Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

The Top Ten

1 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

I have been using FL studio since its was 3 i.e. FL 3. I am a music producer. When my clients ask the files to be exported in cubase, pro tools, logic, live or any other programs then I just simply render my FL Studio tracks in wav or desired form and send them. They say it sounds great and I have repeat customers more often. Also, he who says the FL a simple DAW have never tasted it. My desperate suggestion to the imageline.com is that please change the name of FL studio and the dispute is all over. You can name is IL Studio i.e. ImageLine Studio...etc...

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2 Ableton 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.

I started with FL studio but now I'm using Ableton Live 9 because it's so easy to use and I'm comfortable with it and I thing that's all matters.

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3 Open Labs StageLight

Pretty amazing even without considering price. Finally an app for people with touch screens. Absolute freedom from using a mouse which is impressive. But taking price into consideration, amazing software. I guess the idea is to sell sounds and features in app for making money? Sort of like games. I like it. - feydmusic

I'm using it for over a year and it's definitely easy (more like working with a tutor), advanced (considering the processing abilities) and literally affordable by everyone! The updates are very-very-promising as well!

Best product ever so glad I got it! It has completely changed the way I produce music! It is so easy to use plus in my price range! I'd highly recommend this product to all my friends and anyone who wants to create music easily!

Unbeatable price/value! It gives life back to music.

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4 Pro Tools

The layout being similar to old-school analogue interfaces is a great nostalgia trip for veteran audio engineers, but that's not all this DAW has to offer. Simply put, Pro Tools is a piece of software for audio engineers, rather than artists. While Ableton and FL are good for composition, and Ableton shines at live performance, for recording, mixing and mastering audio, Pro Tools is simply the best option on the market.

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5 Cubase

Cubase is probably the strongest jack of all trades in terms of DAWs, specialising in MIDI.

I am a composer and producer and I have had the opportunity to work with more than 5 DAW's, and I think Cubase has all the tools you need to compose, produce, mix and master music, in my opinion is the best profesional DAW in the marker.

The most complete DAW out there.

Great Audio editing capabilities.

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6 Propellerheads 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 ...more

Although this is more of a production tool than a full DAW, it's the best on the market for those who want ultimate freedom to tailor sounds.
Where it excels is the real-feel workflow and profoundly versatile instruments:

1. If there's a sound in your head, you can make it a reality with without compromising on account of limited functionality. The instruments have overlapping but unique functions, and can accommodate ANY type of music creation.

2. You don't have 8 levels of windows to control the sound on one channel, it's all modular - so productivity stays high, the workspace clean, and everything is easy to monitor.

3. Routing audio and MIDI paths is almost mindlessly simple, like plugging into a sound board.

It's as if this DAW is a physical piece of equipment, it's a much more organic experience and can really change the way you produce.

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.

Regardless of its sequencer being less deep than other more mature DAWs, it is still capable of delivering professional results. The stock devices cover a lot of ground and with a few Rack Extensions I have created my ultimate production workspace. The hardware look concept is pleasant and inspiring to work with.

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7 Apple Logic Studio

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).

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.
... Bottom line is this: MOST (well known) DAWs GOING AROUND ARE PRETTY DECENT AND ALL HAVE PROS AND CONS ITS ALL ABOUT THE USER... HOWEVER IF YOU ARE SERIOUS, YOU WANNA LEARN THE ROPES AND MOVE YOUR WAY UP TO BEING A PROFESSIONAL AND EVENTUALLY ENDING UP WITH PRO-TOOLS AS A PRODUCER OR ENGINEER, WHY NOT START WITH LOGIC? IT WILL BE A GREAT STEPPING STONE RATHER THAN PLAYING WITH LITTLE KID TOY DAWs.

I own reason, logic and pro tools... And used to own fruity loops

Has many powerful plugins, some of which are worth more than the daw itself.

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8 Steinberg 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

Very solid, Very Stable, Very Versatile. Most powerful DAW in the world from Film Scoring to Hip Hop/R&B all the way up to Rock music.

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9 Cockos Reaper

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 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

Got a bunch... Always end up back at Reaper... JUST WORKS

Started using this when I had the demo version for free, but paid the license fee because it was so good and easy to use. Having said that it is easy to use, don't underestimate how complex and comprehensive its features are. I am still learning more and more about it and finding new features the more I use it (about 3 years now).

I did also try some other DAWs when I first tried out Reaper, but mostly they just didn't have the features I needed or were very un-intuitive or were outrageously expensive. I could not find a better product in terms of quality and value for money.

If you want to digitally record multi-track multi-instrument music in a professional and quality manner with initial ease of use backed up by a range of sophisticated features, I can't imagine there is a much better product out there than Reaper.

