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Since way back in the 90’s, when home recording first started…

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And the earliest versions of the modern DAW began emerging…

  1. Download REAPER below for a free, fully functional 60-day evaluation. No registration or personal details are required.
  2. Akai Pro releases MPC Beats - Free DAW with 80+ exclusive AIR Music Tech Plugins 22 Jul 2020 AKAI announces MPC One 16 Jan 2020 Akai Pro updates iMPC Pro 2 for iPhone to v2.0.2 19 Mar 2019 AKAI updates MPC Software to v2.4 11 Feb 2019 Akai Professional announces MPK Road 88 Hammer-action Controller 24 Jan 2019 Akai Professional announces Force Standalone Production Instrument.
  3. 6) FL Studio (Mac & Windows) Best DAW for Hip Hop A unique entrant on our list of the best DAW for Windows and Mac, FL Studio is absolutely free to use (that is, with unlimited free trial) with lifetime updates. And, FL Studio is as much a staple suite amongst EDM producers, and Hip hop boppers as it is for rock and metal aficionados.
  4. A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is the software program you use to create your music. The free DAW developed by Apple has done more for democratizing music production than almost any other music software. And if you’re reading this on a Mac, you already have it. So make something today!

People have always argued about which one is best.

And as the options continually improve, the debate rages on.

The Best Free Audio Editing Software for Beginners in 2019. 1) Tracktion 6 (Windows/Mac/Linux) Overall Best DAW for beginners This DAW was released as a free audio editing software in 2016 exclusively for Behringer Customers, but is now absolutely free for everyone.

For beginners starting out, that makes for a tough decision, doesn’t it?

So to help you guys with the all-too-common problem…

For today’s post I’ve created an in-depth guide covering the best DAW’s.

But before we get to it, let me first answer the one question you’re all probably wondering…

Free vs Paid DAW’s

Are there free DAW’s out there? Yes.

Should you use them?

In my opinion…No.

But if you can’t take my word for it, try one out for yourself.

Personally, I recommend checking out Audacity, as it’s the most popular free DAW on the planet.

Now at this point, you have two choices:

  1. Waste 2 weeks playing with Audacity, only to decide you need something better.
  2. Or skip that part, and get something better now.

If you chose option 1, I’ll see you back here in 2 weeks.

If you chose option 2, let’s move on…

Limited vs. Full Versions

Rather than using a free crappy DAW…the smarter plan is to use a “limited” version of a paid DAW instead.

Many companies offer these versions specifically to accommodate smaller home studios on a budget.

Most are cheap, some are even free, yet they still include 95% of the same features of the full version.

Since only advanced engineers tend to use the “premium” features, you probably won’t even miss them.

And if you want to upgrade to a professional platform one day in the future, you can do so without having to learn an entirely new DAW from scratch.

So if you want to start off with something free (or at least cheap)…THAT’S the plan I recommend.

Moving on…

The Top DAW’s

Poll 1000 studios to ask them which DAW they prefer…and you’ll hear a pretty wide range of opinions.

But listen to enough “expert” opinions, and the same few names appear over and over. Because they are the ones that have developed a strong reputation in the industry over many years.

And since each of these DAW’s has been used on countless hit recordings, they’re ALL perfectly capable of professional results.

So here they are, in no particular order, starting with…

1. Presonus Studio One 4

Long known in the audio industry for making quality hardware at affordable prices

Presonus recently decided to add their own DAW line as well.

So with the help of several formal developers from Steinberg Cubase

Presonus released the first version of Studio One back in 2009.

Since then, it has quickly risen to become a serious competitor of other top DAW’s.

Click below to check out each version.

  • Studio One PRIME – (free download)
  • Studio One ARTIST – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Studio One PROFESSIONAL – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Bedroom producers find this DAW particularly appealing, because Studio One Artist, is included free with any of the following audio interfaces:

  • AudioBox USB – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • AudioBox iTwo (Compatible with iPad) – (Amazon/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Audiobox 44VSL – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Up next…

2. Cakewalk SONAR

While it’s probably my least favorite option on the list…

Cakewalk Sonar has ranked among the top DAW’s for years now…

And is definitely worthy of mention.

But here’s why I don’t care for it:

These days, virtually every top DAW is cross-compatible on both Windows and Mac

Yet for some reason, Sonar is a Windows only program.

PC lovers might not care, yet no one can argue that a HUGE percentage of musicians are Mac users.

And if you EVER plan to collaborate with any of them…Sonar is probably NOT your best option.

