Choosing The Best DAW For You In 2022
Digital Audio Workstations are one of the most important tools in modern music production. However, if you’re just starting out, choosing a DAW may feel like a monumental decision.
Whether you’re in the market for your first DAW or you’re thinking about switching to a new one, this article will help you make either decision quickly and effectively.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- The role of your DAW in music production
- How to choose the best DAW for you
- What the best DAWs are in 2022
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Overview of DAWs
In case you need a refresher, digital audio workstations (also known as DAWs) are computer programs that allow you to make music. DAWs are the simplest, easiest way to make music today.
DAWs are used by almost all music producers, from home studio amateurs to Grammy-winning professionals.
DAWs give you a full suite of music production tools that allow you to write music, record it, pull in samples and virtual instruments, arrange your music, mix it, master it, and much more. They’re a one stop shop for music production.
If you want to make music, chances are a DAW is going to be the most powerful tool in your arsenal.
The Role of the DAW
When you’re in the market for a new DAW, the first thing to remember is that a DAW is just a tool. It doesn’t make music for you, it helps you make music.
Your DAW doesn’t determine the quality of the music that you make. It simply facilitates the music production process.
Picking one DAW versus another does not impact the end result. It’s all about using your tools effectively to get the end result that you create on your own.
To produce music, all you need are adequate tools (which most DAWs easily are) and the knowledge and skills to use them effectively. Ultimately, the best DAW for you is the one that you simply know how to use the best.
If you’re thinking about switching DAWs, you might want to take a step back and think about the current DAW you use. Taking the time to properly learn your DAW and practice using it may be a better solution than switching to a completely new DAW.
If you know how to use your tools effectively, you can go out and create the most accurate representation of your vision possible.
Similarities and Differences
DAWs are all fairly similar to each other. They each have most of the same features and functionality.
According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty DAWs on the market today. Most DAWs do all the same principles stuff, and they do it all pretty well.
Consider the history of DAWs. Some of these software programs have been around for over 30 years. As new DAW features and new technology became available, each DAW had to offer similar if not better experiences than other DAWs to compete with the field. If they didn’t, they would go out of business.
Picking a DAW is only a small piece of the puzzle. Learning your DAW is more important, and spending time using it and creating music with it is the most important part of all.
Despite what some people claim, all DAWs have the same exact sound quality. If you make the same song in two different DAWs, one version of the song will not have a lower audio quality than the other.
You can rest assured that whichever DAW you pick, it will generate music with the highest sound quality possible. Your DAW will never hold you back in this regard.
Another thing to keep in mind is that DAWs can make any type of music in any genre imaginable.
There are some DAWs that can make music production with certain genres easier, but there are no DAWs that will hold you back from making great music within a certain genre.
Selecting a DAW
What should you look for in a DAW?
I believe there are four key variables that you want to keep in mind.
These aren’t the only variables, but in my opinion these four stand above the rest. If you consider these properly, you will be able to select the right DAW for you.
The four variables are:
DAW’s range greatly in price, but they all have the basic features that you need. There are free DAWs, moderately priced DAWs, and expensive DAWs. Each will meet your major needs.
Cost isn’t going to tell you exactly what you need to do when it comes to buying a DAW. It’s not a question of buying the most expensive DAW you can afford.
Still, price will impact your options unless you have a very large budget, so it is an easy way to narrow down your options.
2. Technical Requirements
The second variable is technical requirements. Similar to cost, this is fairly black and white. It’s simply a question of your computer’s hardware specifications and operating system.
You want to make sure that the DAW you get will run on your computer effectively and that it won’t operate slowly or crash. Both hardware and software play a part in the technical requirements.
On the hardware side, if your computer achieves the requirements of a particular DAW (including RAM, processor, and memory), you should be in good shape. More powerful computers will run DAWs more efficiently, but meeting the recommended specs should put you in a good position.
You don’t need a super advanced computer to run any of these DAWs. Chances are, if you have a computer that’s no more than five or six years old, it should be able to run most of the popular DAWs.
On the software side, it becomes even easier. Do you have a Mac or a PC? Many DAWs run on both operating systems, while some are Mac exclusives or PC exclusives. This will also affect your options.
The third factor is the workflow. Most of the workflows in the most popular DAWs are fairly similar to one another, but the little differences can have some influence on the music produced. Workflow is all about personal preference, so it’s something that is best evaluated first-hand.
The simplest way to explore workflows for each DAW is to watch tutorial videos on YouTube. There are lots of videos out there that give you the basics of how to use each DAW and give you a feel for how they operate.
Watching these videos can be very enlightening when it comes to looking at the workflow and determining if that workflow is appealing to you or not. If you watched a video for each of the major DAWs, you might find that certain DAWs seem to make more sense to you compared to others.
Choosing a DAW that you naturally feel comfortable with is going to put you a little bit further ahead when it comes to learning a specific DAW and using it effectively. Videos for each of the DAWs I recommend can be found later in this article.
The second way to evaluate each DAW’s workflow is to simply download the free trial.
Almost all DAWs offer at least a 30-day free trial, so you can install the program for free and test it out yourself. Not only can you test the workflow, you can also test your computer’s technical capabilities to see if the DAW runs smoothly or not.
Finally, the fourth variable is popularity. To be clear, I’m not arguing that the most popular option is the best option. You might not find the most popular DAW out there to be best for you, but the reason why popularity is important is because of educational resources.
If you’re learning a DAW that is very popular, you’re going to find a tremendous amount of videos, articles, communities, and other educational content online. These resources will make learning your DAW much easier.
