Many producers think that their way of making music is the best way to do it. Different producers have different needs, preferences, and ways of doing things in the studio and when working with audio and using music recording software. There is not one best way to make an electronic production.
However, there are big variations between different digital audio workstations (DAWs). Just like every producer has distinct workflows and ways of recording and editing audio, many DAWs are available that all have various features and functions to tackle issues in unique ways.
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Choosing the best DAW is objective, because there is no such thing as the best 'daw on the market.' Instead, choose a daw that's best for you and your needs as a producer.
But even still, as an electronic musician, knowing one recording software or one DAW might not be enough...
The more DAWs on the market you know how to use, the better off you'll be. This flexibility will come in handy when recording or producing with other artists. Also, each DAW offers different advantages and insight. So let's dive into the best DAWs offer for music production!
What Is It
No matter what your preferred DAW is, Ableton Live 11 Suite is the best choice for electronic music production and dance music producers. With an extensive array of features and options, you'll be able to create any type of music you desire. But because of its ease of use and simple approach to production, many new to music production are reaching for this as their DAW program.
This software provides a huge amount of content and virtual instruments for midi recording and editing, as well as a range of effects. It also includes Max for Live, so you can still achieve anything you want even if your favorite plugins are not compatible. Hell, it even allows for multitrack recording!
What sets Live apart from other DAWs is its Session View, which arranges individual tracks along the X-axis and scenes along the Y-axis. Each scene has a slot for a clip on each channel. Clips let you experiment with your arrangement by trying out various combinations of grooves and riffs.
Why We Love Ableton
Ableton's real power comes from its drag-and-drop mentality to music production, allowing minimal friction between getting your ideas out of your head and into your computer. It is incredibly user-friendly and the workflow is second to none.
When it comes to music production software, Ableton is king and it's no wonder why it's the preferred DAW among electronic artists for music creation.
What Is It
FL Studio used to be called Fruity Loops but had to change its name because it was too similar to Kellogg’s cereal. So if you’re investigating the difference between FL Studio to Fruity Loops, it’s the same program, just a new name (which has continued to be updated and retained very well over the years!)
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Other DAWs may have a more linear approach to music composition, but FL Studio stresses pattern creation and sequencing track components like individual pieces of a puzzle. This emphasis is likely what has made FL so popular among producers in the US EDM and hip-hop communities.
Why We Love FL Studio
Because it relies so heavily on sequencing and linear styles of production, FL Studio is useful as a fantastic daw to have as a secondary because it can run as a VST or AU plugin, as well as a standalone program. It is also available for Mac users (which wasn't always the case!).
And another thing that knocks our socks off with FL Studio is that Image-Line offers free lifetime updates. So, once you buy it, you can update it to the latest versions whenever they come out, at no extra cost.
What Is It
Logic is a digital audio workstation that is compatible with Apple computers. It was originally developed by Emagic in the 1990s. The software has its roots in the first era of DAW software.
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In 2002, Apple purchased the company that created Logic. They then brought the software into its lineup of creative programs. In 2004, a stripped-down version of the tech was used to create Garageband. Garageband is an app that has been included for free with every edition of Mac OS since Panther.
Why We Love Logic Pro
Apple has always been focused on providing an exceptional user experience, and Logic Pro has stayed true to this ethos. The software is designed in a highly logical way, which, along with other factors, makes it a good choice for producers of every level. The linear timeline in Logic Pro is designed to be adaptable, but it is often the preferred choice for songwriters.
There are many reasons why Logic Pro is considered the best DAW by many producers and songwriters.
One reason is that it is very easy to use and gets ideas flowing quickly. Another reason is that it gives users a great deal of control over their sound. Logic Pro is also a native Apple program, so it usually runs very smoothly on any Apple system.
What Is It
For a while now, Studio One has been on the rise and has become a DAW that is not only competitive with its rivals but excels in a few areas. Its responsive interface, smooth workflow, and innovative yet relevant feature set make Studio One 5 a cutting-edge virtual studio.
Why We Love Studio One
The interface is designed well and is easy to use.
The feature set is great, but what sets it apart is the quality of the built-in effects and instruments. It's a powerful DAW tool that can be used for live performance, recording, composing, editing, mixing, and mastering.
It has a comprehensive set of features including monophonic and polyphonic tracks, MIDI sequencing, an easy-to-use interface with drag-and-drop functionality, and 4-band parametric EQs. This is amazing work!
What Is It
Reaper DAW is a cost-effective, functioning DAW that is open source, and customizable for the user.
It uses very little processing power, making it a great choice for beginners, and experienced studios alike. It comes with over 100 free plugins that are professional-grade, and it is constantly updated with new features without taxing your hard drive's space.
