Making phenom music is the best way to raise your spirits this year.
It's been 2021 for, like, ten minutes, and there's already a ton of new music coming out. The pandemic has not put a damper on the music industry. In fact, it has been a breeding ground for exceptional new music.
Looking to make some music this year? The most important tool in your creative arsenal is your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software. DAWs have made it easier for pros and enthusiasts to create music, and they're only getting more powerful!
Whether you're just starting with music or have some experience under your belt, you need top-notch music recording software. Today, we've compiled a list of the best DAW tools to make your dreams a reality:
- Avid Pro Tools
- Apple Logic Pro
- Ableton Live
- Steinberg Cubase
- FL Studio
- Apple GarageBand
- PreSonus Studio One
- Cockos Reaper
Best DAW Software for 2021
We've carefully curated the DAWs on this list to fit all your needs. Let's dive in.
Pro Tools by Avid is hands down the most popular DAW software. It's used by pros in the studio and by enthusiasts at home. In fact, it's the industry standard for professional mixing and editing. Pro Tools is powerful, and it allows you to knock out complex edits in seconds.
The user interface, however, is outdated and clunky and is not beginner-friendly. Pro Tools comes with plenty of handy stock plugins but lacks a stock multiband compressor. Nonetheless, you can still use the available stock compressor for parallel compression and sidechain compression.
Pro Tools is one of the best music production software for pro audio engineers.
- Excellent recording quality and features
- Great editing capabilities
- Perfect DAW for mixing and mastering
- Can be confusing for beginners
- Not recommended for writing music
- Outdated user interface
Logic Pro is a popular DAW software that's super-friendly for beginners. It's perfect for composing and producing music, and you can also use it for mixing. It comes with some of the best stock plugins available in any DAW.
Overall, Logic Pro adds a rich set of features and systems that make your work a breeze. The tool is perfect for those who need a creativity DAW that's great for recording, writing, and mixing.
- Very versatile
- Great for beginners
- Great tool for writing music, recording, mixing, and mastering.
- The tool is not as robust as the competition when it comes to audio editing.
3. Ableton Live
Ableton Live is generally a powerful, all-in-one tool for composing and performing live music. Built primarily for use on-stage, this DAW is particularly suited for electronic-influenced tunes. It may lack some advanced editing and mixing features, but it integrates seamlessly into your live sets.
Ableton Live is perfect for a live DJ, electronic musician, or someone who wants to write music nonlinearly.
- Great automation and MIDI features
- Session view makes it fun and easy to write music
- Awesome stock plugins
- The audio editing feature is not as robust as the competition.
Cubase is one of the DAW tools that has been around for the longest time. It's popular, innovative, stable, and trustworthy. Thousands of composers of film and TV swear by this tool. Cubase has a powerful workflow for anyone who's focused on writing music. It also comes with all the bells and whistles you need for mixing and editing.
Cubase is perfect for those looking to write, record, mix, and master music.
- Excellent stock plugins
- Great stock samples and instruments
- Stable and flexible
- Beginners may struggle with the workflow
5. FL Studio
FL Studio is one of the most affordable DAW on our list. It's extremely popular among electronic music producers. This is because it comes with great composition features and is easy to use.
This DAW software is an obvious choice if you want to write MIDI. Unfortunately, it's not that great for working with audio. In fact, the cheapest version does not support audio recording. You will need to pay more if you want to track vocals or guitars.
- Excellent MIDI and automation features
- One of the best piano rolls available
- Available packages suit a range of budgets
- This DAW's patterns make it a breeze to write and organize songs
- You must assign instrument tracks to mixer channels manually.
- The user interface can get cluttered.
GarageBand, from Apple, comes with easy music recording for beginners and pros alike. You get it for free with every Mac. As a bonus, it's one of the best ways to learn guitar or piano on a computer. It is light, fast and versatile, and is mainly focused on recording and composing.
This DAW software may not be as complex as Logic Pro, but it covers a lot of ground for what it is. If you use a Mac, this is the best free DAW you can get your hands on.
- Streamlined user interface
- Makes recording and mixing easy
- Supports 3rd party plugins and 24-bit recording.
- You don't get a mixing console view
Studio One has become one of the most popular DAWs over the last few years, and for a good reason. It combines the best of both worlds from tools such as FL Studio (focused on electronic music) and Pro Tools (focused on audio).
This DAW comes with a drag and drop feature that makes it easy for users to build tracks. It also comes with high-quality stock plugins and an intuitive UI that makes it an excellent tool for mixing as well.
- Very versatile
- Lots of features for composing and writing
- Excellent stock plugins
- Customizable user interface
- The user interface can become cluttered.
Cockos Reaper is a powerful DAW that's budget-friendly and extremely customizable. You can easily change the functionality and layout of the software to suit your custom workflow.
The tool is beginner-friendly, and you can find tons of free tutorials online. It's the perfect tool if you're just getting started since it's so easy to use. And the best part is, it's just as powerful as other DAWs on our list. It comes with most of the major features available in more advanced DAW software. In fact, it's even popular with pro producers.
Cockos Reaper is perfect for those looking for a full-fledged tool at a low price.
- Excellent collection of stock plugins
- Powerful routing
- Features aren't as detailed as the competition
How to Choose the Best DAW Software
Whether you're working out of on small project studio or an at-home studio, your DAW is the single most important part of your setup. Today, we'll go over some of the key factors that might help you choose the perfect tool for your needs.
Operating System and Hardware
Are you on a Windows computer or Mac OS? Whatever the case, you need to choose a DAW that's suitable for your operating system. We recommend that you go for a tool that installs on both PC and Mac. It is because you might want to collaborate with other music producers.
DAWs have three types of plugin formats – AU, VST, and RTAS. It's important to know the plugin format of your DAW since varying formats might be incompatible. Go for software that supports your favorite audio plugins.
What are your music production goals? Do you want to produce music quickly? Do you need more audio recording than synth and virtual instruments composition? Does your music lean towards electronic music? Do you need to record live tracks? What degree of control do you need to have over MIDI and audio editing?
Pick a tool that aligns with what you need to achieve.
You don't have to pony up the big bucks to produce good music. Many professional music producers use old DAW systems very effectively. Even then, you shouldn't shy away from the more advanced tools. If your budget is tight, you can always take advantage of seasonal discounts such as Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Best DAW Software—FAQs
Which software is best for music production?
Ableton, Pro Tools, and Logic are the most popular with music producers.
What is the best music production software for beginners?
We recommend FL Studio.
What software do EDM artists use?
Most artists use Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio.
What music software do famous producers use?
Ableton Live is the most popular DAW.
Whether you're working from an at-home studio or a professional environment, DAW software has made music creation a breeze. With our list of the best music-making software available in the market, you have no excuse not to be creating every day.