Are you confused about choosing DAW software for music production? Have you just started your recording studio and are struggling to decide what DAW(digital audio workstation) would be best for you?
Or are you an experienced one and just wanted to switch your old music production software with the latest one? If any of these questions are roaming in your mind then this article is exactly for you.
In this article, you will encounter 11 best DAW for beginners and get the core knowledge and criteria which help you to choose the one that suits your needs.
After the digitization of music production technology, there were many music production DAWs that came into the market. I remembered my 1st DAW which was N-Track. In those days N-Track was supposed to be one of the best DAW along with Sonar and others.
But with time, and continuous transformation in technology, more fine and sophisticated DAWs are introduced.
When I See into the past using N-Track, it seems like a toy in front of today’s music production software. Today DAW software does many more things than ever. Obviously, the operating of these giants is harder and time-consuming, especially when you are a beginner.
You would agree with these words,
In any professional field, your workflow should be fast enough to tackle the time commitment. Music production is not an exception.
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So, choosing a music production software that provides you with good sound quality within your committed time is the right decision. That’s the reason why I have come up with this list of Best DAW for beginners.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a DAW Software
- 2 Things To Consider When Choosing A DAW For Music Production
- 3 1. FL Studio
- 4 2. Ableton Live
- 5 3. GarageBand
- 6 4. Audacity
- 7 5. Steinberg Cubase
- 8 6. Apple Logic Pro X
- 9 7. Cockos Reaper
- 10 8. MOTU DP (Digital Performer)
- 11 9. PreSonus Studio One
- 12 10 Propellerhead Reason
- 13 11. Avid ProTools
- 14 Conclusion
What Is a DAW Software
Note: This section is for newbies who don’t know exactly what is a music production software? If you are not a beginner you can skip this section.
Well, when you see the history of audio recording, you will analyze the technology is totally changed. In the early days of music production, pool recorders were used. Then tape recorders were invented.
After then DAT(Digital audio tape) recorder invented and now we are finally in the era of DAW(digital audio workstations). DAWs are actually digital recorders run on computers and save the recorded file on a hard disk in digital form.
Along with the general features of a tape recorder, DAW has tons of other features to make music recording easy and time-saving. DAWs have their own mixing console with input/output channels, bus and aux channels, audio effect plugins and are also capable of using external effects.
If you have toured a vintage studio, probably you would have encountered a bunch of vintage equipment. Now these all equipment is available in digital form and used in music production software.
In this digital world, you just need an audio interface as an input device and analog to digital conversion. After that, all processes of mixing and mastering can be done in a DAW.
Now I think you are clear in what is a music production software that is powering up all home and professional studios today.
Now let us know some basic things that you should consider when choosing a DAW.
Things To Consider When Choosing A DAW For Music Production
Although there are a bunch of big and small things you should consider when choosing a music production software for your studio, here you will get 5 most important out of them.
Note: Before jumping in the list section you should always read this section so that you could be able to compare the DAWs as per your need.
So, read on.
The user interface decides the speed of workflow.
Whether its a hardware or a software product, the most important thing you must consider of is an easy to use user interface. If you chose a product with a hard to understand user interface, you would face difficulty in operating the product.
And when it comes to choosing professional hardware or software such as a DAW then you must be aware of the user interface. A “hard to operate” user interface could break your time commitment.
Especially for newbies, it’s recommended to choose an easy to use DAW. You can switch the DAW after getting some experience in audio recording.
One more thing.
Always choose a professional-looking user interface like a professional user interface so that your studio looks good. After all “what looks good sells well“
Above I have described that the user interfaces impact the workflow speed. However, a user interface is now a single factor that speeds up your workflow.
There are few other factors too. Some of them are,
- Easy Keyboard shortcuts (Pro tip: “One key shortcut” better than “combination key shortcuts”)
- Faster editing tools
- All in one mixer
- Low CPU Usage
Type of Operation
Now, type of operation is the second most important factor which you should consider before buying your DAW.
There are various categories of music makers. Such as beatmakers, DJ, melody makers, arrangers, recording/mixing engineers, songwriters and so on.
You need to decide, in which category you fall into because every DAW is made for different categories. However, their sole purpose is to record audio to produce music but not every DAW is for all operations. Some are great in DJ operations, some of them are good in songwriting etc.
Have you decided in which category you are?
Okay, now it’s time to get into the reality of free version DAW Vs Paid DAWs.
Free Vs Paid DAW
Who else in the world who would not want free stuff?
It’s a human nature that we all attract to freely available things. But the reality is there is nothing free in this world. You have to pay for something for free stuff.
In the case of free software, you have to provide your personal information so that companies could approach you for further deals (and those deals are not free, of course).
Obviously, free DAWs are not as good as paid DAWs. There are many limitations with the free DAWs which can limit your music production work. I personally don’t suggest my readers go with free DAWs and plugins.
If you are serious in shaping your career in the music production field then always go with paid fully professional DAW and any other equipment.
