Best DAW 2017: Choose One of These 12 Top DAWs Today

Rob Mayzes, founder of Musician on a Mission   by Rob Mayzes

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 14.46.48 copyFinding a DAW is like finding a partner.

After you have designed your dream home studio, the next step is to commit to a piece of recording software.

And once you commit, you’re in it for the long game.

Sure, you can flirt around. You can open a different one up every time you sit at your computer.

But without committing to one DAW, you won’t get the benefits that come with a long term relationship.

If you want the quick answer, I created a free PDF for musicians who record their own music.

Inside, I share my favorite DAW for each operation system (Mac and Windows) after years of trial and error.

You can download it here:

 

Now, think about what your goals are.

Do you spend more time writing music, or mixing music? Do you want a DAW that does one specific job well, or an all rounder?

Once you have figured out what you’re looking for in a DAW, you can choose the best DAW for you.

This is the first step for many people – before you even think about setting up a home studio.

Here is the quick list of the best DAWs available in 2017:

  1. Logic Pro X
  2. Pro Tools
  3. Studio One
  4. Ableton Live
  5. Cubase Pro
  6. Cakewalk Sonar
  7. Propellerhead Reason
  8. FL Studio
  9. Cockos Reaper
  10. Bitwig Studio
  11. MOTU Digital Performer
  12. Mixcraft Pro Studio

Now, read through this page and choose the DAW that suits your needs.

Once you have made a decision, stick to it. Learn it inside out. Use the stock plugins. Become intimate with it (heh). The better you know your DAW, the better your results will be.

 

The 12 Best DAWs of 2017

 

Pro Tools 12

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This is perhaps the most popular DAW in the professional world. For professional mixing and editing, this is the industry standard. A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Pro Tools.

The stock plugins are generally good, but it lacks a stock multiband compressor – this isn’t a huge issue though.

The stock compressor can still be used for sidechain compression and parallel compression.

What They Say: Power your sound with the tools that power the industry. Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.

What It’s Best For: Recording, Editing and Mixing

Learn more here: Avid Pro Tools

 

Logic Pro X

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Another extremely popular piece of software. Although Logic pro is great for composing and producing music, I love using it for mixing too. The stock plugins that come with Logic Pro X are perhaps the best stock plugins of any DAW.

What They Say: Logic Pro X puts a complete recording and MIDI production studio on your Mac, with everything a pro musician needs to write, record, edit, and mix like never before.

What It’s Best For: All Rounder

Learn more here: Apple Logic Pro X

 

Studio One 3

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This DAW has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with good reason. It is now one of the most commonly used DAWs.

What They Say: Instantly familiar—yet nothing feels like it. Studio One® 3 contains everything you’d expect from a modern digital audio powerhouse. Once you touch its fast, flow-oriented, drag-and-drop interface, you’ll realize Studio One® 3 was built by creative people for creative music production.

What It’s Best For: All Rounder

Learn more here: PreSonus Studio One 3

 

Ableton Live

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Top electronic music producers around the world use Ableton Live. Although it lacks some advanced editing and mixing features, it can seamlessly integrate into your live sets. If you use this DAW, check out these free production templates.

What They Say: Live is software for creating musical ideas, turning them into finished songs, and even taking them onto the stage.

What It’s Best For: Electronic Music Production

Learn more here: Ableton Live 9 Standard

 

Cubase Pro

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Cubase has been around for a long time, and remains popular to this day. It’s innovative, trustworthy and stable.

What They Say: Used by star producers and musicians for composing, recording, mixing and editing music, Cubase combines outstanding audio quality, intuitive handling and a collection of highly advanced audio and MIDI tools.

What It’s Best For: All Rounder

Learn more here: Steinberg Cubase Pro 9 Recording Software

 

Cakewalk Sonar

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This Windows-only DAW has a great user interface and range of powerful features. There’s no need for a USB dongle, either! Take a look at the various versions for some highly affordable options.

What They Say: Fueled by over 25 years in the relentless pursuit of innovation, SONAR is re-inventing the modern recording studio.

What It’s Best For: Recording, Editing and Mixing

Learn more here: Cakewalk Sonar Artist Music Production Software

 

Propellerhead Reason

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This is the perfect piece of software for electronic music producers that love the look of analogue equipment. The bundled virtual instruments are powerful and versatile, and Reason comes with some great collaboration tools.

What They Say: Reason is easy to get started with, yet as deep as you want it to be. Create, compose, mix and finish your music–Reason will help you along the journey,
from inspiration to mixdown.

What It’s Best For: Electronic Music Production

Learn more here: Reason 9.5

 

FL Studio

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Another affordable DAW that’s extremely popular among electronic music producers. FL Studio is easy to use and has some great composition features, but isn’t so great for working with audio.

