Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Best DAW - Digital audio workstation for PC/MAC? Don't agree with the list? Vote for an existing item you think should be ranked higher or if you are a logged in, add a new item for others to vote on or create your own version of this list.

The Top Ten

FL Studio
Fruity Loops Studio is probably gonna be your best bet in the Digital Audio Workstation zone, if you are looking for a good, advanced yet simple one. I have used Fruity Loops since version 7, and it is very user-friendly, a good looking interface, easy and advanced at the same time type of Digital Audio Workstation you will ever have, now comparing this to Ableton, it's only what you can do better with either the two. But for my side, It's probably the best, and includes FREE lifetime updates, Performance abilities, several VST plugins that come along with it, and way too much more and more up with it. It is the best Digital Audio Workstation you can get.
NO MATTER WHAT, People will always disagree. If you like using a specific DAW, that is all that matters.

I have Pro Tools. I've used PT for 4 years now. However I've used FL for about 8-9 years, since version 6. There's a few things I much prefer in PT, but for my compositions and own song writing, its FL any day of the week.

PT I use to compose for films, or to record and produce other bands.

Given the option (please bear in mind this is my opinion and everyone is different so don't be elitist, you're no better than anyone else for using a specific DAW) I would use Fruity Loops Studio.
Awesome. My first DAW, and after trying a few others, I know I'll never use another Daw. Pure genius, everything works smoothly and is streamlined to perfection. Fully recommended
[Newest]I start on fl studio 10 it it so easy and powerful

2Steinberg Cubase
Not complicated at all, large flexibility in workspace (you can tune up everything, even cursor behavior). Large amount of built-in VSTis. Ergonomic interface an mixer. And much more. Perfect for any kind of music.
This has it all you need nothing just this and hit it
Really great flow and easy to use in my opinion - it is THE first class professional DAW and an incredibly powerful tool if you know how to use it

3Apple Logic Studio
Logic is Pro Tools little brother (with Pro Tools being the Audio industry standard and Logic being the consumer friendly DAW) Anything you can do on Pro tools you can do on Logic and vice versa giving you the richest, fullest, most professional sound for your buck. Lots of instruments, lots of plug ins, User friendly, easy to read not overcrowded interface.

I own reason, logic and pro tools... And used to own fruity loops
Apples Logic Studio is a great DAW!
For everyone who want's to play around with a software containing: professional mastered sounds / Plug-Ins, wide choice of "Apple Loops", good opportunities for mastering (even "top notch" mastering settings) and 100000 different kind of things!
It has a very user-friendly interface, is intuitive and has the Apple products quality. It includes tons of samples and a great collection of instruments. Above all, is compatible with almost all digital music formats (unlike the rest).
[Newest]Logic should voted the best cause it the most complete

4Abelton Live
Hands Down Best DAW so much flexibility. I started with Reason then Record the Logic, now Live.
Has everything you will ever need to create and record music. If it had a few more sample instruments it would be the complete package.
I've been using this DAW for just over 2 years on a Windows PC and it's just perfect. If you've tried the rest, now it's time to try the best.
[Newest]It's so fluid and easy, its simple after you press the tab button laugh out loud.

5Avid Pro Tools
If you want to play with the big boys, you've got to have the same toys, in professional music, it means shelling out big bucks for a Pro Tools System. Pro Tools is currently the industry standard tool used in countless popular contemporary recordings and music productions. And many will argue that Pro Tools is the best. Pro Tools has an intuitive interface that makes it suitable for amateurs and new comers, while at the same time it provides great depth and power for industry professionals. The downside however is its price and its limited compatibility and high hardware requirements. Still, if you want to have the best music production software that money can buy, you better check out Pro Tools and the range of products they offer.
Pro Tools is truely stunning! It is top of the line in all aspects of audio recording, music production, mixing and mastering, and so much more. However, Pro Tools (as you may be able to discern by the name) is directed more toward Professional musicians/producers. It is used by studios and big-name producers all around the world. However, though Pro Tools is mainly designed for professionals, it has an intuitive interface that makes it suitable for amateurs and new comers, while at the same time provides great depth and power for industry professionals.

When I discovered Pro Tools, my only previous experience with DAWs was with Garage Band, so you can imagine the overwhelming confusion that came with trying to learn how to use one of the most professional DAWs on the market after having such an amateur background.

