When it comes to choosing from among all the different options available in the market today, finding the right DAW software can be overwhelming. There are lots of factors that affect making this decision: price range, functionality, extras like bundled plug-ins (e.g., VST/AU), ease of use vs flexibility, cross-platform compatibility with other platforms such as mobile devices, and available support resources at any given moment in time
The perfect DAW software should fit seamlessly into your workflow and provide all the tools needed for production without any fuss or hassle. That way, when inspiration strikes, it’s ready and waiting with everything you need in order to create something amazing from start to finish.
You have to consider what type of music you want to make, how much money you want to spend and what features are important to you. Having said that, today’s DAW software solutions are all very capable. There is no one “right” answer, so researching them and trying a few out is really important.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 DAWs on the market today, in no particular order.
In this day and age, ProTools has practically become a household name. It’s been the industry standard in music recording for years now and with most top studios using it, it will continue to be one of the most popular DAW software choices in pro studios.
Although ProTools boasts a great reputation and massive popularity amongst the professional studios, it also has an almost equal number of haters. The user interface is quite dated, even with the new updated “dark mode”. It is not as user-friendly as the other DAW software on this list and therefore it hasn’t made as much of an impact on the home studio market as it has in the pro market.
However, ProTools is a powerhouse DAW. It is superior in audio quality, mixing and mastering, and really shines in linear recording.
You can download a free version of Pro Tools First if you are unsure. Or you can download a free trial of ProTools Ultimate to test it all out.
ProTools comes in 3 Tiers:
- Pro Tools First – FREE
- Pro Tools – $299/ year subscription
- Pro Tools Ultimate – $399/ year subscription
#2 FL Studio
FL Studio is DAW software developed by the Belgian company Image Line. It is a fully functioning DAW that can be used to create beats and melodies or record, mix and master tracks from scratch. FL Studio features an updated mixing console, an unparalleled Piano Roll MIDI editor, an arrangement window with the ability to do linear and non-linear recording, drag and drop functionality, and a host of other features.
With its intuitive workflow, it rivals the features of any DAW on the market today. Despite having so many features, FL Studio is easy to learn and use.
FL Studio is a DAW software that was created with EDM producers in mind. The Piano Roll and the Step Sequencer are perfect for crafting your own loops that you can build into songs. FL Studio has gained a lot of recognition in the last few years as a lot of big artists have produced monster hits with it.
FL Studio has an unlimited free trial period with a few limitations so you can download it and test it out.
The software comes in 4 tiers:
- FL Studio Fruity Edition – $99
- FL Studio Producer Edition – $199
- FL Studio Signature Bundle – $299
- FL Studio All Plugins Edition – $499
#3 Ableton Live
Since Ableton Live came on the market it has given musicians DAW software with a more creative workflow. Live offered a new way of making and recording music by challenging traditional design rules and providing not just a recording tool but also an instrument in itself.
Trying to think of a musical idea? Just hit record and Live’s got you covered. Record hardware synths, plugins, drum machines, guitars or any audio from your environment. You can now use Capture MIDI to record notes after you’ve played them. Whether it was intentional or not, Live has your back and will turn those spontaneous ideas into music for you. Live has features that convert audio into MIDI so that even if you play piano by ear (or just have an incredible singing voice), your talents can be utilized in your compositions with ease.
If you are an EDM producer then Live is the DAW software for you. It is built with the capability to record linearly like other DAWs but also can be used to create in a non-linear fashion. This is great for producing songs from loops and samples.
You can try Live for free for 90 days, when you are ready to buy Ableton Live comes in 3 tiers:
- Live 11 Intro – $99
- Live 11 Standard – $449
- Live 11 Suite – $749
#4 Logic Pro X
Apple Logic Pro X is a DAW software that was developed by Apple, Inc. It’s built for Mac OS X. Since so many producers use Mac systems it has quickly risen to the top tier of DAW software. And if you’re looking for an alternative to Garageband (you might need something more powerful), then you may want to check out Logic Pro as well.
With over 3 million users worldwide, Logic Pro is one of the most popular digital audio workstation programs on the market today. This industry-leading music production software offers a complete set of professional tools for recording, editing and mixing your music with ease.
For the price point, Logic Pro is exceptional in the ease of use, functionality, audio quality and the host of professional quality stock effects and processors.
Logic Pro gives you a free trial period of 90 days.
The full price for Logic Pro X is $199
Steinberg Cubase is a professional music production software with many features to help you record, edit and mix your tracks.
The Steinberg Cubase DAW software is one of the most popular digital audio workstations available. There are several reasons for this, including the user-friendly interface and simple layout that make it easy to use even for beginners.
With Cubase, you have everything you need to make amazing sounding recordings that will stand up against anything out there. You can also mix down and master your tracks using professional VST effects, processors and virtual instruments.
