Best DAW to record music and audio for PC Windows, Mac and Linux
The best DAW for PC/Windows and Mac to record, edit, mix and master music for hobby musicians and professional producers.
Best DAWs for Recording, Mixing, and Mastering Music for PC and Mac
If you create music on a computer, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Mac, your DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, is the essential tool in the creative process.
So, if you already have a controller – MIDI keyboard, an audio interface, a set of home studio monitor speakers, and recording microphones as well as equipment, your DAW music production software will be the heart of it all, since it’s right there. in the center of everything.
As such, it’s important to get a DAW that you’re comfortable with. Therefore, the most important thing is to have a digital audio workstation -DAW- that will allow you to turn your ideas into music in the fastest and easiest way possible. Thus, the best DAW for you is the one that makes it easy for you to create music and inspires you to continue creating.
The best DAW is the one that best suits your needs
To help you find that DAW, we’ve put together a guide to what we consider to be the best digital audio workstations on the market today for every need and level of user. Thus, any of these DAW will allow you to make music. Therefore, you will see that we do not consider one to be better than the others; but in a certain circumstance, use, need or level of the musician or music producer, one will stand out above the rest. They are all slightly different in the way they operate, so it pays to carefully consider your options.
Best DAW – Quick Pick Guide
You are probably a beginner in music production, and you need clear, easy and direct advice. Or you just don’t want to go around too much and want quick help choosing the DAW that best suits your needs. If so, here we recommend you which DAW to choose quickly. Also, we have included a table below so you can compare all the DAWs at a glance and choose the perfect one for you.
Best Easy-to-Use DAWs – Free for Beginners
If you want a great free entry-level option, Apple’s GarageBand is free. In addition, now it also has a version for Windows PC in addition to the traditional one for Mac. Thus, GarageBand is a great option. On the other hand, if you are a Windows PC user you also have Bandlab’s Cakewalk option. Both will be great for you to start in the fantastic world of audio recording and editing.
If you are interested in free apps for your PC or Mac, check out this guide of the best free virtual amps.
Best DAWs for the money
If you’re looking for the best value for money DAW, Cockos’ Reaper is hard to beat. This digital audio workstation is serious software and quality at a really low price. On the other hand, Logic Pro also offers significant performance for your money, but this option is Mac only. These are the perfect options if you are looking for the middle ground between professional DAWs and entry level DAWs, these are the options.
Best DAW for Electronic Music Producers – EDM, Hip-Hop, House
If you are looking for a DAW that is highly admired by producers of EDM, Hip-Hop and other electronic music styles the FL Studio Image-Line and Apple Logic Pro are the best options. The FL Studio Image-Line is one of the best DAWs for making beats for electronic music. Also, this is a DAW with free updates for life.
As a complement we recommend these keyboards and MIDI controllers to make Beats.
The most popular DAW
Finally, you might want to stick with what the most, most used, most “successful” DAW chooses. Thus, you have the most popular option on the market, Ableton Live. This DAW has been the most chosen of all digital audio workstations for the last two decades. It’s hard to think that so many people have been wrong for 20 years. Whether it is the best DAW is open to debate, and as we have seen, it is relative. But with its fast and smooth workflow it has certainly made a great impression and is used by more artists.
There is also Cubase, it is the other very popular competitor in the music production community.
The DAW the pros use
If you’re wondering which DAW professionals use, the answer is: Avid Pro Tools. This DAW is not only a great software for home music recording, it is also an industry standard for music recording. Thus, knowing him certainly puts you at an advantage if you want to work in the music industry. If you are looking to work in a professional studio, or simply use the same one used by professionals, this is the ideal DAW for you.