What They Say: FL Studio 12 is a complete software music production environment or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Representing more than 18 years of innovative developments it has everything you need in one package to compose, arrange, record, edit, mix and master professional quality music. FL Studio is now one of the world’s most popular DAWs and is used by the most creative artists.

What It’s Best For: Electronic Music Production

Learn more here: Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition

 

Cockos Reaper

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This DAW is powerful for the price (it’s a steal at $60 for a personal license) and is one of my personal favourites. You can customize the layout and functionality of the software to suit your workflow.

What They Say: REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for Windows and OS X, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset.

What It’s Best For: Recording, Editing and Mixing

Click here for more information

 

Bitwig Studio

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This little-known DAW is great for music production and live performance. Founded by ex-Ableton engineers, Bitwig Studio shares a similar concept based on ‘clips’. It has a great modular synthesis environment and networking features.

What They Say: Bitwig Studio is dynamic software for creation and performance of your musical ideas on stage or in the studio.

What It’s Best For: Electronic Music Production

Learn more here: Bitwig Studio 2 Music Production and Performance Software

 

MOTU Digital Performer

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Despite being one of the oldest DAWs available, Digital Performer has only recently made its way from Mac to Windows. Unlike the others they have a 30 day free trial available, so you can give it a whirl.

What They Say: Spark your creativity, then refine your mix — all in a singular workflow. Digital Performer 9 delivers inspirational features devised to ignite your creative muse, combined with state-of-the-art studio production technologies engineered for the most demanding, world-class recording and production environments.

What It’s Best For: All Rounder

Learn more here: MOTU Digital Performer 9

 

Mixcraft Pro Studio

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This affordable option has gathered some serious fans over its lifetime. It’s simple, user-friendly and easy to use.

What They Say: Mixcraft is The Musician’s DAW – the ideal application for creating professional quality songs, mixes, and videos with ease.

What It’s Best For: All Rounder

Learn more here: Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio

 

The Top 2 DAWs for Musicians

Choosing a DAW can be daunting.

It’s easy to waste time on this.

So, I did the hard work for you.

I tried every single DAW…

And narrowed it down to a shortlist of the best 2 DAWs for musicians.

Find out what they are here:

31 Responses to “Best DAW 2017: Choose One of These 12 Top DAWs Today”

  • Sorry Guys. If it’s quality of sound that you want, then Harrison Mixbus cannot be beaten. I can’t believe it’s not even in the top ten. I use Studio One for tracking and editing but when it comes to mixing I export my stems to Harrison Mixbus. The difference is astounding.

  • I use 3 DAW’s religiously!
    Propellerhead Reason- for sound design and song sketches! I find I spend most of my time in this DAW.

    Ableton Live – I use this mainly for Live use but I also prefer Ableton for Sampling.

    Logic Pro – I use this for Audio Recording, Mixing, and Mastering. If I have to do a full project start to finish I choose Logic above all else and most of the time I’m bouncing down audio from the afore mentioned DAW’s into Logic to complete the project.

    I honestly advise having all 3 of these DAW’s there is a learning curve to having 3 DAW’s but if you immerse yourself into music like I do it’s a complete blast learning them and finding new ways and new sounds to create the music in your head or even the music you didn’t know was in your head! Total Creativity!

  • YOU KNOW THIS THING OF BEST DAWS. IS SAME AS WHO IS THE BEST WOMEN IN THE WORLD. THE ANSWER IS THE ONE YOU CHOOSE IS THE BEST. YOU CANT SAY MY WIFE IS BETTER THAN YOURS.

  • Hi Guys,
    I looking for a DAW for EDM production, like different types of house music. One of my friend suggests the Studio one.
    I want to learn using 1, not 3-4 until I find out which is the best for me. So Studio one is would be a good pick for me, or…? Also, can this do mastering as well?

    Thanks your answers

  • I have tried all the daws but I want to humbly submit that PRESONUS studio one v3.5 is far far better and user friendly.

  • I have tried all the saw but I want to humbly submit that PRESONUS studio one v3.5 is far far better and user friendly.

  • Hi all

    I’ve been messing around with GarageBand (don’t laugh) and totally new to the whole DAW’s thing, I’ve been doing some research and I’ve kind of narrowed it down between reason and FL. any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated. Do you get plenty of instruments in both DAW,s to get started and what would you fellas say is the most user friendly for a beginner.

    • Hi, I’ve been using Reason (along with Ableton live) for many years. Found it to be as simple or as intensive as I need it to be to finish my projects. I’m currently trying to get my head around FL Studio and have to say I’m struggling! All reviews say how easy and user friendly the DAW is but I am honestly finding it difficult to do the simplest of tasks. I could be missing something but in my opinion, Reason is the most accessible, this may change when I finally get to grips with FL Studio! Hope this helps!

