So, you're looking for the best DAW Recording software right now? It’s a digital age, as we all know. No matter what aspect of our lives music is in, music studio computers have completely revolutionized it. It's not so different in the industry, either. What used to take days and weeks can now be done in a few hours with the best music production software. The output is also very refined and the ease of use is simply remarkable.
Table of Contents
- The Best DAW Recording Software of 2021
- 1. Ableton Live 10 Suite Multitrack Recording Software
- 2. Image Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition
- 3. Pro Tools 10 Audio Recording and Editing Software
- 4. Propellerhead Reason 7 DAW Music Software
- 5. ACID Pro 7 Digital Audio Workstation
- 6. Steinberg Cubase Elements 10 Music Production Software
- 7. PreSonus Studio One 4 Professional Recording Software Suite
- 8. Cakewalk Sonar Platinum
- 9. Studio One 3 Professional
- 10. Reason 11
- Useful Item Guide
- Recording Software for Each Experience Level
In this guide, we will be giving answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by music producers - which software do you buy and how can it improve your skills?
- More Thank 5,000 Sounds to Choose From
- Perfect for Beginners
- User-Friendly View
- 57 Effects
- Affordable Price
- Trusted brand - Ableton Live
- Excellent Piano Roll
- Proven Quality
- Free Updates for Life
- Great Synth Sounds
The Best DAW Recording Software of 2021
Recording Goals - Keep in mind that each DAW is optimized for a different use case. Before you start shopping for software, be sure to identify your goals. Are you hoping to primarily perform, produce, mix, or a combination of the three? Will you be using your DAW for personal or professional use? Some musicians may prefer to have access to more than one DAW to optimize workflow based on their needs.
1. Ableton Live 10 Suite Multitrack Recording Software
The Ableton Live 10 is one of the best-loved pieces of DAW recording software on the market. It has so many plus points, but its best feature is the breadth of options that it gives you. You’re able to record on multiple tracks with this industry-standard software, as well as sequence MIDI files. One feature that stands out, is the wealth of samples that it offers, with more than 5,000 sounds to choose from, as well as 57 different effects.
Built into the software are ten different electronic instruments, with everything from a drum track to a wavetable to choose from. Ableton Live 10 is a reliable, safe choice for home producers of all levels, but it's especially good for novices looking to experiment.
+ More Thank 5,000 Sounds to Choose From
+ Perfect for Beginners
+ User-Friendly View
+ 57 Effects
+ Affordable Price
+ Trusted brand - Ableton Live
Why We Liked It - Ableton Live offers you choices. There's so much to experiment with, and so many virtual instruments to try out. It’s fun to just play around on, as well as being professional enough to create slick-sounding music in the studio, making it one of the best DAW software available.
2. Image Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition
Simplicity is the reason why this DAW software has so many fans. The original Fruity Loops software was ground-breaking when it was released back in the late 1990s. And for more than two decades, the creators of FL Studio have built and improved on the original product. This edition still has the simple, user-friendly setup that audio producers love.
But it's also loaded with handy features too. For example, the ‘Piano Roll’ is one of the best you’ll find in any DAW, and this software also includes some superb synth sounds. This means you don’t need to invest in extra synth software. The FL Studio team likes to look after its customers too, so when you purchase this software, then you’ll be ensured free updates for as long as the manufacturers continue to make them.
+ Excellent Piano Roll
+ Proven Quality
+ Free Updates for Life
+ Great Synth Sounds
Why We Liked It - FL Studio has stood the test of time because it’s an excellent DAW recording software. There are many great features to play with – especially the Piano Roll – but the ease with which you can use it is its greatest strength.
3. Pro Tools 10 Audio Recording and Editing Software
Avid Pro Tools 10 is one of the best softwares a musician could ask for. The sound processed with this software is simply easier, faster and better. It's one of the most powerful software products available on the market today for mixing music, editing, composing and, of course, recording. The DAW package contains a variety of virtual instruments, including, drums, pianos, synths, and other sample instruments. This makes Pro Tools the best DAW if you tend to use a lot of virtual instruments in your mixing.
Pro Tools 10 Audio Recording and Editing Software for audio productions come with 8 GB of loops. With some of the most modern plugins and effects, you can shape your sound in any way you like with this DAW. The advanced editing tools let you craft, improve, and perfect your musical creations. This software offers excellent portability and flexibility by allowing you to work on a dedicated audio interface or from your laptop. This makes it the best DAW if you travel around a lot, or tend to a live performance or two.