I am by no means a professional producer/artist, but I would highly recommend Pro Tools to both Professionals and amateurs, providing that they already have an at least somewhat extensive background with DAWs.
Pro Tools 10 Rocks!
All the others can not hold a candle to it, it presses all the right buttons, very low learning curve but takes years to master has a class about it that other daws strive to catch up with and when they almost do, protools is off again reaching new heights of brilliance, suck it and see you will like the taste.
[Newest]This should be number one. It is by far the best and the industry standard. The only thing holding it back is price and the fact it is made for professionals. If you are an amateur go ahead and buy an amateur DAW but expect amateur results.

6Cakewalk Sonar
I really like this Daw. It does everything I need plus more. I am currently on 8.5 producer. My only wish is that it was ported to the Mac.. I an sure it would work even better on a mac.. Unfortunately, Windows is the only thing holding this product back..
A DAW for anything.. I arranges music and Sonar has been my loyal companion since 2006. I'm with Sonar X2 now and will be upgrading to X3 soon.
I've always liked the robust combo of the audio engine and the midi. By far the best combo out there
[Newest]If it were Mac compatible, it would be right on or very near to the top.

7Propellerheads Reason
Just love the interface! Three-level processing: 1. just create instrument/track, record, apply some basic settings and it sounds ok (for complete new-comers), not to mention the preset definitions, effects, etc. 2) Start tweaking the basing parameteres in the racks/mixer and you already sound cool (for those who know a thing or ten about mixing/sound creation/editing). and 3) is just... infinite tweakability, once you open the in-depth settings of sequencers, synths, effect parameters or you turn the racks around, to access simulating environments, rooms, miking, oscillator voltages (usable as side-chain parameteres for other effects, as well) or detailed synthesis of even wavetable sound instruments. Different built-in types of synthesis for synth freaks. Extremely easy midi hardware integration. Auto quantization of waves, etc.

Reason can do just about anything, if you know how to combine and chain racks, just as you would do in an analog studio. The downsize of that is that some things, like parallel compression, for instance (granted, you can create compressors with an infinite number of bands, chaining filters and compresors) may be a bit too complicated for beginners, and it would take some big space in the rack, where other DAWs would just give you a built-in plug-in. You can easily get native multiband compressors as native racks (Reason's equivalent of plug-ins), if you want to avoid making a setting for a band here, and two racks down for the other, but you need to buy them. Equally, if you need a de-esser, you can build one from several built-in racks, like eqs/filters and compression or buy a native one as a rack extension - and there are several excellent ones available, but they don't come cheap. The main thing I have to reproach Reason, however, the only bugging thing is that the mixer EQ only has four bands (virtual rendition of the SSL hardware mixer). It might be enough for Dan Huff, but not for me, especially since I prefer to record everything clean and apply everything (amp simulators, warmers, effects, etc) in the rack. Granted, you can add a ton of eq racks to each instrument/track, if you need more frequencies, but you would still end up working on a frequency here and on another one in another rack or a different window. I truly hope they correct that with the next issue (provide at least six bands of eq-ing in the mixer, preferably seven - shelves included). I would have some other recommendations pertaining to workflow accessibility (i.E. number of clicks for a transpose, for instance, as I don't like to keep that window open on top of other things), or a gate rack )(which you can also buy separately), other than just that in the mixer, but the mixer eq would be the main thing.

All in all, I love it, though. Truly do. Love the work flow, the interface, the feeling it gives me (of warmth and... human environment :)), the easiness of most things, the possibilities, the huge dynamic range, the crystal-clear sound bus, the flawless wave transpose and stretch, the powerful sequencer, the wavetable definition tweak options, etc. , etc.

Conclusion: thoroughly recommend it.
Extremely versatile DAW, gives advanced users the ability to create new original sounds and instruments that have never been heard before, though it takes a reasonable amount of technical understanding and a large amount of time. CPU load is among the best in the industry and it DOES NOT CRASH, EVER. From a production perspective its definitely my favorite though there are a few things that could be improved.
In my opinion (having used several DAW's) Reason manages to find the best balance between fun and inspiring workflow and in depth versatility. I rarely leave the environment. Especially since Midi hardware integration was added (in a brilliant way) since version 7. Oh and... I confirm.. Never crashes!. My premier wish for future developments would be to lay a broader focus on ways for use as part of live performance.
[Newest]The most studio-friendly interface for those of us who want more then presets. I'm a button masher and wire crosser, I love that Reason still allows this in the digital world.

