Best Free DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) - Bedroom Producers Blog
🎁🎄 Holiday Season 2020 Deals - CLICK HERE!

Best Free DAW (Digital Audio Workstations)

114

Choosing a free DAW for your music studio is not an easy task. A digital audio workstation is the central component of your music production software setup. Your DAW software is where all the audio recording, audio editing, and mixing takes place. It is also where all your VST plugins will be put to good use.

There are plenty of commercial digital audio workstations on the market. Chances are you are familiar with Ableton Live, FL Studio, Studio One, Pro Tools, Cubase, Bitwig, and similar DAWs.

However, your options are more limited if you’re building a software-based music studio on a tight budget. There is only a small number of high-quality free DAW applications out there.

That said, the list of free digital audio workstations grows bigger every year. So, what is the best free DAW in 2020?

Free DAW: The BEST Free Digital Audio Workstations

These are the best free digital audio workstations you can download right now:

To summarize, the best free DAWs are Waveform Free and Cakewalk by BandLab. And if you don’t require VST plugin support, consider using Studio One Prime by PreSonus or Pro Tools | First by Avid. Both are an excellent choice who want to record multi-track audio.

We included mini-reviews of each digital audio workstation and an overview of their pros and cons.

Please note that the software is listed in no particular order. Every user has different demands, and it is impossible to say which DAW is the best. Take a good look at the workstations mentioned in the article and decide which one is the best fit for you.


Waveform Free

Pros: VST and ReWire support, fully functional free DAW, low upgrade price.
Cons: Unconventional workflow.
Platforms: Linux, macOS, Windows.

Waveform Free by Tracktion - Best Free DAW

Waveform Free is a feature-packed free DAW. It is the free version of Tracktion Corporation’s flagship digital audio workstation software called Waveform Pro. Available across all major platforms, offering full VST plugin support and ReWire compatibility, it is a capable digital audio workstation.

This freeware DAW can even load video files if you need to synchronize your audio project to a movie scene or an animation. If you want even more features, though, you will need to purchase the commercial version of Waveform.

If you’re producing electronic music, one can easily recommend Waveform Free as the perfect freeware digital audio workstation for the task. It can load virtual instruments and offers all the MIDI features required for sequencing VST plugins. The app was designed to be intuitive for beginner producers who haven’t used DAW software in the past.

That said, Waveform Free’s single-panel user interface differs from the design standards set by other digital audio workstations. Some users absolutely love the software’s unique workflow. Newcomers probably won’t have any issues with it, whereas music producers who are switching from a different DAW might find it a bit confusing at first.

Back to the good stuff, Waveform Free comes with an in-depth user manual that explains everything you need to know about this free DAW. And if you don’t care much for reading manuals, be sure to check out the training videos that are available on Tracktion’s official website. The tutorial videos cover all crucial topics, from basic setup and plugin installation to advanced audio editing and automation.

If you use many virtual instruments in your music, Waveform Free is probably the best free DAW for you. Its workflow is optimized for instrument plugins and softsynths, with intuitive MIDI sequencing.

More info: Waveform Free

↑ Back to top


Cakewalk by BandLab

Pros: SONAR Platinum for free, what more can you ask for?
Cons: Requires installation of BandLab Assistant.
Platform: Windows (64-bit only).

Cakewalk by Bandlab - Free Digital Audio Workstation

Cakewalk by BandLab is based on the discontinued SONAR Platinum (originally priced at $499) digital audio workstation. BandLab’s free DAW offers the same functionality as its predecessor, minus the bundled third-party software.

Most importantly, Cakewalk is free for all Windows users. The program has all the original SONAR Platinum features, including its native effects (limiters, equalizers, compressors, etc.), analog console-style virtual mixer, VST plugin support, multi-touch support, Bluetooth MIDI, and more.

On the negative side, you will need to install the BandLab Assistant software and sign up for a free BandLab user account. That said, there are no nagging ads or other annoyances to worry about. The DAW itself is fast, reliable, and ready to use on your Windows machine.

Cakewalk by BandLab is still under development by some of the leading members of the SONAR developer team. Producers on a tight budget who want the closest thing to a traditional digital audio workstation should choose Cakewalk as their free DAW.

In other words, if you’re looking for a conventional free DAW that can load VST plugins, be sure to download Cakewalk by BandLab.

More info: Cakewalk by BandLab

↑ Back to top


Studio One Prime

Pros: Great user interface, external SoundFont support, quality native effects.
Cons: No VST plugin support, only one virtual instrument included.
Platforms: macOS, Windows.

Studio One Prime by PreSonus - Free Digital Audio Workstation

Studio One Prime, unlike the two aforementioned digital audio workstations, doesn’t offer VST plugin support. That is a massive drawback for users who rely on using virtual instruments or a specific arsenal of virtual effects in VST plugin format.

On the other hand, Studio One Prime does include a collection of high-quality audio effects developed by PreSonus. It also comes with a 1.5 GB collection of royalty-free sounds and the ability to load third-party SoundFonts.

