixing their own music, the flood of details each DAW brings with it can be overwhelming. At least at first, when you’re just trying to wrap your head around the concepts and terminology. In this brief guide, we’ll give you a top-level view of our DAW bestsellers to help you zero in on the platforms that seem like a good fit. Once you’ve got a short list of DAWs to consider, you can start delving into the details.

While the DAWs covered briefly here are top-sellers, they’re far from a complete list. At Musician’s Friend you’ll find a huge selection of DAW applications that ranges from basic app-based mobile recording tools to full-blown pro-studio audio productions.

Avid Pro Tools

Avid Pro Tools 12

Still the defacto choice among professional producers and engineers, its powerful workflows and a stellar universe of effects plug-ins come in a user-friendly interface that can help reduce the baffle factor for novices. You can buy into Pro Tools a couple of different ways depending on your budget and needs. When it comes to collaborative workflows with pro audio colleagues, it’s a must-have. Pro Tools is available for Mac and PC.

PreSonus Studio One

PreSonus Studio One 3

With the introduction of Studio One 3, PreSonus has enhanced an already robust feature set with some one-of-a-kind capabilities. As we noted in our recent review of Studio One Professional, its new Arranger Track and Scratch Pad functions encourage experimentation. The super-customizable, single-window interface is intuitive—even for DAW novices. Powerful groove building tools and synths make this a great choice for EDM producers. Mac and PC.

Image Line FL Studio

Image Line's FL Studio Producer Edition

Image Line has been creating producer-friendly software since 1997, and the latest FL Studio versions reflect that lengthy evolution with powerful recording, mixing and mastering tools. A variety of packages are available at various price points including Producer Edition and the more budget-friendly Fruity Edition.

Ableton Live

Ableton Live 10 Suite

This performance-focused DAW delivers a huge suite of tools for beat jugglers, groove builders and EDM producers. Its efficient browser and many workflow automation tools get high marks for productivity. Ableton Live revolutionizes the way music producers work. The everything-included Live 10 Suite includes Max for Live, a host of virtual instruments and synthesizers, and a huge library of sounds and effects. Mac and PC.

Propellerhead Reason

Propellerhead's Reason 10 software

The recently refreshed Propellerhead Reason 10 retains everything you love about Reason, while adding some great new features that earlier users of Reason and other competing DAWs may find very appealing. Originally added in version 9.5, Reason now offers full VST plug-in support, opening up a whole slew of production tools to the Propellerheads' world. Other additions include Grain and Europa, two brand new synthesizers, as well as Radical Piano (an acoustic piano), Loop Supply and Drum Supply (multiple GB's of great sounds), and plenty more. When you're putting together your final mix, your tracks will go through the on-board Mixer which is modeled after the iconic SSL 9000K analog mixing desk.

Steinberg Cubase

Steinberg Cubase Pro 9.5

Like the other fully mature DAWs featured here, Steinberg Cubase is the sum total of years of development. Attention has gone into refining workflows and visuals for maximum efficiency and and legibility. Latency when processing and monitoring complex mixes is managed via ASIO-Guard 2. The GUI itself is highly customizable, allowing you to arrange windows to your heart’s content. Mac and PC. Version 9.5 adds plenty of great features to this already impressive DAW. High profile artists include, among others, Grammy Winner Zedd and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.

Tags: Recording Software DJ Equipment MIDI Groove Production

Comments  

# Melanie 2017-01-15 09:45
MF: if you want to increase profits and sell more stuff then please, please include the system requirements needed to use the software...sometimes it is there, sometimes not. Also, does anybody make recording software for Windows 10 and what size processor or speed do you need? You need to make this easy to find and easy to read, or put together some bundles that will work with Windows 10. Common Sense!
Reply
# Bill Gross 2016-10-22 13:26
What absolutely kills these tools IMO is the extremely painful learning curve, setup and abysmal tutorials and manuals... Why the process has to be so obtuse is beyond me. I'm a cranky old software engineer that does not want to spend ours and hours wrestling with a piece of software and reading poorly written manuals that appearantly were not tested with noobs before being released That said, are there any DAW products that are not toys and are easy to learn?
Reply
# Bill Gross 2016-10-22 13:37
Oh and did I mention the dongles and software protection that make these products so wonky?
Reply
# Mz Rich 2015-11-07 12:08
Hello, I was wondering if anyone knows what programs are compatible with HP Cromebook? as far as recording, beats, and editing?

thank you
Reply
# john 2016-08-10 13:06
I am not aware of any DAW's that are compatible with Chromebooks, only MAC or Windows
Reply
# andrew 2015-11-12 08:48
alot of them our compatiable with windows i would reccomend pro tools out of all them
Reply
# Stanger Skip 2015-09-24 08:51
# Stanger Skip 2015-09-24 08:46
I have a budget of $4,000.... I would like to move up to a pro tools recording set up ..... I'm an old-school rocker Who started recording on real to reel tape machines made the jump to tascam DA-88's and from there to computers with Cubase and Cakewalk and have recently been using the iOS recording system like GarageBand .......now I want to upgrade to Pro Tools ..... I'm open to anything so what's working for you guys?
Reply
# Jared 2015-10-20 16:39
Sorry no one has responded to you dude. $4,000 is a great budget. With that you could custom build a great pc, get a decent interface, a microphone or two and Pro Tools Native 12. Gotta love the future.
Reply
# Stanger Skip 2015-09-24 08:46
I have a budget of $4,000.... I would like to move up to a pro tools recording set up ..... I'm an old-school rocker Who started recording on real to reel tape machines made the jump to tascam DA-88's and from there to computers with Cubase and Cakewalk and have recently been using the iOS recording system like GarageBand .......now I want to upgrade to Pro Tools ..... I'm open to anything so what's working for you guys?
Reply
# dg computers 2015-08-15 03:55
hi i want to know about package of software which required for studio and also need a loop data
Reply
# Stanger Skip 2015-09-24 08:32
22skip22
Reply

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