The full capabilities of a complete recording studio are now available in one music production software. Famous DJ’s and music producers use the below DAWs to record, compose, and mix their music. What will you pick?
Producers and composers in the ’80s-’90s-00’s could have never imagined the potentials that can be exploited by a music production software (DAW). Pieces of equipment that cost thousands and thousands of dollars, now you can have all their functions in a PC and a music production software. With the current technology and tools, you can record, edit, arrange, and mix the same well as in a professional music studio — all that for a massive reduction of costs.
Which music production software is the best? What software famous and top producers use? What is the industry standard for music production? Which is the best budget option for beginners? All answers and recommendations we will give today.
There is no “the best music production software.”
From first to the last pick, all choices are subjective. There are not the best music production softwares sorted from best to worst. The differences between most DAWs are not significant enough to cause speculations or debate over which one is the best. Professional musicians around the globe use all the following music platforms.
You will never see a guitarist use one guitar, or a key-player to use only one synthesizer. The same applies to music producers. Most professional producers use a combination of music softwares and equipment to get the desired results and expand their creativity.
Top 6 Best Music Production Software in 2020 – Reviews
1. ABLETON LIVE 10 SUITE
My personal favorite and one of the most popular DAWs among DJ’s and electronic music producers is the Ableton Live 10. Since its introduction in 1999, Ableton Live had many changes and improvements in all sectors, resulting in rank for the best digital audio workstations.
Ableton is the only suitable DAW for live performances and DJing on our list. In the market, many midi controllers offer extreme integration with the software. A big plus for beginner DJs and you can find the best Ableton Live controllers to get your performance to the next level.
“The market tells us that it’s probably the best daw software for electronic music production.”
Ableton Live 10 has a very user-friendly interface. You can easily adjust to its environment and create a track from start to finish. Ableton’s interface features 2 GUI views. The session view is a place to experiment, improvise, record, and perform your musical ideas. The arrangement view with vertical-track display and time moving (traditional DAW view) is ideal for mixing and mastering.
This MAC/WIN compatible software offers unlimited track recording for your virtual instruments, drum machines, guitars, or audio from the real world. It has a unique clip view where you can intervene in many properties. Advanced warping lets you change the tempo and timing of any audio very easily and in real-time. Live’s audio and MIDI effects, instruments, and sounds are all the tools you need never to stop creating, experimenting, and composing.
Ableton Live 10 offers three editions to pick according to your needs and budget. A very affordable “Intro” level for beginners, and “Standard” or “Suite” version for unlimited professional music composition and editing.
Conclusion: Ableton Live is a DAW used by professional DJ’s and producers all around the world. Artists such as Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox, Robert Babicz, Guy J, Above&Beyond use this software and find it an integral tool for their productions. This music production software shines at recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio. It is a superb option for beginners as well as experts. Its price tag is not very pocket-friendly, but it worth the investment.
Musicians who use it: EVERYONE. Literally, every producer out there has tried, used, or still works with this music production software.
|Experience level required:||Beginner/Intermediate|
2. STEINBERG CUBASE PRO 8.5
Cubase Pro 8.5 by Steinberg is another MAC/WIN compatible digital audio workstation. Steinberg is involved in virtual studio recording since day 1; basically, they invented the VST. They developed a DAW with premium plug-ins, effects and instruments.
The latest version has great new features with additions that create a more user-friendly workstation. The truth is that Cubase Pro still has one of the most challenging interfaces to learn. I believe it will take time to achieve the desired level of experience to sufficiently using it. The 73 high-end audio and 18 MIDI VST effect processors for professional project editing make it a vast production environment.
Some features have added, and others have been improved. MIDI editors, VCA faders, Chord Pads, and Chord Assistant, Transport Bar, MixConsole, and the well known Retrologue analog synth. But the feature that stands out is the revolutionary cloud-based VST Transit. Now you can sync and quickly transfer your tracks and projects. Unlike Ableton live, Cubase Pro is not recommended for live performances.
Conclusion: Steinberg Cubase Pro 8.5 is a professional high-end platform used by many producers in all environments and music styles. It is a full-featured DAW that comes with plenty of built-in plug-ins, advanced features, and a cloud service that allows you to work from anywhere. If you have a bit of experience in DAWs Cubase Pro is a great choice. It comes with three editions (Entry-Level/Intermediate/Pro-Level) to pick according to your needs and budget.
Musicians who use it: Adam Beyer, Deadmau5, John O’Callaghan, Pan-Pot, Boris Brejcha
|Experience level required:||Intermediate/Expert|
3. Propellerhead Reason 10
Reason 10 by Propellerhead is everything you need to create, mix and finish your music ideas. Since the release of Reason 5, its reputation went rapidly higher. More and more producers worldwide trust its instruments and effects to compose amazing sounds and tracks.