The end goal of any professional music producer is to provide good quality music and without good tools, it’s not possible.
Full Version Vs Limited Version DAW
Most of the companies provide 15-30 days of demo versions and even limited versions that can be used without expiry.
But they limit the features in the demo versions so that users would be familiar with the DAW and at the end buys the full version.
It’s just a marketing strategy to provide the demo versions. However, it’s a good thing for both users and companies. For users, demo versions play a role to make a decision where for companies it’s a great way to get a long time user-base.
I recommend you to always download the demo versions and test if it’s the right DAW for you? Then hit the buy button.
Note: You can use free limited versions but remember as I said above, limited versions don’t have all the features, so I recommend, instead of going with the limited versions, test the demo and then make a decision to purchase the full version of the DAW.
Now you are aware of the “decision-making factors” it’s time to dig into the list of 11 Best DAW For Beginners.
1. FL Studio
FL Studio is known as a DAW made for DJs. When first launched, it was just a beat making software with an easy to use interface.
I didn’t know that Fruity Loops would transform it to this level where it is today. With the launching of FL Studio 10, it became a fully professional audio recording DAW that can perform like a charm in all stages of music production.
But still, it is the most used DAW for DJs. The easy to use beat maker, track warping and some other features that are used commonly by the DJ programmers is the X-factor of FL studio.
Recently FL Studio 20 is released and as expected, there are tons of features added to this version that makes it a great DAW for beginners.
The new version of FL studio is a representation of more than 20 years of innovative development. It has all the features which you need to compose, record, arrange, edit, mix and master professional quality music.
In its 20 years of journey, it became the world’s one of the most popular DAWs and used by many creative artists.
Though, it’s now a full-featured DAW it is mostly used by beatmakers and DJs so before going to purchase it read below the features, user interface, workflow, and other things.
Key Features of FL Studio
- Cross-platform DAW – It is compatible with Mac and Windows PC operating systems that means you can use it with your iMac, MacBook or custom Windows PC.
- Multitrack recording– Multitrack recording is a must-have feature behind any successful DAW. FL Studio is multitrack audio recording software that allows you to record and mix multiple tracks simultaneously.
- Warping (Time stretching) – This feature allows you to time automatically or manually stretch imported audio to match the project tempo. Its widely used feature among the DJs who rearrange the already recorded tracks to make their own version.
- Pitch Shifting and Editing Tools – This is not a special feature of FL studio as today most of the DAW provides this feature to seamlessly edit and shift the pitches of audio and Midi clips.
- 80+ plugins included – There are 80+ producer version plugins included in the package that means there is no need to get separate plugins for mixing. However if you want extra plugins you can checkout Pluginboutique, one of the best plugin providers on the internet.
- VST versions 1,2 and 3 supported – FL studio supports All the VST versions.
- Re-arrange the User Interface – FL Studio 20 has the feature to rearrange, resize the user interface as per your need. You can save and recall the interface.
- Multi-Touch Interface – Multitouch interface is a very useful feature for iPad users. With this feature, you can use it seamlessly with your iPad.
- Automation – Automation is not a new thing in the audio recording world. However, in FL Studio 20 you get a totally new feeling of “Record and edit automation”
- 500 arrangement Tracks – You are provided up to 500 tracks for the arrangement which I think is a huge number. Most of us don’t go up to 50 tracks because our computers and gears can’t allow us that high CPU usage.
- It can be used as a plugin – that’s the feature I really like. This unique feature of FL Studio allows us to use it as a plugin with any other VST, ReWire supported DAW. You can use it to create beats in other DAWs.
- Lifetime Free Updates – Where most DAW need to buy updates, Image-Line the manufacturer of FL Studio provides the lifetime free updates when you purchase it. “One-time investment. Right?”
So, here were some of the useful features if FL Studio. Now let us explore the User interface of FL.
Image Source – FL Studio
When FL was launched, there was a simple four-track drum machine which was developed by Didier Dambrin for Image-Line, a Belgian based company. Version 1 was a simple MIDI-based Rebirth-style programming interface. Soon it was adopted by the hip hop community because of its beat programming prowess.
From those days to today its user interface is transformed into a highly professional DAW interface. But one thing is even common in it ie; the
“Channel racks” which makes the beat very easy.
Let us explore the UI of FL Studio,
- Channel racks – Channel racks are used to create loops and beat to assemble into the song.
- Browser – Browser is a library from where users import the audio, Midi clips, plugins, preset settings and other pre-saved stuff (Useful for instant programming)
- ToolBar – Toolbar has a set of tools that are used to edit the clips in the Playlist region. Tools are also used for other tasks such as clicking on or off the Channel Racks, the Playlist, Piano Edit, Mixer and main Browser.
- Playlist area – This region is used to assemble your song arrangement by creating patterns in the Channel Racks and then paste here.
- Mixer – Mixer is used to mixing the channels by balancing the track volumes. adding effects, automation, etc.