Comparison of the best DAWs for PC, Mac and Linux
If you want to be able to compare the best DAWs for PC, Mac and Linux at a glance, below we have a table with the main features of the best software for recording, editing, mixing, mastering music and audio.
|Ableton Live 11||From $99 / £69 / €79 to $749 / £519 / €589||Trial for 90 days||Beginners & Professional Music Producers||One of the most popular||X||X|
|Cubase Steinberg-11||From $100 / £85 / €89 to $582 / £499 / €520||Trial for 30 days||Beginners & Professional Music Producers||A classic & one of the most popular||X||X|
|FL Studio Image Line||From $99 / £76 / €99 to $499 / £379 / €499||Trial version time unlimited||EDM / Hip Hop music producers||Lifetime free upgrades||X||X|
|Apple Logic Pro||$200 / £200 / €230||Trial for 90 days||Beginners & Professional Music Producers||great value||X|
|PreSonus Studio One 5||$100 / £85 / €95 to $400 / £340 / €380||Trial for 30 days||Beginners & Professional Music Producers||One of the best DAWs||X||X|
|Cocko Reaper 6||$60 discounted license / $225 commercial license||Trial for 60 days||Beginners and Amateur music producers||great value||X||X||X|
|Reason Studios Reason||From $99 / £69 / €79 to $499 / £279 / €319||First month $ 1 cost||Beginners & Professional Music Producers||Rack-based workflow||X||X|
|Bitwig Studio||From $79 / £69 / €79 to $299 / £259 / €2999||Trial version time unlimited||Beginners and Amateur music producers||Inventive DAW||X||X||X|
|Apple GarageBand||Free||And it is||Beginners and Amateur music producers||Great for beginners||X||X|
|Acoustic Mixcraft 9||From $99 to $199||Trial for 14 days||Beginners and Amateur music producers||Great for beginners||X|
|Avid ProTools||From $10 / £8 / €9 to $80 / £100 / €90 monthly||Trial for 30 days||professional music producers||The industry standard||X||X|
|Cakewalk by BandLab||Free||And it is||Beginners and Amateur music producers||Great for beginners||X|
If you’re still not sure
If you still don’t know which is your perfect DAW option, you can try the free versions of each one. We recommend that you see this guide to the best free DAWs, software for recording and mixing music.
The best DAWs for musicians and music producers
Ableton Live 11
Ableton Live Price: From $99 / £69 / €79 | Compatibility: PC / Mac
The most popular DAW on the market with an inspiring next-level workflow
Advantages of Ableton Live 11: Reasons to buy
- Fast and creative workflow
- Excellent integrated devices
- The most used, the choice of countless professionals
Ableton Live 11 Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Plugin delay compensation is still an issue for some of the effects
Description and specifications of the Ableton Live 11
When the first version was released in 2001, it removed the traditional design rules and established itself not only as a recording program for composers, but also as a performance instrument in its own right. Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed, influencing the development of countless other desktop and mobile apps. Thus, it’s hard to overstate the impact Live has had on the music and audio recording, editing, mixing, and mastering software market.
The latest version of Ableton, Live 11 takes things to the next level, adding much-requested features like a fancy build system and MPE support. There are also new devices, along with updates to existing ones.
While some of the changes may take some getting used to by veterans, Ableton has again managed to improve Live’s capabilities without adding bloat to its famously streamlined workflow. He maintains his place at the forefront of DAW technology.
Ableton Live 11 Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Intro, Standard, Suite | System Requirements (PC): Windows 10, Intel Core i5 or AMD multi-core processor; 3 GB of disk space for basic installation (8 GB free recommended); up to 76 GB of disk space for additional content | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13 or later, Intel Core i5 processor; 8GB of RAM; 3 GB of disk space for basic installation (8 GB free recommended); up to 76 GB of disk space for additional content.
Official website: Ableton Live 11
Steinberg Cubase Price: From $100 / £85 / €89 | Compatibility: PC / Mac
A great old DAW that can still keep up with the bright young
Advantages of the Steinberg Cubase 11: Reasons to buy
- A great story and a lot of development.
- Refined workflow
- Good balance of features in each of the three versions
Steinberg Cubase 11 Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- ‘traditional’ design
Description of the Steinberg Cubase 11
Steinberg is one of the most storied developers of audio software. The company has spearheaded the development of music software for more than 30 years. Through Cubase, which started out as a MIDI sequencer, he introduced an entire generation to the block-based arranging screen now used in most DAWs today.
