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Top 5 Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) for PC and Mac

Are you a music producer looking to take your music production to the next level with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)?

Look no further than the vast array of features available in today’s DAWs, including audio recording, editing, MIDI editing, mixing, mastering, virtual instruments, and plugins.

But choosing the right DAW is not just about features – it’s also about compatibility, workflow, and audio quality. Make sure your DAW is compatible with your operating system and has a workflow that suits your needs. And don’t compromise on audio quality – your DAW should provide studio-level audio and live performance capabilities.

Let’s not forget about the evolution of DAWs. Early versions paved the way for the sophisticated tools we have today. And while some lesser-known DAWs may not be on your radar, they can still pack a punch with features like rackmountable design and Thunderbolt/Firewire audio cards.

So, are you ready to elevate your music production game?

Choose a DAW that can handle all your professional-level audio needs and take your music expression to new heights.

Buying Guide

Choosing the Best Digital Audio Workstation

When looking for the best digital audio workstation, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key features to look for:

CompatibilityMake sure the DAW is compatible with your computer’s operating system.
WorkflowChoose a DAW with a workflow that suits your needs and preferences.
Audio QualityLook for a DAW that offers high-quality audio recording and editing capabilities.
Virtual InstrumentsIf you plan to use virtual instruments, make sure the DAW has a good selection and supports third-party plugins.
Effects and PluginsConsider the built-in effects and plugins that come with the DAW, as well as the ability to add third-party plugins.
PriceChoose a DAW that fits your budget, but don’t sacrifice quality for a lower price.

PreSonus Studio One (PC and Mac)

PreSonus Studio One (PC and Mac)

We can’t believe how powerful this suite is now and it’s certainly a worthy contender for your consideration when buying a DAW.

The score editor is a delight to work with and it’s based on PreSonus’ Notion for those with some familiarity already – that makes it very easy to learn. 

Though we’d like to see them release the print functionality from Notion, as you can only track the score on your screen for now.

Our only real complaint about Studio One is that it can end up feeling very complicated if you try and do too much at once, that’s a user issue rather than a software one, but a fairly common problem all the same. 

Ableton Live (PC and Mac)

Best Digital Audio Workstations

Ableton Live is the biggest player in the DAW world and if you want to buy the biggest, best, and class-leading workstation then there’s simply no alternative.

There are three different levels of product Intro, Standard and Suite and as you might expect each step up incurs a higher cost and delivers a ton of new features.

Intro is fine to get started with and it’s best to upgrade as you need features if you want to learn what is a fairly complex tool, quickly.

If there is an industry standard, then Ableton Live is it and if you opt to use this package as your workstation, you’ll find that you’re in the company of many top pros.

It’s worth noting though that the last update wasn’t as meaty as previous updates and we wonder if they’re slowing down on features now?

You should also be aware that there is a known issue regarding plugin delay compensation and it’s an ongoing problem that’s unlikely to get resolved quickly.

You can get a free trial though, to get a feel whether it’s for you before paying a penny. 

Apple Logic Pro (Mac ONLY)

Apple Logic Pro (Mac ONLY)

Apple users may just want to opt for something that’s a core part of their own platform and Apple Logic Pro is the main Apple, Ableton competitor.

It’s a lot more substantial than the lightweight “Garage Band” (though Garage Band is a nice stepping stone in using DAWs) and you really can develop the most complex of tunes on it as long as you’re happy to follow the fairly rigid workflow. 

One thing we’ve noted with Apple Logic Pro is that it tends to follow the pack rather than lead it, which is fine, because it means you’re never dealing with experimental tool sets but you’re also never ahead of the curve either. 

Perhaps, the biggest concern with Apple Logic Pro though is that it really hates some third-party plugins and you never know when a compatibility error is going to crash things out. 

So, give it a free trial at the link below and see if it works with your favorites before laying out the cash. 

Acoustica Mixcraft 9 (PC Only)

Acoustica Mixcraft 9 (PC Only)

If you want to keep your costs down then Acoustica is a great product to consider, it was a bit on the basic side when it first emerged but now, it’s an excellent option that won’t break the bank.

Don’t opt for the very cut-down version which is $50 cheaper because you lost a lot of functionality, instruments, etc. and at that point, it’s not such great value for money.

The full version has an excellent UI which is super easy to use though, perhaps, a little dark in visual tone – it didn’t bother us when trialling the software but we can see why some users don’t like it. 

The one question we struggle with when it comes to Acoustica is not whether it’s good enough because it is, but whether you’d want to change from another DAW to it?, and in the end, we think you should because it’s such an incredible bang for buck. 

Image-Line FL Studio (PC and Mac)

Image-Line FL Studio (PC and Mac)

Image-Line FL Studio is one of the more popular choices amongst professionals and, in particular, EDM producers who swear by the plugins functionality to make it very easy to extend it above and beyond the “boxed” version.

We also really love the fact that you get free updates for life, that makes the slightly steeper price tag feel like mega-value in the long run, use this for 2-3 years and you’ll be loving it too. 

The new(ish) Mac version is every bit as good as the PC version and adds even more flexibility to this powerful DAW. If you’re looking for solid remix software for EDM music prodcution this will hit all the notes for you.

The only thing we’re not 100% keen on is the UI which really can feel like it’s trying to pack too much into too small a space at times. 

However, you might see that as a positive reflection of all the features you can access. 

Choosing the right Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is crucial for music producers looking to create professional-level audio. With features like audio recording, editing, MIDI editing, mixing, mastering, virtual instruments, and plugins, the possibilities are endless. But don’t forget about compatibility, workflow, and audio quality – these factors can make or break your music production process.

As we look to the future, the evolution of DAWs continues with cutting-edge technology like Thunderbolt and Firewire audio cards. And let’s not forget about the early DAWs that paved the way for the sophisticated tools we have today.

Whether you’re creating studio audio or performing live, a DAW with the right features and capabilities can take your music expression to new heights. So, don’t settle for anything less than a cross-platform DAW that can handle all your music production needs.

With the right DAW at your fingertips, you can unleash your full creative potential and create music that will leave a lasting impression.