How to choose your best DAW

It's well worth starting with the statement that there is no ideal DAW. They all have pros and cons which eventually smooth over, as functions from one station move to another and vice versa.
It is important to choose the first option for you as soon as possible and try to make sense of it as profoundly as possible. This will allow you to pay less attention to technical aspects and focus on creativity.

In this article, we will try to speed up your choice.


Introduction to DAW

Before deciding which DAW is right for you, you need to understand what a DAW is, and what it does. DAW means Digital Audio Workstation. It's a piece of software designed to help you record and manipulate audio.

You'll need to use a DAW if you want to:

1. Record multiple audio channels. For example, multiple instruments or overdubs.

2. Edit the audio. For example, cut the file, glue two files together or modify.

3. Balance these multiple channels together to create a final stereo audio file. We know this process as mixing.


All platforms sound the same

There is a common misconception about DAWs. Inexperienced producers seem to think they sound different. But there is empirically proved fact: the DAW itself won't have an impact on the quality of the audio.

If you import the same recording into two different DAWs, it will sound exactly the same. But every DAW comes with different plugins. And this is where the difference lies.

Plugins are used to help process the audio, for example EQ, compression or reverb. These are called stock plugins.

The vast majority of modern DAWs come with a full range of stock plugins. So, while all DAWs inherently sound the same, they all come with plugins that sound different. But, ultimately, the differences are small. Any modern DAW will come with plugins that are sufficient for producing studio-level mixes. The difference is how you use them.


Different genres – different DAWs

Many DAWs are designed to suit certain genres. For example, Ableton Live or Frutty Loops are geared more towards electronic music production. People working in the studios with live instruments prefer Pro Tools; Ableton Live is also used by many people dealing with hip-hop and loops.

Although no DAW is designed with one genre in mind, some of them are better adapted for specialized needs.


Price and content

Generally, the more expensive the DAW is, the more opportunities and exclusive features it includes. But, if this is your first workstation, the expensive dimensional product can play a cruel trick on you.

Firstly, if you spend a few hundred dollars for a DWA, but the experience proves it does not meet your requirements, nobody will give you money back. You can buy the most expensive DAW, thinking of prospects, but you can hardly assess your prospects in the beginning. Whether you will have to record singers and live instruments, or will you write bits for hip-hop artists.

Secondly, you may have overchoice of a variety of built-in functions and tools. Rather than focus on the basics, you will twist everything and anything making nothing of it.

Start with something simple, and better yet, with a trial version of the product. Then you will know for sure whether you are comfortable with this program.


Transferring projects

If you are working in your own studio and plan to complete all projects there, it's not your issue. But if you plan to mix elsewhere, for example, if you record in professional studio and mix at home, it makes sense to get the same DAW they're using in the other studio. This will greatly facilitate you to transfer the project from one computer to another.

Some DAWs also support transfer formats like OMF and AAF which while not perfect, make it a little easier to move between different systems. Make sure this does not escape your attention.

Otherwise, you will have to constantly render each recorded track separately which can take you hours of time in case of big projects.


Recommendations

Traditionally, we conclude with recommendations from ExpertMusic team. Let's have a brief look at the main features of the best DAWs, in our opinion:

1. Logic Pro X (MacOS)
A perfect option being the first sequencer for people using Mac. Many people, even having nothing to do with music, successfully use GarageBand for music composition. It's simple and user-friendly.

But if a musician is already stuck with GarageBand, he can easily migrate to Logic Pro. Nevertheless, the interface remains user-friendly.

Logic Pro is to be commended for quality and quantity of its stock plugins. The reverse side is that Logic uses AU plugins only, not supporting VST. You will not be able to install some external plugins without additional software which not always works steadily.

Exclusive and the most interesting plugin in Logic Pro is Drummer, a virtual drum-playing simulator.


PreSonus Studio One 3 (Windows, macOS)
This workstation is one of the youngest software for music writing and audio mastering. But Studio One increasingly appears in different ratings quickly making a name for itself.

This is the best option for Logic fans not using Mac. Interface priority is usability and consistency. Very flexible to configure. Built-in effects are second to Logic in quality but they are enough for complete sound processing.

We can also mention Track Management and Scratch Pad functions. Track Management allows you to customize the track data picture and save a preset, and Scratch Pad – to create a quick draft on the second monitor to see how certain changes affect the track.

Cons: awkward piano roll and the need to use a large monitor. Otherwise, Studio One may seem not so convenient as promised.


3. Ableton Live 10
Let's start with exclusive. As Ableton has made great efforts in this direction.

Ableton Live has two main views: Arrangement View for arrange and mixing, and Session View for improvisation and live performances. This workstation is used by the majority of electronic musicians.

Arrangement View interface resembles many other popular DAWs. But the workspace contains the most necessary elements only. Therefore, you can run the program even on a 13-inch monitor which is still a huge plus for live performances. It is also easy to work with samples and loops, adjust the automation and plugins on the fly.

The high end exclusive is that Ableton works both with software and hardware. Ableton's Push 2, a hardware controller designed specifically for Ableton, allows you to write music and perform without active involvement of PC. Full compatibility and integration - that's really cool!
Let's summarize:

Music is the main thing. It's not worthy to exaggerate the influence of DAW on your production and mixing level. DAW is designed for your comfort, but primarily you have to rely on your ears and senses. If your first demo did not work as good as you expected – do not rush to blame DAW and change it. Try to figure out what exactly is the problem and examine the issue more thoroughly and meticulously. Then any DAW will be of a great help for producing professional quality results.


If you already have tracks to be listened to in more than 2,500 establishments of our clients – register on our portal! Start receiving remuneration for the use of your music just now.

Team of music experts,
ExpertMusic.

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