While most DJs out there are going to be focused on the things that are most associated with the art, such as mixing and other technical aspects of DJing, the truth is that there is a branch of this art that is less known and less talked about, and that is music production.
In fact, becoming a producer is often said to be just as lucrative as DJing for a crowd, being more suited to individuals that do not like the spotlight.
Being a producer also has the added advantage of being able to receive a significant amount of revenue from royalties if the work produced becomes a big hit.
Music production is definitely becoming more and more popular as time goes on, and so it's important to keep it in mind if you want to make a name for yourself in this business.
One of the most important tools that music producers need to use, often on a daily basis, is something called DAW, or digital audio workstation.
This is a kind of software that is used to record, produce, and edit a musical composition.
In other words, digital audio workstations are the kind of programs that big producers use to create professional-grade master recordings, the kind of music that you hear on the radio, or even on SoundCloud.
They are definitely one of the most important tools out there for producers and so it's paramount that you choose the best DAW software out there.
In this article, I will talk a little bit more about DAWs. Specifically, I will mention what you should be looking for in DAW software, and which ones are the best ones on the market.
The difference between one software and others can be significant, so it's important that you know which ones are the most acclaimed by the DJ community so that you make an informed choice.
So without further ado, here are the best DAWs on the market!
Since DAWs aren't as well known as DJ software and they can be pretty intimidating to people just starting to produce music, many do not know what to look out for in particular software.
Because of this, I wrote a few paragraphs of the most important things to look for. This will hold especially true if you DJ for a living or are looking to do so in the future, can't afford technical failures/reliability problems, if you are on a budget, or want something that is intuitive and easy to use.
The most important thing that you must keep in mind when you buy or start using a DAW is how easy to use and intuitive it is to use.
There are a lot of crappy DAWs out there, with people often finding this out in the middle of a producing a song.
Plus, since DAWs are significantly more technically complex than DJ software, they are much more prone to being underutilized. You need more instructions and know-how compared to your typical DJ software.
This is the reason why having a DAW that easy to use and intuitive is so important. You do not want to get overwhelmed, especially if you are new when it comes to this.
The best DAWs are sometimes the most expensive ones, but sadly not everybody here is a millionaire, and so budget is a big consideration.
Thankfully, there are a lot of great DAWs that are very affordable, however, Just keep in mind that more budget-oriented DAWs aren't going to be the best.
They might not provide the best sound, they might not have all the most crucial features or they might have subpar reliability.
Last but not least, it's important that you look for a DAW that has enough features to suit your needs.
This is something that is going to depend a lot on how complex do you want your compositions to be, but in general, the more intricate compositions tend to be done with features found on the DAWs found on the high-end market.
There are few cost-effective software out there that have a lot of cool and useful features, however, they tend to come with some compromises too.
Out of these three, ease of use and intuitiveness is in my opinion the most important one. After all, nobody wants to use a digital audio workstation that is a drag to use, especially for newbies.
Thankfully, most of the DAW below will be really useful for both experienced and newbie users and DJs alike. In other words, there's something for everyone.
So without further ado, below are in my opinion, the best DAWs on the market as of 2020. These programs are the ones that I recommend you use if you are interested in music production and editing.
When making this list, I kept the above tips in mind. Some of the DAWs are meant for somebody with a limited budget, while others are meant for people that want to spend a little bit more.
No matter what your budget is though, I'm pretty confident that the DAWs below will satisfy most, if not all, users, especially beginner ones. I hope you find this article useful!
Perhaps the best and definitely one of the most popular options on this list, the first place is reserved for no other than the mighty Ableton.
A crowd favorite for several years now, Ableton has slowly cemented a reputation for being everything that you look for in a DAW.
With a myriad of very useful features, a strong focus in producing EDM and trap music, and a reputation for stability, this software has quickly become the DJ producer's choice.
While there are a few things that I do not like such as the price of the better plans and the fact that there are more intuitive programs out there, the pros more than outweigh the cons.
