Top 10 Best DAW Recording Software of 2021

Dave Mostert
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In the world of music production, there are two basic rhythms that define all music we hear: 4/4 AND 3/4. But a pro in the music business knows that you can craft all types of rhythms and breaks by layering these two basic rhythms in multiple ways.

How you think is a big factor when it comes to successfully developing your own best recorded music tracks. Having the right DAW recording software will assist you in finding your own creativity and edge.

But, which DAW recording software is the best out there?

Here’s my Top 10 list for the Best DAW recording software of 2019.

Initially, DAW software recorded audio on analog magnetic tape, but today’s software is often used to create, edit, and mix different types of music and audio recordings as well as video soundtracks.

The DAW has become the cornerstone of the music industry, and no matter what type of music or sound you’re producing, these software programs offer all the tools needed to tackle any one of your audio production projects.

NameCategoryProduct
Ableton Multitrack Recording SoftwareBest OverallAbleton Multitrack Recording Software
Sony ACID Music Studio 10Budget PickSony ACID Music Studio 10
Avid Pro Tools 2018Upgrade PickAvid Pro Tools 2018

1. Ableton Multitrack Recording Software

Our rating: 10 / 10

Ableton Multitrack Recording Software

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Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Variety of instruments and features
  • Affordable
  • Quality customer service

Cons:

  • You’re locked into a single software
  • Having to pay for upgrades

Now, you can finally make a professional track. Making music now becomes endlessly more fun with Ableton Live. No more time will be wasted with waiting on your band-mates.

Your creativity will be brought to life with Live. It’s a music creation software that is a complete tool which includes instruments, sounds, and effects.

There are many instruments available for you to bring your music to life. It is also integrated with powerful effects and an awesome MIDI support program. You can now add your personal touch to your music with these awesome features and make it more comprehensive and interesting.

2. Propellerhead Reason 10 Music Production Software

Our rating: 9 / 10

Propellerhead Reason 10 Music Production Software

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The next generation of Reason puts everything you need to make music at your fingertips. Get from first note to final mix faster and easier than ever before.

3. Reason Studios AB Multitrack Recording Software

Our rating: 9 / 10

Reason Studios AB Multitrack Recording Software

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Pros:

  • You can get this program for free if you’ve bought some additional products
  • The demo is actually full working program
  • Awesome sound quality
  • You can record in any tempo
  • You can easily edit your track with few clicks
  • It comes with a lot of cool riffs and music loops
  • You can convert your song from midi to audio track with one small tweak
  • It’s user-friendly
  • There is a huge community of users so you can go online to find more information and tutorials
  • You can save as many audio tracks as you want and then you can merge them and keep fixing them without any problem

Cons:

  • The program is a bit complex for beginners
  • If you want to make really professional music, you have to buy some additional plugins
  • You have to buy additional software in order to export your tracks
  • It’s a bit pricey

The Reason 11 is an outstanding song-making software with a great number of features that will satisfy even the most demanding music maker. It’s great for those who are planning to record their first-ever song, but it’s also perfect for a professional musician who’s looking for some additional gear to improve the quality of his music.

4. Image Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition Mac/Windows

Our rating: 9 / 10

Image Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition Mac/Windows

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FL Studio (formerly FruityLoops) is a digital audio workstation (DAW) for Windows and macOS. It is used commonly for music production and is oriented toward electronic music.

The software can be used for live performance and studio production. It can also perform video soundtrack creation. In addition, it is used by DJs who create electronic music.

FL Studio features multiple MIDI tracks, audio playback effects, virtual instruments, unlimited sample import, and a loop sounds feature.

5. Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition

Our rating: 9 / 10

Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition

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Pros:

  • Affordable price point
  • Completely solid performance
  • One of the most stable DAWs out there

This is one of the best DAWs you can get your hands on. It features some of the most advanced wave editing features that you can use in the digital audio world, along with a hefty waveform engine.

FL Studio allows you to record up to 16 channels simultaneously, so you can record vocals and different instruments separately without a hitch.

The ability to use external VST Instruments is also a great feature.