- Plugins – You can simply add the in-package or external plugins by hitting the + button and then selecting from a drop-down menu.
- Piano Roll Editor – You will find plenty of melodic editing options within the Piano Roll editor. Really a great feature for sequencing melody for your song.
Fruity Loops is designed to quickly create short loops and in the given channel racks and arrange them on the Playlist to make your song. But the magic begins here – You can add anything in a Channel Rack such as beats, instruments, synths, and a mixture and line up those instruments to make a complete song.
The cool part of that is when you are arranging a song, you can throw the loops at whatever ’track’ in the Playlist you want.
That means you can add the same channel rack sequence to different tracks and different channel rack sequences to the same tracks as well.
Am I making it complicated?
Okay, just know that you can have anything anywhere in FL Studio. There is no need to go in a traditional left to right sequencing for Audio and Midi tracks. You can just place anything anywhere in the playlist.
That is the reason, Hip-hop and RAP artists and DJ as well show their love to this Digital audio workstation. Now one thing is clear that if you are a Hip-Hop artist or a DJ then FL Studio should be the first choice for you. By the way, here is my rating for this DAW.
What It’s Best For – Hip-hop, Rap and Dj music production.
FL Studio 20 Demo and Tutorial for Beginners
Click here to Join the Best video training courses for FL studio.
2. Ableton Live
The second most popular DAW for beginners is Ableton Live. Top music producers and music programmers use Ableton Live to seamlessly create their music.
However, it’s not made for studio recording because its sole purpose is to make instant music in Live sets such as concerts.
It is counted in one of the best loop arrangers in the world. There are several great features that are given in Ableton Live for the sole purpose of creating Live music.
The browser feature is one of them. If you are a Live performer then Ableton can do magic for you. But if you are searching for a DAW for a home studio where you want to record and mix all types of projects, I don’t recommend you to go with it.
Here are some of the features of Ableton Live which you should read before making a decision.
- Browser Library (Live packs)– This the most powerful feature of Ableton Live. You get tons of loops, samples, plugin presets and instruments in the package which you can use through the browser library in Ableton Live.
- Session and Arrangement View – You get two types of views which make it easy to interact with the interface of Ableton Live.
- Warping– This feature allows you to automatically match the tempo of imported audio with the project tempo.
- Easy to use a beginner-friendly user interface.
- Wavetable synthesizer – sounds good, looks good, especially in full-screen
- Capture – recall the last MIDI phrase you played before you hit record
- Push 2 integration – It can be integrated with the Ableton Push 2 gear for a better production environment.
- Less CPU usage – Ableton Live is a lightweight software as compared to other big audio digital workstations.
- Multi-tracks – Its a multitrack editor which means you can record and edit separate tracks for separate instruments.
- Groups – You can create groups for the individual tracks where you can loop different clips. (same as the channel racks in FL studio)
Here is the list of windows and features that you get in Ableton Live interface.
- Browser – Browser window is used to import clips, effects and instruments from the library called Live packs. You use those clips, effects and instruments to create songs within the session and arrangement window.
- Session window – This is one of the views of Ableton Live. Here you can edit the track settings, warping, effects etc.
- Arrangement window – this window is used to arrange the clips and loops to create the song.
- Groove Pool – groove pool is used to save and load the grooves from the browser.
- Info window– This window provides information about anything in the workspace.
- Editor window – This window is used to edit the clips, VST instruments settings and plugin settings etc.
Ableton Live is considered as one of the fastest DAW software in the world. Once you become familiar with the interface, you can create music in no time.
What it’s best for – Particularly for stage performers and those who want to use their DAW on the go, it is the best option. Also, the integration with Push 2 makes the process seamless and creative. The only drawback of this DAW is ist not solely made for studio recording purposes, however, you can use it in studios but won’t aspect much from it in the mixing stage.
Ableton Live Courses
Here are some tutorials and courses for Ableton Live which can help you a lot to become familiar with this great DAW.
Garage band “which is an Apple product” is the easiest audio digital workstation in the world so if you are a total beginner you can choose this DAW to create music without much hassle.
The interface is much like a Logic Pro x interface. If you have seen the Logic Pro X on work then probably you would be confused seeing Garageband interface.
But apart from the Logic Pro X, it’s an easy to use DAW which is a perfect fit for beginners.
Let us dig deep into the features that Garageband provides us.
- Live Loops – It is equipped with a basic library of Live loops which can be used to create beats as a DJ programmer in live sessions.
- iPad Friendly – Garageband can be used seamlessly in iPad iPhones which make it a perfect mobile DAW.
- Drummer for iOS – You can add virtual drummers to the session who take direction and play realistic grooves.
- Sound like a virtuoso – There are instruments that are given such as Smart Strings which can be used in the production.
- On the go DAW- it’s a mobile DAW that supports mobile devices like iPad and iPhone so you can create songs on the go.
- Share your songs – It supports iCloud Drive through which you can upload, share and access your songs from any location and device.