The free DAW from PreSonus also offers unlimited audio tracks and mixer channels, time-stretching, multi-track comping, full MIDI support, advanced automation, and Studio One’s simple side-chain routing workflow. We recommend Studio One Prime as the best free recording software.

The lack of VST plugin support is a significant drawback, but Studio One’s native effects are some of the best around. The free version includes nine effects in total, covering all of the most important mixing tools. It consists of a 3-band equalizer, a compressor, a simple distortion module, a guitar amplifier, reverb and delay effects, and a set of modulation tools. Five additional effects can be unlocked with an in-app purchase.

Studio One Prime is the perfect digital audio workstation for singer-songwriters or bands who want to record and mix their demo sessions. It is an entry-level free DAW that can be upgraded to Studio One Artist (with more native effects) and Studio One Professional (with plugin support and a range of other additional features).

The free DAW from PreSonus has a tiny memory footprint. The fact that it’s lightweight makes it an excellent choice for a secondary digital audio workstation to use on a laptop that isn’t a part of your main studio setup.

More info: Studio One Prime

↑ Back to top


Pro Tools | First

Pros: Based on Pro Tools, it includes Xpand!2 instrument and over 20 native effects.
Cons: No VST plugin support, limited project storage, CPU hog.
Platforms: macOS, Windows.

Pro Tools | First free digital audio workstation by Avid!

Pro Tools | First shares many features with the full version of Avid’s flagship Pro Tools digital audio workstation. The free version of Pro Tools includes AAX plugin support, Elastic Time and Elastic Pitch functionality, powerful audio recording and mixing tools, a line-up of over twenty native effects, and even the full version of the excellent Xpand!2 synthesizer.

Sounds too good to be true? The catch is that you only get to use up to sixteen tracks and four audio inputs per project. Also, only up to three projects can be stored in the cloud at the same time. Unlimited projects can be saved locally, though.

If we put the cloud storage space limitation aside, the free version of Pro Tools is indeed a very capable DAW. It includes powerful virtual instruments, a wide range of effects, ReWire support, time and pitch stretching, track comping, track bouncing, etc. In short, Pro Tools | First is a competent free DAW for recording and mixing audio.

On the negative side of things, Pro Tools | First requires a lot of hard drive space, which can be a problem for users with limited storage space. Besides, our general impression during testing was that the free version Pro Tools is quite a CPU hog, although this may depend on your hardware setup.

More info: Pro Tools | First

↑ Back to top


Ardour

Pros: A fully-fledged open-source DAW for audio recording and production.
Cons: You have to build the software yourself (or pay a subscription fee) on Windows and macOS.
Platforms: Linux, macOS, Windows.

Ardour digital audio workstation.

Ardour is an open-source digital audio workstation for Linus, macOS, and (as of lately) Windows. Feature-wise, Ardour is an extremely capable DAW with support for all major plugin formats and a wide range of audio editing and mixing features. There is one caveat, though, and that is the fact that you can’t simply download and install Ardour on Windows and Mac.

Being that I’m not a Linux user and not experienced with open-source software, I asked our friend Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music to explain how Ardour really works on various platforms.

And it’s quite simple, really.

Ardour is open-source and free to use. On Linux, the process of downloading the Ardour source code and running the actual app on your computer is almost seamless. On Windows and macOS, you can still use Ardour for free, but only if you can compile the provided source code yourself. If not, there are two options: a one-time donation or a subscription.

With a one-time donation, users on macOS and Windows will receive the current version of Ardour and all the minor updates (until the next major version is released). In contrast, a monthly subscription of $1, $4, or $10 also includes the major updates.

If you’re not sure if Ardour is for you, there’s also a free demo that you can download and run on your computer. The free trial version will go silent after ten minutes of use.

For a long while, Ardour was not at all available on Windows. However, thanks to funding by Google, Harrison Consoles, and Waves Audio, it is now possible to use Ardour as a DAW on a Windows machine.

More info: Ardour

↑ Back to top


MPC Beats

Pros: A virtual MPC for free. Also works as a VST plugin in other DAWs.
Cons: Only eight instrument channels.
Platform: Windows (64-bit only).

MPC Beats by AKAI.

AKAI entered the free DAW market with MPC Beats, a piece of undeniably powerful beat making software. Although the app does have some shortcomings, such as a limited number of audio channels that can be used simultaneously, there are plenty of features that you won’t find in other DAWs.

For example, MPC Beats can be used as a VST plugin in another digital audio workstation. Using a DAW inside another DAW? For free? Yes, these are incredible times for music producers on a budget.

Also, the software includes over 80 audio effects developed by Air, covering all your mixing and sound design requirements. You’re also getting a high-quality time-stretching algorithm, an advanced step sequencer, and the ability to load third-party plugins in VST and AU formats. AKAI is including over 2 GB of free sample content with MPC Beats and users can purchase additional extension packs if needed.

Other than that, MPC Beats features the sample legendary MPC workflow that you’ll find in AKAI’s hardware products. And the software is compatible with a variety of hardware MIDI controllers, including those from AKAI and third-party manufacturers.

If you’re a beatmaker looking for a free DAW, be sure to give MPC beats a try. You can expand this free digital audio workstation with premium sounds released by AKAI.