6. Cakewalk Sonar Platinum EDU Lab Pack

Our rating: 8 / 10

Cakewalk Sonar Platinum EDU Lab Pack

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Pros:

  • Affordable option for pro-audio beginners
  • Ideal for education due to professional music industry presence and product development
  • View composition along with mixing actions for immediate feedback
  • Software is constantly being upgraded and supported
  • Maintains a professional atmosphere, while still being easy to use
  • SONAR Platinum offers the ideal environment for musicians, producers and audio engineers to create, record and mix music

Cons:

  • Audition window is not very easy to work with, especially when multiple tracks or buses are open at the same time
  • Plus, there are problems with the initial installation and incompatibility problems with Windows 8.1 Pro

Cakewalk SONAR Platinum is an affordable and professional recording software that comes with a bundle of features and support.

It’s the top recording editing solution with intuitive design making it easy to produce a high-quality mix.

SONAR Platinum benefits from constant updates and additions to the feature list meaning is very easy to work with.

7. Image Line FL Studio Fruity Edition

Our rating: 7 / 10

Image Line FL Studio Fruity Edition

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Pros:

  • Lots of available add-ons
  • Great for live performances as well
  • Intuitive UI
  • Excellent customer support
  • Comprehensive format support

Cons:

  • Heavy on the processor
  • Photo-copy of the real thing

If you are looking for a comprehensive yet affordable DAW, FL Studio Fruity Edition is an excellent choice. This easy-to-use, live and reliable program is a mix between a classic DAW and a powerful MIDI and audio sequencer. This comprehensive tool combines all the features of its sibling FL Studio Signature bundle into one sleek package.

You will find that FL Studio Fruity Edition is a reliable application for producing high-quality songs and loops for both live performances and recordings. Also, the platform provides extensive libraries that come with thousands of presets and samples. Among the available features, we found the audio engine and export options convenient and efficient.

Among the advantages of this DAW is the shortcut function, which allows you to toggle between selecting individual clips, and editing the automation. This feature comes in handy when you want to manually adjust each parameter of your sound. The other excellent feature is the interface, which is not only intuitive, but also customizable. You can switch easily between several layouts that are optimized for different tasks.

8. Studio One 3 Professional Creative Music Production Environment

Our rating: 7 / 10

Studio One 3 Professional Creative Music Production Environment

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Pros:

  • Cloud integration (Studio One Cloud)
  • Tune Library
  • Looped playback
  • Studio One Remote app
  • VST plugins integration
  • Audio Unit plugins integration
  • FireWire recording
  • Neon music creation capability
  • Dedicated MIDI recording and playback software
  • Cross-platform support

Cons:

  • No offline mode… only online mode
  • Sessions so far been reported as unstable
  • Lacklustre MIDI support
  • Fewer channel count than competitors

9. Sony ACID Music Studio 10

Our rating: 6 / 10

Sony ACID Music Studio 10

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Pros:

  • Stable performance
  • Efficient and easy to use
  • Comes with a digital audio workstation
  • Suitable for both beginners and advanced users
  • Includes several effects, loops, and software instruments
  • Live recording and mixing features
  • Superior sound quality
  • Affordable pricing

Cons:

  • Some users will find the interface difficult to use
  • Windows 8 and Windows 10 compatibility issues
  • Installation issues with certain hardware
  • Advanced features require additional purchases

Sony ACID Music Studio is one of the best budget-friendly DAWs in the market. It offers excellent recording and mixing features that are suitable for beginners, along with advanced features that will help you take your music to the next level.

What’s great about this software is its stability and efficiency. You’ll be able to do anything with ease and manage your sessions with its intuitive scrolling, dragging, and zooming. Plus, you’ll find a suite of powerful tools that will help you with your editing and song forms.

You can either download this software online or purchase it from Sony’s official site for a few bucks cheaper if you don’t feel like downloading it. If you need software instruments, effects, and loops, opt for the ACID Pro.

10. Steinberg Cubase Elements 10 Music Production Software

Our rating: 5 / 10

Steinberg Cubase Elements 10 Music Production Software

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Pros:

  • Best entry price for software from a serious producer
  • Stores VSTs for fun and easy use
  • Imports files in a variety of formats
  • Great for beginners and seasoned producers and even professional musicians
  • Support available from legitimate sources
  • Works on PC/Mac

Cons:

  • Must purchase Media authoring software in order to burn CDs
  • Lack of instant gratification
  • Latency issues with some plugins

Steinberg’s immensely popular Cubase is a DAW and MIDI sequencing software that, prior to the Crack, was completely free. They have since adopted a “freemium” business model, and offer a free version at the cost of an annoying nag screen and the inability to export to MP3.

