Best 9 Free DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) • Audio Plugins for Free

Best 9 Free DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation)

What is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)?

Are you Interested in making music? You must have come across the term DAW. A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is an application software or an electronic device that can be used to record, edit and produce audio files. They come handy for the recording and production of audio across various formats like speech, songs, television, soundtracks, and many more.

DAWs can be divided into various types depending on the complexity users are looking for. They can be a single software program or a stand alone unit. The most complicated ones comprise of various components which are centrally controlled by a machine. In this article, we will inform you about various 100% free DAWs available in the market. To make it easier for you, we have also added their platform compatibility (Windows, Mac, Linux, and APP)

Tracktion 7

Compatible Platforms – Windows, Mac OS and Linux

Built by The Tracktion Corporation, Tracktion 7 is considered to be one of the best full-fledged DAWs all around the world. It has no ‘Lite’ version which comes free for users, instead it is completely free. It is known for its smooth and easy-to-use interface and unlike most other free software, you get support for unlimited MIDI and audio tracks. It also provides VST plugin support and ReWire Compatibility.

How is this app free in spite of being full-fledged? The catch is that it is an older version which will receive no future updates and no bug fixes. If you want to experience that latest, you will have to buy Waveform. But not taking away anything from it, it provides a great workflow and you will have a great time fiddling with it.

To make your experience better, they have also included an in-depth manual. It explains everything about the software in the simplest possible manner to make you feel at home.

Pros

  • Cross Platform support
  • VST Plugin support
  • Unlimited MIDI and audio tracks
  • Easy and intuitive UI

Cons

  • Those who are coming from another DAW may find it cumbersome initially
  • No future support
  • Traditional Mixer View is missing

Cakewalk by BandLab

Compatible Platform – Windows (64-bit)

Previously known as SONAR, Cakewalk by BandLab is essentially the same software without the bundled third-party software. All the Microsoft 64-bit users can utilize this app for free and the company is also co-working with Microsoft to improve its performance on the Surface Line of supercomputers.

Cakewalk by BandLab comes with ARA support for integrated Melodyne Pitch Correction and has a 64-bit audio engine. It also has support for VST3, DirectX and virtual instruments. Like in T7, it also has support for unlimited MIDI and audio tracks. You can also use the Professional Channel to bring studio-quality editing at your fingertips.

Cakewalk by BandLab has won several awards for its interface and we don’t need to explain how good it is. But, like with most DAWs, you may not feel at home when you first use it. If you ask us to choose the best DAW of 2019, this will have a higher chance of taking the cake.

Pros

  • Unlimited MIDI and audio tracks support
  • VST Plugin support
  • Professional grade tools
  • VST3 is industry’s best audio engine

Cons

  • Supports only Windows 64-bit
  • Free BandLab Assistant software must be downloaded

LMMS (Linux Multimedia Studio)

Compatible Platforms – Windows, Mac OS and Linux

LMMS is an open-source software which gives it a bonus point before we start talking about it. Being driven by a community of enthusiasts, users are always assured of a software that is constantly evolving for the better. Not only that, it is cross platform, which ensures that it is compatible for various users irrespective of what they use. It is the biggest advantage of this software.

LMMS supports Giga, Ultrasound and Soundfonts and also has support for VST plugins. It also has support for unlimited MIDI and audio tracks along with the regular stuff that you will require. The community has contributed in a massive way by developing 16 synthesizers, which includes Roland, Nintendo and GameBoy, Yamaha, Commodore and many more.

With built-in compressor, limiter, delay, reverb and so many other convenient facilities, LMMS has been a great support for innumerable composers who cannot afford premium stuff. It has been designed by musicians, for musicians and this ensures a smooth and comfortable UI which makes music making a whole lot easier.

Pros

  • Designed by musicians, for musicians
  • Cross Platform support
  • Unlimited MIDI and audio tracks
  • Packed with features
  • VST support

Cons

  • The interface feels stale
  • Being open source, there can be conflicts

BandLab

Compatible Platform – Android, Cloud-Based

BandLab is a software that was developed to make collaboration easier. Being cloud-based, you can use it across various platforms and devices and collaborate with musicians all over the world. If you think that it has a limited feature-set due to it being free, we will ask you to think again. It allows you access to more than 6000 royalty free loop triggering, MIDI sequencing, loops and so much more which are professionally recorded.

It also has support for more than 120 virtual instruments and cross-platform customizable presets, bass, guitar and vocal FX. To add to all of it, you get unlimited projects, storage which is secure, downloads, and Algorithmic Mastering. You can invite professionals to contribute to your vision and allow them to make changes as required.

Since it is connected to the cloud, you may come across occasional issues in terms of connectivity. Also you may not feel completely at home due to lack of physical instruments. These hindrances never make BandLab a bad experience and you will always enjoy this collaborative atmosphere.