More info: MPC Beats

↑ Back to top


SoundBridge

Pros: VST plugin support, virtual drum machine included, multi-touch support.
Cons: Lacks some of the advanced features found in other DAWs.
Platforms: macOS, Windows.

SoundBridge is a FREE cloud-based DAW

SoundBridge is a straightforward free digital audio workstation. Due to its simplified user interface, SoundBridge is an excellent choice for beginners and less demanding users. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles found in more advanced DAWs like Waveform Free and Cakewalk by BandLab. On the other hand, there’s plenty of functionality for users who are just starting making music on a computer.

Most importantly, SoundBridge can load third-party VST plugins. Users who program drum beats from scratch will love the fact that SoundBridge includes an MPC-style drum sampler/sequencer and a collection of essential mixing and mastering effects. Furthermore, this free DAW is optimized for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and has hand gestures implemented, along with the ability to scale the interface.

SoundBridge is one of the newest digital audio workstations on the list. The developers are continuously improving the software with new features and updates. Sign up for free on the SoundBridge website and check out this promising freeware DAW.

More info: SoundBridge

↑ Back to top


LMMS

Pros: VST plugin support, includes ZynAddSubFX, open-source.
Cons: Some stability issues, relatively steep learning curve, no audio recording.
Platforms: Linux, macOS, Windows.

LMMS open source digital audio workstation.

LMMS (short for Linux Multimedia Studio) is an open-source pattern-based free DAW that was built by a team of volunteers. Its design and workflow are inspired by a commercial product – the well known FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops) digital audio workstation by Image-Line.

FL Studio’s pattern-based workflow is nicely implemented in LMMS. The problem is that the user interface is still somewhat lacking in polish, making the user experience a bit underwhelming at first. The graphical elements are not very intuitively designed, and new users will probably need some time to get familiar with the application and its features.

The design keeps improving with every new version of LMMS, though, therefore it makes sense to keep the program updated to the latest version at all times. Also, there are plenty of free video tutorials available online to help with the learning process.

LMMS is packed with many built-in effects and virtual instruments, including the ZynAddSubFX synthesizer, which is one of the most versatile freeware instruments around. This freeware DAW can also host VST plugins and connect to other applications via the JACK Audio Server.

The built-in beat/bassline editor is great, and the piano roll works really well for creating and editing more complex MIDI sequences. Sadly, LMMS can’t record audio (!), so it is only possible to generate sound using virtual instruments or use imported samples. Even so, LMMS is a decent free DAW for electronic music producers, beatmakers, and anyone who relies exclusively on virtual instruments and samples to create music.

More info: LMMS

↑ Back to top


Podium Free

Pros: VST plugin support, intuitive user interface, fast workflow.
Cons: Single core processing for VST plugins, no ReWire support, not cross-platform compatible.
Platform: Windows.

Podium FREE by Zynewave.

Podium Free is a long-time favorite of ours, a powerful free digital audio workstation that combines a modern user interface with a fast workflow. Podium was built with electronic musicians in mind, focusing on virtual instruments as the primary sound source. That said, this free DAW can also be used for recording and mixing real instruments.

The free version of Podium offers decent VST plugin support (not limited to a certain amount of VST plugins per project) and a robust object-based project structure with a virtual mixer. It comes with powerful audio recording and editing tools, track freeze/bounce, and external MIDI controller support. Podium Free features the same customizable user interface like the one found in the product’s full version.

The main limitation of Podium Free is that the DAW doesn’t support multi-core CPUs. If you use a quad-core processor, only one of the four available CPU cores will be used for processing plugins.

You’ll need to keep a close eye on the CPU performance indicator and be sure to use less demanding plugins in your projects. Track freezing and bouncing can also help to reduce the overall CPU load. It’s worth noting, though, that the remaining CPU cores are still used for various background tasks (rendering, disk streaming, etc.).

More info: Podium Free

↑ Back to top


Free DAW: Honorable Mentions

GarageBand is the first free DAW used by many music producers. It is included with all Mac computers and designed to be intuitive and easy to use. GarageBand comes with a decent collection of virtual instruments and sounds, but users who want a more advanced digital audio workstation should look elsewhere.

Music Maker by Magix is a free DAW for absolute beginners. In terms of its features and functionality, the software is a GarageBand equivalent on Windows. It comes with a small selection of virtual instruments and effects packed in a streamlined user interface that is easy to learn. The software is a good starting point for musicians who want to learn how to produce music on a computer, but nothing more than that. For any advanced functionality, take a look at the other free digital audio workstations featured in the article.

REAPER is NOT free to use, but it is free to try. The asking price of $60 for a discounted license is more than fair, considering the program’s flexibility and the fact that it’s continuously updated with new features and improvements. REAPER is an incredibly powerful and versatile digital audio workstation that supports all major plugin formats. It comes with a vast collection of high-quality effects for processing audio and MIDI data, features powerful audio and MIDI routing capabilities, and has a very active user community. An in-depth review of REAPER was recently published by ExtremRaym.