The DAW's diminutive size has both advantages and disadvantages. Your computer will have plenty of space, but you can't customize the diverse dialog boxes, and you'll need to download additional third-party plug-ins to compensate for Reaper's weaknesses.
Why We Love Reaper
The Reaper team does not care about sales or trade. Their focus is on making a program that works excellently on all operating systems used for media creation and scientific analysis of sound. They also concentrate on interacting with their community every day.
Lastly, they focus on the arts of sound, so they stay true to their original vision.
What Is It
Cubase is a powerful and comprehensive piece of software that provides users with everything they need to create and produce music easily and quickly.
The vast collection and type of features are impressive and can make your jaw drop, but the best way to judge its capabilities is by the excellent audio quality of the final product you make on it.
Why We Love Cubase
Cubase is a universal music software that has many features for different users. For example, composers can use it to locate chords and keys, as well as arrange their songs fast.
Also, Cubase can create sheet music of compositions so that others can play them. Furthermore, professional musical scorers and amateur music creators can create their musical sequences using virtual instruments, audio recordings, and keyboards.
Lastly, users can create catchy beats and tracks.
What Is It
The most recent version of the Reason DAW is Reason 12.
It added two new tools, Mimic (a sampler) and Combinator 2 (an update on a classic), as well as the ability to use Reason in HD. Many other DAWs can be used much more intuitively, with a more streamlined workflow.
Additionally, other DAWs, like Logic or Ableton, have a host of additional features that do not seem to be anywhere on Reason's radar.
Why We Love Reason
If you're looking for a DAW to record a band or score for a film, Reason may not be the best option as it lacks key features. However, it does serve as an excellent bundle of virtual instruments in plug-in form.
And if you are coming to production from an extensive background in a live studio, you will feel right at home using Reason's Rack features that mimic a real recording studio.
What Is It
Bitwig Studio is the first product from Bitwig GmbH, a small music software company based in Berlin and founded by ex-Ableton engineers.
It joins a crowded market as a new digital audio workstation. Its rivals have been around for many years and have large followings, so a new entrant is going to need to offer something special to attract users and build a community from scratch.
Why We Love It
Bitwig Studio brings the worlds of sound design and complex digital audio together, creating an environment where traditional linear time and clip-based arrangements can exist side by side.
Modularity is woven into all aspects of this application, and full modular systems can not only be constructed but also interact inside the DAW.
Bitwig is a beautiful piece of software that allows a lot of freedom when creating with a toolset that is innovative and musical; one that encourages experimentation.
What Is It
A digital audio workstation, or DAW, is a computer-based recording and mixing console. DAWs allow users to control every aspect of their recordings and mix digitally, giving them a high degree of control over the sound. DAWs have become increasingly popular in the recording industry since the early 1990s.
If you want to be an audio engineer or music producer in today’s music industry, you need to learn Pro Tools.
Why We Love It
In general, Pro Tools is an excellent DAW with superb editing capabilities. It is the industry norm for tracking and mixing, so you will find that most people are familiar with it, which makes collaboration easy.
For writing and for certain types of production styles that involve a lot of software instruments, I would work in another DAW but I always prefer Pro Tools for mixing or tracking live instruments or bands.
Best Free DAWs
It is important to consider what you need before looking for a free DAW. There are many free DAWs available, but they may have reduced features or functions compared to full-fledged DAWs.
But if you only want to dabble in production or are on an incredibly tight budget and simply cannot justify the price tags of the premium DAWs listed then here are some of our favorite free digital audio workstations.
Audacity is the first free DAW. It is an open-source multi-track audio editor and recorder that is compatible with many different operating systems. If you are only working with audio tracks, Audacity is a free DAW solution that works well.
There is one glaring downside to Audacity is that it doesn't function as a MIDI sequencer. This means no MIDI tracks for virtual instruments (but hey, Burial didn't use any MIDI during some of his biggest records!).
If you have a Mac computer, you already have Garageband! This app is popular among people who are new to recording music. Even though it's known as a beginner app, it can still be used to make great music. Apple's Garageband combines the company's signature ease-of-use and smart design with some powerful music production features.
Ableton Live Lite
Ableton Live is a well-known name in the world of digital audio workstations (DAW), particularly for electronic and sample-based genres. Its easy-to-use "session view" makes composing songs with loops a breeze and its arrangement view makes turning those loops into full songs easy.
The built-in pitch shifting and time stretching algorithms are the most powerful on the market and Ableton Live Lite is the basic version of the flagship program that comes bundled with various software and hardware packages.