Pros

  • Doesn’t depend on Platforms
  • Collaborative
  • Brings different taste to music by mixing various communities
  • Accessible from anywhere and anytime

Cons

  • Weak internet may cause issues
  • No real software for monitoring

SoundBridge

Compatible Platforms – Windows and Mac OS

SoundBridge has been developed while keeping simplicity in mind. To download and access this software, you must log in into your SoundBridge account every time. You get access to unlimited MIDI and audio tracks and it also has VST support for the added convenience. It allows users to collaborate via the skytracks.io interface and you can also access various SoundBridge Academy Courses.

It comes with a touch interface, which makes working on it a tad easier. It also supports RitMix: Drum Machine which is a mixture of MPC Pad Section and 16-step Sequencer. The MPC Pad Section can be made larger with the help of multiple touchscreens and this allows for more breathing space. In addition to all of these, it also boasts of huge variety built-in FX and Advanced Mixer.

Pros

  • Very intuitive UI
  • Lack of any unnecessary clutter
  • Fast and smooth
  • Compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit

Cons

  • Lack of instruments
  • No audio unit support
  • Missing keyboard support for piano
  • Plugin Bridging is not available

GarageBand

Compatible Platforms – Mac OS and iOS

GarageBand has been developed by Apple and it includes a complete music creation studio inside your Apple device. Most of the music makers start off with this DAW as it comes bundled with all Macs. It has been developed by the developers of Logic Pro and this adds a heft to it. It makes everything so much easier, be it sampling, recording, writing songs, or playing with instruments.

You just need to connect your keyboard or any other compatible device with your Mac and you are good to go. In addition to this, you also get access to live synthesizers instruments and samplers. And being compatible on several devices, it makes music on-the-go a whole lot easier. You are always ready to publish your new track on SoundCloud or YouTube.

Very few pre-installed applications provide so much utility as GarageBand and we are glad that Apple has continued to support this app and kept it free for all the users out there. Even though it is limited to 32 tracks, but we get support for AU plugins and makes music making feel inherent.

Pros

  • Supports MIDI and audio recordings
  • A wide range of instruments are available
  • Makes on-the-go music making a reality

Cons

  • Not compatible for Windows
  • Track Count could have been more generous

Stagelight by OpenLabs

Compatible Platform – Android, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Chromebook

Stagelight is not completely free and OpenLabs charge an amount for the Full Version, but it deserves a mention for what it offers in the Free version. This is a cross platform software which can help you juggle between various devices, if required. It allows support for unlimited tracks in both the Loopbuilder and Traditional Timeline modes.

Not only that, you get access to Drum Trucks, 9 instruments, Key Lock and 14 instruments. But the choice in the free version is limited. This app is more intuitive for hip-hop makers and has a DJ-oriented session view. It is also known to be very touch friendly, but if you need VST support, you must eke out some cash from your pocket.

Pros

  • Loopbuilder
  • Cross Platform compatibility is unmatched
  • Easy and smooth UI

Cons

  • Not a great range of plugins
  • VST support is unavailable for free version

Pro Tools First

Compatible Platforms – Android, Windows (32-bit), and Mac OS

Pro Tools First is a software for the younger generation who are beginners and have just come by to test the water. These people can save their hard earned dollars by getting a free DAW that gets the job done, but if you want more functionality, you must pay the price. The free version comes with 1 GB of cloud storage and you can only save your ongoing projects there.

It also limits the current projects to 3 which can make the users furious but there are no two ways about it. The sampling rate tops up at 96 kHz but you are rarely going to care about it. To ensure ease for its users, it includes 20 plugins and Xpand2 which is considered very powerful. To add to all of these, you get a taste of Avid’s industry leading technology.

If you want to make great music, this is the place to start off. It also has support for collaboration which makes it easier if you plan to start a band. Avid says that more than 70% of commercial music is created using their pro software, Pro Tools. Pro Tools First thereby takes you closer to how the industry behaves.

Pros

  • Xpand2 support
  • Playback up to 16 tracks
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • No VST support
  • Limited Plugins
  • Mixes must be stored on the cloud

Studio One 4 Prime

Compatible Platforms – Windows and Mac OS, both 64-bit

Studio One 4 Prime is a free version of its elder sibling and still comes with features that you are happy to pay money for. It works great on touchscreens and high DPI screens and has been curated to give you utmost convenience. Along with support for unlimited MIDI and audio tracks, Version 4 has included a new drum editor and instrument for pattern-based arrangement.

Being the free version, it also misses out on a lot. It has no VST support and comes with only a single workstation sampler, Presence XT. It is not compatible with the other instruments that you possess and this makes it hard to recommend. If you want to get a taste of the premium version before paying for it, you will have a great time using this software.

In spite of having some new features in its kitty, Studio One 4 Prime feels very much at home. It provides some significant advantages over its predecessor without charging a penny for the same.

Pros

  • Comes with several mixing and editing tools
  • Full MIDI and audio tracks support
  • Intuitive UI
  • Patterns are available

Cons

  • No VST support
  • It doesn’t feel enough

Conclusion

This guide will help you to choose amongst various free DAWs available in the market. There are several others which have missed out like Audacity, but we find those in the list superior to the others. Tracktion 7 and Cakewalk by BandLab are certainly the most powerful and feature-rich, but if you are a beginner, GarageBand and Pro Tools First won’t disappoint you as well.