Updated: Jan 16
A DAW (digital audio workstation) is an application used for the recording, editing and production of audio files. Coming in many different shapes or sizes i.e price points, DAW's are the most powerful tool in the modern music industry. Replacing the early days of recording music on tape and cutting it to make a track, DAW's have simplified recording and editing so much that you can now have a running DAW from your mobile phone.
Either you're starting off fresh in the music industry or an experienced pro, it's hard to know which DAW is best for your needs. In my experience, you may only use one and stick to that one, or you may use more than one as each can bring something different to the table. Below are some of the best DAW's on the market that may help you decide what best fits your studio.
(Presonus Studio One)
Presonus Studio One (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €405.90,
The first DAW I ever used to create, edit and record music was Studio One 3. What I liked about it was that it was simple to use, had a nice interface and it helped in the mixing of my tracks as it was easy to navigate. A mid range priced DAW Studio One is one of the most powerful DAW's you can buy to date. With a vast range of customizability to suit beginners and the most experienced producer, Studio One does it all. Studio One's interface is highly user friendly and easy to come to grips with. With the arranger, mixer and overall workstation all in one screen, this allows for easy control over your production. With a vast range of VST's (Virtual Studio Technologies) and Effects such as 'Presence XT Sampler and Melodyne', straight out of the box you know that it's packing a lot of power beneath its sleek beauty.
What truly separates Studio One from other DAW's is it's mastering section. A dedicated application within the DAW that gives you high in-depth control on mastering your completed track. It really has everything that a mastering engineer needs, right down to customizable metering systems such as 'LUFS & K-Metering'. If I had one grime against Studio One it would be that some of the stock sounds that come with the DAW are not up to the standard of some of the DAW's on the list.
(Avid Pro Tools)
Avid Pro Tools (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €598, https://www.thomann.de/ie/avid_pro_tools.html
Arguably the industry standard, Pro Tools is hands down the best DAW on the market for recording and editing audio. For the beginner, Pro Tools can be almost unfriendly to look at use and interact with, but once you get to grips with this software, WOW does it pack a punch. In my opinion the best audio output of any DAW, the built in converters are outstanding. On the other hand Pro Tools has its downfalls.
For me especially, I just can't seem to write in pro tools. Midi is just too complicated and not user friendly to write and edit in, compared to some of the other DAW's on this blog. Regardless of what Pro Tools lacks in the midi writing department, for me it makes up for it in audio mixing. The out of the box plugins such as Eq's, Compressors and many more are just almost audio perfection as they give you a warm rich sound in your output. With Pro Tools you can also rent the software, Avid have a subscription plan that allows you to pay monthly while availing for constant updates.
(Image Line, FL Studio)
Fl Studio (Windows and Compatible) - €189,
FL Studio, one of the cheapest DAW's on the market and a go to for the beginner producer. FL has a user friendly interface and easy writing capabilities. What separates FL from the others is it's pattern list. Each sample dragged onto the pattern list can be highly modified to suit your needs while adding the ability to start writing immediately using its step sequencer. The diverse suitability for writing fast and accurate is portrayed in it's workflow. The ease of which you can have a number of different patterns and add them into the arranger allows for a quick work flow, while keeping a professional sound and standard throughout your track.
Built into FL are a range of VST's and plugins, with soundgoodizer not only being one of the best effects on the market but a running meme for producers as it does what it says on the tin. My downfall for FL is its mixer, for me its the routing and overall look of the mixer I just could never get the flow I needed for my tracks. That being said some of top producers in the world are using FL to produce all different genres of music, with Martin Garrix and Murda Beatz being at the top of the list.
Propellerhead Reason (Windows & Mac Compatible) - €549
One of the higher priced DAW's on the market, Reason gives the best studio portrayal of all of the DAW's throughout this blog. For my earliest years studying music production and technology reason was one of the first programmes we used. Why you might ask? Because of its capabilities to replicate the studio. Reasons VST's, Plugins and Effects make you feel like your working with a rack full of hardware in your studio. This is due to it's visual interface and the audio routing, with one click of a button it flicks the rack around and allows you to route audio as if you would in the studio. The negatives of this were that Reason for years did not support external VST's and Plugins. But in recent times they have adapted and updated to allow external VST's and Plugins. But i have yet ventured back to my roots to really delve deep into Reason and use it's full abilities. For anyone that is starting in the music industry? I would highly recommend Reason as you learn a lot from it in terms of hardware in a recording studio, how it can be routed and the functionalities of these. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMh3ZEFyEmo
Ableton Live (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €599
The most expensive DAW in this blog. Ableton although not the most visually appealing really shines. With an amazing range of stock VST's, Effects and Sounds Ableton is in a sense, a very analog sounding DAW. Sampling made simple with some of the most in-depth customizable features to tweak any sound to how you like it with one of the best LFO features i have ever used. From my experience Ableton is very much so, a electronic producers heaven. From writing, recording, arranging and live performance. Yes thats right live performances. Ableton has a range of capabilities when it come to external hardware, the clips list allows you to create a clip of audio and control it from nearly any midi controller, as you can manually map a midi controller to Ableton with great ease. The benefits of this are that any midi controller can be used from a drum kit to being able to perform a whole track using created loops and clips.
Ableton live adds a dimension to the term DAW's as it comes with a application called Max For Live. Max allows you to create your own VST's and Effects. I had the pleasure of creating effects and a small VST during my years in University this really slingshots the whole idea of sound design forward for the studio producer.
(Logic Pro X)
Logic Pro X (Mac Only) - €229.99
Logic Pro, what can I say about this DAW? My relationship with Logic has been an up and down. When I first switched to this DAW i did not like it. I felt that things were awkward writing was hard, so I decided to switch back to FL at the time, but I was so wrong. One day I opened Logic and I decided I would try and create one song with it and just give it time. To this date i haven't looked back, Logic Pro X is now my go to DAW for writing and recording music. The ease of which you can write, record and edit music in Logic for my workflow, cuts hours of the process. All the while bus mixing and effects processing is just made to be effortless, packing some of the best stock sounds out of any DAW. At a price of under €250 euro, i was sold. The biggest negative of Logic are that it is solely for Mac and does not support Windows. But to any Mac owner Logic is for me the best on the market for writing and recording music. I say the best for these reasons as each DAW offers something different to every producer.
Because each DAW gives something different my process is to write, record, arrange and process in Logic but my final mix after everything is bounced to audio always happens in Pro Tools. My recommendation? I would tell any producer that is just starting to learn to try out as many of these DAW's as you can as they are very similar but each add something different to your production and after that it is just a matter of which one best suits you and your workflow.
Steinberg Cubase - €581.99
Although cubase is one of the leading DAW's in the industry and is highly rated in the producing world i am not in a position to give feedback on the DAW as i have never used Cubase enough to give an opinion on Cubase.