The user interface of the Garage band is very simple. In one shot it can be confused with the Logic Pro X interface but its a very basic DAW. However, with the basic instruments such as Smart Strings, you can create a basic song.
You get a multi-track wave editor where you can record and edit the audio and MIDI clips. The recording process is so simple. You just need to arm the track and hit the record button to record the audio.
A basic loop library is given to use in the songs but not as rich as other DAWs. A drummer groove is also given to provide the realistic drum loops that are a great feature for DJ recordings.
What it’s Made for – As I have told above the workflow is so simple. You just need to arm the track and hit the record button to record the song. Unlike other DAWs it’s every basic DAW. You don’t get advanced features to create effective compositions but still, it’s very popular among the Hip-Hop artists and DJs as well as songwriters as some of the features of this Digital Audio Interface make it ideal DAW for these genres.
Audacity is a multi-track free, open-source audio editor that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s a basic audio editor that can do jobs like basic audio editing and format transfers etc.
If you are expecting some great music production features then this DAW is not for you. However, there are some features that are ideal for newbie music producers.
- Easy to use audio recording software – Audacity is an easy to use DAW so perfect for newbies.
- Ideal for format transfers – It supports several audio formats and widely used for format transfer jobs.
- Plugins – However, there is nothing special in the plugin section you get support for LADSPA, LV2, Nyquist, VST, and Audio Unit effect plug-ins.
- Keyboard shortcuts – Audacity is a keyboard friendly DAW. There are a large number of keyboard shortcuts available for faster production.
- Simple editing – It features an easy to use editor where you can edit the clips with no time.
The user interface of audacity is not so attractive so if you are expecting a professional-looking DAW then it would break your expectations. However, the easy to use user interface makes it very easy to record, edit and mix the song in a short amount of time.
If you see the interface, All you are given is an editing area, a track pool, transport panel, and essential editing tools.
As its a simple to use software the workflow is very fast. Once you get familiar with this DAW you can easily produce some great music within a short amount of time.
However, I never recommend using this DAW if you are serious in the recording. If you want to stand out in the competition, you need far better DAW than Audacity.
What it’s made for
5. Steinberg Cubase
Along with Logic Pro X, Cubase is one of those DAWs which I have been using since I started out my music career. With a significantly fast workflow and a state of the art library, it allows you to produce music like a pro. There are tons of features you get in Cubase to produce music production seamlessly.
There is another DAW ie; Nuendo form the same manufacturer which is also a great overall DAW but Cubase is created especially for music production. Whether it’s Hip-Hop music, a Rap, DJ, Classic or any genre it can transform your music production to the next level.
Let us explore Cubase’s great features.
- General Features – Wavelab file exchange, Next-generation audio engine, easy to use work-spaces, track archives, track visibility management, channel batch export, Latency monitor.
- Composing Features – Chord tracks, chord pads, advanced score editor, note expression, arranger track, chord assistant.
- Recording Features – Control room, comping, audio pre-record, retrospective record, punch in/out, advanced metronome.
- Sequencing Features– Key editor, drum editor, logical editor, MPE support, chord editor, list editor, drum map, in-place editing, Quick Controls, Tempo Detection Panel.
- Audio editing feature – VariAudio 3, Direct Offline Processing, Audio Alignment, Group Editing, Audio Warp Quantize, Render in-place, Time Stretch, Sample Editor, Audio Parts, Hitpoint Detection.
- Mixing Features – Track visibility management, MixConsole, Channel Strip (Advanced), MixConsole History, MixConsole Snapshots, VCA Faders, Loudness Meter, Surround Sound, Ultra-precise automation curves, Control Room, Link Groups, Direct Routing, Listen Mode, Easy side-chaining, Automation Virgin Territories, Wave Meters, A/B comparison.
- VST Instrument Features – Groove Agent SE, HALion Sonic SE 3, Retrologue 2, Padshop, Sampler Track, Flux, Trip, and many more instruments.
- Tons of sound and loop presets.
- Tons of plugins.
- Video support for background scoring.
The user interface is a little confusing for beginners but the basic functionality is the same as other DAWs. In the default workspace, you get a recording/editing space with transport panels where you can add and record multiple tracks. A browser window is given to access the library.
In the library, you get pre-recorded audio and MIDI clips, effects, instruments and presets.
Without proper training, you can’t work fast in the Cubase. However, there are a handful of keyboard shortcuts that are given but you need to be familiar with the shortcuts to get them to work for you.
Workflow is really fast for trained guys. If you have understood how things work in Cubase, you would produce music like a pro. There are tons of features and resources provided with Cubase to make pro-quality music.
What it’s made for: For almost any task in audio recording. A great DAW for home studios
Get Started With Steinberg Cubase
Steinberg Cubase Courses
Here are some great courses to Steinberg Cubase which can help you master this great DAW. Checkout Now
6. Apple Logic Pro X
Apple Logic Pro X is Apple’s flagship recording studio workstation features an extensive sound library, state of the art plug-ins and quality product support. Logic Pro X counts in one of the most versatile digital audio workstations that come with the same features and sound library which you get in other expansive DAWs.