  • My experience so far after 12 months of making Electronic Dance Music. I’ve tried 4 DAWs and this is my take. Mixcraft is a great DAW generally. Easy to use. Great for playing live instruments into it however, it’s not good for creating House Music. It struggles with Warping and trying to introduce sidechain compression is tricky. Ableton is great for this, and now I use both. Ableton Live is also fairly easy to get along with. I do recommend Bitwig or Studio 1 as a great all rounder especially if you can’t afford Pro Tools and don’t have months to try and figure it all out.

  • Wow, all i see is reason growing up and getting better by the minute while abmeton falls logic pro is crash heavy and buggy like apple these days all around and pro tools is for live instruments recording only school trained in all departments propellerhead has the edge now besides the EQ and lack of plug in capabilities we are hoping for a more powerful Ui in the next while. Propellorhead started as the worst and have managed to climb up every year. Lot of great daws here but id seriously put Reason on top just for the stock and where its going. Pro tools standard is sinking apple products are weakening by the minute i do love FL studios however and ableton all sounds the same I can totally spot the sound comes from that software!

  • PreSonus Studio One 3. The workflow is so user-friendly. I’ve just moved from Cubase. Although I’ve been loyal to Cubase since Atari ST version 1.0 in 1989, I have to admit that it’s been a bit clunky and whoever did the original conversion from Mac to Windows was on a steep learning curve. PreSonus Studio One 3 is like Cubase re-designed from scratch with all the good bits and none of the bad bits. Well done PreSonus. :)

  • 1-Ableton Live 9- Arrange
    2-FL studio – Compose
    3-Pro Tool – Mixing – Mastering

    For me these are the best daw. But Everyone have different preferences and worflow

  • I’ve been using Mixcraft Pro Studio for about four years and love it. Started out with PS 6, then PS 7, and now PS 8, and yes the affair continues more passionately with every revision. Thanks for the DAW listing Rob!!! Mike Dillon 54W

  • What about Audacity? I have used it now for a few years and find it simple and easy to use. Altho I have two different Cubase Programmes { I refuse to use the silly term DAW} I find them difficult to start up and get into and sometimes when all seems to work it doesn’t record. Most annoying So I stick to Audacity. as it’s straightforward Up comes the page and click the record button and away you go . It has all the usual fine tuning functions that I need and I mix it all accordingly.. I also have my songs that I produce played on a number of Community Radio Stations right across Australia and even get airplay in certain parts Of America and Canada.

  • If you haven’t yet tried it, check out Harrison Console’s Mixbus and Mixbus32C. Without going into the history, Harrison has essentially built a software version of their consoles. Mixbus is similar to other DAWs, but the workflow is different from others. It features EQ and compression on ever channelstrip, with a layout that is right on the channel: you don’t have to go through popups to get to EQ, compression, or channel sends. The Master bus includes EQ, compression, and tape saturation, also all right on the channelstrip.. From what I have read from experienced mixing engineers up to speed using Mixbus, mixing with Mixbus is considerably faster than other DAWs.

    Mixbus is still fairly new, and has had some quirks in past releases. But those seem to be resolved and cleaned up, so it seems now to be very stable and solid. And, to make the product more enticing, Mixbus sells for $79. (Mixbus32C is $299.) (No, I don’t work for Harrison, but I can appreciate a good deal!)

    Whether this will become an industry standard and become used by all is anybody’s guess. However, if I was just starting with recording and mixing and was looking for my first DAW, this would be my starting place.

    I would enjoy reading what you or other readers think of Mixbus or Mixbus32C, if you have worked with it.

  • Been using FL for 15 years, as well as Ableton, Reason, all the multi trackers and even the old Sony Acid and Soundforge. FL is amazing, speaking as an artist that is, but yes its not as user friendly if youre a mix engineer and arent composing… However, with some quality plugins and even the stockers like Maximus and Newtone, theres not much you cant do that other DAWs can… Ive stepped away from producing a hard electro house track to picking up my strat, setting up mics and producing a pop rock song for an artist. I love FL! So, if youre doing your own. Mastering in house, get some good plugins (compressors, preamps, tape emulators, etc) and youll be happy.

  • People always give FL crap for no reason and I don’t understand why. Like why is FL studio “bad”?

    I feel like people give it crap cause it’s “easy” to use. Just cause it has a “start” button, doesn’t mean it works like you think it does.

    1 person could be driving a speed boat while the other a ship. It’s all in how you use it that matters. If you can’t drive it, you have no room to talk.

  • Ironically, Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason which are meant for producing MODERN Electronic Music have the worst UI :(

    • I found it really easy to use Caustic. But at the time I checked it out, I didn’t see an easy way to record audio into a track. Also On Windows using my old M-Audio Fast Track Pro interface, I noticed tremendous latency when attempting to perform into the tracks. So I have since abandoned Caustic. But it’s so cool to be able to produce something on computer and then show it to someone using my phone. The included instruments seemed really powerful for the price, and way more intuitive than Ableton Live, which is my DAW of choice for now.

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