Along the way, the company also invented Virtual Studio Technology, or VST. Steinberg also developed a class-leading audio editor, the WaveLab.
Despite the increased competition, Cubase remains at the forefront of the DAW pack. The latest version, Cubase 11, is a solid update that expands its offerings on several key fronts. For new buyers, the great plugins, extensive sound library, and massive functionality make it well worth the asking price. Also, it’s worth noting that the more affordable Artist and Elements editions also come with decent feature sets.
Steinberg Cubase 11 Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Elements, Artist, Pro | System Requirements (PC): 64-bit: Windows 10; Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core CPUs; 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended); 30 GB of storage space | System requirements (Mac): macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur; Intel Core i series CPU; 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended), 30 GB of storage space.
Official website: Steinberg Cubase 11
FL Studio Image Line
Image-Line FL Studio Price: From $99 / £76 / €99 | Compatibility: PC / Mac
A unique DAW that has fueled the careers of many electronic music producers.
Advantages of the Image-Line FL Studio: Reasons to buy
- Great for EDM producers
- good value for money
- Free updates for life
Image-Line FL Studio Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- GUI can feel a bit cluttered
Description of Image-Line FL Studio
Originally released as FruityLoops, Image-Line’s DAW has almost iconic status for a certain generation of hip-hop and EDM producers. The main feature in version 20 was a native 64-bit Mac version, which means FL Studio can now be used on macOS as well as PC. Also, the licenses are shared between the Mac and PC versions.
Image-Line offers free lifetime updates for FL Studio users. Thus, all existing users of the software are now automatically upgraded to version 20 on both platforms.
Plus, the updates keep coming: version 20.5 brought Flex, a new preset-based software synthesizer. While version 20.6 added a variety of new features. Then 20.7 gives you the tools you need to make a social media-oriented music video. Now version 20.8 makes the software even “faster and more accurate”.
There will always be those who claim that FL Studio is not as “serious” as other DAWs. But, he also has some notable admirers in the professional community, especially music producers and electronic music artists.
Requirements and Compatibility of Image-Line FL Studio
Versions: Fruity, Producer, Signature, All Plugin Pack | System requirements (PC): Windows 8.1, 10 or later; 4 GB of storage space, 4 GB of RAM | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.6 or later; 4 GB of storage space, 4 GB of RAM.
Official website: Image-Line
A widely used plugin by the electronic music producer community is the Camel Crusher Plugin VST, a free software and you can download it here.
Apple Logic Pro
Apple Logic Pro price: $200 / £200 / €230 | Compatibility: Mac
Amazing value and great performance for Mac
Advantages of the Apple Logic Pro: Reasons to buy
- Tried and tested workflow
- It comes with a lot of content
- Great value
Apple Logic Pro Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Only compatible with Mac
Description of the Apple Logic Pro
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new ‘full’ version of Logic Pro, version X was released in 2013, but numbers can be misleading. Version 10.5 is Logic Pro 11 in all but name, turning the most traditional DAW into a truly contemporary music creation platform.
Central to this revision is the addition of Ableton-style Live Loops, which let you improvise on ideas before recording them to the main timeline. There’s also a new step sequencer, completely revamped samplers, and new tools for electronic beatmakers.
While Apple largely follows trends here rather than setting them, this is the modernization step many Logic users have been waiting for.
More than all that though, Logic Pro maintains excellent value for money. This is just the latest of many well-reviewed free updates. For the price, Mac users won’t find a more complete set of music production tools anywhere else.
Apple Logic Pro Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Standard | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.6 or later, 64-bit processor
Official website: Apple Logic Pro
If you are interested in electronic or Pop music, we leave you a guide on how to make Beats online and for free with the best software and apps for Beatmakers.