If you are already a Garageband user, Logic Pro X gives you the same feel as its user interface is most likely Garageband’s interface. Logic Pro has an easy to use, intuitive interface so there is nothing hard-working in Logic Pro X.
Its low price and an extensive sound library make it the best pick DAW for best every newbie producer.
- Easy to use software – Its intuitive user interface makes it very easy to work in it. For Hip-Hop makers it’s one of the best choices as we can produce that kind of music very fast in Logic Pro X.
- Extensive Sound Library – Logic Pro X is equipped with one of the best sound libraries in the world. Starting from Hip-Hop to the world, you will get almost every genre’s sound. Logic Pro library has 21 software instruments, 2,767 patches and 5,649 loops and 9 MIDI plug-ins.
- 66 effect plugins – Logic Pro X features 66 state-of-the-art plugins. You can add third-party plugins via the AU Apple format as well.
- Best Quality Support – Logic Pro X comes with extensive support including online support and phone support seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You get time to time software updates as well.
As I told you above, Logic Pro X has an easy to use intuitive user interface, you get a simple drag-and-drop system. It’s structured to fit different windows on the screen. So you don’t need to open those windows separately which significantly speeds up your music production.
With the help of the consistent structure of Logic’s interface, you can produce music in a short period of time. As well as the intuitive user interface feature makes it very easy to become familiar with it.
The workflow in Logic Pro X is quite seamless and fast. As it is equipped with features like drag and drop, intuitive interface, and multiple windows on the same screen, you can come up with a fast workflow in your studio.
Even if you are a newbie, you will get familiar with it in no time. It has a wide number of keyboard shortcuts which help you to work fast. But the one thing I don’t like with its keyboard shortcuts is most of them are 2 or 3 key combination shortcuts which are quite annoying for new users. However, you can set them up as per your needs.
What it’s made for: For Beginners to professionals. Best for MIDI, VST recording. And of course for Apple users.
Logic Pro X Demo
Logic Pro X Courses
There are tons of Logic Pro X courses available on the internet but what I recommend is Creative Live Logic Pro X Video Course. In creative Live you get an option to buy the courses separately as well as in a monthly membership plan (Nominal Fee). Click here to join this course.
7. Cockos Reaper
Cockos Reaper gained huge popularity since it launched in 2006. If I say it all in one DAW then it would not be wrong. Along with Live audio and VST recording, it also facilitates a full mixing console, great notation editing, and also be used for video scoring. And the main benefit of having this DAW is the ability to build your own toolbars, menus, and macros.
You can also change the entire look and color scheme of its interface. However, unlike other popular DAWs like Garageband, FL studio, etc, Cockos require study because of its complex program. But if you put your time to understand it, it will give you real dividends.
In a fraction of price, Cockos provides the same basic features that you get in Pro Tools, Cubase and other costly workstations. The small business license costs you around $60 and the commercial license is around $225. Here are some of the features that I like in Cockos Reaper.
- Lightweight Software – Reaper is just 66MB software which doesn’t put any extra load on your computer. You can easily run this DAW on an average computer. Even you can install it on any portable drive such as Pen Drive.
- Multichannel support – It has powerful audio and MIDI routing with multichannel support throughout the workflow. You can easily record and mix multiple tracks in Reaper.
- It runs on the 64-bit architecture and supports many Bit-depth and sample rates as well.
- MIDI Hardware support – Reaper supports VST instruments so you can also use your MIDI hardware to create songs in it.
- Extensive Plugin Support – Including VST, VST3, AU, DX, and JS it supports thousands of external plugins and VST instruments.
- Inbuilt Plugins/Effects – Reaper features hundreds of studio-quality effects for processing audio and MIDI.
- Extras – Automation, grouping, modulation, surround, VCA, macros, OSC, scripting, control surfaces, custom skins, and layouts.
In the first look, you just get…not much. When you open Reaper the first time you see there is a blank slate. On the left side, you get the tracklist window, on the right side the main arrangement window and on the bottom a mixer with the transport bar. The overall feeling seems like a 20-year-old Windows 95 program until you customize the interface as per your need.
Customization is the main feature of this great DAW. You can transform the user interface to a professional-looking DAW interface with the customization feature.
As compared to other mainstream DAWs like Logic Pro X, FL Studio and Cubase, the workflow in Reaper is slow. You need to first understand the interface. Even after you become familiar with the interface and transform it as per your need it’s not as fast as others.
But what you get in the fraction of price from other DAWs is enough. There are many professionals who are using this audio digital workstation without any hassle. After all, practice is the key to success.
What it’s made for: Not for beginners. Requires experience in DAW recording. Built for almost everything including VST recording, film score, live performance, etc.
