The best DAW (music production software) in 2018
Full capabilities of a recording studio in just a music production software. The market is mostly dominated by 5 of the best DAW software.
Producers and composers in the 80’s-90’s-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 have all their functions in a PC and a music production software. With the current technology and tools, you can have full capabilities of a recording studio that can even cover the needs of a professional recording studio for a huge reduction of costs.
What is a music production software?
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation and it’s a music production environment 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 a canvas and the right tools doesn’t make you a painter and the same applies with your audio workstation. A combination of skills, knowledge, practice, talent and of course the right equipment will get you there.
Capabilities of some of the best 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 tools. However, there are dozens of music hits that was produced in a PC just with a software and a few plug-ins.
- Record music
- Edit your recording or any other piece of track
- Control MIDI
- Edit Midi and audio effects
- Control virtual instruments
- Pitch Correction
- Mixing & Mastering
- and more…
What to look in a DAW
There are a few things to consider when you purchase a music production software. Truth is that all popular options in the market are contemporary and can easily cover the needs of any recording studio.
- Connectivity: First thing to look 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 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 special courses to learn and being able to work sufficiently with it.
- DAW emphasize: Each DAW has a reference point. Some have superb “installed digital instruments”, others have “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 properly.
- Live performance: Important feature if you are seeing yourself perform live sets with your DAW. If you decide otherwise you will end up trying to go into a completely new interface just for the purpose of live performing.
- Budget: 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 with full features.
What else you will 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. Essentially you will need studio headphones and monitor speakers to ideally hear and edit your recordings and tracks. Here you will find The Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording in 2018. As well as The best studio monitor speakers at very affordable prices.
The additional tools that will complete your home recording studio are the audio interface and MIDI keyboard. In our article The Best Cheap Audio Interface under $200 you will find popular brands that will include music production software such as Ableton Live. The same applies with The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard and The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Home Recording Studio.
There isn’t the “best” DAW
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 the major DAWs are not great enough to cause speculations or debate over which one is the best. All the following music platforms are used by professional musicians around the globe.
You will never see a guitarist use one guitar, or a key player to use one synthesizer. Same applies to electronic music producers. Most professional producers use a combination of music softwares to get the desired results and expand their creativity.
5 BEST MUSIC PRODUCTION SOFTWARE
1. ABLETON LIVE 9.7 SUITE
My personal favorite and one of the most popular DAWs among DJ’s and electronic music producers. Since it’s introduction in 1999, Ableton Live had many changes and improvements at all sectors, resulting in a rank for the best digital audio workstations.
The market tells us that it’s probably the best daw software for electronic music production.
Ableton Live 10 SUITE has a very user-friendly interface. You can easily adjust to its environment and create a track from the 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. It has a unique clip view where you can intervene in many properties. In fact, it is the only suitable daw for live performances on our list which also shines at recording, editing, mixing and mastering audio. In the market, there are many midi controllers that offer extreme integration with the software. A big plus for beginners in the studio and live performances.
conclusion: Ableton Live is a daw software used by professional DJ’s and producers. Producers 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 professional daw software with a friendly interface is a superb option for beginners as well as experts. Its price tag is not very pocket-friendly but it definitely worth the investment.
Find the best Ableton Live controllers to get your performance to another level.
Musicians who use it: EVERYONE. Literally every producer out there has tried, used or still works with this music production software.
|User Friendly Interface:||9/10|
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. Truth is that Cubase Pro still has one of the most difficult 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 great production environment.
Some features have been 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 3 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
|User Friendly Interface:||8/10|
3. APPLE LOGIC PRO X
As indicated by the name, Logic Pro is a MAC running digital audio workstation. It’s a complete platform that you can write/record/edit/mix and pretty much get from the first idea to final master.
Logic Pro X by Apple has a clean and user-friendly interface. Very powerful 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 premium 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. 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 recommend it for beginners as much as Ableton Live is. Not to forget that 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.
Musicians who use it: Carl Cox, Above&Beyond, Adele, Kygo, Hot Since 82, Hardwell, Avicii, Armin Van Buuren
4. 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 are nothing a professional musician needs and this platform cannot handle.
Pro Tools is a music production software that is not widely used in a home recording studio. Most common is used in semi-pro or 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 offers 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.
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 excellent recording and audio editing tools and features.
Musicians who use it: Hans Zimmer, Zedd, Kaskade, Linkin Park, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, EMINEM
|User Friendly Interface:||7.5/10|
5. IMAGE-LINE FL STUDIO 12
A daw software that sparks debate on whether or not is a reliable and severe software. I believe it covers the needs of a professional recording studio. FL studio is the best seller daw on Amazon store and very common software among EDM and Big Room producers.
The music production software by Image-Line has one of the best collection of loops and sounds. Plus a huge number of virtual instruments, plug-ins, sampling, and natural beat-making. All the above is the reason for the success of FL studio. Nevertheless, the software is significantly lacking in multitrack audio recording and most important editing.
This Windows running only software has 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.
conclusion: If you are a beginner who just starts music production, then Image-Line FL 12 is a great and affordable choice. It offers a big collection of sound libraries, useful and creative plug-ins and an easy-to-use beat-making tool and sampling. The producer edition has a sweet price and all customers who purchase it receive lifetime updates.
Musicians who use it: Avicii, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Bassjackers, Gesaffelstein
|User Friendly Interface:||9/10|
Ableton Live 10 is the most widely used music production software. There are many reasons that make it the most popular DAW but that doesn’t mean is for everybody. Cubase, Logic Pro and have their strengths that will cover and the most demanding. Pro Tools by Avid is a music software used by legends such as Hans Zimmer, Linkin Park, Eminem, Carl Cox and more. If you are dedicated to electronic music production and EDM or Big Room style of music then FL studio will work perfectly for you.
Truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of the above. At this point, it comes down to personal desire and available budget.
If you are also dreaming for your own home recording studio check how to build a home recording studio with under $600.
If you agree with the above or have any questions, leave your comment below and let us know.