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10 Adobe 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

I like Adobe Audition for its Amplitude Analysis so I use it for Mastering. Combined with a plug in like Izotope
Ozone it cannot be beaten when it comes to mastering. Use any of the other DAWs on the market - they
are all good and there is very little to separate them for doing your recording and mixing. But then do
yourself a favor and transfer your mixdown to Adobe Audition for the Mastering stage. You won't be
sorry.

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The Contenders

11 PreSonus 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. ...more

I have all the Major DAWs. Studio One 3 spoils you by making it extremely easy to use with it's drag and drop features. I love how creativity doesn't get interrupted by the music stopping because you're audition different instruments. This the only DAW I know that doesn't stop the music.

It came with my Presonus Audio Interface and it does so much it will be a long time before I am done exploring the possibilities. I have used it for recording my band, mixing live performances, sequencing, composing,

Is there anything another DAW can do that Studio One can't do easier?

This is the best DAW ever. Period.

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12 Avid 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 ...more

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.

Excellence at it's best...

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13 Magix Samplitude

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.

I have been working with this DAW for many years. I have to say, that I do not have a good comparison with an other DAW. But there was nothing I could not do with this DAW. It is super simple for newcomers and has a lot of features. And once you get used to it, you do not want anything else.

I have been using this DAW for over 15 years now also used to work with logic and with ableton live. Once you experienced its level of professional mixing and editing, I'm- and export features and mastering skills, these simply is nothing like it. Period.

This DAW sounds transparent, is stable, and reads/writes OMF / AAF files.This is the best DAW I have worked with. Samplitude PRO X3 suite is a complete audio editing software, it produces very high sound quality and has top quality plugins.I prefer Samplitude above ProTools!

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14 Cakewalk 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

I own Platinum, but also I own DP 9.03, PT12.5 (which is really no different than the last few versions), Reaper, nTrack, Ableton and Reason, I use PCIe and also Focusrite thunderbolt interfaces. All of them are usable, DP and PT for the 1st timers can be a bit more of a learning curve than Sonar, but the others (including Cusebase, and Studio 1) are functionally similar, however - none of them touch Sonar Platinum as a package or DAW in my humble opinion and what you get for the money speaks for itself. Just the price of TH3, Melodyne 4, Nomad's Blue Tube Suite, and Addictive Drums Producer (not including everything else you get and the rolling updates) far exceed the cost of the DAW and it comes with them for free. While I agree that the lack of a mac port is holding this back, the idea that anything works better or worse because of an operating system is ridiculous, uninformed and hasn't a clue how operating systems works.. the mac thing is a religion, same processors, same ram, ...more

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15 Motu 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

DP has been and is my favorite DAW. It offers everything that has any DAW and makes it more elegantly and with more quality. Is incredible. DP is my choice for many years.

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16 Steinberg 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.

I have used other DAW as well. Nothing beats Nuendo. It's best for Mastering and production. You should have good gears. I switched to Nuendo 5 years back and doing great.Sorry for other DAW.

17 Sony 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.

Bad :
Midi sequencer, maps...Automatic knobs. Needs a lot of upgrades.

Good :
The Render of Mixdown takes too long than any new daw... But, the sounds is better than any of this list. Just try to mix the same parts in any software...you'll see the difference. Sonic Foundry was one of the best company in the 90's. Trust me.

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18 Mixcraft

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

I've tried many DAW's, Ableton, Cakewalk, Magix etc. I gave up on them, and the money I spent. There is only one, that is user friendly, and that's Mixcraft! I recently looked at a "top ten" list of DAW's. The writer explained that it's normal to take a couple of days to get problems worked out and be ready to use the DAW's on the list. Which makes sense, since Mixcraft wasn't on the list. I guarantee you, install Mixcraft, and you'll be creating songs, instead of "getting all the problems" ironed out. There are no problems. Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio comes with Melodyne Essentials. Very Nice!

A DAW that is truly straightforward and easy to use, so it doesn't get in the way of your creativity.

The most intuitive, low cost, powerful DAW out there. Mixcraft 8 = hard to beat.

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19 Single 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 ...more

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.

My favorite for ACIDtechno in my phone

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20 Audacity

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!

I make all with this DAW: recording, mixing, mastering.
I added some external VSTs and the results are ok!

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List Stats

1,000 votes
42 listings
9 years, 145 days old

Top Remixes (4)

1. Open Labs StageLight
2. Pro Tools
3. Cubase
feydmusic
1. FL Studio
2. Ableton Live
3. PreSonus Studio One
Paree
1. Avid Pro Tools
2. FL Studio
3. Steinberg Cubase
MaDDBeaTz

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