Having said that, here are 2 things I like about Sonar:

  1. The X3 and Studio versions are insanely affordable.
  2. Sonar uses serial numbers to unlock their software, rather than the complicated USB dongles required by most DAW’s.

Click below to see prices/reviews for each version.

  • Cakewalk Sonar ARTIST – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Cakewalk Sonar PROFESSIONAL – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Cakewalk Sonar PLATINUM – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

UPDATE: it seems the development of Sonar has now stopped — officially, but still continues as a freeware, meaning the developer is not the former one anymore. And for that reason I would no longer recommend it as one of the top DAW’s, as its development and updates might not be reliable anymore .

Up next…

3. FL Studio

Formerly known as Fruity Loops…but after a run-in with Kelloggs, who thought people may confuse it with their breakfast cereal…

Over a decade ago, Image-Line officially changed the name of their classic software to FL Studio.

A top choice for Hip-Hop, EDM musicians and DJ’s…

It’s a big hit with ‘in-the-box’ producers due to its:

  • spreadsheet-like Playlist
  • flexible Piano roll
  • extensive automation capabilities

One of the coolest things about FL Studio is…it’s the only DAW on the list offering FREE lifetime updates.

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Purchase either the Producer or Signature bundle and you’ll never have to give them money…ever again. Awesome, huh?

Click below to see prices/reviews for each version.

  • FL Studio 20 FRUITY – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF)
  • FL Studio 20 PRODUCER – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF)
  • FL Studio 20 SIGNATURE – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

NOTE: the Fruity Edition does not have audio recording…So avoid it unless you ONLY produce electronic music.

They also offer a cool mobile version known as FL Studio Mobile.

Up next…

4. Propellerhead Reason

Much more than just your average DAW…

Propellerhead Reason offers one HUGE feature that the others don’t.

In addition to being a solid stand-alone DAW

It also functions as a suite of virtual instruments that can be used in combination with other DAW’s.

With Reason, electronic musicians can easily collaborate with producers working on virtually any platform.

For those who prefer the look and feel of REAL analog gear…

Its visual interface mimics the design of an actual studio rack, even allowing rear access for cable patching.

So if you like virtual instruments, Reason is definitely worth a closer look.

Click below to see prices for each version.

  • Reason 10 INTRO – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Reason 10 (FULL) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Up next…

5. Ableton Live

What makes Ableton Live so unique…

Is the fact that it was originally designed as an instrument for live performances.

And while it has since evolved into a complete recording package…

Seamless live performing is still one of its primary goals.

This fact is clearly demonstrated, first, with a visual interface that fits entirely on a single laptop screen.

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And second, by the MANY 3rd party hardware controllers designed specifically for the software.

The most popular ones include:

  • Ableton Push 2 (w/Live 9 Intro) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Akai Professional APC Mini – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Novation Launchpad – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

If a live performance tool is what you need, Ableton Live is what I recommend.

Click below to see prices/reviews for each version.

  • Ableton Live 10 INTRO – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Ableton Live 10 STANDARD – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Ableton Live 10 SUITE – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Up next…

6. MOTU Digital Performer

One of the oldest DAW’s in existence…

The first version of Digital Performer appeared way back in 1990…

Originally as the front-end of a Digidesign system that would later become Pro Tools.

Earlier “MIDI only” versions of the software existed as far back as 1984.

Throughout that time, Digital Performer was known famously as the “Mac only” option.

Which is big deal, since back then, and even more so today, the large majority of audio professionals love Apple.

Still, for that reason, they probably missed out on a lot of potential users. But no more…

Because with their latest release, they’ve finally made themselves cross-compatible with Windows as well.

I suppose it’s about damn time, huh? 🙂

  • Digital Performer 9 – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusicianF/Thomann)

Moving on…

7. Steinberg Cubase

The OTHER “old-timer” on this list…

The original version of Cubase was released by Steinberg back in 1989, which at the time, was MIDI only.

Not long afterward in 1992, they released TWO major advancements to the software…

Adding BOTH support for audio, and Windows compatibility.

From that point forward, they continued to refine the technology, contributing several major advancements to the music industry along the way.

Their greatest claim to fame was their introduction of VST plugins in 1996, and VST instruments in 1999, both of which became industry standards for many years after.

And even today, Cubase has managed to somehow remain just as relevant as they have been for the past several decades.

Click below to see prices/reviews for each version.

  • Steinberg Cubase Elements 10 – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Steinberg Cubase Artist 10 – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Steinberg Cubase Pro 10 – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Next up…

8. Cockos Reaper

Founded back in 2004…

The developers from Cockos Incorporated began the process of building Reaper (Rapid Environment for Audio Prototyping and Efficient Recording)…

With a unique bootstrapping business model that quickly positioned them as the top “alternative” to the mainstream DAW’s.