KRISTAL Audio Engine is an old digital audio workstation that is no longer updated. The program was developed by KristalLabs, a team of programmers that later worked on creating Studio One. Unlike the free version of Studio One, KRISTAL Audio Engine offers basic VST plugin support with two plugin slots per channel and three plugin slots on the master bus. This is an old DAW, but it can still be useful for users with less powerful computers.

↑ Back to top


What Is The Best Free DAW?

The two best free digital audio workstations are Waveform Free and Cakewalk by BandLab. Both of them are powerful DAW applications with all the essential features necessary for serious music production. Besides offering the standard audio recording, editing, mixing, and automation features, Waveform Free and Cakewalk can also host VST plugins.

Waveform Free has a unique workflow, so chances are that new users will be more familiar with Cakewalk’s user interface. On the other hand, Waveform Free is fully cross-platform.

If third-party virtual instruments and VST plugins are not crucial to your workflow, Studio One Prime and Pro Tools | First are the two free DAWs you should focus on. Studio One Prime is an excellent package for recording audio and performing all standard audio mixing tasks. Pro Tools | First can be expanded with AAX plugins, but it can only save three projects and requires an active network connection.

Beatmakers and less demanding electronic musicians should look into SoundBridge or LMMS. These two free DAWs are optimized for beat making, with a music production workflow that is similar to FL Studio. They’re not nearly as polished and feature-packed as the flagship DAW from Image-Line, but their workflows are somewhat similar.

We hope that our roundup has helped you find the perfect free DAW for your music production studio. The final choice of the digital audio workstation is yours to make because it depends on your needs as the user and the type of hardware that you have at your disposal.

↑ Back to top


For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.

Best FREE Music Production Software

About The Author

Tomislav is a journalist, music producer, and web designer from Belgrade, Serbia. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief here at Bedroom Producers Blog.

114 Comments

  1. Tracktion is the best, Podium hasn’t been updated for almost 2 years and uses only one core of your CPU, and Studio One Prime doesn’t do MIDI tracks unless you use the included instruments… Tracktion actually costs $60, but such a deal. I bought it after playing with free Tracktion 4. Comes with a free licence for Melodyne Essentials. I also bought Studio One 3, because for $99, the guitar amp sims plus the instruments plus another work environment was worth it!!!

    • What are you doing with all these different DAWs? Are you actually making any music, because it’s really difficult to get anything done when fiddling around in many different DAWs simultaneously.

      Also, where did you get Studio One 3 for $99 ?

      • Dear IKE,
        I have FL Studio demo (make drums in it, sometimes), Energy XT (full, but not to powerful, but I arrange samples there), then record my vocals in Reaper 0.999 or Cubase LE (which came with my soundcard), all kind of free good VSTs and final touches in Audacity…

        This was an ambition of mine, to show myself that IT IS possible to make good songs with NO MONEY, just inspiration.
        I finished half of album in this free universe…
        Check my Youtube.com/SocietateaAscendenta and see it for yourself.

        I want to encourage others, not to not buy DAWs, but to not spend a fortune on good marketed hype DAWs which don’t really bring that much, in your music…

    • I got Tracktion first, and then was shopping around for some commercial amp sim plugins. Buying two different ones from Kuassa would have cost the same or more as Studio One Artist, ($99) which has excellent guitar amp plugins. So yeah, I do have an extra DAW, but here’s another issue. .. Unless I pay another $80 dollars for an upgrade in Studio One to run third party plugins, I can only do that with Tracktion. They were both cheap

  2. Sure thing, with so many choices possible, price shouldn’t be the reason for not starting making sounds/music right now ! :D
    There is so many interesting possibilities, for all kind of projects / workflows / PC configurations, that we could eventually get a bit lost in the choice. Fortunately, your article clarify the different possibilities potential, and I have no doubt it will be very a reference for new comers. in DAWs world.

    Despite it is not free, it is cool that you mentioned REAPER in this list (and that you promote my review :P), as it is indeed very affordable and have a lot to offer :)

  3. Once again you forgot to mention Samplitude Pro X Silver. Only eight tracks per project, but full VST support, and it comes with a very generous selection of effects and a some instruments.

  4. I would recommend everyone to spend 5€ on the latest issue of Beat magazine and get Bitwig 8-Track. Very capable if one uses mostly the included devices (it has everything from a subtractive synth, fm synth, sampler, tonewheel organ emulation, all kinds of effects). Such a great, intuitive and sophisticated DAW.

  5. Wouter van Leeuwen

    on

    Where’s OpenMPT? It’s been my DAW for ages. It’s a tracker, so it’s interface may be very complicated at first, but once you get into it, OpenMPT definitely packs a big punch. Because it is mainly sample based it’s a very lightweight program, and the interface despite being hard to understand is very intuitive to work with. It supports VST plugins and it also includes a primitive tracker form of automation which works very well. Even though it’s a bit of an odd one, it’s a great free DAW and when used right, you can definitely get some awesome tracks out of it.

    (Not to mention i made one of the example songs so yeah that’s a thing.)

