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.

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2 Ableton Live

I've used so many different DAWs over the years, with each having their various problems. Live is the only one that actually is able to keep up with my compositional pace. It's very intuitive to use, and unlike so many others that feel like they were written by coders, Live was something which came out of the Basic Channel/Chain Reaction stable of artists...meaning, it was created by musicians, and it shows! In its full Suite version with Max for Live, you have the feeling that you've tapped into raw sonic power with Live, and that if you can think of a musical idea, it can deal with it admirably. Having literally ridden the whole arc of digital workstation development from Studer Editech Dyaxis to the present day, trust me, this DAW is truly the pot of gold at the end of a very long developmental rainbow.

Well, I am not pro-ableton! Have tried it time & again...Poor plugin scanning, good luck getting through it if you have a lot of plugs...I have spent hours to days scanning plugs because it resets itself upon plugin failure & you start from zero again.
The stretching & morphing abilities are great but MIDI is poor because it never started out as MIDI. MIDI was added in like version 3 or 4. I don't see anything about the session view to go gaga over, many other DAWs have similar features (Project5, Renoise, etc). Many say their creativity has been unleashed with Ableton, but when I hear what they've done in it...well, you could've done that in anything else. Not the most impressive.
Ableton would be a great plugin, both thumbs down as a DAW.

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3 Open Labs StageLight

I have used StageLight since it first hit the market. I can say hands down that this is the best software available right now and for the price it's an amazing deal. If you can find a more complete DAW with a more intuitive UI then I'll buy it for you! StageLight is my new standard and preferred product of choice. You can't go wrong with it!

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.

Stagelight can run my vst instruments and has great plug-ins like the electrosynth. It has tons of great free loops and the drum programming is sic! Every update comes with more cool stuff like the glitch6 effect which has been something I've been looking for and haven't seen in other DAWs.

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.

5 Cubase

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.

Probably the most powerful DAW and very customizable making a tidy easy to navigate interface.
Loops and instruments are not as comprehensive as Logic studio, but it's just slicker and the updates are very regular.

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

6 Propellerheads Reason

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.

It's just so darn pretty. I own Ableton and use it sparingly because I can't stand it's bland interface. Pressing tab and connecting cables on the back of the rack gives me warm fuzziness. Sometimes you have to work slightly harder to build your own effect, but the amazing modularity of Reason makes it powerful and rewarding to get to grips with. The REs can be CPU hogs sometimes, but that's about the only bad thing I have to say.

7 Apple Logic Studio

Best DAW I have ever used, it has a good interface and good plug ins, also good 3rd party plugins making it an overall really good DAW to use a professional studio or home studio, you can make some very good beats and record some amazing vocals there's no other DAW I would want to use ever! In my opinion it is better than pro tools which is deemed as the best DAW out there.

As pro user of Ableton, Logic, Protools, FruityLoops and Cubase I can say only one thing... LOGIC rocks! The best allrounder for all business in music, film etc... The best in app plugins, dynamics, reverbs modulation packet... Great.. Cubase have better algorhytms for stretch and pitch but this is the thing that you can always do third party... The only thing I don't like is that is not PC version since V5.5 Platinum... Bastards... Definitely I don't like Apple hardware but software is great...

Great set of sounds, effects, and workflow. Wonderful integration with premium VSTs from third parties. The new Drummers is a gas, particularly when you add a muted rhythm track for it to follow �" Wow! I've not tried them all but I've never had the need once I tried Logic. If only it had a full featured scoring program to write music on a staff and have it directly realized and editable on the piano roll and other editing methods.

8 Steinberg Cubase

Pro all the way! They invented the computer DAW as we know it! That says it all. Right now they already have cuabse 6 out and it includes a lot of features that are found in the Nuendo series and it's to me the best production software one could ever use. I have used it for 7-8 years now and I still haven't maxed it out! You can do any genre of music on it with ease: rock, hip-hop, dance, electronica, movie scoring, you name it...!

For over a decade of production and mastering through various DAWs, I always fall back to Cubase to get the job done. Rewires seamlessly with Reason and Live, endless MIDI routing and compatible VST plugins, and most of all INCREDIBLY well organized. This is genuinely the Swiss army knife of audio production and engineering.

