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The best DAW recording software

  Pro Audio with Josh Sularski

This is the fourth article in a multi-part series designed to help you build a home recording studio. Whether you are a beginner who has never registered before, or if you are more advanced with years of experience, I hope you find value in the series. If you have questions or want me to cover a specific topic, please leave a comment at the end of the article. I read them all and will answer!

If you missed articles one, two or three in this series, I shared some of the basic building blocks most people would want to consider when putting together a home studio.

In this article, I will review some of the most popular DAW software solutions. Most, but not all, offer free versions or free trials so you can decide which one is right for you.

So many DAWs, so many opinions.

Ask 10 home recording enthusiasts about their recording (DAW) software and you will probably get more answers. My recommendation, ignore them all and find it where you feel most comfortable. The last thing you want is DAW software that doesn't jive with how you like to work. Your DAW software is a personal choice and it should support your creativity, not hinder the process. No matter which recording software you decide to use, remember that hits and songs are produced using some of the options I want to cover, so you'll never be alone.

So, let's get started. I will cover what I consider to be the top five choices for beginners along with some reputable names for those who want to try everything under the sun. As mentioned, these are all extremely capable software solutions. It will come down to personal preference and some technical warnings that I will point out along the way.

1) Avid Pro Tools

  Screenshot of Avid Pro Tools Mic Window

I start with Pro Tools, not just because it is my personal DAW software, but because it has been widely considered as industry standard in almost two decade. It is also Mac and PC compatible.

Enter a professional studio and you will probably find Pro Tools at the helm. For many years, Pro Tools could only be used with the Avid / Digidesign audio interface and was therefore limited to commercial facilities. A few years ago, Avid decided to open the platform for use with some third-party audio interface, and as a result you will find Pro Tools in countless home studios worldwide. You can do almost anything you want with it, from recording a simple podcast to recording and mixing a whole song with dozens of instruments, samplers, loops and more.

What sets Pro Tools apart from the rest?

In my humble opinion, it's the most mature platform compared to other DAW software solutions. Sure, the basics of recording, playback and editing are almost identical across all of the recording software out there, but as you become more advanced, you can discover that Pro Tools is ultimately as much as possible.

For an example, and without getting too deep into the weeds, Pro Tools does an incredible job with automatic delay compensation * in a way that I haven't yet seen in other DAWs. This becomes especially important if you start working on increasingly complex sessions where you make advanced routing of your audio, use tons of plugins, and try to automate much of your final mix. I also find that Pro Tools only offers the most options in terms of routing signals, either in-the-box (ITB) or in hybrid mode with external hardware inserts. This can be crucial when you start using advanced mixing techniques.

Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC) is an option that ensures that the playback of all tracks in a session occurs in synchronization. When adding plugins and virtual instruments to the session, they will all add different amounts of latency to the sound you hear from your speakers. This is because it takes time for the computer to process the audio through each plugin, depending on how complicated a plugin is. A good implementation of the ADC will calculate how you make sure all the sound is played in sync, regardless of how much the wait your plugins introduce into a particular track in the session.

If you didn't follow all this, don't worry. I think the main point of a novice is that Pro Tools is the industry standard for commercial recording studies, and is often considered the first and only choice for many home studios.

Ok, we get it Josh. You love Pro Tools. How much does it cost?

There are currently three versions.

  • Pro Tools First (FREE) – Download Pro Tools first here
    • As Avid puts it, "A streamlined toolkit to get started." It is true, this feature limited version gives you everything you need if you are just running. Your sessions will be capped at 16 tracks, but you will still get 23 including plug-ins to play with and over 3 GB of sounds. You will definitely grow Pro Tools First in short order, but it's a great way to find out if the Pro Tools platform is right for you.
  • Pro Tools ($ 29.99 / month)
    • This is probably the most popular Pro Tool version. It is very unlikely that you will grow it as you get the "essentials for native music and reproduction". There are some limitations that are very unlikely to affect most people; up to 128 tracks, 80 plugins and over 5 GB of included sounds. You can choose to subscribe and pay monthly or pay a one-time $ 599 fee for a perpetual license that includes 1 year software updates. You need to decide which license option is the right choice for you.
  • Pro Tools Ultimate ($ 79.99 / month)
    • If you've just started, this is probably more than you need. But maybe you are the kind that needs the best of everything, and that's cool, I get it. 🙂 Pro Tools Ultimate gives you more simultaneous tracks, up to a tremendous 384, more advanced automation, and a host of other features beyond what is included in "regular" Pro Tools.

2) Apple Logic Pro X [19659026] Apple Logic Pro X Mix Window screenshot "class =" wp-image-50839 "srcset =" https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019 /07/logic-pro-x-10-3-screenshot-600×376.jpg 600w, https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/logic-pro-x-10-3- screenshot-600×376-190×119.jpg 190w, https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/logic-pro-x-10-3-screenshot-600×376-191×120.jpg 191w, https: //blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/logic-pro-x-10-3-screenshot-600×376-284×178.jpg 284w, https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content /uploads/2019/07/logic-pro-x-10-3-screenshot-600×376-190×119@2x.jpg 380w, https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/logic- pro-x-10-3-screenshot-600×376-191×120@2x.jpg 382w, https://blog.macsales.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/logic-pro-x-10-3-screenshot -600×376-284×178@2x.jpg 568w "sizes =" (max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px "/>

If you're a Mac user and already familiar with Garageband, Logic Pro X from A pple seem like a natural upgrade. It features an impressive amount of extras, such as surprisingly useful plugins and great sound instruments. I can safely say that it has everything you need (and more) to get started on your own. Personally, I find some of its advanced features somewhat limited compared to Pro Tools, but it only comes down to personal preference. If you really like Garageband, but are ready to take the next step, Logic Pro X can be the perfect fit for you.