8Cockos Reaper
REAPER just works, solid/stable, best business model/cheapest, looks best/skinable, small footprint, most updated DAW ever, best support, great to rewire with FL Studio, Ableton Live, Reason etc... Most underrated likely because of its price. So funny how ignorant & set in there ways & easily lead by commercial advertising so many people are who think they are 'in the know' esp. When it comes to Pro tools, it really is a clear case of the blind leading the blind :P
Low priced and full of features that the other big household names have and then some. I've been using Reaper for the last three years and I'm still discovering new features that I didn't know existed. It's simply the best!
Reaper is a great DAW, period. I got tired of chasing the latest expensive updates for Sonar (all the way from cakewalk 3) and Reaper has been a solid and affordable replacement.

9Steinberg Nuendo
For me Nuendo is a super complete DAW. In it I can record, edit and mix up with the audio quality and efficiency. Besides having an easy to use interface. Leaves nothing to be desired as the others.
The only DAW for serious film design and production. Automation leaves everyone else in it's wake alone.

10Magix Samplitude
Considered by many to be in the top four. More popular in the UK and Western European markets. Starts at affordable less expensive versions to a major player, Sequoia, which is full blown pro but rather costly. Fairly intuitive and similar to others, you go from laying and editing tracks, to mixdown, to burning CD, publishing and exporting.
Compatable with VST's and Mackie/HUI, M-Audio, Berhinger etc. controllers. Plenty of add-ons and effects. Newer versions come with 128 tracks and multiple simultaneous recording track inputs, depending on sound card, interface etc. Works on ASIO straight forward base. Not so popular in US retail music stores because of the low cost and profit factor. Samplitude/Magix has been around for a very long time. They seem to know what they are doing. It seems to me that the only limitations of this software is your own computer and hardware. As with any DAW, setting up all of your hardware, keyboards, sound cards, controllers, digital to audio interfaces can get confusing with a lot of trial and error and going back to the manual. But like with most DAW's, once you get it all together, it's a piece of cake. Experience being the best teacher here, I believe that the best DAW is how well the user is that is working with it. We tend to favor the ones that we are familiar with. Good luck to all, hope you find a system that fits your needs and are happy with it.
To be quite frank, in the day and age we live in, its all subjective. I for one think that in terms of audio editing Samplitude/Sequoia is second to none. Mastering Samplitude kills it hands down. Midi is well developed for the genre I'm doing, I started with FL Studio, then moved to Reason, at one point I was making beats on Reason and Recording in Samplitude. But today I use Samplitude for Beat Making, Recording, Editing, Mixing, Mastering and CD Authoring.
Magix Samplitude and Magix Sequoia are used by studios that are knows for I.E. The Vienna Symphonic Orchestra. And with a good reason. Samplitude┬'s for professionals, it┬'s fast, innovative and powerful like nothing else.

The Contenders

11PreSonus Studio One
Mixing? Check. Mastering? " check. VST 2.4 and VST 3 support? Check. User-friendly? Check. Drag-and-drop anything? Check. MIDI editing? Check. Piano Roll? Check. Exactly how many characters can I use for this comment? I have used Cubase SX3 and 5, FL Studio (which is more of a sequencer than a DAW, really, Ableton Live Suite 8, Tracktion 3, Audition, Sequoia, Acid Pro, Music Maker, Pyramix Virtual Studio, and just about every other DAW released for the PC. I really like Mixcraft 6 for its mixing capabilities, but I have to say the DAW I have always returned to after trying so many others to see if there is a feature I missed in Studio One, and can't find even the slightest comparison. I use a lot of Kontakt 5 stuff and really like V-metal, (after upgrading from Shreddage-X) and all it takes to create a dual-channel track is to click the Kontakt instrument in the instrument list in Studio One's mixer, and click the box for the next output. Nothing is easier to use than this DAW. To reate a pitch-bend in piano roll, I click on the 1st point, click on the second point and I'm done! I focus on making music and not on the interface. Everything is where I want it WHEN I want it! I recommend everyone to give this DAW a try just once and you'll be hooked like myself!
Love it! Works every time I open it and it takes 2 seconds to start with a template. So excited that I get to vote for this because I know that this software has a good following and a good crowd behind it! Thanks Presonus!
I've been using this DAW for about 2 1/2 years now and it's my favorite so far. In my opinion, it's the best DAW you get get for its price. It has all of the essential tools that a beginner mixing artist needs to start on a good note!

