Every beginner in his music production days must have, at some point in time, thought about the best DAWs for music production.
The world of music creation seems mystifying and magical to the ordinary person. For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to comprehend the formation of something which cannot be visualized but only heard. Moreover, for a long period of time, the recording and production techniques used to be too complex and expensive for the average person to experiment with.
Thankfully, with the evolution of technology, we have come up with a number of tools that allow us to dive head-on into the world of frequencies and exhaust our creative juices.
The most important of these tools, when it comes to music production, is the Digital Audio Workstation. Often stylized as DAW, a digital audio workstation is a digital user interface used for audio recording and editing. It consists of software and hardware elements. The software often features virtual mixers, filters, timelines, file-management, and organization tools which one can find in most media-editing programs.
In simple words, the DAW is the medium through which you can create, place, organize, and even experiment with the sound you’ve imagined. Combining a large number of utilities provided within the DAW itself and the third-party tools provided all around the globe, the possibilities of music creation become endless.
When Digital Audio Workstations were introduced in the 1970s, it used to be hardware oriented due to the lack of computer processing power during that period. With the evolution of technology, it has now shifted to a more software-oriented approach; while some consist of hardware integrated assets as well, along with their respective software.
There isn’t any comparison in terms of which software is better than the other. Most DAWs have their own presence and at times a specialization they focus on. At the end of the day, they all provide the same features with a different interface. It’s more about what the user gets used to and comfortable with.
Here are a few examples of such industry-leading workstations:
Best feature: Electronic Music Production + Live sets & am
Ableton live users
One of the most used software throughout the world when it comes to production and performance; Ableton packs the ability to both produce in the studio and perform live on stage using a single application.
Conveniently segregating the ‘arrangement’ and ‘session’ views for utmost efficiency, the software provides the user with the ability to produce music the conventional way, or even trigger clips from the session view during a live performance or to jam along with.
Moreover, there are a number of CPU intensive stock instruments and plug-ins along with the software which makes the whole experience a lot easier and engaging. The only downside to it, when compared to its counterparts, is the cluttered interface; but that can be easily dealt with using bigger or multiple monitors.
The Ableton Live Suite costs $749 and is the ultimate package for anyone looking to add more efficiency to their workflow and sound. The Live Intro and Live Standard both sit at $99 and $449 respectively but offer limited services compared to the Live Suite.
Another interesting alternative is the Ableton Push 2, a hardware MIDI controller which is completely integrated with Ableton and transfers a major chunk of the functionality from the software to the controller, making the entire process more efficient, and the workflow a lot smoother. Anyone who purchases the Push 2 also receives the latest version of the Ableton Live Suite along with it.
Best feature: Editing, Mixing, Recording
Pro Tools users
Having garnered a niche following among professional audio engineers throughout the continents, Pro Tools has now spent over 30 years influencing and enhancing the audio recording and creation process.
It is not usually used for production or MIDI creation purposes unless third-party instruments are used but are primarily preferred for the optionality it offers when it comes to the mixing and mastering stages. Despite that, it manages to be one of the most used software in the recording stages because of the clean looking and transparent interface it offers.
Deemed as a ‘Big Studio DAW,’ Pro Tools is available on both Windows and Mac with various options for purchase or subscription.
Best feature: All-around usage
Cubase pro users
Cubase has generated a global following because of its multi-faceted music-making process. Possessing a user base which includes names like the psychedelic icons – Infected Mushroom and the legendary Hans Zimmer, Cubase has been the channel that’s provided us with a large number of breathtaking musical experiences.
With stock instruments and sample libraries which cater to a large variety of music, there are no limitations when it comes to what genre of music can be created via this medium.
Harboring a very user-friendly interface, Cubase continues to optimize the software making the entire music-making process a much more interactive and open experience. Arguably, Cubase has one of the best piano rolls when compared to its counterparts, enhancing the workflow considerably.
The Cubase Pro 10 is priced at GBP 559 and has multiple cheaper alternatives as well which provide limited to no plug-ins. Other than that, one may also download their mobile application “Cubasis” which is critically acclaimed as the ‘Best Mobile Application for Music Creation.’
Best feature: User Interface + Electronic Music Production
FL Studio power users
Alternatively known as Fruity Loops, this DAW is usually considered to be a favorite among newcomers. It’s primarily used in Electronic Music Production, mainly because of the step sequencer displayed out front as well as the EDM oriented sound designs the synth engines possess.
Packed with a large number of stock instruments with considerable flexibility for sound design and an easy to understand interface makes most producers using FL Studio strafe away from third-party plug-ins and tools.
Considerably spread apart and less cluttered than a lot of other DAWs, it may get difficult for beginners to find various functionalities. Thanks to the large user base though, solutions to almost all problems encountered within FL Studio are available on forums throughout the internet.
Used by industry leading EDM producers such as Martin Garrix and Alan Walker, the FL Studio with all plug-ins bundle is priced at $899. There are cheaper alternatives available on their website as well, offering a limited number, excluding plug-ins, in case the user prefers using third-party plug-ins instead. Moreover, FL studio also provides an easy to use mobile application so that the momentum for music creation never breaks, no matter what the location is.
Logic Pro X
Best feature: All-around usage
Logic Pro users
Exclusively available on the MacOS platform, it is safe to say that Logic Pro is the most used DAW throughout the globe. Its implementation has reached to an extent which has made purchasing a Mac device compulsory if one wishes to study any aspect of audio from renowned institutions.
Other than being recognized for its crisp and “on-the-face” interface, Logic also features a large number of stock instruments which pack the same punch as industry-leading third-party instruments, which is a big drawback for most DAWs.
Moreover, the instrument routing process, which is one of the most monotonous jobs while producing music, is made much more explicit and transparent through the interface. With the ease of access provided within one screen, Logic Pro, for obvious reasons, is the ‘go to’ DAW for most music professionals and recognized individuals in the industry.
If you are already a Mac owner or are prepared to go through the initial monetary blow that Apple device owners experience, Logic Pro X is available for a lower price of ₹ 15,500. If that doesn’t seem to be a good enough deal, it also includes a large number of stock instruments which are used in top-performing tracks throughout the world.
Best feature: User Friendly UI
Even though it may not be among the big names, Reaper offers flexibility for all kinds of users. If one is not too fascinated by pretty looking design interfaces but tends to focus on the creativity and productivity of the process, Reaper tends to be a powerhouse of a software, and that too free of cost.
From beginners wishing to understand the basics of MIDI creation and audio recording to professionals who want to accommodate a more CPU-intensive approach to their music-making process, Reaper caters to a wide variety of audiences.
The main reason people prefer its expensive counterparts is mainly because of the limited visual representation offered within Reapers stock plug-ins. Despite the lack of an intricately designed interface, Reaper provides the same functionality as any DAW. Any individual who understands and masters controlling the parameters through aural means instead tends to get a better understanding of how to manipulate and control sound.
These are the best DAWs for music production, finely curated and recommended by several great artists. Here are a few review videos to get a short comparison between different DAWs.
And if you are an on-the-go mobile person. Go for the video below.