I highly recommend this DAW. It is the favorite of many famous DJs and producers for a reason.
Ableton has slowly but surely been updated constantly, and it has become an excellent choice when it comes to DAWs.
One of the things that I love about it is the fact that it looks so clean and intuitive. Ableton is one of the software that looks the coolest, and while that isn't that important when it comes to DAWs, it is certainly a nice touch, especially if you are going to be using the program long term.
There's another big pro when it comes to Ableton: you can use it as an alternative to DJ softwares. I know several DJs that use Ableton for their weekly sets without any hiccups, and this is something that I'm definitely sure that you can do yourself.
If you are interested in doing this, you are going to need an Ableton controller. These controllers are a little bit different than your usual Denon or Pioneer controller.
They do not have a jog wheel, which means that getting used to it can be a bit difficult at first, but let me tell you that's it's entirely possible to do so.
So while I personally love Ableton and most DJs agree that it's one of the best programs out there, there are some negatives about the program that I can't overlook.
One of these negatives is the fact that it's one of the most expensive programs out there. The truth is that even the entry-level programs are costly, which makes Ableton not ideal for people on a tight budget sadly.
The cheapest version of this program is more expensive than some full versions of some others below. But if have the cash to spend and are looking for arguably the best of the best, then you really have to look at this DAW. It's the industry standard for good reason.
Polished, efficient, and intuitive, these are are few words to describe Logic Pro X, Apple's response to FL and Ableton. This powerful software has been well received by the DJing community for many reasons.
One of these is the inclusion of innovative remix FX that is very similar to what is found on most DJ software out there.
Other things that DJs have loved about this is that this software can be very easy to use and intuitive, without overly simplifying the program, making it an excellent choice for both newcomers and veterans alike.
One of the few cons of this software is the fact that it's only available on macOS platforms, which is a bummer. Still an excellent choice worthy of the second spot on this list.
I personally love the stability that is inherent of this particular software, something that is typical of programs found on macOS systems. In fact, this DAW is made by Apple, so expect the highest polish and quality.
This has been deemed the most reliable program, so if that is important for you, Logic Pro X might be the best option on this list, but only if you have an Apple device of course.
Apple has hinted at making a Windows version of this, but so far it hasn't been announced yet, and it might not happen at all.
So I talked a bit about the good things about this software, but now let's talk about the bad things.
One of them is the fact that while this program is easy to use and learn, really mastering it can be challenging, especially considering the fact that the official tutorials provided leave something to be desired.
It's often said that logic pro X can have a steep learning curve, and that is something that I agree with. Really mastering this software can take years due to the fact that there are hundreds of key commands and shortcuts.
Still, the pros more than outweigh the cons, and so if you have a Mac and are looking for a very capable DAW that isn't Ableton, I would strongly recommend that you check out Logic Pro X, especially if you are willing to put the time to really master it.
Learning the basics is super easy, but really taking advantage of what this bad boy offers requires time and dedication. Anyways, this DAW is highly recommended!
Another classic, FL studio, also known as fruity loops, is one of the most popular options out there, particularly valued because of its relative simplicity without disregarding functionality.
Many a DJ have polished their skills with this awesome program, and while the program is not free, it's considered very easy to get a free copy FL studio if you look well.
The cons of FL studio is the fact that it's missing some key features that are found on the programs above, but they tend to only be used by more high-end and power users.
If you are just getting into this or aren't going to be doing anything too extravagant, you will find FL studio more than adequate.
If you can't find a free version of FL studio, then let me tell you that getting this program won't make a dent in your wallet. In fact, this is one of the most cost-effective DAWs out there.
However, something that I'm disappointed with when it comes to this software is the fact that the more high-end versions are unfairly priced, at least in my opinion.
The most expensive version gives you a few extra features and several plugins, but you are kind of left wanting more at that price point.
As you have learned from the above, FL studio is a heck of a DAW with a lot of awesome features, but there are a few things that are missing that should be on the program, which is disappointing.