Except for the Content Manager and the ability to integrate VST plugins, Reason hasn’t changed much since its latest releases. Where this DAW stands out; you will never run out of creativity with Reason’s vast collection of instruments. The included Sound Bank consists of over 5,000 instrument patches, 1,000+ mixing/mastering effects, and over 3,000 loops to get you starting producing tracks.
Reason 10 offers three sampled instruments from SoundIron. The futuristic Humana, Pangea, and Klang will be a great addition to your collection. Plus two new synthesizers, the Grain and Europa. The second is a wavetable synth which brings a similar response to legendary VST’s such as Serum and Massive.
The only disappointing part of this DAW is the bland white interface. However, that makes the music making software easy to use and quickly understand it’s workflow.
Conclusion: It offers an “Intro” level package, but for a reasonable price you can get the full version and not miss a thing. Go on Amazon.com, and you will find nearly perfect reviews by many users. Reason 10 is recommended to beginner producers who cannot afford much on their first DAW. The same with the FL studio 20 that we will see below.
Musicians who use it: Adam Beyer, Kaskade, Guy J, Borgeous, Timbaland.
|Experience level required:||Beginner/Intermediate|
4. APPLE LOGIC PRO X
As indicated by the name, Logic Pro is a MAC running digital audio workstation. It’s a complete all in one audio workstation that you can write/record/edit/mix and pretty much get from the first idea to final master. Hip-Hop producers, Techno producers, Pop, or even classical music composers, write their songs in this DAW for MAC.
Logic Pro X by Apple has a clean and user-friendly interface. Compelling editing tools, and outstanding built-in plug-ins, samples, instruments, and soft-synths. All operations occur on a single-window view instead of a multi-view layout like Ableton Live. The only frustration in this platform is the limited MIDI features.
Some of the features that out-stands in this software are the virtual drummer plug-in and the Alchemy synthesizer. The virtual drummer can play along to your tracks and has a playing-style profile and preset patterns to choose from. The powerful sample-manipulation Alchemy with multiple sounds generating engine is a synth used by global musicians.
Conclusion: Apple Logic Pro X has a user-friendly interface, but is not recommended for beginners as other DAW’s in our list. Not to forget that it is compatible only with MAC OS, and that ties your hands if you have a Windows PC. But with excellent characteristics and a very affordable price tag, Logic Pro is a superb option for music producers. Take a look for the best computer for music production to successfully run Logic Pro X.
Musicians who use it: Carl Cox, Above&Beyond, Adele, Kygo, Hot Since 82, Hardwell, Avicii, Armin Van Buuren
|Experience level required:||Intermediate|
5. IMAGE LINE FL STUDIO 20
A daw software that sparks debate on whether or not it is a reliable and severe software. I believe it covers the needs of a professional recording studio. FL Studio is the best budget DAW and widespread software among EDM, Dubstep, and Big Room producers.
The music production software by Image-Line has one of the best collections of loops and sounds. Plus a vast number of virtual instruments, plug-ins, sampling, and natural beat-making. All the above is the reason for the success of the FL studio.
FL Studio Producer Edition includes a big collection of sound libraries, useful and creative plug-ins, and an easy-to-use beat-making tool and sampling. It offers over 30 instrument plugins and 50 audio effects; to add compression, delay, equalization filtering, phasing, chorus, reverb, distortion, and more to your productions.
This Windows and MAC compatible software have a very friendly interface and a large number of online videos, tutorials, and instructional content on the web that will help you master-use the FL studio relatively fast. All these contribute to offering a great DAW for total beginners. It is probably the best music production software for beginners.
Conclusion: If you are a beginner who starts music production, then Image-Line FL 20 is a great and affordable choice. The “Producer” edition offers full song creation and audio recording; it has a sweet price and all customers who purchase it receive lifetime updates. FL 20 also has three more bundles to offer. The affordable “Fruity” edition, the “Signature Bundle” will also provide extra plugins and a very expensive “All plugins Bundle” for complete access.
Musicians who use it: Avicii, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Bassjackers, Gesaffelstein
|Experience level required:||Beginner|
6. AVID PRO TOOLS 12
We have seen so far the most popular and user-friendly DAWs among DJs and producers. Now its time for a workstation that has been created to serve primarily professional audio engineers. Avid Pro Tools is used by musicians worldwide such as Hans Zimmer, Linkin Park, Bjork, and many more. There is nothing a professional musician needs, and this platform cannot handle it.
It is commonly seen in the semi-pro, and professional recording studios. It has an old-school interface that might not be very user-friendly but brings nostalgia and familiarity to veteran audio engineers.