Cockos Reaper Demo
8. MOTU DP (Digital Performer)
Motu DP is one of the most reliable and comprehensive DAWs, both for music production and video scoring purposes. It has some extra features for these operations that you can’t get in other DAWs. Just like Reaper, Digital Performer is a highly customisable DAW which gives you the ability to shape its functionality as per your need.
Combined with state-of-the-art studio production technologies it is one of the most popular DAW in the world. In their recent version they have added tons of new features into this DAW.
Let us reveal some of the best features of Motu DP 10.
- Massive List of Plugins and VST – In the recent version of Digital Performer you get a massive collection of VST instruments and plugins. All of them are fully professional and best quality plugins.
- Consolidated Window – DP features consolidated window settings that means you can easily streamline your work space.
- Changeblee Themes – It comes with several themes that will transform your user experience to the new level.
- Control Panel – An extensive control panel helps control the work seamlessly.
- Unlimited Tracks – You can create and work with unlimited tracks. The only limitation is the power of your computers.
- State-of-the-art mix console – It is equipped with a full featured mixing console which can take your mixing to the next level.
- Other features – Track folders, group tracks, polar loop recorder, Step Record, Takes and comping, Comprehensive MIDI and audio editors, Drum and notation editor, quick automation, spectral display, Pitch automation etc.
Motu Digital Performer comes with a professional looking user interface which features an arrangement window, mix console window, control panel, MIDI and audio clip editor, VST instrument window etc.
In the default workspace you get an arrangement window, tracks region, control panel and individual track view. It’s just like the Cubase interface. But you can customize the workspace by adding a mix console and other windows. The window consolidation feature gives you the ability to consolidate different windows with each other to speed up the workflow.
When you understand the user interface you can speed up your music production. The wide list of keyboard shortcuts and consolidated window feature powers up its workflow to become fast.
However, when it comes to the speed, some digital audio workstations such as FL Studio can beat it but if you want an overall DAW where you could produce different kind of music as well as scoring works it would be a great DAW for you. The quack automation feature makes it a great DAW for film scoring.
What it’s made for: For VST music production, film and TV scoring and other professional audio applications.
Motu DP Demo
9. PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio one is the one that directly challenges Pro-Tools with its great features, user interface, faster workflow, and quality as well.
it has always felt like a complete DAW. Unlike most of the DAWs who are made for certain tasks and genres, Presonus Studio one gives the feel of completeness with its very good features and the capability of doing just about any studio task you throw at this.
- Mac and PC compatible DAW
- You will get Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks
- Support for up to 384kHz and audio 64-bit resolution
- AAF format support for easy file exchange with other main streams DAWs
- Comes with Melodyne Essential 4 editor, an integrated mastering suite, Chord Track, Impact XT and SampleOne XT, and Patterns for rhythm and melody composition
- 37+ effects, 5+ instruments, 4+ Note FX, AU, VST2, VST3, and ReWire support
- System requirement: Win 7+, Intel Core Duo or AMD AthlonX2, 4GB RAM (8 GB) Mac: OS10.11+, Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM
Just like any other mainstream Audio Digital Interface, Studio One has the same work-space as default. You also get consolidated window support which makes your work faster. The default work-space features an arrangement window, track area, single track setting area, mixer, library browser, transport panel, etc.
The effects and VST windows open separately. If you have worked in Logic you will get the same feeling as its UI is mostly like Logic’s interface. However, the operation is not the same as Logic. You need to understand Presonus Studio One before jumping into the recording.
When it comes to the workflow, Studio one can beat most of the DAWs in speed. With a full set of keyboard shortcuts and a consolidated window view, you can easily produce your music under time schedule.
The problem is that without proper knowledge of this software you can’t speed up your workflow and for newbies, it would be a hard round to become familiar with this hard to learn DAW.
What it’s made for: You can do almost everything in Studio One but Best for sequencing.
PreSonus Studio One Demo and Full Tutorial
10 Propellerhead Reason
Our second last Digital Audio Workstation in this list is “Propellerhead Reason”. Starting with just as a sampler, Reason transformed into a versatile and easy to use DAW. I remember when I first encountered this software in 2005, it was just like a sampler full of instruments and tone library with its own “recording” capability.
But with time, the manufacturers realized that if they have to stand in the competition they must transform the software into a complete DAW. The other drawback I felt those old days was hard to understand the operation, But the latest version is not as hard as the previous versions.
You can easily tackle it after quick learning online. I will provide you with appropriate online courses for Reason below. But first, let us dig into the features.
Keep in mind that the interface is not the same as other DAWs so there may be a learning curve when you switch from other DAWs.
- Easy to Use – Although the previous versions were not much easy, Reason 10 is not hard. The X-Factor of Reason 10 is it has some built-in features intuitive that make it faster compared to other DAWs. Features with a flexible interface Reason has three separate windows for recording new sounds, hardware rack and mixing audio.