For example, FL studio is one of the few major DAWs that do not support audio quantization, which is a feature that helps the user time correct the audio being edited, something that is super useful for newbie and experienced users alike.
Something else that I would like improved is the console integration.
I feel that FL studio should improve this aspect of the DAW because there are many users that are using it for heavy-duty editing and so many people are trying to integrate it with console boards, with many reporting unintuitive integration.
You are probably going to have to tinker a bit to really get the most of a mixing board and FL studio integration, even of the mixing board is supposed to integrate automatically.
A versatile program with several years on the market, pro tools is an interesting program with an ardent fanbase, especially for power users.
Aside from being used by DJs looking to master music, this program is also marketed toward sound engineers and it got adopted by music producers looking to produce using something new.
The nature of the origins of this program means that it's going to have a lot of features that producers tend to typically overlook. If you are an experienced producer and are looking for a new program to broaden your horizons, then this might be the one.
Just be warned that this program isn't the simplest one in the market. Getting used to it might take some time.
The big question when it comes to you choosing pro tools is if you are willing to stay long term with it. This program as I implied above has a pretty steep learning curve, and so because of this, this program isn’t the best choice for newbies, at least in my opinion.
If you aren’t too well versed when it comes to DAWs and are looking to choose this program, it might be wise to check out youtube tutorials extensively. This might be the only way to handle this program and really take advantage of what it offers, which is a lot.
Something that I really appreciate about pro tools is the fact their customer support is top-notch. They will help you with things as diverse as technical issues to even help you use a specific feature of the software.
Aside from Logic Pro X and Ableton, This customer support is pretty much unseen in the segment. This is a great selling point for both power users and greener producers, which might not be as well-versed technical wise.
One of the things that I hate about this DAW is the fact that it can be quite costly.
Avid, the company that made pro tools, gives you several price points and plans, which is great because it makes this DAW ideal for all kinds of budgets, but when people see the prices of those plans and compare them to other programs, they tend to forget about this program.
You can start using the standard version of Pro tools paying 29.99, which isn't too bad at first but it slowly but surely adds up as the time goes on. The tarted-up version starts at 79.99, which is pretty costly if you ask me.
Another bad thing about pro tools when it comes to pricing is that the company charges for the updates after you have a year of using the program.
This list can't be complete without Audacity, perhaps the most used program found in this article. The truth is that Audacity isn't an actual DAW. It has features that resemble an actual DAW, but the program isn't complete feature-wise for the term to fit.
One of the main pros of using Audacity is that it's relatively easy to use. If you have used other programs out there that make you feel overwhelmed or intimidated, it might be wise to try Audacity first to learn the ropes of the craft.
Keep in mind that the program isn't super intuitive. You are still going to have to do some research to start using it, but it's not as bad as something like Pro Tools for example.
Another big pro is the fact that this program is completely free, which is ideal for people that are on a tight budget or do not want to spend a lot of cash on a software that might not be the best choice for them.
Audacity is perhaps the most popular choice on this list, mostly because of the fact that it’s free. However, don’t think that this fact makes this software a crappy choice.
It’s quite the opposite actually.
I would recommend that you choose this software if you aren’t well versed when it comes to the technical part of these kinds of programs. Another big pro of choosing audacity: the community surrounding it is awesome.
There are a lot of people making free tutorials meant for people new to the program, which is something really useful for newer users.
Now when it comes to the cons of using this software, one of these is the fact that there are some very obvious limitations when it comes to the features.
For example, one of the things that I really have about Audacity is the fact that you can't update edits once they are made, which is asinine when it comes to a program that is made to edit and mix songs passages.
There have been rumors that audacity is introducing the feature, but as of 2020 it hasn't happened yet.
Other things that I would like to see on this software are the ability to do bigger edits, such as removing background noise and or even introducing add-on sounds, like a DJ software.
Akai has always been a very interesting company when it comes to DJing and music production.