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Hi Wouter, thanks for the tip! OpenMPT is very good and it is featured in our free VST host round-up. This particular article focuses on sequencer based DAWs and the plan is to add a tracker section later on.

  6. I remember when I was first getting into music trying to decide what DAW to go with and seeing all my musician friends around me just steal really expensive DAWs. It felt wrong to me, but I didn’t have the money to buy one of the more expensive ones. The demo process was also a pain in the butt, each company making you jump through a bunch of hoops to try a gimped product. Then I found reaper, downloaded it and had it installed within 2 minutes. Half an hour later after I had poked through the whole thing and realized it was a full featured DAW I bought it. Its really hard for me to imagine moving to a different DAW because the businesses practices of Cockos are so progressive.
    So yah, its not freeware, but poke your way around Reaper for a bit and you’ll be hard pressed to say 60$ for a thing you could just keep using and not actually pay for because the creator isn’t going to go the DRM route isn’t the best damn deal on the internt.
    Its an exciting time to be doing electronic music!

    • Is Reason really that amazing? I mean, I’ve had issues with music production due to that fact that DAW’s like Ableton and FL Studio are so expensive, and the electronic music spectrum I’m striving to focus on (dubstep) requires a heavy inclination towards the use of software like this. I did consider purchasing Ableton’s Standard Edition, but it’s 500$! I couldn’t afford something like that right now :(

      However, if Reason is that complete and comes with sample processing capabilities, then I would be thrilled. :)

  7. I think Renoise should be in the Honorable Mentions section here. It’s not free, but they have a free unlimited demo. Quality wise, it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best on this list.

  8. I have used just Studio One V3 Prime to record my latest demo song. Being free meant I was able to get my friend help out record tracks from the other side of the world.
    No VST limitation is bit on the down side, but it brought out creativity and lots of workarounds, like using multiple layered built in plugins to achieve similar result.

    P.S. I also own Studio One V2.6 Pro.

  9. Did you not know about Energy XT ? It’s not necessarily free, but a great demo prog that you can actually compose songs with. You can save the completed project with some external programs at your aid.

  10. I do sympathise with any article published on the web, its obsolete as soon as its published cos things change.

    1. I found it impossible to install and use Protools 1st.

    2. There is no publicly available download page for Samplitude Pro X silver.

    3. It is impossible to download Tracktion 4, cos the registration forms simply do not work

    • 1. Yeah, PT 1st is a pain in the ***. It’s useless.
      2. For some reason Magix stopped offering Samplitude Pro X Silver as a free download.
      3. Registration form for Tracktion 4 is working.

      There’s a special edition of german Beat magazine that includes Samplitude Pro X2 Silver and Tracktion 5 in the DVD.

  11. While it’s not as complex as the ones above, Someone new might want to try Audacity. You can now do your VST plugins with it. I do more automated mixing…i edit the track to lower volume or raise in places, things like that
    so I don’t have to rely on a “mix performance”, that’s probably why I like it for my non-pro needs. I am sure its not optimized for heavy multi-track recording. But for bare bones get ‘er done fast stuff I like it. If i had money, I’d buy a DAW. between Audition (free old version), Audacity and even once in awhile Studio One Prime, Good enough for hobby stuff.

  12. You forgot REAPER (don’t get excited, I’m not talking about the latest Reaper, but about REAPER 0.999).

    Reaper 0.999 was the last REALLY free version, before it went commercial.

    It’s quite a good version of Reaper, fully customizable, supports your ASIO card,
    cool global “slow-mo” recording (for those fast vocals) and many other things.

    Try it out.

    Ciao,
    Leo

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Hi João, thanks for the comment. The excellent VSTHost is listed in out “free VST host roundup” article. This particular page is focused on DAWs, though.

  13. I thought I would try Pro-Tools-First just to see it. The install was missing files and it installs other programs and takes forever. Way too much overhead…even in the install! It it works for you, great, but if you are want to try out a big boy DAW (snicker) go with Studio One Prime. Far less overhead on your system. Cloud bad! :)
    I work with database software for a living and Cloud database software. I think the Pro-Tools has far more overhead!

  14. Can someone suggest me between tracktion and reaper?
    I use tracktion free, but is reaper better than tracktion?

    • Reaper gets frequent updates and only gets better.
      I would use it because it also has a very large forum for assistance.

  15. Tomislav, you may want to update this article. Samplitude Pro X Silver is not available anymore. Version 2 is available only as magware or bundled with Miditech products.

      • Icetea For Buddha

        on

        Hi Tomislav Zlatic,

        You might want to include this on your website aswell:

        I have been developing DSP for over 10 years, in conjunction with real production, and musical skill, and recently did a freeware plugin, taking some of the best of minimal resource DSP, and put it into a freeware limiting pluagin. It is probably the best freeware limiter available, and sounds like fully professional DAW stuff. I am doing a bigger commercial version, with some additional stuff, one would expect from that, so if you want the extras, they will soon be available in a commercial product aswell.

        FreeLim can be downloaded on http://www.purebeneficience.net

        PS: We recently changed websites.

        Peaceful Salutations
        Icetea For Buddha,
        Ove Bjørn Karlsen.