11. Ableton Live 9 Intro Ableton Live 9 Intro DJ and Mixing Software

Our rating: 5 / 10

Ableton Live 9 Intro Ableton Live 9 Intro DJ and Mixing Software

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Pros:

  • Rich and expressive sound
  • Award winning and versatile DAW
  • Easy and efficient design
  • A user-friendly interface
  • Instantly integrated with 3rd party plug-ins and virtual instruments
  • Intuitive song arrangement
  • Provides a fully integrated suite of professional recording, mixing and editing tools capable of even

Cons:

  • Limited features as compared to the full version
  • The license key expires after a year
  • The full version is significantly expensive
  • Soundtrack cannot be recorded
  • Limited features as compared to the full version

Difficult mixing, editing and arrangement.

12. Avid Pro Tools 2018

Our rating: 5 / 10

Avid Pro Tools 2018

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Pros:

  • The best DAW for home recording
  • Incredibly stable and easy to use
  • Includes a powerful suite of plugins
  • Upgraded GUI provides a sleek, modern look and feel
  • Includes sample rates up to 384 kHz
  • The only DAW you will ever need
  • Best for mixing and mastering

Cons:

  • Expensive upgrades
  • Assignable audio interface required [Review]
  • Best DAW for pros
  • The best DAW for professional recording and mixing
  • Feature-packed

13. Ableton Live 9 Suite Ableton Live 9 Suite Multi-Track Audio Recording

Our rating: 5 / 10

Ableton Live 9 Suite Ableton Live 9 Suite Multi-Track Audio Recording

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Pros:

  • Complete package with plenty of useful features and plugins
  • Includes a desktop application, plus a mobile app for working on the go
  • Better support for VST instruments
  • Offers new workflow improvements with features like Warping, new MIDI editing options, and video content export.

Cons:

  • Lacks much-needed improvements to the user interface
  • Conductor, the software that allows you to improvise and make music with other people, only works with Ableton Live 9 Digital.

If you’re a creative person and have a vision for a record, you’ll love what Live 9 Suite can do for you. This version of Live includes the entire Live 9 professional music production suite including all plugins and instruments you need for any kind of project. Plus, you get expanded cloud storage with the Suite version.

Ableton Live 9 Suite supports VST instruments, so you can use third party instruments within it.

For example, if you use GarageBand to make music on your Mac, you can now import that music into Live 9 Suite, using it as just another instrument.

14. Apple Logic Studio

Our rating: 5 / 10

Apple Logic Studio

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Pros:

  • One of the most widely used programs worldwide
  • It is a one-stop solution for audio engineering and recording
  • Makes it easy to record, mix, edit, and master audio

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Complicated for beginners
  • Can only be used to edit and record sounds from Apple devices

If you are looking for a brilliant home recording software, you won’t go wrong with Apple’s Logic Pro.

Originally designed in the year 1987, it was later revamped and brought out by Apple to the public in the year 2001. It is one of the most widely used programs available today, and almost everybody has heard of it.

Logic Pro comes packaged with a number of plug-ins, which cover a wide variety of sources ranging from audio and loops to software instruments and effects. This allows you to quickly get your recording started as most of the basic effects and settings have already been pre-loaded.

15. Mixcraft Pro Studio 7

Our rating: 5 / 10

Mixcraft Pro Studio 7

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Pros:

  • Access to several virtual instruments
  • Low price
  • Offers a great selection of features for use
  • Great user interface
  • Supports a wide selection of audio file formats
  • Lots of sound effects to choose from

Cons:

  • Limited MIDI support
  • No notation features
  • No audio processing features
  • No support for VST, RTAS, or AU effects
  • No support for sampling

If you’re a musician who’s just starting out with computer-based recording,” then Mixcraft 5 is a must-have app for you.

The Mixcraft recording software has gained much fame for its versatility as well as functionality. The DAW software has made its way up the ranks as one of the top three DAW software tools available in the market today. Mixcraft offers a wide array of features that can be found in a number of other recording software tools offered by well-known companies.