While they have always made some very useful gear, they have always been seen as kind of an alternative to many other manufacturers, and I think this also holds true when it comes to MPC beats, which is Akai's proprietary DAW.
This particular program has some big pros that you must check out. Some of these include the fact that this program is 100% free.
You can buy some extensions for it, but they tend to be really affordable, most of you using this software won't need them anyway. This is a very interesting DAW that you should check out if you do not want to spend money on one and do not need anything too fancy.
This DAW also distinguishes itself for being relatively easy to use. It isn't as straightforward and simple as Audacity, but not as complex as Pro Tools.
It is right in the middle, and it definitely features more tools than what audacity does. It is a good combination of both intuitiveness and complexity, perfect for people that have mastered audacity and want something more complete.
Something that I didn't like about this model though is that it felt a little bit glitchy when using it, something that has been mentioned occasionally among users.
Also, the styling of the software is pretty polarizing. Some will like the industrial looking interface, but some will hate it. I'm personally okay with how it looks, the gray coloring isn't too harsh on the eyes, but some might think otherwise.
Also as I mentioned above, this software is free, but remember that if you want some extra features you are going to have to pay for extensions for it.
If you are looking for a more complete solution, I'd recommend choosing a full-fledged DAW like for example Ableton or Logic Pro X. You might pay more at first but overall you are getting something better.
Another DAW that is worthy of this list is Garageband, a program that has decades on the market. If you didn't know, Garageband is made by Apple for iOS devices, just like Logic Pro X above.
Because of this, I personally consider Garageband to be Logic Pro X's smaller brother. Garageband isn't as complete as most of the full-fledged programs above, but it's also very accessible, easy to use, and even better: it's free!
I would recommend that first try out this program if you have a mac and are new to DAWs and music production.
Garageband is one of the two free DAWs on this list, the other one being Audacity, and many people are going to be comparing them because of this fact.
When it comes to the main differences between those two DAWs, the first one is the fact that Garageband supports MIDI recording something that is very demanded in music production, while audacity doesn't.
This is because Audacity isn't even a DAW really, but it has several features found on DAWs so it's often grouped in that category. Another notable difference has to do with the intuitiveness of these two softwares.
As I mentioned above, Audacity isn't hard to use, but learning how to use it requires a little bit of tinkering with the program.
The official tutorials aren't as well done as the ones found on GarageBand, which in contrast are very well detailed and helpful. GarageBand's interface is super intuitive, beginner-friendly, and fluid, exactly what you want in an entry-level DAW.
When it comes to the negatives, there are relatively little honestly. The first one is the fact that this is an iOS exclusive, and It probably will be staying that way long term.
Also, the program isn't as complete as something like Ableton, Pro Tools, or Logic Pro X (Duh). Do not expect to do heavy-duty, professional-grade music production on GarageBand.
Rather, it's a nice, free program perfect for people that want to dip their feet in the world of music production without spending a cent.
A relatively new program in a sea of music production softwares, I discovered this DAW because of a friend that had been using it for a few months.
One of the pros that I found about this program is a relatively powerful free version with a lot of features, a tidy interface that doesn't feel as convoluted as many other DAWs out there, and built-in Melodyne capability, which is a software that allows for pitch modification a la autotune.
It's definitely a DAW worth considering, especially the free version. While the paid versions are pretty capable, they are definitely missing some stuff that is considered standard in professional gear.
Still a worthy software, but I'd argue that there are better choices out there.
One of the main benefits of using Studio One, at least in my opinion, is that it offers the perfect amount of interface complexity. It won't get as intricate as Ableton and Pro Tools can get, but that level complexity isn't something that 99% of people out there need, which makes Studio One such an interesting choice.
It offers just the right level of complexity without sacrificing functionality. I'm no music production god, but I think this balance is one of the most important things that a DAW can have.
Another pro as I mentioned above is the inclusion of Melodyne for free in the more advanced versions, which is a pitch correction software that I love using.