- Wide Sound Library – Reason is a VST and sound-rich DAWs hence you will get a big sound library in the package. There are over
1000 sound effects, 5,000 instrument patches, and 3,000 loops built into reason.
- Plug-ins and effects – Reason comes with a good number of plugins and effects. It is equipped with an online library as well where you can purchase extra plugins and instruments as per your need. Reason has advanced features to connect the Racks visually. All you have to do is flip the Racks and connect them with virtual wires.
- Support – Propellerhead provides 24-hour email support but there is, unfortunately, no official forum existed. There are no Phone numbers available for the support as well. However, you can assess the knowledge base section on the website to get the solution.
Reason’s user interface is quite different from what you get in traditional DAWs. You are provided with Rack extensions and instruments which you can connect with virtual wires visually. Just flip the Rack extension and use the virtual wires and cords to connect them.
This feels like an analog recording system where you had to connect all the devices manually. This feature is quite confusing for new users so you need to learn the operating before using it professionally.
As the user interface is inspired by analog recording units and you have to visually connect and disconnect the Racks, it will slow down your Workflow. But when you have a good had on it, it will perform like a charm. The one solution to this is practicing. AS more you practice as much you would be familiar with the interface.
What it’s made for: Sampling, Sequencing, and Mixing. Not for beginners. I Need time to understand the workflow.
Propellerhead Reason Courses
11. Avid ProTools
The last DAW in our list is “Avid Pro Tools”. Protools is the industry leader in the world of audio recording. You can imagine the popularity of Avid Pro Tools by this – other DAW companies have been analyzing Avid’s product and mirroring as a baseline for Audio Recording Workstations.
Though it is highly technical DAW suitable for experienced recording engineers, newbies can also use it to produce great music.
But it’s not built for novices, as with extensive editing features, it is a highly professional software ideal for industry professionals. That ‘s the reason why all the big studios are still using Pro Tools.
Pro Tools is known as the best scoring software for movies and TVs.
- Ease of Use – Features like compilation to master recording and playlist grouping provides easy access to multiple tracks for one project. So it’s an ideal software for film scoring where 100s of tracks are used. A big list of keyboard shortcuts makes it easy to operate (after understanding this software).
- Sound Library and instruments – Pro Tools is equipped with a 2 GB loop library, over 60 virtual instruments and thousands of sounds. If you want additional stuff you can also download from the Avid store.
- Plugins and effects – Pro Tools supports 60+ plug-ins and also access to 17+ bonus plug-ins. However, the only supported plug-in format is AAX.
- Extensive Support – Avid provides extensive support for its products and Pro Tools is not an exception. You get phone support, knowledge-base with frequently asked questions, online community forum, official YouTube channel, Avid also a marketplace to connect with other musicians.
Pro Tools has a standard DAW user interface with a clip recording and editing area, tracks area, individual track settings area and transport bar. You can also consolidate the windows in vertical and horizontal view as per your need.
You can create folders tracks, group tracks, and access them via keyboard shortcuts. The editing toolbar is better than other DAWs. And why not, after all, it’s made to make the audio editing better.
Workflow is very fast “when” you got familiar with this software otherwise can’t tackle it. Unlike other DAWs like Logic and Cubase its operation is different so you need to understand the workflow first then you can be able to produce good music. Don’t forget it’s built for professionals not for newbies.
The previous versions were only compatible with Avid hardware but today it can be used with any audio interface. It means not that any newbie can operate it.
It needs time to understand but once you get familiar it will give you the fruits also.
What it’s made for: Pro Tools is not for everyone. It takes time to understand but once you master it you can sample, sequence, edit mix, and master without hassle. It has a wide variety of uses, including scoring, sampling, editing, etc.
Pro Tools 12 Demo
Pro Tools Online Courses
Well, I have presented the list of 11 best DAWs for beginners. Now it’s your time to decide which DAW you are going to purchase. Let me know in the comments which DAW you have purchased.
Your comments will energize me to write frequency and provide you with the best knowledge of audio recording.
Your comments also help others to make a decision. So drop your comments below. And also share this article on your social circle.
10 thoughts on “11 Best DAWs in 2023 [The Best Audio Editing Software for Beginners]”
Your observation that Ableton Live is “not made for studio recording because its sole purpose is to make instant music in Live sets such as concerts” is a little bit off the mark. You can work with Live in the studio no problem, especially in a one-person setting, like a song writer or with a smaller band, but if you regularly record other complete bands with complex setups Live wouldn’t be your first choice and if you do choose it you need to learn its necessary workarounds as well as peculiarities.
Your claim that of “Less CPU usage – Ableton Live is a lightweight software as compared to other big audio digital workstations.” begs the question, which software? In my 7 years experience of Live it requires more, not less, from the machine, compared to say Reaper, Logic X or Fruity Loops. I think you’re way off on this point.