  16. Caustic by Single Cell Software has free Windows and Mac versions.It can be alternative for softwares like reason.It can’t load VSTs but comes with 7 synths a sampler which can load sf2 and FL studio mobile instruments. Its just 27 mb.I think its worth giving a try. @Tomislav Zlatic.

  17. Aw, come on – not even an honorable mention for Audacity? It now has USB 2.0 support and an actual *real* VU meter (unlike the funky excuse for one they used to have! I still find occasional uses for it, like splitting stereo tracks and a nice wah-wah effect that’s better than most freeware counterparts out there. The LADSPA plugins are unique enough that I took the step of getting them in my commercial DAW. The latest version of Audacity is the best one so far.

  18. Note that Tracktion 5 is now free – and was decidedly better than T4. The current version is Tracktion 7. While the upgrade is worth every penny to T7, T5 is a very fine, free DAW.

  19. Tracktion 5 is the new best free DAW. Not very intuitive but it’s the only free DAW with no limitations at all.
    Pro Tools First is the same useless crap, as well as LMMS.
    Studio One Prime has received some good updates, but the lack of Vst support is frustrating.
    MuLab Free is great, but being only 4-track makes it a demo, more than a free DAW.
    Samplitude Pro X Silver doesn’t exist anymore, but version X2 is mag-ware and also comes with some Keyboards and interfaces, same as Bitwig 8-track (both are limited to 8 tracks per project).
    Podium Free is dead, no updates since 2014.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      I agree with you for the most part, except for Podium Free which, even though it’s not being updated, can still be very useful for beginners. And yes, Tracktion 5 definitely needs to be added to the article.

    • Actually,
      1) Once you use T5 for a week, it’ll be so easy that you’ll instantly fall in Love with it.
      2) LMMS is pretty capable. It CAN load audio but cannot Record it. So Recording in Audacity and doing other things can make it have no limitations at all. For me It is the second Fully Featured DAW after T5. The Native Synths are good too.

      • Tomislav Zlatic

        on

        I’ll try to spend more time with Tracktion 5 next year. Being used to having a classic mixer panel, Tracktion’s approach to mixing audio is somewhat non-intuitive to me. But I’m pretty sure it becomes second nature after prolonged use.

        • Yeah, Tracktion’s mixing is certainly different. It uses Racks to send/ link tracks for sidechaining and other tasks. But the racks itself provide modular capabilities to the software.

      • Para windows es “gratis” tambien, pasa que tendras que copilar tu mismo el codigo (el cual es abierto) Y AHI SI LO TENDRAS GRATIS :D

        Obviamente que es algo molesto si uno no sabe de copilar codigo fuente…pero si lo averiguas y buscas en internet…puede q lo aprendas y tengas gratis el Ardour ;)

        PD.: en Linux no es gratuito, solo lo obtienes gratuito accediendo a los repositorios de UbuntuStudio o de KXStudio.

        Salu2

  20. REAPER wins….

    No contest.

    It’s extremely efficient. And if you are that broke, you machine is probably old and under-powered as well. Reaper will make the most of your hardware. It runs on Windows, Mac, and it will run under Linux if you use WINE.

    It’s super sophisticated, but you don’t need to be an expert to jump in.

  21. Hi Tomislav,

    With release of Tracktion 6 as a free DAW, you may like to update this article, if you have some time.

    Thanks for all information.

  22. BUMP!!

    I’m always surprised that nobody speaks of Jeskola Buzz Tracker which is a powerful windows freeware for making music :

    http://www.jeskola.net/buzz/

    It is an open software in the way that coders can create machines for it (machines are effects or synths/drum machines/samplers). Fx machines are called Effect and machines that generates sounds are called Generators. There is 795 native machines avalaible today, I’d say that 450 are Fx and the others are Generators. They have been coded by 146 developers, a development kit is provided by the creator of Buzz, mister Oskari Tammelin :

    http://buzz.robotplanet.dk/

    You can use easily VST, without limits in a really, really great VST loader :
    https://www.xlutop.com/buzz/

    You can use also Soundfonts with an excellent soundfont loader created by the author of Buzz (Jeskola XS1), use wav and mp3 samples, import midi file, connect midi instruments, etc. You can use a XBox gamepad to play music, or a Leap Motion and a lot of other devices.

    XS1 review in KVR :
    http://www.kvraudio.com/product/xs_1_by_jeskola/reviews

    There is also tools to help writing music :
    http://ronan.daniel.free.fr/Buzz/

    It’s a tracker that keep evolving today (there is updates) and this freeware exists since 1997!!