Although there is no free version or trial version, the pricing model is simple. $ 199 via Mac App Store. That's it, a version to rule them all.

Some tips, you can save money by finding offers on iTunes gift cards online. Sometimes you can buy a $ 100 card for $ 80 or $ 90. # 1929016] The good

  • Similar workflow to Garageband makes it a perfect upgrade for Garageband users
  • Highly integrated with MacOS
    • If the interface your work with MacOS, it works with Logic, easy.
  • Tones and tons of plugins, including emulation of vintage equipment and instruments
  • The user interface is nicely polished
  • No iLok protection required
  • All future updates to Logic Pro X come with no additional pricing [19659036] The bad

    • No free version or trial version available
    • Limited advanced audio routing options compared to Pro Tools and other DAWs
    • Automatic delay compensation is not as mature as Pro Tools
      • This is very unlikely to affect you unless you are an advanced user who will do a bunch of intricate automation with plug-in parameters.
    • No integrated search for choosing plugins in your session (a nice feature in Pro Tools and others)

    You can download Apple Logic Pro X from Mac App Store for $ 199. [19659008] 3) FL Studio

      FL Studio Mix Window

    Although I don't have much experience with FL Studio, I would be remi ss if I didn't include it as part of this list. It is one of the most popular platforms for EDM, rap, hip-hop and DJ manufacturers. For many years it was just the PC, but it is now a MacOS version that makes it easy to move between platforms.

    A little caution about technical caution here:
    FL Studio is coded in a language called Delphi, while most DAW software is coded in C or a variant thereof. C and its variants are more effective when running the type of code behind the audio software, so you can find FL Studio to be more resource-hungry compared to its competitors.

    Originally called Fruity Loops, the name was often beaten by experienced engineers and manufacturers. But it has been around for years and has been matured into a highly skilled music production platform.

    If you focus on producing electronic music, this could be an option worth checking out. It has an impressive automation capability, and offers lots of options and plugins for manufacturers who work mostly in-the-box.

    But don't take my word for it, FL Studio offers a free trial so you can try all the features it offers.

    There are four versions of FL Studio, with additional sounds, plugins and instruments when upgrading to higher levels.

    4) Ableton Live

      Screenshot of Ableton Live Mix Window

    Ableton Live is the only software on this list that was originally designed with live performances in mind. If you think there is a chance that you could end up making your words in front of a live audience, Ableton Live might be the best option.

    Due to its unique approach, the workflow and interface come with a learning curve. However, it is probably a valuable attempt if you are a live performer who wants to incorporate electronic elements into your action. Don't let the learning curve deter you, as Ableton offers many videos to help you learn the workflow.

    There are three versions available and a 30-day free trial of the complete Live Suite feature.

    5) Presonus Studio One

    After many years of producing audio interfaces and hardware, Presonus entered the DAW software market. Introduced in 2009, Studio One has seen impressive growth, partly because the Studio One Artist edition is included free of charge with several Presonus audio interfaces.

    Studio One has developed into a very powerful platform for a wide range of music production requirements. It has great search functionality, an integrated scratch to try ideas easily and easily editable automation parameters.

    If I started again, I can consider Studio One as my primary DAW software. It is constantly evolving and upgraded, giving Pro Tools a run for its money with the huge amount of capabilities it has out of the box.

    As with any DAW software, there will be a learning curve, but I find I regularly return to Studio One to see what the latest updates have brought.

    There are three versions of Presonus Studio One to compare, including a free version called Studio One 4 Prime.

    I consider Presonus Studio One to be a mix between Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro X. You get very powerful sound editing and mixing features combined with an impressive collection of effects, instruments and more. It also appears that Presonus has found a good implementation of automatic delay compensation.

    Other DAW Software Options

    With so many options available, I thought it was best to focus on the five above. For those interested in exploring other options, there is a list of other popular solutions.

    • Cakewalk SONAR
      • PC only. And in a world where most studios are on a Mac, you're just asking for problems. Well, if you are a lonely, check it out. 😉
    • Propellerhead Reason
      • A skilled DAW solution, but most people think of it for their vast collection of virtual instruments. You can even use Reason in another DAW of your choice if you want access to these instruments.
    • MOTU Digital Performer
      • Similar to Presonus, MOTU also makes audio hardware. Originally created as a midi-only solution, Digital Performer has been around since the 1980s and is now a full-featured DAW compatible with MacOS and PCs.
    • Steinberg Cubase
      • Around 1989, Cubase has a loyal following. Cubase was responsible for developing the VST plugin format, which is one of the universal standards of plugins for this day (but consequently not supported by Pro Tools). They also offer a free trial to take it to a test drive.
    • Cockos Reaper
      • Their motto is "Audio Production Without Limits". With that in mind, Reaper is a great solution if you are the type to adjust settings and preferences. It's very customizable, but with that opportunity comes complexity … and it's time I prefer to just use music. Reaper offers a 60-day fully functional trial and has a discounted license available for $ 60, making it the most affordable DAW software on this list.


    I hope this has given you a place to start from when choosing your DAW software. Personally I use Pro Tools daily. I know well, it just works, and I know I will be able to take my sessions from studio to studio with ease.

    If you work with many "real" instruments and sound, I recommend checking out Pro Tools and Studio One.

    If you make many arrangements and use virtual instruments, Logic can be a good choice for you.

    If you are a DJ or work exclusively with electronic music, FL Studio or Ableton Live can be worth exploring.

    The good thing is that almost all 10 of the solutions I mentioned here offer a free trial or a free version. Go out there and play!

    I'd like to know your favorite DAW and why, so please share in the comments.

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