PreSonus Studio One 5
PreSonus Studio One Price: Starting at $100 / £85 / €95 | Compatibility: PC / Mac
A DAW that challenges the leadership of the best music recording software
Advantages of the PreSonus Studio One 5: Reasons to buy
- Excellent all terrain
- Productive workflow
- mature, stable and contemporary
PreSonus Studio One 5 Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Incessantly busy interface can be overwhelming
Description of the PreSonus Studio One 5
Studio One has been gaining ground for a number of years, and is now a DAW of real power and maturity. Presonus has not only been matching its rivals in most respects, but going beyond them in some areas.
In version 5, the music recording software reaches a high level. Thus, with a full-fledged score editor and Clip Gain Envelopes that provide great automation. In fact, whether you are a beginner or experienced in music production, you should give this DAW a try, without a doubt, it is one of the best DAWs out there.
This DAW with its modern and responsive interface, smooth workflow, and innovative yet relevant feature set, truly represents the state of the art in virtual studio design. Thus, Studio One 5 is the DAW with one of the best interfaces.
PreSonus Studio One 5 Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Prime (free), Artist, Professional | System Requirements (PC): Windows 10 (64-bit only); Intel Core i3 / AMD A10 processor or better, minimum 4 GB of RAM / recommended 8 GB or more; 40 GB of free hard disk space (Studio One Professional); 20 GB of free hard disk space (Studio One Artist) | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13 or higher (64-bit only); Intel Core i3 or better (Apple Silicon M1 compatibility in early 2021); minimum 4 GB of RAM / recommended 8 GB or more; 40 GB of free hard disk space (Studio One Professional); 20 GB free hard disk space (Studio One Artist).
Official Website: Presonus Studio One
Cocko Reaper 6
Cockos Reaper 6 price: Non-commercial license $60; Business License $225 | Compatibility: PC / Mac / Linux (experimental)
A really powerful DAW at a bargain price
Advantages of the Cockos Reaper 6: Reasons to buy
- Incredible value for money
- Sophisticated audio/MIDI routing capabilities
- Small storage footprint
Cockos Reaper Cons 6: Reasons to Avoid
- Does not come with many accessories
Description of the Cockos Reaper 6
For the benefit of those who don’t know, Reaper is an extraordinarily affordable cross-platform DAW. Furthermore this DAW takes up little space and has sophisticated audio/MIDI routing capabilities. In addition, the Demo is fully functional, even if it lasts only 30 days.
This is one of the most customizable and affordable DAWs out there. What’s more, it’s wonderfully responsive, with everything from panning and zooming to fader movements and element editing feeling fast and fluid. Reaper 6 continues the good work of previous versions, offering subtle refinements that you’ll appreciate every day.
Allow some budget for the sound material of your choice and Reaper turns it into a first class music production environment.
Cockos Reaper 6 Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Standard | System Requirements (PC): 32-bit: Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10; 12MB storage space; 64-bit: Windows XP / Vista / 7/8/10 x64; 13 MB of storage space | System requirements (Mac): 32-bit: OS X 10.5-10.13; 18 MB of storage space; 64-bit: OS X 10.5-10.14, 20MB storage space (Dedicated version of OS X 10.15 Catalina is also available).
More information: Cockos Reaper 6
If you want to put together a complete Home Studio, you may be interested in our analysis of the best cheap electronic drums.
Reason Studios Reason
Reason Studios Reason Price: From $99 / £69 / €79 to $499 / £279 / €319 | Compatibility: PC / Mac
Rack-based DAW can now be used as a plugin.
Reason Studios Reason Advantages: Reasons to Buy
- Unique Rack-based workflow
- Great SSL modeling mixer
- You can use their devices as a plugin.
Reason Studios Reason Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Hardware design is not for everyone
Description of Reason Studios
Reason Studios has undergone some big changes in the last few years. In 2019, its developer, Propellerhead Software, became Reason Studios. The company then released version 11 of the rack-based DAW. This introduced the Reason Rack plugin, which allows the main DAW tools to be used as a VST 3 or AU plugin within another DAW.
Of course, you can still use Reason as your main DAW, but with the stock instruments and effects now available to use anywhere you want, and a new MIDI output device to control your outboard gear, Reason has become much more powerful. more than a DAW.