+ Comtains Lots of Virtual Instruments
+ Modern Plugins & Effects
+ Great Value
Why We Liked It - The best thing about this amazing performance tool is the fact that it lets you work with or without an interface. The DAW also lets users create bigger mixes (96 audio tracks). Working with virtual instruments has never been easy with Pro Tool 10 Audio Recording Software. This is the best DAW if you're looking for variety.
File Types - It’s worth noting that more well-known DAWs, like Pro Tools or Ableton, may be more beneficial in a professional setting. You can export stems or individual audio files from any DAW, but constantly switching from one project file type to another can be time consuming especially if you have a high volume of sessions.
4. Propellerhead Reason 7 DAW Music Software
Reason is software for serious producers who are discerning when it comes to the sounds that they want to use. That’s because Reason has been developed in association with some of the most successful producers in the music world, including Hank Shocklee, Printz Board, and DJ Lucky Date. You can tell that passionate musicians have helped to design this software when you use it.
It's full of sweet sounds that will give you a huge amount of versatility in your home studio. It’s also got an intuitive setup that means you can spend more time producing tracks and less time reading the Reason instruction manual. It includes an exceptional, versatile piano feature, and three different collections of sampled instruments and audio.
+ Amazing Sounds - great for the studio
+ Versatile Piano
+ Three Sampled Instrument Collections
+ Lots of Synths
Why We Liked It - This is the best DAW for creating professional-sounding music, thanks to the versatile sounds that it features. It’s also one of the easiest DAW recording software to use. Take your audio to the next level.
5. ACID Pro 7 Digital Audio Workstation
Sony Acid Pro 7 is truly a masterpiece. Its powerful, digital audio workstation is considered to be one of the best on the market. It comes with features like multi-track mixing, home recording, legendary audio loops manipulation, and comprehensive MIDI sequencing for super music creation. The interactive tutorials, contained within the package, help you get up and running in no time. These tutorials are a good choice for both beginners and experts.
Some of the major highlights of this software include the MIDI track freeze, the dedicated mixing console, tempo curves, input busses, and great format support. Other than that, ACID Pro 7 also contains around 3000 loops and a huge collection of MIDI files for composing great music seamlessly. Acid Pro 7 is not a resource-hungry software, which means that it can run on almost any average computer.
It supports every Windows operating system, from Windows Vista onwards. For installation, you only require 500 MB of free hard disk space, and to run the software you need a recommended of 2 GB ram.
Why We Liked It - There are many reasons why we like this particular product. Firstly, the low running requirements, as well as the fact that it can run on any PC, is what makes this product our favorite. Then we have things like perfect MIDI sequencing, a track freeze mixing console, and others that contribute to our liking. This is one of the best DAWs.
6. Steinberg Cubase Elements 10 Music Production Software
The best DAW recording software will be worth every penny, and the Steinberg Cubase definitely is. It gives you options that other DAW recording software - even the best DAWs - don't. That’s why it's used by many professional producers. Some of the features that are rated so highly include the easy-to-use ‘Chord Pads’, its intuitive ‘MixConsole’, and ‘Groove Agent SE’, which you can use as a drum machine.
The Steinberg Cubase DAW is split into three main workstations, which are the Groove Agent SE, the HALion SE 3 workstation, and the prologue synthesizer. Although this DAW isn’t the easiest software to use right out of the box, after a little learning, you’ll be able to make the most out of the startling number of features that it offers. You'll soon have the tools you need, whether you're in the studio or performing live.
+ Groove Agent SE
+ HALion SE 3 Workstation
+ Very Versatile
+ Premium, Professional Software
Why We Liked It - THis DAW is the choice of many high-profile, respected producers because of the breadth of options that it offers. It’s a complete DAW recording software that you can do just about anything you’d want, whether you're just messing about or want to perform live - that's what makes it one of the best DAWs.
7. PreSonus Studio One 4 Professional Recording Software Suite
Over recent years, producers have increasingly started to use this PreSonus Studio One DAW recording software. The main reason is because of how cutting-edge the design is. Many DAW recording software has been around for decades, and the developers simply build on what they have, rather than give it a radical new design. PreSonus Studio One was designed from scratch so that it could give producers something fresh. And that’s what it does.