    There is some particular machines used to create self-generated music by example (called Peer machines). Some videos about Peer machines, generative music, Leap Motion and XBox game pad playing :

    Peer machines and Leap Motion :
    https://youtu.be/ItQ7mdKdnxg
    https://youtu.be/WtUgEb5B_Vc

    Peer machines and XBox game pad :
    https://youtu.be/BrIwG7fgyc0
    https://youtu.be/-CItGqpZO8Y

    Even with armchairs!! :
    https://youtu.be/Q1EqSaw2Ryw

    Generative music :
    https://youtu.be/eRMaPwdxURQ
    https://youtu.be/2rhKAsVZiII

    Production workflow examples :
    https://youtu.be/ReBk2WFliig

    And a tutorial I made about Vocoder in Buzz part 1 :
    https://youtu.be/GuAEWxnLJUI

    Part 2 :
    https://youtu.be/IzzXA6CPCFQ

    There is a lot more to say. Ask me if you need more info. Or go to the official Buzz forum :
    http://forums.jeskola.net/

    My music made with Buzz :
    https://soundcloud.com/magmavander/tracks

    Thanks to read :)

  23. Joerg Starkmuth

    on

    Hi, thanks for the useful article! There’s an error in the Conclusion: Replace “Cubase by BandLab” with “Cakewalk by BandLab”.

  24. Cakewalk is the new top. Despite the Bandlab Assistant, there’s none impact in the DAW resources disponibility; it’s quite complete, and the learning curve is better than Tracktion’s.

    • Hola Rodrigo, a hola quizas hablas español, tienes razon, con solo el prochannel basta para descargarlo. Sin embargo aprender el funcionmiento de dos daw puede ser beneficioso.

      Hello Rodrigo, maybe you speak Spanish, you’re right, with only the prochannel is enough to download it. However, learning the operation of two daw can be beneficial.

  25. Keith R. Starkey

    on

    Two questions:
    1. What exactly is Bandlab Assistant going to do to Cakewalk? How is it going to affect using Cakewalk?

    2. Of all the DAWs mentioned, what would be one to start with for importing MIDI files from Musescore music notation software to get good sound for jazz and orchestral compositions? The DAW has to be user-friendly and take beginners into consideration.

  26. I would suggest people on Linux check out Qtractor!

    It’s free and opensource.
    It’s very stable (especially considering the history of audio production programs on Linux).
    Unlimited: tracks, overlapping clips, plugins per track or bus, midi effects send/returns inserts per track, etc.

    It supports LADSPA, DSSI, native VSTi and LV2 plug-ins.
    It can use Cakewalk, Soundfont and Midi names XML instruments.

    It’s an all around great pro-level program, especially considering it is probably the only one out of all of the above that is actually completely free!

  27. I recently ran across this great DAW called SoundBridge. I’m not sure if it’s been covered here but I downloaded it and it seems pretty advanced; it comes with all the basic plugins, a compressor with sidechain built in, automation, a decent piano roll and even different time stretching algorithms. Pretty good for a free DAW I’d never heard of before. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: https://soundbridge.io/

  28. Tomislav, this article is in a bad need of adding Tracktion 7 and Soundbridge, I guess. I own both. Since i`m an old fan of Tracktion, I am happy to finally have T7. And Soundbridge looks very promising. A nice option for those who is after traditionaly-looking DAWs.

  29. You’re the first person I’ve seen call Ardour the way it is. Not free! It even says free all over their own GD website, but it’s not. Like you said, in Linux is one thing, but to build it for Windows you have to build it from a Linux environment with a pretty detailed configuration in place. Not practical for anyone but the developers on their project or someone with way too much time on their hands (and that time is worth less than a dollar).

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tool. I have a $1 monthly subscription so I can continue to get nightlies of the Ardour 6, but I feel their demands for money go against the spirit of open source and specifically their software license (GPL).

  30. EricTboneJackson

    on

    A fundamental trait of all modern DAWs is non-destructive editing. Audacity is really an audio editor, not a DAW, according to every modern example of a DAW (Logic, Reason, Reaper, Garage Band, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc.) It’s a multi-file audio editor. Yes, you can generate a click track and record into it, and do a small subset of what DAWs do, but the term “DAW” has come to represent a suite of features that Audacity simple doesn’t have: real time/non-destructive processing, MIDI and virtual instruments, audio routing including send buses, etc.

    So kudos to the author for not perpetuation misinformation, potentially confusing to beginners, by referring to Audacity as a “DAW”.

  31. Very good List but you people should try Buzz tracker,dont think its just a tracker its most powerful tracker what i know if you use its shortcuts its really faster ,faster than any daw in this list
    enjoy👍

    • William J. Dager

      on

      Well gee, I guess, according to you, we should all bankrupt ourselves just to make the world conform to your preferences. Macs, especially ones outfitted with enough memory, hard drive size and speed, are notoriously expensive, plus the fact that we all would be forced to learn yet another operating system. If you are willing to buy all of us a brand new Mac, We will be most overjoyed at your generosity. But until you can afford to do so, you need to stick comments like yours where the sun doesn’t shine and be more respectful of those who cannot afford to trash all their computer gear to buy something more expensive with a smaller selection of software, which itself is more expensive as well. Your arrogance, ignorance and elitism is showing. Put it back in your pants where it belongs. Hey I have an idea. Why don’t you go ahead and create something that works better on a PC, how about getting Apple to make their hardware available for lower cost. Maybe then people will be more interested in purchasing it.

