10 Best DAWs 2017

Digital Audio Workstation has rapidly entered mainstream music production in the past few years. For those who don’t know much about it, it is an advanced computer program that can dramatically enhance the quality of your music and saves you a lot of time.

Whether you are a newbie who is taking first steps into music production or a seasoned professional who is looking to upgrade his equipment, we guide you through the process in this detailed article.

How to Zero in on the Perfect DAW?

  • Operating System. If you are used to a particular OS, it is better to purchase a DAW that works well with it rather than switching platforms and having to learn two things! This step should not be too difficult as most of the professional DAWs are compatible with both.
  • System Requirements. Modern DAW applications are vast and require huge amount of memory (RAM). Although DAW software specifically lists out minimum system hardware requirements, we recommend having extra headroom in this department because you will keep running out of memory space if you run DAWs on the minimum hardware and memory.

Top 10 DAWs Comparison Chart

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PictureNameCompatible With Price Rating (1-5)
1. Acoustica Mixcraft Pro Studio 7 Windows XP/7/8/10$$4.6
2. Bitwig Studio Music Production and Performance Software Windows/Mac/Linux$4.6
3. Propellerhead Reason 9 Upgrade Windows/Mac$4.5
4. Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition Windows$$4.3
5. Studio One 3 Professional Creative Music Production Environment (License Code + Quick Start) Windows/Mac$$$4.2
6. Ableton Live 9 Intro Ableton Live 9 Intro DJ and Mixing Software with Sound Library Windows/Mac$3.9
7. BEHRINGER iSTUDIO iS202 Mac (iPad only)$3.7
8. Avid Pro Tools 10- Professional audio recording and music creation software Windows/Mac$$$$3.4
9. Steinberg Cubase Pro 9 Recording Software Windows/Mac$$$3.2
10. Cakewalk Sonar Professional Music Production Software Windows/Mac$$3.1

What Makes a Good DAW?

Given the incredible pace at which DAWs have evolved, finding a quality DAW means having a virtual studio at your fingertips.

The following checklist shows some common features that you should look for while comparing and contrasting DAWs:

  • OS Compatibility (Mac/Windows). Mac vs. Windows is an age-old debate that is not dying down any time soon. Music software is developed for both platforms – especially the top applications. Mac is a stable computer that costs more and has hardware that is difficult to upgrade. Windows, on the other hand, offers infinite possibilities in terms of hardware combination but also throws compatibility tantrums.

A pre-configured audio PC is also another good option.

  • Audio Interface. Though your PC has audio input and output cords, they are not made to address the demands of DAW software. An audio interface offers you all the details you require to produce quality music by letting you connect to your microphone, instruments and software all at once.
  • Music Category. The DAW ecosystem has become tailored to a particular genre of music. While you can always go for an all-purpose, jack-of-all-trades software that can do a bit of everything, we recommend getting a genre-specific option if you are planning to focus on one particular type. Broad classification of music types would be:
    • Recording studios and music composers
    • DJ events and live performances
    • Beat makers and music mixers
  • Version. Professional software comes with at least two versions – Lite and Pro. If you are testing the waters of music recording, Lite version (a stripped down variant of the Pro) might be a good choice.

Top 3 Best DAW Reviews

1. Acoustica Mixcraft Pro Studio 7

If you have a Windows based PC and are looking for the best DAW to give your music that extra zing, Mixcraft Pro Studio 7 is a great piece of software. Though version 8 is already out, jury is still out on it while this one continues to go strong.

It could very well be the next disruption of the music industry, given its feature loaded spec-sheet and affordable pricing. Though we could hardly complain about the previous version, this one raises the bar even more by including new presets, synths and sampling software. Should you get stuck somewhere, there’s always a detailed manual and a great tech support team to help you out.

You’ll never fall short of virtual instruments while making music, as it has hundreds of them. It gives you great level of sound detailing to make sure you get exactly what you want.

2. Bitwig Music Production and Performance Software

If you are looking for a DAW that gives you amazing creative powers irrespective of the operating system you work on, Bitwig Studio has this amazing software for you. Unlike professional software with scary user interface, its intuitive interface makes it ideal for beginners and professionals alike.

Its plug-in crash protection is something that sets it apart from the competition and saves you a lot of effort and frustration. The responsive hardware is top-notch, as well, giving you a seamless experience across input devices – keyboard, mouse and touchscreen. All minor future upgrades (to 1.XX version) are free, which means you don’t have to worry about making payments every now and then.

It is a great tool for recording and mixing and easy to get started, allowing you to be productive straightaway.

3. Propellerhead Reason 9 Upgrade

The reason why this is one of the most versatile music production software in the market today is because it is easy to work on and provides granular details to get the music exactly correct. This is your tool if you are looking for a top quality collaborative DAW.

Its vast collection of instruments and effects gives you the ultimate creative power over a simple, easy-to-navigate menu options. Whether you are looking to compose your own music or want to add those musical twists by remixing the existing tracks, it has everything you would ever need to make great music.

This is a worthy successor to the mighty Reason 8 and the workflow is just superb (across Windows and Mac), thanks to the drag and drop features. When such a musical powerhouse significantly undercuts competition, you won’t give it a second thought!

4. Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition

True to its name, the latest edition from FL studio is one of the most comprehensive music making software you would find. It packs in everything you need to produce professional quality music without ever having to worry about paying for upgrades.

It gives you absolute freedom to let your creativity fly – the number of simultaneously recordable audio tracks is limited by the capacity of your computer and audio interface. Comprehensive as it is, don’t expect to get acquainted with it in a matter of minutes, as the learning curve isn’t exactly smooth – particularly for the amateur level users.

Next time you want to compose, rearrange, remix or time shift audio files, you know you have a real winner at your hands in the FL Studio 12 producer edition.

5. Studio One 3 Professional Creative Music Production

Studio One DAWs are very popular in the professional circuit and we are not surprised, given its comprehensive range of features that make it an audio powerhouse.

Intuitive drag-and-drop features, iPad control, multi-touch support, contextual documentation and help tools are great improvement over the previous version. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit options and runs on both Windows and Mac – though we highly recommend checking the system requirements and going for a higher configuration than suggested to unleash its full power. The best part about it is the ease with which both beginner and advanced users can use it, as help is always round the corner.

It might not be the least expensive DAWs around but if you want a one-stop shop for letting your creativity fly, bring them to life and mesmerize your audience.

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