12Sony ACID Pro
Been using Sony Acid since the late 90's back when it was Sonic Foundry. I find the audio recording & plugin support great and easy to use. I also prefer the midi editing. can't really compare it to other DAWs, but for me it does almost everything I need. I have recently been working with Propellerhead Reason 6, and that seems though handle everything and more that Acid can't.
The XFX included plugins Need Serious Upgrading! They sound Too Digital and very Childish!
I personally wouldn´┐Żt use it for live recording, but as a Loop Base Music Production Studio
It´┐Żs the best in my opinion. For live recording I would use another program like Cubase, Protools,
Sonar or Samplitude. The new Izotope plugins work really well.
I've been using Acid Pro for a while. I disagree with the comment about the xfx plugins sounding too digital and childish. I do have a problem with the registration of these plugins. Sony's online registration tool is garbage and it needs to be fixed. I'm a loop based artist and for my money Acid Pro 7 can't be beat. For live recording I'd use Samplitude.

13Adobe Audition
I cannot find fault with it. Editing is its strong point. All the way from surround sound to spectral analysis. Not heavy on CPU usage. Multitrack functionality is good. Red book CD burning options are fantastic. Will use any plug in you can throw at it. Will use any hardware interface you can mention. I cannot find fault with it.
I got thousands of dollars just because of adobe audition.. Thanks adobe
good daw - now fully featured DAW
[Newest]Nice software for the beginners!

14NI Maschine
This is a great DAW, anyone can use it, even if you're just starting to make music. It will be twice as good after its upgrade next month.
This is such a great, and underrated DAW
Great all around Daw system. I love the 16 pads and midi for keys. I come from the MPC world so this works great live and in the studio. The editing and sample capabilities are easy and awesome! Best price and great sounds!

15Single Cell Software - Caustic
Highly Innovative, Friendly User interface, suitable for all producers from Beginners to Pros, Anything is possible with Caustic, there are no limits. Free for Windows and Mac. Genius Mobile Version For Android and iOS only $7.99. Large online community where friendly users can share their songs and content. Caustic is incredible because it provides endless possibilities to the creative Producer. Great for sound design as well, easily create your own unique samples and synth patches. However, If all you desire to produce is beats or sample-based music, Caustic has you covered here too. Like I said there are no limits, create the most personal unique music designed entirely by you or make hits with industrial quality, it's up to you. If you want a high quality DAW for very little cost, Caustic is the correct choice. Great software at low cost saves you money for other studio necessities, choose Caustic, after making beautiful music in a relatively short amount of time the scales will fall from your eyes and you won't ever look back.
The best daw on the market, easy to pick up, huge potential. There seems to be a lot of snobbery amongst daw users when it comes to products like caustic. Don't listen to these people, try caustic for yourself and see. Anything produced on caustic 3 will sound every bit as good as any other daw, and that is all that matters. Caustic gets the same results twice as fast and twice as easy as any other daw. Music making should be fun and intuitive not boring and complicated. What caustic has done is given us a daw that is both very powerful and capable, but still user friendly something the others are not. Also caustic, just like Cubasis is available on iPad which makes it the best and easiest way to make music. Also on mac and pc of course. A fantastic bit of software that just keeps getting better.
No other program that I have come across is as easy to pick up yet richly packed with features. It is simple, intuitive and easily approachable for a beginner to get started making tracks in the first few minutes.
[Newest]I love this program. Without it my phone would be redundant. Amazingly well priced, intuitive, simple for music beginners and full of depth for those in the know already. The price? An utter bargain.