The single-window setup means that you can do everything at one time with Studio One, rather than constantly having to open different elements of the workstation. The sound quality is perfectly clear with this DAW, as it can support audio up to 384 kHz. Studio One has got loads of unique sounds, effects, and samples to choose from. It’s a top piece of software that will be well-suited to anyone wanting to try something fresh.
+ Fresh Design
+ Pristine Audio
+ 37 Native Effects
+ Two Virtual Instruments
+ Unlimited Tracks
Why We Liked It - Studio One is fresh, original, and is a pleasure to use. It feels like it has been designed to make the producer’s life as easy as possible, which is a big plus, making Studio One one of the best DAWs to go for.
8. Cakewalk Sonar Platinum
Cakewalk by Sonar is more than just a modern DAW. It is, in fact, one of the most advanced, and top-notch industry standard music softwares available in the market today. Cakewalk Sonar is a top DAW and comes with a membership option, which enables the user to download an unlimited number of updates and support. This includes improvements, new features, fixes, tutorials and more. The update and support are extremely easy through the cakewalk command center. This means that you can concentrate on what matters the most - making quality music.
Cakewalk Sonar comes with new, improved, and advanced features that are a great fit for any musician, regardless of the level of expertise, so you don't have to worry about too much of a learning curve. Some of the main highlights of this industry standard software are ProChannel Module, mix recall, acoustic guitar presets, addictive drums, vocal sync, audio snap, and more. All these features in Sonar Platinum actually make sure that you have the flexibility to create some great, pleasing music. This is a great DAW.
Why We Liked It - The single window interface, with drag and drop support, the analog strip, addictive drumming sounds, a variety of virtual instruments, and the vocal alignment in town, known as VocalSync.
9. Studio One 3 Professional
Studio One 3 Professional is a special musical software, built for creative people by creative people. The software has almost everything that will let you create super music. Some of the highlights of this great software include production and songwriting tools that put you in charge of your thoughts, drag-and-drop, a fast interface, and awesome 64 bit sound quality.
All these features make Studio One 3 Professional a favorite musical companion of both inspiring and professional musicians. This DAW is also one of the most widely used musical software in the world. Its iPad control gives more control when mixing, and the multi-touch support platform provides ease of use.
One 3 Professional works like a charm on high-resolution displays with this DAW. With its inbuilt help and documentation, you are never far away from finding a solution to your problem.
Why We Liked It - Some of the features that make this product our favorite include the multi-touch support with an easy drag-and-drop option. Unlimited audio tracks, effects, and buses make the electronic music production easy and fun. The DAW also includes Mai Tai polyphonic and XT sampler, which is one of the highlights of this product.
10. Reason 11
The Reason 11 music production software comes with the Reason Rack Plugin. This means you can take Reason's instruments and synths anywhere with you. Use them in your favorite DAW. This software gives you everything to take your music production to the next level; it comes with up to 31 effects, 21 instruments, and 7 Player MIDI FX.
Reason's Sequencer is great for editing your music. It's easy to use, making it great for any type of music production - especially if you're a beginner. The Mixer is excellent too - it features EQ, flexible routing, advanced effects handling, full dynamics, parallel channels. That's not including the master-bus compression.
Why We Liked It - Here are some of the reasons why we like this particular product. Firstly, it's a great DAW to use with every skill set. Whether you're a professional music producer or someone who's learning, this software might be your best choice. Because of that, there isn't too much of a learning curve.
Useful Item Guide
In the recent past, music recording was something that was only associated with specialized studios, with heavy, and expensive music equipment. There was said to be a big learning curve. People keen on music recording and producing used to have to go through a series of hurdles, such as enrolling in a relevant program or spending time in a studio with a professional. This isn't easy for someone who wants to learn music-making as a hobby, or just as a part-time affair. Previously, even if you had to record a demo of your song or music tunes, you had to go through some serious studio time, which often came at a hefty cost. All this, and much more, has changed now, thanks to advancements in technology, e-commerce, and music developers that are willing to help out the masses.
Due to technology our devices at home, such as PC, laptops, tablets and cell phones, are now much more powerful. These devices are now powered with hardware which enables them to host a low budget recording studio at home. With a few wisely-chosen recording gears, dedication, and a love for music, almost anyone can form a small recording studio at home - and at pretty low cost, without too much of a learning curve. What this means now is that young and inspiring music developers can get ample hands-on experience of software, hardware, and tools right from the comfort of their homes. The next big music sensation of the world could, right now, be headbanging and producing some great music from his home. All they need is a great DAW, like the ones mentioned above, to create the perfect home studio.
This guide will tell you how to start with music-making software if you're a beginner, have intermediate skills, or an expert in the field already.
Let’s start with some of the most commonly asked questions by people looking to buy music-making software.
In this phase, we will be giving answers to some of the most commonly asked questions by music producers.
1. What is a digital audio workstation (DAW)?
A computer in itself is nothing unless you have the proper software installed. In layman’s terms, software helps humans communicate with the computer system. The software understands our input, and then conveys the same to the hardware.
When it comes to the music industry, it's the software that turns your computer into a music-making powerhouse, enabling you to make magic. We're talking about the digital audio workstation here. It's that very software which is capable of mixing, recording, and mastering music tracks. This software is also known as a sequencer at times.
The market is saturated when it comes to popular DAWs. They are available with a variety of price tags and features. From costing nothing to thousands of dollars, digital audio workstation software can turn your home into an electric music production powerhouse, when installing on your PC or Mac. This software usually enables you to arrange an almost unlimited number of music tracks. With music-making software, it feels like you have the whole world in your hands. So, if you’re a solo musician who wants to have an entire orchestra backing you, you have to buy the right DAW for you.
2. Free vs. Paid DAW's
As they say, all good things in this world have a price.
This question is probably the most asked by beginners, and you shouldn’t blame them. When you’re starting something and not sure what the future holds, you might not feel like you should invest in software. We're not totally against free DAWs, but as things get serious, you should invest in a better, paid version.
One of the most common problems with the free digital audio workstation is the fact that it doesn’t let you create professional sounding music tracks. There are a lot of limitations that you sometimes deal with, it's your creativity and music that ultimately suffers. The free DAWs are usually pretty, with a nice, easy to use interface, but they typically don’t have the ability to polish up tracks like paid ones. So, yes, you can make a start with this free music making software, but don’t expect your output to be a masterpiece. Some free DAWs may have the feature of VST instruments, but they are likely to freeze your computer, or become slow when using multiple features at the same time.
Investing in a paid DAW is worth the money, even if you’re a beginner, or just taking music-making up as a hobby. Your output will be awesome with this software, and you can showcase your skills easily to friends on social media. There is one thing to keep in mind, though – when buying a DAW, make sure that you avoid those bootlegged versions as that don’t support updates. Updates to your DAW software are important, as they usually contain bug fixes, new instruments, effects, and more. It's always better to pay a few hundred dollars in exchange for a lifetime update and stable software that can enhance your skills.
So, our final say would be that paid DAWs are capable of a lot more, and when talking about value for money, they are worth it.
3. How to choose your production software
We've already discussed that the market for software is pretty saturated, even when you talk about the paid versions. When you’re deciding on which music making software to buy, you should be careful. Choose the best one for your needs, and the one that can go along with your music in the future. Keeping all that in mind, we've decided to help you make the right choice.
Of course, this is the most important. You don’t want to buy anything too fancy, especially if you're new to the music industry. To make the right choice here, we've only got one suggestion for you – research, research, and research. Talk to people who are already in the industry about which software to buy in a budget. The Internet is also a good place to read some reviews about the products you're intersted in. You can then do a comparison yourself. It's also important to set your budget. That is, how much you can afford to spend on a DAW, as other things might require a budget too. Once you have the budget set, it would be easier for you to make a decision.
The second consideration, while you are selecting a DAW, should your experience level. If you are a beginner you shouldn’t look for fancy stuff, as most of the features in it would be useless at your level. Why pay for something you're not likely to use in the future?
For a beginner, it's a good idea to list down the features you need, and then buy something that's close to what you require.
If you’re a musician at an intermediate level, you should also do the same as above. List your requirements and buy software that is a right for, not only your skills, but your budget as well.
Things are different if you’re a professional. You should be investing in software that's the complete package. Buying the best DAW out there should be your number one priority. So, don’t think much about the price, but the benefits and features it has on offer.
Let’s admit it; nothing pleases a musician more than a live performance. Live performances are what differentiates between an average and a great musician. If you're ready to prove your metal in the music industry, you have to show your skills during a live performance. Some advanced DAW software can help you achieve just that. So if you’re ready to rule during a live performance, your DAW should be able to complement you.
4. Which DAW is best for electronic music?
When it comes to electronic music, the choice of the DAW becomes increasingly important. DAW helps musicians produce beats and input mixes together. For modern music producers, it's hard to imagine life without a DAW, but the ultimate question here is: which one should you buy? We've decided to compile the best choices for readers who're making an entry to electronic music production, and for those who are already a pro in the field.
Ableton is easily one of the best choices for electronic music producers. With its modern features, Ableton is specially designed for electronic music. Electronic music producers can do almost everything with this software because it sounds just as good in live performances as it does in the studio.
Cubcase is probably one of the oldest DAWs for electronic music producers. While this software might not be as easy to learn as some of the others, once you master it, the sky is the limit.
FL Studio can also be your best friend if you're producing electronic music. It's one of the favorites of the industry, especially if you’re a hip hop fan. This great software is only available for Windows, however. Hard luck for Mac users here.
Now let’s move on to different music softwares for different skill sets.
Software Subscriptions - Be sure to consider whether you’d prefer a DAW with a subscription or single-license model. While not all DAWs offer this flexibility, this can be helpful especially if you use one DAW for producing and another for mixing. This factor will also affect your budget and how many computers you can license your DAW to simultaneously.
Recording Software for Each Experience Level
Are you making a start in music-making? Or are you someone making a return who might have forgotten the basics? If you’re one of these, you're in the right spot. We've discussed some of the basics of music-making, such as which software is best suited for your needs, and how to grow your career in the music industry (if you’re making music casually, then this portion is still for you). So, whether you want to learn music as a hobby, are semi -professional, or are looking to be the next music sensation, this section will benefit you in one way or another.
If you’re a beginner musician, just learning the art involved in music-making, you should be careful with what you choose. We say this because we've come across many beginners who might have made it big, but couldn’t. And that's only because they made some of the most basic mistakes in their entry-level - one of these mistakes being the choice of recording and editing software. The market is, indeed, saturated. All types of companies and brands are trying to sell their products to the masses. However, not every software out there will be suited for your needs.
So, before we go any further, let’s start with what makes beautiful, soulful music; the killer combo of instruments (like guitars, violin, etc.) and vocals. Gone are the days when music was produced only with vocals and instruments. It’s a digital age, and now you can create music using digital tools. Yes, we're talking about choosing a software that complements your creativity and skills to help you create magic. For those looking to start learning the tricks of the trade, we recommend the Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition.
There is a lot to love about this product, so let us tell you the details of why this product is the most suitable for beginners. Firstly, a lot has changed in this software. All new, basic functionalities have been added – all this keeping the beginner level users in mind. This product is a result of years of hard work and experience. Developed by actual musicians, on this software, you will not only be learning the basics but also excelling with your skills.
There are certain steps involved in music-making, namely composing, arranging, recording, editing, and mixing – all these steps are made extremely easy, through Image-Line FL Studio. So, no matter what your skills are, you can produce music like pros with this software.
Alright! So, you know the basics and want to learn more? If you're in the intermediate stage, itching to produce great music to show people around you, you matter! We recommend our readers to be very careful at this stage. Why? Because you might try something at this point that's not suited to your skillset. You might feel like you know everything, but in fact, you don’t. What you need is a reliable partner who can carefully take your skills to the next level. That is, help you climb the ladder from an intermediate stage to a professional stage.
What we're going to give you here is exactly that; music-making software that will help you master those added skills you've been dreaming about, and create music that's bound to impress anyone. We're talking about one of the most technically advanced music making software – “Steinberg Cubase 7 Retail DAW Advanced Music Production System.”
This amazing software is packed with every feature a semi-professional or an intermediate music producer could ask for. It takes your creativity to a whole new level, enabling you to produce breathtaking tunes. The overhauled mixing console is specially built upon the requirements of intermediate learners. It's neither too techy nor too basic. The different sounding instrument content that it contains helps you play around with lots of music, and create your own.
Music is an art, and there's no end when it comes to learning and exploring art. When you’re a pro, or an expert musician, you'll realise that every day is an opportunity to learn and create something new. You’re an expert because you know there's still a lot to learn, and you're always on the lookout for something new. At this level, what you need is something more reliable that can adjust to your work habits and environment.
We introduce you to the Ableton Live 9 Suite. This software is a powerhouse when it comes to creating unrivaled music and performance on stage. The best thing about the Ableton Live 9 Suite is its ability to bridge the gap between live performance and studio sessions. Whatever you can do in the closed environment of your studio, you can do it live with this software as well. With Ableton, possibilities are endless.
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