If you’ve got a specific problem, you can hop online, do a quick Google or YouTube search, and find the answer really quickly. Oftentimes, you can find a tailor-made video that explains your exact issue or question.
If you’re looking at a less-popular DAW, it might be harder to find solutions online. The learning experience will be much more independent and potentially more challenging.
If you’re switching DAWs, it’s probably not as important to worry about what is popular and what has the most resources available. You can branch out further, but keep the tradeoff in mind.
The Best DAWs of 2022
To make things easy, I’ve picked out seven DAWs that are the best in my opinion.
There are more options available, but I believe these seven are the first DAWs you should consider. If none of these options work for you, you can expand your search.
The options below are all “standard” versions of these DAWs. Some DAWs have different versions available with different prices and feature sets, but the standard versions will typically be the best deal for that particular brand.
- Mac Only
- Easily Upgradeable To Logic Pro
GarageBand is a completely free DAW that comes standard with all Apple computers. It’s a Mac exclusive, so you cannot use GarageBand if you have a PC.
GarageBand is a somewhat lightweight DAW, but it still has all the features you need to create music. It’s a great place to start if you aren’t ready to pay for a DAW.
The other nice thing about GarageBand is that it’s easily upgradable. Apple’s other DAW, Logic Pro, is compatible with GarageBand, so upgrading to a more powerful DAW in the future is very easy. Logic Pro is discussed later in the article.
The GarageBand Guide YouTube Channel
- PC Only
Cakewalk is a free, Windows-exclusive DAW. If you’re looking for a free DAW, you can go with either GarageBand or Cakewalk. Both are great options.
Cakewalk has everything you might want in a DAW, making it a great option and a high value pick.
Audio Tech TV Cakewalk Tutorial Series
- $60 For A Non-Commercial License
- Mac and PC Versions
- 60 Day Free Trial
- Great Value For The Money
- No VSTs Included
Reaper costs $60 for a license and also provides a great deal of value for its price tag. Reaper has grown in popularity over the years and has a reputation for being a very powerful, very customizable DAW.
Keep in mind that Reaper does not come standard with virtual instruments. If you need virtual instruments, you can find plenty of free VSTs online with a quick Google search.
The REAPER Blog YouTube Channel
- Mac Only
- 90 Day Free Trial
- Great Upgrade From GarageBand
- Well Rounded
- Fits Nicely Into Apple Ecosystem
Like GarageBand, Logic Pro is an Apple exclusive DAW, so if you have a Mac, this is another option for you. Logic Pro costs $200 and is a very well rounded DAW. It does just about everything and it does everything very well.
In fact, that’s why Logic is my DAW of choice. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best pick for you.
Music Tech Help Guy YouTube Channel
- $199 – Producer Version
- Mac and PC Versions Available
- Limited Free Trial
- Lifetime Free Updates
- Great For Electronic and Hip-Hop Production
FL Studio is simply an all-around good DAW. Like Logic Pro, it has all the features you would ever want in a DAW and it’s standard “Professional” edition costs $199.
FL Studio is slightly tailored towards electronic music and hip hop. If you make music in those genres, FL Studio might have an edge compared to some of these other DAWs.
If you don’t make music in those genres, it’s still a fantastic pick.
- $449 For Standard Version
- Mac and PC
- 90 Day Free Trial
- Great For Electronic Music
- Great For Writing and Arranging
- Specially-Designed For Live Performance
Ableton Live is a strong, if not the strongest, DAW for electronic music. It is designed with electronic music writing and arranging in mind, as well as live performance.
Ableton is on the expensive side compared to some of these other DAWs. The standard version is $449, but they do have a lighter version for $99 as well.
Ableton Live Educational Resources
MusicTech Ableton Live Playlist
- $30/month Subscription Fee
- Mac and PC
- 16GB RAM Required
- 30 Day Free Trial
- Industry Standard DAW
- Strong In Recording And Mixing
Pro Tools is known as the “industry standard” DAW. Since 1989, Pro Tools has built a very strong following in professional music studios.
If you go into a professional music studio, chances are they have Pro Tools. They might have other DAWs available, but you can expect to see Pro Tools.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go for Pro Tools if professional studios are in your future. Once you are familiar with any DAW, learning Pro Tools won’t be too hard if necessary.
Pro Tools is strongest for recording and mixing. It’s designed to be in a professional studio environment where an artist comes in, they’ve already completed their songwriting, and it’s just a matter of recording and mixing their music.
Finally, the cost and the technical specifications for Pro Tools is a little bit different than other DAWs. Instead of having a set flat fee for the software, Pro Tools uses a subscription model. The base version of Pro Tools costs $30 a month.
Additionally, Pro Tools has greater technical requirements than many other DAWs. Pro Tools requires 16GB of RAM (compared to 4GB or 8GB), so make sure your computer can run Pro Tools before you get it.
Australian Institute of Music Video Playlist
DAWs are a very powerful, very important tool in music production.
When choosing a DAW, spend less time deciding on the perfect DAW and more time learning the DAW you pick.
As long as you pick a good option and become proficient with it, you’re going to be in a great position to make the music you want to make and improve your music production skills over time.
Now that you’ve picked out a DAW, it’s time to start creating!What better way to kick things off than with our FREE guide:
Five Steps To Make Professional Quality Songs In Your Home Studio
If you’re a musical artist or producer and you want to improve your skills, I highly recommend downloading this guide. It will help you take advantage of your new DAW and help you produce your best music yet!
Instant access – just tell us where to send it: