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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.