You certainly did an extensive review on every DAW and I appreciate that… But, to be honest, I’m leaving with more questions than answers. Apparently there are no “beginner’s DAW” in here since apparently they all need to be extensively studied before starting to record. You didn’t list them from “experienced to beginners” nor “pc or iOS” or “system requirements” or based on your own precepts “DJ, Songwriting, etc.” so now I don’t know whether I should try downloading any of these DAW or stay with Reaper because I’m more confused. f
Funny, because I started to write a song a few months back using Reaper and though it wasn’t easy at first it wasn’t as hard as you make it look like in this review. I guess I’ll stay with Reaper and won’t mess with any other DAW because they all look far far away from my understanding as a newbie
Hey Adrian thanks for your precious comment. Actually good gear and software are always required to produce good music.
I know there are no DAWs here which is quite easy for newbies. But when it comes to pro music we can’t compromise with quality hence these DAWs here.
The fact is we have to start from anywhere and starting out with these DAWs is not that hard as there are tons of tutorials available on the internet.
Your second question is I’ve refered Reaper as a hard to learn over other DAWs. I think we all have our own perspective. Maybe the DAW I am familiar with becomes hard for you and so on.
Like, Logic Pro X seems very easy for me but for others it would be very hard.
I’m an older guy. I “cut my teeth” on Tascam PortaStudio rigs & reel to reel units. I’ve tried to break into DAW stuff for years to no avail. The learning curve is so steep that it boggles my mind. Analog was/is so much easier; not “easier” as in dumbed down, but easier as in straight forward: direct & to the point execution of a task. With any DAW there are multiple levels of tasks available, but each is “hidden” away under a menu. The user must memorize whatever menu contains whatever task he wishes to accomplish, then memorize that path of operation for said task. I refer to the process as “going around the world just to cross the street”. It’s like memorizing the phone book…well, the phone books we used to get, anyway. From the “poking around” I’ve done, it looks like Garage Band is the best all around for beginners. Therefore, I can’t understand why Garage Band isn’t available for Windows? No, we shouldn’t have to run it in a virtual environment; what a tech-heavy, demanding, proprietary scenario. And why hasn’t someone come up with something as simple/basic in function as Garage Band on the Windows &/or Linux platforms…with a 14 day trial period so that we can test it. I would have purchased that 10+ years ago if it were available. Guess I’ll get a ZOOM R24.
Have “used” CUBASE for 10 years. To this day I still have great difficulty using it. Can’t get sound. Cant plug in keyboard. Extremely difficult to use. I agree with previous comment that all DAWS are difficult to use. Much easier and much less confusing to use pen and paper.
I too am in the same realm as JST. Old school. Mixing board to R2R tape with analog effects, inserted and routed,between as needed. It was great using the TEAC 4 track 3340S on 1/4″ tape.
I DID have a nice Logic RPC setup with Roland’s VM-3100 Pro mixer and PCI RPC card. It was a dream until my Windows XP had to be updated to Windows 7. At the same time the Tower PC I used crashed. Never got it back and no driver support for the Roland RPC card.
I won an iPad from a Tech event 8 years ago. Instantly installed Garage Band. It was a bunch of fun with a midi cable to Keyboard. Generated a bunch of songs and had a blast. But interest waned as I didn’t know of a guitar input cable for the old model iPad. That limited me as I am more prone to guitar than keys.
Literally ten years has passed. since the Logic RPC days. All work lost, so there is no allegiance to Logic Pro.
Along comes Reaper!
I have not even downloaded Reaper yet, but this appears to be the DAW of choice. It is not filled with thrills and gimmicks as the others are and the support community has been great with even my basic questions, i.e. 24 track 2″ Reel to digital. I have a BUNCH of tapes our son gave over to me from some of his bands work done in Seattle studios. I aim to run them all through the Studer 800 series Reel to ProTools saving as .WAV with the same engineer that did some of the original recordings. I’ll then import from WAV into Reaper and be able to remix, drop instruments and rerecord vocals etc. Hoping to gift it over to our sons daughters on their MAC in Reaper as well for them to have fun with Dad’s songs. Maybe Dad will even remix and re-release some of his great work.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
I tried to use Ableton Lite and found it absolutely useless. I tried to record a track of my guitar and nothing showed up. No tracks, nothing.
Audacity is another story. I can record tracks but, as I am playing I hear an echo of what I am playing. It throws your timing completely off.
What DAW software will allow me to record and not have slap back and is easy to use plus, doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg?
I appreciate the work you did to put this together but the fact that you didn’t mention Mixcraft shows me you aren’t up with the times. Mixcraft is a tremendous DAW that is easy to use and affordable. I have compared to many of the popular DAW’s and it hangs with all of them. it can be as powerful or as simple as the user wants and includes a huge amount of plugins and vsti’s that are all high quality.
Some call it Garageband for Windows but it’s so much more.
You say: “free DAWs are not as good as paid DAWs”. I am using (alongside Reason Studio) Waveform and Cakewalk. I have also used Live, Studio One, Reaper, enz. But Waveform and Cakewalk CAN compete with these Daws.