Reason 12 goes even further with a more powerful and flexible Combinator, high-resolution graphics, and a new sampler. The software is now also available on a subscription basis, through the Reason+ service.
Reason Studios Reason Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Intro, Standard, Suite | System Requirements (PC): Windows 7 or later (64-bit); Intel or AMD multi-core processor; 4 GB of RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or rack extensions); 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. In addition, the program can use up to 20 GB of temporary disk space. | System Requirements (Mac): Mac OS X 10.11 or later (64-bit); Intel Mac with multi-core processor; 4 GB of RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or rack extensions); 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. In addition, the program can use up to 20 GB of temporary disk space.
Official Website: Reason Studios
Bitwig Studio Price: From $99 / £108 / €99 | Compatibility: PC / Mac / Linux
A great option for the creative producer.
Bitwig Studio Advantages: Reasons to Buy
- Flexible modulation system
- Built-in modular environment
- Genuinely progressive feature set
Bitwig Studio Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Ableton Live still casts a shadow.
Description of Bitwig Studio
Bitwig Studio is now seven years old since its first version release. However, the app has come a long way in this time. It hasn’t yet freed itself from the inevitable comparisons to Ableton Live, though, given its similarities in workflow. Now adding multiple features that have bolstered Bitwig’s reputation as arguably the most inventive DAW on the market.
That said, version 4 is most notable for the introduction of a pretty fundamental feature: comping. However, this is handled in a typically elegant, ‘Bitwiggy’ way, and if you’re looking for some ‘creative’ new functionality, consider Operators, which add a new and very powerful dimension to how and when MIDI or audio events are triggered.
Bitwig Studio Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: 16 tracks, standard | System Requirements (PC): Windows 7 or later (64-bit); AMD or Intel dual-core or faster CPU with SSE4.1 support; 4GB of RAM; minimum 12 GB of free disk space (for full content installation). | System Requirements (Mac): Mac OS X 10.13 or later; Intel 64-bit CPU; 4GB of RAM; 12 GB minimum free disk space (for full content installation). | System requirements (Linux): Ubuntu 18.04 or later; 64-bit dual-core x86 CPU or higher with SSE3 support; minimum 12 GB of free disk space (for full content installation).
Official Website: Bitwig Studio
Apple GarageBand Price: Free | Compatibility: PC / Mac
A great introduction to music creation.
Advantages of the Apple GarageBand: Reasons to buy
- Free with all Macs
- Very easy to use
- Out-of-the-box upgrade path
- Full compatibility with Apple Logic Pro
Cons of the Apple GarageBand: Reasons to Avoid
- None for being a free DAW
Description of the Apple GarageBand
More than 17 years after John Mayer helped launch it at Macworld, GarageBand has become quite a capable DAW. Sure, it’s great for beginners, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find some pretty more advanced features too.
Non-musicians can simply sequence the supplied audio loops, but a decent collection of software instruments is also included. Also, you can use the multitrack recording functionality and a nice selection of virtual guitar amps and pedals. Drummer is great for automatically generating beats, smart controls make editing sounds more enjoyable, and you can even use the Logic Remote app for iPad to control the software.
As a bonus, projects are compatible with Logic Pro, GarageBand’s big brother, and also with the iOS version of GarageBand, giving you a mobile option. Also, the fact that it’s free means that all fans should give it a try.
Before it was only available for Mac, now GarageBand also has its version for Windows PC. Now everyone can use it!
Apple GarageBand Requirements and Compatibility
System requirements: macOS 10.13.6 or later.
Acoustic Mixcraft 9
Mixcraft Acoustica Price: Starting at $49 | Compatibility: PC
A GarageBand rival for Windows users
Acoustica Mixcraft 9 Advantages: Reasons to Buy
- Easy to use
- You won’t get over it easily
- Decent content library
Acoustica Mixcraft 9 Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- No obvious upgrade path
Description of Acoustica Mixcraft 9
For its ease of use and learning, the Acoustica Mixcraft 9 can be compared to the GarageBand. Through its eight major updates, Mixcraft has evolved from a basic starter app to a truly impressive DAW, taking on features normally associated with more expensive alternatives.