You can try Cubase for 30 days with full functionality.
Cubase comes in 3 tiers:
- Cubase Elements 11 – $150
- Cubase Artist 11 – $500
- Cubase Pro 11 – $878
The Cockos Reaper DAW software is arguably the best bang for your buck. If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars more, then this may well be the perfect choice for you. You start with a 60 day fully functioning trial period, after which you can choose between two licenses. $60 for personal use and $225 for commercial use of your revenue exceeds $20,000 USD annually.
Reaper is a powerful tool that supports many different types of software. It can be used to manage all aspects of audio and MIDI production, from recording to mastering. You can use Reaper’s vast array of tools and support for many formats as well as the program’s immense customization capabilities make this an invaluable piece of software for any musician or creative professional.
It is equipped with a host of effects and processors so you can get started making music today.
Reaper has a 60 Day Trial.
Price comes in 2 tiers:
- $60 for personal use
- $225 for commercial use
Reason Studios Reason is a DAW software developed by Swedish software company Propellerhead Software, now named Reason Studios. It runs on Mac OS X and Windows computers, with the capability to use ReWire for synchronization with other compatible programs.
Reason is one of the most powerful music production software in the world. It’s a complete studio, with everything you need to make an album from start to finish. And it sounds amazing too! Reason is used by top artists and producers all over the world.
You can use it for anything from making beats, remixing tracks or recording your own band. There are tons of instruments and effects that will help you get any sound imaginable out of your computer.
The unique feature of Reason is the Reason Rack. It is a very distinct way of creating instruments and effects. You simply drag and drop instruments and effects into the Rack from the browser. You can also go into the back of the Rack and patch signals from one to the other to create even more sounds and effects. You don’t have to mess around with patching in order to make music with Reason, but try it out anyway.
Try Reason + for 30 days free
Reason can be purchased 2 ways:
- Reason+ – $19.99/ month subscription (includes updates)
- Reason – $399
#8 Studio One
PreSonus Studio One is an intuitive music production application that lets you record, produce, mix, master, and perform all with one app. This revolutionary software has a user-friendly interface as well as tools for mixing live or static arrangements.
Studio One was designed with the creative muse in mind. Studio One is a music production and recording software that has been created to make workflows faster and easier.
Studio One offers a wide variety of creative options for sound design with their innovative Browser. The browser is located in the top left corner of your screen and it’s where you can find all types of things like audio loops, virtual instruments, plug-in effects and presets which are easily dragged onto tracks within your project.
For the composers out there, Studio One has a Score View that uses PreSonus’s scoring software Notion. Expertly notate your compositions for real orchestras to play your music. It really is a full studio package at a smaller price.
You can download Studio One 5 Prime for free to try it out. If you like it there are 2 versions:
- Studio One Artist – $99
- Studio One Professional $399
#9 Bitwig Studio
Bitwig Studio is a revolutionary new music production environment for the modern producer. Created by ex-Ableton engineers. It does have a lot of similarities for sure. Ableton users will be familiar with a lot of it.
It’s designed to be as deep and powerful as you want it to be, but also provides an intuitive workflow that lets you focus on your ideas without being distracted or overwhelmed by technology.
You can use it in any way you like—whether it’s recording, arranging, mixing, editing MIDI or audio clips, and everything will always sound great. And if you’re not sure where to start? The built-in tutorials are there to help
You can download a trial version (with save and export disabled) for as long you want.
When you want to buy it it has 2 versions:
- Bitwig Studio 16 Track – $99
- Bitwig Studio – $399
#10 MOTU Digital Performer
Digital Performer is a DAW software that has been around for many years. One of the forerunners of the digital production movement.
Digital Performer is a powerful audio editing software that has the tools to be used by musicians, composers, and sound designers. Digital Performer provides easy-to-use features and functionality for all producers without taking up too much time in learning complicated programs. With its MIDI sequencing capabilities, it can make any composition come alive with ease. For those looking for more music recording options than just vocals or instruments alone, this program will have you covered with multitrack audio recording as well as virtual instrument support. This program also lets you search through thousands of drum loops and sound libraries to create your perfect beat!
With common editing features like quantizing and time-stretching also available on each track – you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the mix of different applications. No matter what type of music you’re creating, Digital Performer will help take your vision from start to finish.
MOTU Digital Performer 10.1 – $499
The Bottom Line
When you are starting off with music production, it’s hard to know what DAW software is best for you. There are so many different options available and as you have seen, each one has a feature set that may suit your needs better than others. The best thing to do next is to choose the ones that stand out and give them a try.
The DAW software is one of the many parts that make up your home studio. At Home Studio Labs we want to give you all the info you need to be a home studio music producer. Check out our guide 9 Essential Home Studio Equipment Every Beginner Needs to find out what else you need to get started.