With no advertising budget, Reaper was able to build its popularity almost entirely through word-of-mouth from enthusiastic users who loved in the product.

The first big selling point of Reaper is its extremely frequent update releases, which add improvements based on the feedback of users.

The second selling point is its price structure. As of now, there is only one version of Reaper, which can be downloaded for free, and offers full unrestricted use with no time limit.

Their only request, is that after 60 days of using their software…you purchase either a $60 discounted license for private use, or a $225 commercial license if your business is making money.

And yes…I said “request“. Their entire business model is based on the honor system of their customers. Yet somehow, Reaper is still far cheaper than virtually any other DAW on this list.

To download the free trial, or purchase a license, click here.

Up next…

9. Apple Logic Pro X

Back in 2002, a small company known as Emagic built the first version of Logic…

Which must have looked promising to Apple…

Because they bought it soon afterward.

And it turned out to be a great investment, because since then Logic has grown to become one of the top DAW’s in the world.

No surprise, it is the only DAW on this list NOT compatible with Windows.

And while PC users might complain, Mac users can rejoice. And here’s why:

By keeping it a “Mac only” platform, Logic users are assured that virtually any audio interface compatible with Mac OSX will work with Logic as well.

And since these days Macs are so damn popular with musicians…

Audio interface makers know that OSX compatibility is a MUST. Ultimately this means a TON of interface options for the end users.

For the latest version of Logic Pro X, you need to visit the App Store and purchase the digital download.

Up last on the list, the king of all DAW’s…

10. Avid Pro Tools

In this day and age, Pro Tools has practically become a household name.

Because for many years now…

It has been the industry standard in music recording.

Everyone uses it…in pro studios, and home studios alike.

And that alone, is a strong argument why you might want to use it as well.

Be aware though, that Pro Tools also has more haters than any of the DAW’s on this list (and some of them may even have valid points).

But all this really means is that no DAW is perfect, and each one has both its stronger and weaker points.

So is Pro Tools right for everyone? Of course not. But if you’re a complete beginner, and you really have no idea what to start with, I’d strongly recommend it as a good default option.

Currently, there are 3 versions of Pro Tools available:

  • Pro Tools First – the beginner version, which is totally free, and can be downloaded here.
  • Pro Tools – the intermediate version, ideal for independant musicians
  • Pro Tools Ultimate – the professional version, which offers much more features then the regular version and is ideal for professional recording studios.

I recommend starting with the regular version of Pro Tools if you can afford it. And if not, use Pro Tools First instead.

Anyways so that’s the list, hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

What’s Next?

Once you’ve chosen a DAW for your studio, next comes the difficult process of actually installing it.

And when I say difficult, I mean DIFFICULT!

My first time took me a full two days of work before finally getting things working. Ask any old-timer what his first time was like, and he’ll probably have a horror story for you as well.

Just know that a little frustration here is typical, and it does NOT mean your DAW sucks. That’s just how they are.

Be patient, and know that you only have to do this once.

Then again, it’s been years since I’ve had to do it myself, so maybe it’s no longer as hard as it once was.

Good luck 🙂

Making music with digital tools doesn’t have to be expensive.

In fact, you can do practically every important task in music production using free software.

You might have already seen free VST effects and virtual instruments available online.

You’ll definitely need a good selection of those, but the first and most important tool to make music is your DAW.

But finding a free DAW that does everything you need for your workflow can be challenging. There are lots of them out there, each with different features and limitations.

Even so, there are plenty of great freeware DAW options if you know where to look.

In this article I’ll go through the best free DAWs and help you find the one that works for you.

Free DAWs vs Paid DAWs

Before you start looking for a free DAW you should consider your needs to make sure freeware is the right choice.

There are plenty of effective free DAWs out there, but many of them have reduced features and functions compared to full-fledged DAWs.

There are plenty of effective free DAWs out there, but many of them have reduced features and functions compared to full-fledged DAWs.

A free DAW is perfect for you if:

  • You just want to try out music production with a basic DAW
  • You absolutely can’t stretch your DAW budget at all
  • You only need a DAW for a few parts of your workflow

Many of the apps I’ll be including on this list are free versions of respected pro DAWs. These are perfect if you think you plan to purchase a full DAW eventually and just need to try out a few different options.

Finally, if you’re looking for a full-fledged production solution, consider expanding your budget slightly if you can.

There are a handful of respected DAWs that aren’t exactly free, but cost significantly less than the big names. The most common of these is Cockos Reaper, which costs only $60 USD.