Mixcraft 9 has a sleeker interface with detachable panels, as well as new automation features, vocoder tracks, new effects and instruments, and the option to convert audio to MIDI with a single click.
It might not be the flashiest DAW on the market, but investing in Mixcraft will give you a well-supported production solution that’s great value for money, and newcomers will find it very affordable.
Acoustica Mixcraft 9 Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Recording studio, Professional studio. | System Requirements (PC): Windows 7 SP1; 8 or 10 (64 or 32 bit); 1.8 GHz dual-core CPU (Quad Core or higher recommended), 8 GB RAM
Official Website: Acoustica Mixcraft
Avid Pro Tools Price: From $30 / £25 / €28 per month | Compatibility: PC / Mac
The industry standard recording and post production software.
Avid Pro Tools Advantages: Reasons to Buy
- A genuine industry standard
- You can start with a free version
- You now have a more contemporary workflow.
Avid Pro Tools Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- Still best suited for linear recording
Description of the Avid Pro Tools
If there is a DAW par excellence for the professional music producer, it is Avid Pro Tools. This DAW remains an industry standard in recording studios around the world. The software has never had quite the same impact on the home recording market, but knowing about it certainly puts you at an advantage if you want to work in the industry.
Recent updates have seen Avid improve Pro Tools workflow. You can now update tracks and timeline sections during playback, so you can experiment with effects, presets, loop points, and more, without stopping the music. As such, your creativity can flourish uninterrupted.
There’s also Avid Cloud Collaboration, for cloud-based project storage, while Avid Marketplace, which is designed to connect you with other members of the audio community.
Whether all of this will be enough to significantly grow Pro Tools’ user base remains to be seen, but existing fans are unlikely to look elsewhere.
Avid Pro Tools Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: First, Standard and Ultimate | System Requirements (PC): Windows 10; Intel Core i5 processor; 16 GB of RAM (32 GB or more recommended); 15 GB of disk space for installation | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.6 or later, Intel Core i5 processor; 16 GB of RAM (32 GB or more recommended); 15 GB of disk space for installation.
More information: Avid Pro Tools
You may be interested in our comparison of musical keyboards and digital pianos.
Cakewalk by BandLab
BandLab Cakewalk Price: Free | Compatibility: PC
Sonar travels again and for free
Advantages of the BandLab Cakewalk: Reasons to buy
- A free complete DAW
- Customizable Skylight interface
- Flexible ProChannel modules
BandLab Cakewalk Cons: Reasons to Avoid
- No Mac version
BandLab Cakewalk Description
In 2018, online DAW provider BandLab announced that it was acquiring Cakewalk IP, then owned by Gibson, and that the Sonar DAW would live on as Cakewalk by BandLab.
Better yet, the software is now available for free. Third-party content that was included with the paid version has been removed, but key DAW features like the Skylight UI, flexible ProChannel modules, and 64-bit mixing engine are here.
So if you’re a PC user looking for a new DAW, you literally have nothing to lose by trying this one out.
BandLab Cakewalk Requirements and Compatibility
Versions: Standard | System requirements: Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only); Intel or AMD multi-core CPU, 4 GB RAM; 3 GB of disk space.
Further information: BandLab’s Cakewalk
Best DAWs: Buying Tips
As we’ve already pointed out, the best audio app for you is the one that makes it easiest for you to make music, so it’s worth trying out demos of all the software you’re considering. Think carefully about how you are going to work and the elements of your digital audio workstation that are most important to you.
A DAW can be used throughout the entire music production process: for recording, editing, arranging, mixing, and even mastering. If you can, try working through this process (there are demo versions of many DAWs available) so you can try out the workflow. If you’re frequently struggling and constantly refer to the manual, the software you’re using probably isn’t for you and it might be time to look elsewhere.
It goes without saying that before you buy, you should also make sure that your prospective DAW is compatible with your computer, any other hardware you may have, and any plugins you feel are essential to your workflow.
Visit our review of the best MIDI controller keyboards for beginners and professionals.