16. Cakewalk Sonar Platinum Music Production Software

Our rating: 4 / 10

Cakewalk Sonar Platinum Music Production Software

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Pros:

  • Very Full-featured recording software
  • MIDI instrument support
  • PC and Mac compatible
  • Can use the software as a plugin
  • Comes with 3,200 instruments
  • Music production tutorials
  • Includes virtual instruments – synthesize, record and mix instruments
  • MIDI Controller support

Cons:

  • Two-week free trial version limits some features
  • MIDI Controller support requires compatible hardware

Cakewalk Sonar is a great DAW recording software for present and future artists, songwriters, film creators and producers. It comes with a virtual compressor, reverb, and delay, and 64 effects that you can run on tracks. It’s a great platform to provide professional sound quality anywhere you are.

Your purchase is supported by a community that will help you become a better musician or producer. What’s more, if you want to save time, use the built-in tutorial area. You can also start creating music immediately with a massive array of instruments to choose from – 3,200 in all.

All in all, Cakewalk Sonar Platinum is a powerful recording tool recommended by professionals.

17. Steinberg Cubase 7 Retail DAW Advanced Music Production System

Our rating: 4 / 10

Steinberg Cubase 7 Retail DAW Advanced Music Production System

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Pros:

  • Exceptional value for money
  • Large number of built in instruments and effects
  • Very stable and reliable
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Comprehensive interface
  • Intuitive to use
  • Features an automated mixer

Cons:

  • Some features (such as Elastic audio) have to be purchased separately
  • Some bundled plugins sound a bit cheap

Steinberg Cubase has long been one of the leading names in music production software and this version lives up to the expectations. While this is a slightly more expensive option, you get a lot of functionality for the sticker price. To start with, it is possible to generate audio in a number of ways. You can record audio directly into Cubase, drag and drop audio files or use the software to record audio from a microphone or guitar etc.

Secondly, there are a wide range of instruments built into the software which makes it possible to create a full band. The instruments cover a wide range of sounds and there are a large number of plugins too. As you can see, this is a program that can be used to make complete songs and then export them in a number of ways. You can use the free CD Burner for Windows to burn your songs on to a CD and play them on your home hi-fi system.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which is the best DAW 2021?

Our best DAW 2021 list takes a look at ten solutions currently on the market and breaks down which ones offer the best DAW recording software environments to artists and producers. Of all the things we considered, we considered many things. The sound quality and performance of each software, the flexibility of the system, its stability and reliability, and how easy the software was to learn.

Ableton Live is definitely worth a mention when looking at DAW recording software options. It was developed by the same developer who handled the development of the Max/MSP software, one of the most popular tools for electronic musicians. This means it’s very easy to work with if you already have a familiarity with electronic music production, especially that which involves Max/MSP.

Which DAW software is the best?

While the answer to that question is nearly as personal as preference in music, we've put together a list of some of the most popular DAW software available on the market.

Ableton Live is a very popular option, despite its steep price, and, if you have the money, it's a good choice.

To use these on Windows, you need to download the Lienz Crossover app for free to install them. If you don't have the app, so no problem.

Get any of these, and you won't regret it.

Mixcraft is simply one of the best programs on the market. If you own a Mac, you need this program, without a doubt.

A great app for producers almost just as much as it is for listeners, DAW solutions by Audacity are very affordable, and the people behind the software are constantly working to improve them.

What Daw do professionals use?

There are thousands of Pro tools available on the market but not all are free and there are those who are the best in the market. There are also those with the best quality and strength. This article is all about the best DAW according to the industry…,all with different prices, capabilities and usage.

PreSonus, or PreSonus Audio Engineering, a manufacturer of professional audio gear, was founded in 1984, by a drum-set player who was dissatisfied by the audio quality of his equipment.

Which is the best DAW for beginners?

Conclusion

We have taken your feedback and streamlined our digital audio workstation (DAW) review list into 10 current recommendations. We have chosen the ones that are best suited for various budgets, learning curves, and intended uses.

Best of all, each one is free for you to try, and worth paying for if you find it meets your needs. On the other hand, if it’s not a match, there are many other good choices to consider.

We hope you enjoy our recommendations and they help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Ableton Multitrack Recording SoftwareBest OverallAbleton Multitrack Recording Software
Sony ACID Music Studio 10Budget PickSony ACID Music Studio 10
Avid Pro Tools 2018Upgrade PickAvid Pro Tools 2018