Klickjam counts down our Top 5 favorite Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) to make beautiful music with. Whether you're a novice or a pro, you can get a lot out of these babies, so let's check them out!
Mixcraft is still the relative new kid on the DAW block, but it's quickly gained a reputation as one of the most capable and intuitive. Primarily aimed at musicians interested in live recording, Mixcraft is also a capable MIDI sequencer with support for 32 and 64-Bit VSTs, multitrack recording and performance clip sequencing. It has everything one could ever want in a DAW, from tempo matching to time stretching, pitch-shifting and video sequencing. We were less impressed with the video portion of the interface, but it gets the job done just fine. Mixcraft has garnered some serious praise, including a number of awards from PC Pro Magazine, MusicTech Magazine, Digital-Notes.De and Noizefield.com. We recommend Mixcraft for beginner producers who can take advantage of its straightforward, easy-to-learn interface, but don't be fooled! You seasoned vets might be surprised at just how advanced this program really is.
Cubase is a legend, and for good reason. Not only is it one of the oldest DAWs in existence, but also one of the most widely used and recognized. Its existence dates back to a MIDI-only time period of 1989, but Steinberg didn't stop there. It continued to lay groundwork that would inspire competitive DAWs to adopt throughout the years. Cubase 9 is the latest iteration, and sports a host of new features including a refined console and project window, a new sampler track, updated frequency EQ, multiple marker tracks and an improved maximizer, plus brand new plugins. Steinberg holds the honorable distinction of being the company that invented VST instrument and plugin technology to market, which has permanently re-shaped music production and put the power of creation in the hands of anyone with a decent computer and a little musical talent.
Ableton Live is quite different from the other DAWs on this list, notably because it was first created as a program for live performances. It quickly evolved into a full-fledged DAW, while retaining its original purpose. The result is possibly the most versatile DAW on the list, giving music makers an in-house studio program to create with, and a perfect tool for live gigs. Ableton sports a futuristic interface with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a top-tier DAW, but it also has a steeper learning curve than others on this list, and therefore we don't recommend it to first-timers who want to jump right in and create something.
Originally known as FruityLoops, FL Studio has evolved into perhaps the best-balanced DAW on this list. It's complicated enough for seasoned pros, yet intuitive enough for first-time users to pick up with a generally straightforward learning curve. Its focus specializes in sequenced dance and hip hop, but it functions well as a full-fledged production studio program as well. FL Studio can claim a bragging right that the others on this list cannot: it is the most widely used DAW on the entire planet. That's definitely an accomplishment!
Presonus Studio One has a lot going for it. Not only is it affordable, but it's also extremely intuitive and easy to learn. It's no slouch in the pedigree department, either. The program was created with the help of several former Steinberg developers, so it has the experience to back up its relatively new status. Version 3.5 includes a revised Mastering project page, Mixer Undo, and a new audio engine for near-zero latency performance. Toss in Mix Engine FX, VCA Faders, scratch pads and a new drag and drop browser, and it's easy to see why Studio One has quickly become the number one (pardon the pun) choice for many-a-music-pro. The interface is sleek, easy to understand, and there's a wealth of stuff to keep even the most experienced producers and music makers going for quite a long while. Is this the new standard that all DAWs should adhere to, moving forward? Quite possibly, indeed!
Let's face it. We're spoiled! Twenty years ago, the average person couldn't enjoy this level of creative freedom. Thanks to technological advancements by pioneers like the ones featured on this list, even a straight up novice can get up and running to create music in no time. If you're a budding producer or music maker, consider giving one of these DAWs a go. Don't forget to post your music right here on Klickjam.com!