But, if you’re looking for an easy way to piece together ideas and play with samples try LANDR’s new sampling and beat making tool Creator.

It’s a free online beat maker that uses pitch-shifting and time-stretching technology to help you piece together up to eight unique samples on LANDR Samples!

The 10 Best Free DAW Apps

With that out of the way here are the 10 best free DAW apps to get you started creating music on your computer:

1. Audacity

Audacity is the original free DAW. It’s an open source multi-track audio editor and recorder that works on many different operating systems.

If you’re only dealing with audio tracks, Audacity is a perfectly functional free DAW solution.

The main drawback is that Audacity does not act as a MIDI sequencer. That means there are no MIDI tracks for you to use with your virtual instruments.

Using plugins in Audacity is also a little different from pro DAWs, so it might not be the perfect fit for a full production workflow.

Despite that, Audacity is an excellent free resource that’s well worth including on this list.

2. Garageband

Apple’s entry level DAW Garageband comes bundled with every computer that runs Mac OS.

Apple’s entry level DAW Garageband comes bundled with every computer that runs Mac OS.

That means if you’re reading this on a Mac computer, you already have it!

Garageband is well-known for introducing many musicians to recording. But despite its reputation as a beginner app it’s still surprisingly effective for making music.

Garageband combines the ease-of-use and smart design Apple is known for with some powerful features for music production.

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Don’t overlook Garageband if you’re a Mac user in need of a free DAW.

3. Ableton Live Lite

Ableton Live is probably the biggest name in DAWs when it comes to electronic and sample-based genres.

It’s easy to see why. The unique “session view” makes using loops to compose songs incredibly easy. It’s built-in pitch shifting and time stretching in the warp feature are powerful and easy to use.

Ableton Live Lite is the stripped down version of Live that Ableton provides bundled with popular software and hardware packages.

Many audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, plugins and even iOS apps offer a license for Live Lite.

You’ll need a few of these items to set up your home studio, so you might want to look out for a bundle that includes a copy of Live Lite.

It’s a limited version of Live that will help you get the feel for this extremely popular DAW.

Live Lite gives you a total of 16 tracks with any combination of audio and midi channels. It allows up to four inputs and outputs at the same time.

4. Tracktion Waveform Free

Tracktion Waveform Free is an impressive fully functional freeware DAW.

Unlike some of the other DAWs on this list it has no limitations to track count or simultaneous recording.

It can host VST and AU plugins and works on PC or Mac.

Traktion offers a paid upgrade to Waveform Pro for advanced users, but it’s not necessary to buy the full version to unlock any essential features for music creation.

Waveform Free is designed to be easy to use for beginner producers and features some slightly different design concepts than other free DAWs.

Many audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, plugins and even iOS apps offer a license for Live Lite.

5. Pro Tools First

Pro Tools First is the introductory edition of the industry standard DAW Pro Tools.

It includes many of the powerful features that make Pro Tools the DAW of choice for professional studios all over the world.

But it comes with some limitations that might make you think twice. With First you can record up to 16 tracks of audio and use up to 16 virtual instrument tracks in a session.

On top of that, you can record only four tracks at the same time.

Despite these limitations, Pro Tools First lets you get started with the DAW you’ll likely be using if you go on to work in a professional studio. That’s a major benefit!

6. Ohm Studio

Ohm Studio is another full-featured DAW you can download for free. It’s the DAW project of popular plugin manufacturer Ohmforce.

Ohm Studio provides all the essential music creation features of a paid DAW without limits.

It’s built around collaboration with handy features to share your music with other people you’re working with.

7. Cubase LE

Cubase LE is another solid free DAW. It’s the lite edition of Steinberg’s flagship recording app Cubase.

Cubase was one of the first digital sequencing apps and it’s been a popular DAW choice for decades.

Cubase LE brings the best of that legacy to free users with only a few limitations.

With LE you’ll be able to record up to 16 tracks of audio and up to 24 virtual instrument tracks.

It can record up to 8 tracks at once and comes with some of Steinberg’s excellent VST plugins and libraries for its HALion sampling platform.

8. Soundbridge

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Soundbridge is another excellent choice for a full-featured free DAW.

It contains all the important key features of a pro DAW but makes them as simple and easy to use as possible.

Its built-in drum machine and effects are excellent and it has a stylish interface that’s comfortable to work with.

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Free recording tools

Making music shouldn’t be a financial burden.

That’s why these free recording apps are so helpful for creators.

Whether you’re looking to try a demo version of a classic DAW or just make music without spending too much money, these free DAWs will help you do it.