This tool will be a godsend for people looking to mix and master music with a lot of imperfect vocals. The other DAWs on this list can use pitch correction software, but the free versions of these are pretty crappy, and the paid versions are pretty expensive if you ask me.
In contrast, Studio one offers this pitch correction software at very accessible pricing.
A DAW with a relatively small but ardent fanbase, Bitwig shines in several aspects but falls flat in others. The program is quite customizable, but it's honestly outclassed by other programs on this list.
I would personally recommend that you try it out because the customization options are quite interesting, especially if you are looking for something that feels more custom-made.
One of the things that I most enjoyed about Bitwig is how well it works with touchscreens.
This is something that many DAW manufacturers have had a hard time in the past, but it seems that Bitwig is the one that makes it work the best, making it a great choice for those looking to use a DAW with primarily a touchscreen.
It does have it's quirks though, it's not a seamless experience by any means, but it's better than most DAWs in that aspect.
One of the negatives that I must talk about is the price point of this DAW. I'd argue that this software is too expensive for what you get, especially when there are so many cost-effective DAWs like most choices above.
The highest version of this is over 400 bucks, which honestly is laughable for what you are (or are not) getting. For example, the effects modules are disappointing compared to what Ableton, FL, and Logic Pro X offers.
Other negatives are that aside from being expensive, you are forced to pay for the updates after 12 months, a very unpopular policy found on many DAWs on the market. Other negatives found include a very small community (getting help isn't as easy), and some minor but annoying bugs found in the current version.
An underrated and underutilized software, this DAW has been on the market for a significant amount of time but hasn't really caught on with the mainstream music producer population, which is a shame because I really think people would like it if they gave it a chance.
One of the main pros that we need to talk about when it comes to this program is how cost-effective it is. This DAW provides a significant amount of features at a very low price point. It is definitely one of the most complete DAWs at that price.
One of the other pros of this software is that it's quite customizable, just like Bitwig above.
Unlike some other DAWs that kind of force you to use the program the way the devs want it to function, Reaper instead gives you several ways to modify things so that it works for your specific needs, something very cool if you are more of a power user or prefer more unorthodox setups.
When it comes to the negatives, one of the main ones is the fact that it's not as easy to use as other choices on this list. You are going to have to do your fair share of tinkering in order to really understand what is going on in the interface and take full advantage of everything.
This is a software that has a steep learning curve, but let me tell you that once you learn how everything works, this DAW can match even the big boys like Pro Tools and Ableton when it comes to functionality, at a fraction of the price.
I hope you have found this article about the best digital audio workstations useful.
The reason why I wrote this article is that since I have several years DJing and producing, many people often ask me which DAWs are best, especially for people that are most into DJing.
Also, I wrote this article because of the fact that since I have so much experience, I know which DAWs are best.
Because of the fact that I know that people's budgets are different, I made sure to focus on different price points so that everybody can find great software without breaking the bank.
In general, all of the DAWs on this list are excellent, so you honestly can't go wrong why any of them, as long as you are willing to learn how they work.
If you hardly know anything about DAWs, it might be wise to start with something that is aimed toward entry-level users, such as Audacity.
Not only is this DAW perfect for newbies because it doesn't overwhelm the user, but also because it's free and it has enough features to satisfy most newbie users out there.
1. Ableton - The Hotshot
2. Logic Pro X - For Macs Only!
3. FL Studio - Most Cost-Effective Choice?
4. Pro Tools - A Power User's Dream
5. Audacity - Best Free Choice?
6. MPC Beats - Great Free Alternative
7. Garageband - Audacity for iOS?
8. PreSonus Studio One - New And Capable Software
9. Bitwig - Great Customization Options!
10. Cockos Reaper - Very Underrated!
Other great DAWs include Ableton and Logic Pro X. In fact, they are in my opinion the best DAWs on the market, especially if you have the budget to afford them and are willing to learn how they work.