I love mixcraft so much it's simple and not less quality comparing to another daw software, and very cheap price
Mixcraft 6 is an awesome DAW, especially for using a MIDI controller to compose most of a song. I have Ableton live and it can't touch the midi power of Mixcraft. In fact, Ableton barely works with a virtual instrument without the CRASH or poping and hissing. Mixcraft is something anybody can it the ground running with and is very stable. I'm using windows 7 with a dell laptop and FireWire express card and it is seamless. Appleton, not so seamless. How do they sell mixcraft so cheap? It is amazing! It is the best kept secret of all DAW's

17Motu Digital Performer
DP has been in the shadows of Pro Tools for as long as I can remember, but it has always be the more flexible, full featured DAW. The most recent incarnation gives you tons of usable plug-ins, instruments and endless routing, editing, tracking and mixing possibilities. It is a studio workhorse, head and shoulders above any other DAW for scoring video. Totally undervalued.
This is the best DAW out there for film scoring!
Best Daw for me work flow is ok, steep learning curve but works for me, I'd give it 7 out of 10
Have worked in Cubase, Sonar, DP and Logic Pro. I now flip between Logic and DP. For scoring and/or large works DP hands down over any of them. Period.

18Cool Edit Pro
Very reliable for audio recording with great effects and easy to use.

Will be number two or three in a few years time
Similar to Live, but has new features I.E. Better and more customizable interface, clip and arrange views, and sandboxed VSTs (meaning that when the VST crashes the whole project doesn't also crash). Currently it has no Rewire support and an advanced collaboration feature is in the works, meaning that this new DAW will grow bigger and catch up with the other bad boys once other features come in. Should not be 19 at least get this new kid at 15 or closer!

For the year this software came out they were ahead of their time. Try Track Caster which is the newer software from the developer. Rock solid.

21Merging Technologies Pyramix
As a Mastering Engineer I used Mac based Sonic Solutions in the 1990's. The company went belly-up and the winner after that became Merging with the PC based Pyramix. It can do anything you can possibly dream of, except make coffee.
Power, Flexibility, Features, adapts to your style, a little longer learning curve simply because it does so much! Sonic performance second to none.


23Harrison Mixbus
The best analog sound that I have ever heard

Tried the demo. Know I seriously need it. It's workflow is so logical, whether you be a tinkerer or a beat-smith. I haven't had a chance to experiment with its recording abilities and audio editing options yet. The layout is typically the first thing I focus on.
The most powerful for quick composing ever created.

25MuTools MuLab
Powerful modular area, routing everything to anywhere, several synth that can be tweaked to sound like classic analog ones, some basic effects (compressors, amp sim, eq, reverb, delay... Etc) good compatibility with plugins and good and easy audio recording. What else would you need?

Giel Bremmers' Studio program, full-featured, even in the trial version, and compares favorably with the big boys.

Personally, this DAW has a special spot in my heart, what with its tracker interface and everything. It's used by many chiptune artists (if that's your thing) because of this. Also, other significant artists include: Richard Devine, Christian Vogel, and the almighty Venetian Snares! They have a full list available on their website if you want to check it out.

If you're looking for an intuitive new way to program music, then this is it. As of the newest update (3.0.0), it is one of the most feature-full DAW's I've ever used; you've got to check out all the features yourself to really understand. Also, its preloaded DSP effects are actually quite good and professional.

For those who like customizability, it has a full themeing engine and almost all keyboard shortcuts are changeable. I forgot to mention, this DAW can be used with nothing but your keyboard! Now, if that's not cool, I don't know WHAT is.
Venetian Snares. That is all.

28Open Labs StageLight
I really like the simplicity of this software, you can get ideas down really fast. The controls are great for beginners like me.

29Prism Media Products Sadie

30Dr. Drum


I have Ableton Live 9 but much prefer Audacity and that is what I use day in day out. When I get an idea I can go through the steps manually, virtually nothing is automatic, and I like that as I'm a musician. My Live is limited to 8 tracks, but using Audacity I have as many as 35 tracks on some projects. Live requires much more screen real estate than my 19" monitor, Audacity serves me well.
Not really a DAW but if your into learning to record, mix, master, and effects, this is a good starting point!

33Apple GarageBand

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This list was created 6 years, 273 days ago and has been voted on over 1,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 2 times and has been blogged about 1 times.

Updated Sunday, March 01, 2015

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