This MAC and WIN compatible software offer superb recording and editing tools, featuring over 70 effects and plug-ins. Last, worth mentioning is the Track Commit. A powerful and unique tool that allows you to work collaborate and share projects with musicians from all around the world, without even the need to have the same requirements. It is probably one of the best DAW for hip hop and rock music producers and bands.
Conclusion: Avid Pro Tools is an industry software standard. If you want to make a career in electronic music production and you also have some previous experience on DAWs, then this is the software for you. Pro Tools systems are reliable, and this edition offers revolutionary audio editing tools and features. If you go for Pro Tools make sure you check how to become a master of audio-engineering.
Musicians who use it: Hans Zimmer, Zedd, Kaskade, Linkin Park, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, EMINEM
|Experience level required:||Intermediate/Expert|
What is a music production software / DAW?
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and it’s a music production software where you can record, edit, arrange, and mix your ideas or music parts. A DAW is for a music producer what a canvas is for a painter. Owing an empty canvas and the right tools doesn’t make you a painter, and the same applies to your audio workstation. A combination of skills, knowledge, practice, talent, and of course the right equipment will get you there. A DAW is not just a sound mixing software for audio and music production, but it has unlimited possibilities to explore and experiment.
Capabilities of a music production software
In electronic music production, there is nothing you cannot do with a DAW. Recording studios include high tech equipment such as powerful PC’s, softwares, MIDI’s, synthesizers, drum machines, audio interfaces, and many more studio tools. However, dozens of music hits were produced in just a PC, with a music composition software and a few plugins. Even free plugins. Check out some of the best free VST plugins for music production, mixing, and mastering.
If you are looking for a software to make music without instruments or software to slow down music, or to record vocals, then all the DAW’s we will meet below, will get the job done.
What can you do with music software?
- Record music
- Edit your recording or any other piece of track
- Sample Loops
- Control MIDI
- Add Midi and Audio effects
- Edit Midi and Audio effects
- Control virtual instruments
- Pitch Correction
- Mixing your tracks
- Mastering your music
- and more…
What to look at in music production software?
There are a few things to consider when you purchase a music production software. The truth is that all popular options in the market are contemporary and can easily cover the needs of any recording studio.
- Connectivity: The first thing to look at is if the DAW is compatible with the operating system you work with (Windows or Mac OS). Except for the Logic Pro, all the rest music softwares of our list are compatible with both WIN and MAC.
- Interface experience level: If you have experience in any daw, then you can make a decision regardless of the user-friendly interface. If you are a beginner, then you want a workstation that won’t take years or any individual courses to learn and being able to work sufficiently with it.
- DAW emphasizes: Each DAW has a reference point. Some have superb “installed digital instruments”, others are “focus on producing musical ideas” or “mixing and mastering”. However, it’s hard to find software that lacks on a level that is impossible to work correctly.
- Live performance: Important feature if you see yourself perform live sets with your DAW. If you decide otherwise you will end up trying to go into an entirely new interface just for live performing.
- Budget: The price range differs very little between the suggested softwares below. In some cases, the DAW will offer an Intro-version and upgraded intermediate and pro packages to unlock all features.
The DAW’s we believe are perfect for music production and for every genre, are:
- Ableton Live 10
- Steinberg Cubase Pro 8.5
- Propellerhead Reason 10
- Apple Logic Pro X
- Image-Line FL Studio 20
- AVID Pro Tools 12
What else will you need to start music production?
Considering you will find today your best DAW software, and you already own a computer, you are almost ready to start music production. Mostly you will need studio headphones and monitor speakers to hear and edit your recordings and tracks ideally. Check out The Best Studio Headphones . and The Best Studio Monitor Speakers at very affordable prices.
Your next essential home recording studio tool is an audio interface. In our articles with The Best Audio Interface under $200 and The Best Thunderbolt audio interfaces, you will find what will match your studio needs.
If you are a beginner producer, check our article on how to build a home recording studio with under $600.
The truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of the above. At this point, it comes down to personal desire and the available budget.
Pro Tools is the industry standard for music production, but Ableton Live 10 is probably the most widely used music production software in the world. Many reasons make it the most popular DAW, but that doesn’t mean it is for everybody.
Cubase, Logic Pro, and Reason have their strengths that will cover the needs of the most demanding recording studios.
If you would ask, what’s the best DAW for hip hop, then this is Pro Tools by Avid. Music software used by legends such as Hans Zimmer, Linkin Park, and Eminem. Pro Tools is a music writing software for professional studios.
If you are dedicated to electronic music production, then FL Studio is one of the best DAW for EDM, Trance, and Progressive house music.
Every music production software is made for every music genre. There are zero limitations when using any of these best all in one DAW’s.
If you have any questions, or experience with any above, leave your comment below and let us know.
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