Editing midi is so easy. To change editing tools all you have to do is hold down the right mouse button. It makes editing midi super fast. Cubase comes with some of the best vst plugins from Steinberg. You won't have to add much to have a full arsenal.

9 Adobe Audition

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.

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.

A light DAW with amazing editing capabilities. CS6 works easily. If you want something easier, try Mixcraft, but the interface of the program is very intuitive considering I'm not very knowledgeable with DAWs.

10 PreSonus Studio One

Tried Cubase early on but with next to no satisfaction. Too complicated and resource hungry. Wasted my money.
A few years later I was given a legit free copy of early Studio 1 and found it way more intuitive and processor friendly. Have just continued using and upgrading it as releases and money allowed and am plenty happy with it. Still a vast universe of stuff I don't know or use but I can produce music that I like and casual customers will pay for and come back again, without me having to go deep diving the knowledge base. Supplied pre-sets and plugins provide worthwhile starting points for whatever I need and I know I can always learn to shoot with the heavy guns if I need to.

I own PT 10, Cubase 8, Live 8, Fruity Loops 12, Reaper 5, Reason 7, Logic 9, Digital Performer 7 and of course Studio One 3. The last one is simply the overall best... there are some TOOLS that are better in PT10, some that are better in Logic and Cubase is much better in MIDI programming, but the workflow and the features of Studio One are fantastic. You can learn most of the essentials in some hours and you're ready to go. Everything in one interface, everything where you can imagine it has to be, simplest configs... no quirks at all!

The Contenders
11 Cakewalk Sonar

If ONLY Cakewalk would hire the people to write the code for MAC, it is the right time to do so as they both use the same CPU's now. I think if this was done that Cakewalk SONAR would open up a lot of eyes and take the music world by storm. The DAW itself is frightfully able in all things music, it lacks just a bit, or maybe a bit more than that in the video area, but when it comes to music and ingenuity it rules, and NOTHING sounds better. It has as good a sound engine as Sequoia or Nuendo. I wish Cakewalk would let it out of it's PC cage and let it fly. Even though I am a diehard PC user, they really do need to make it Apple Compatible.

Simple and powerful. From the very first Cakewalk I used in 1990, MS-DOS to Pro Audio 9 for Windows to Sonar 2,4, 5 and 6, it never failed.

Simple - hit arm record for track(s), hit record button, and play audio or MIDI instrument. No glitches.
Powerful - all the stuff you need. It's like just having a Tascam 4-track, only this time you get unlimited tracks and MIDI, too! And bundled FX!

Simple, powerful, stable, and efficient. No frills.

12 Magix 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.

13 Cockos Reaper

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.

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

14 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 an at least somewhat extensive background with DAWs.

15 Mixcraft

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!

Mixcraft 7 is, in my opinion, the best DAW out there today. It comes with thousands of loops, an excellent bunch of VSTs (Journeys, Acoustica Studio Drums, VB3 Organ, Impulse, etc) and effects (Acoustica effects and Classic effects, better than you'd think) for a really low price compared to other, more popular choices that come with less. It's EXTREMELY easy to use as well, I have never watched one tutorial in my life for this and in less than a year I know almost every feature available. The piano roll is always out there when editing a VST track (unlike a certain other DAW I know of), and to top it all off, it fully supports almost anything you can think of.

16 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.

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.

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.

17 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.

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.

The only DAW for serious film design and production. Automation leaves everyone else in it's wake alone.

18 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.

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.

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 fall from your eyes and you won't ever look back.

20 Logic
21 BitWig

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!

I have worked with 5 profesional DAWs, and I must to say that BitWig surprised me; is very intuitive, BitWig takes the best of Ableton Live and I can to predict that will be one of the best DAWs in the future.

Amazing new DAW with developers that are listening to the community. Ableton users will feel at home.

22 NI Maschine

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!

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 a great DAW, if you don't know about it, then look it up.

23 Cool Edit Pro

Very reliable for audio recording with great effects and easy to use.

24 Merging 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.

25 Ardour

Been using since version 2, with all bugs and flaws of legacy design. Now with version 4 it is just brilliant. Name your price, from $1, or build yourself from source.

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