  32. David Steel Coxon

    on

    you should check the humble bundle site now and again as they occasionally bundle a version of magix (no difference apart from which loops and instruments you can choose,) always bundled with samplitude and acid and a rotating collection of audio cleanup programs paid 15 dollars and ended up with over a grands worth of shizz mixcraft 8 just dropped in price Was a very reasonable 58 dollars. think you should perhaps stress to new user/creators that the gap between high end price tag (FL springs to mind) and freeware, near free and cheap DAWS is closing fast, with more thought needed on what you hope to create rather than high price means high quality.

  33. Hi Tomislav, I think it’s time to give Pro Tools First another shot – after so many years things have changed.

    Pro Tools First 2019.6 is actually the Version for Mac OS Mojave. It has included air Xpand, UVI Wavestation, and some good professional Plugins. Worth to mention that locally Projects can be stored without the need of cloud restrictions. I think it can not compare with Reaper but in my opinion easy with studio one prime which is also “crippleware”. But maybe 16 Audiotracks, 16 Midi and 16 Instrument Tracks and 23 included Plugins for free are a good starting point.

    If you pay 40 – 50 Bucks a year you get the Full Plugin Pack with everything that AVID offers including Eleven Full, Complete Air Production and Instruments Range etc. and you can save as many projects as you like on your Harddrive. The Bummer is that you can only exchange files and projects via cloud – 3 Projects in free version. Otherwise you have to pay 5 Bucks more per month.

    For musicians and ongoing producers this maybe can be a first step to the Pro Tools World.
    I´m not affiliated with Avid – but I took this route for myself and I like the idea to work with good legal software and not pirated.

    Thank you for your time and all the work to make our life and work much easier. Best wishes and take care in 2020.

    Michael B.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Thanks for the tip! I’ll be sure to give Pro Tools First another try. Btw, an updated version of this article is coming soon.

  34. I was looking for a program that was easy to use for productions and gave quick results when creating tracks. I’ve tried switching to logic a few times, but that’s just not my thing. When I have an idea, I want to be able to work it out quickly so that I can decide whether it is worth finishing it. FL Studio also has some really good plugins that I use a lot.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      It all depends on your preferred workflow, as well as the type of music you create. Also, your budget. Are you a beatmaker, a singer/songwriter, or a composer? Do you record instruments or use virtual instruments only? Maybe you only use samples? If you provide more info, I’ll be happy to help you pick the right DAW.

  35. Your article states it’s published 2020, but the comments go back to 2015???

    How about producing an article that lists DAWS where we purchase the base package and then with a small budget turn the base package into a full package one way or another by utilising free VSTs, plugins etc and purchase one or two modules or features that can’t be included free as I can afford the base packages, but the prices rise so steeply for the full packages they price me out of the game completely being disabled with limited earning capability, but also deny us access to crucial things like time stretching/Warp etc etc

    I believe once the company start using terms like professional quality the prices rises astronomically, but the real professional studios will have bespoke systems produced for them, they know some people make money with these DAWS and who wouldn’t like to, but most don’t and to call them professional level is just a bit misleading for the price they charge and most of them once you have sunk your money in you become a prisoner for them to then up-sell you other exclusive features, modules, sets etc etc sold with no competition and with an enhanced price tag that reflects that! I don’t want something for nothing, but I don’t like throwing my money away just to get one or two prime features. These DAWS have become a minefield and cutting through the bullshine is difficult and why I’m on your very good well written article which I thank you for.

    I wish Ableton split the performance feature off as a separate module to be purchased as a bolt on as it’s nothing I want and I don’t want to pay £600+ for the Suite nor do I want PUSH 2 support and not use half of it else I would pay £300 for Ableton as their DAW is the one I get along with the best.

    I would purchase FL studio signature, but the Producer version has just a couple of things that are really needed missing i.e New Tone warp type function, but even if I purchase the next step up there’s too much missing to warrant, it the step up costs too much.

    You may say I’m being tight, but bear in mind what I said about my income, I wish the pricing for students was extended to disabled people also!

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      The article was originally published in 2015 but the last time it was updated was 2020. Another update is coming soon with the release of Waveform Free. :)

      Anyway, I see your point. Starting with a cheaper DAW and building upon it is a great way to start, especially with so many free plugins out there. I’ll write an article about the best budget-friendly workstations soon.

  36. Frits van Zanten

    on

    After a few years working with Ableton I gave Pro Tools First a try. I got more BSODs in two days then in the ten years before. I think it’s very slow too. But I write this to ‘correct’ you on the saving of your work. I was unpleasantly surprised that First stores your work in the cloud, indeed max. 3 projects. But that was changed rather recently, so maybe you need to update the information on this. Oh, and you can’t use VST plug-ins. No offense, kind regards.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Thanks for your comment, much appreciated! I will update the Pro Tools First section accordingly. Actually, the whole article will be updated next week.

  37. Evelio Perez

    on

    Tracktion 7 is not free! They introduce a 2-second hissing noise in the editor every 15 seconds and this will not go away until you pay for the full version making this demo completely useless for anything at all

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      That can’t be right. T7 is free. Have you activated your free license? If so, you should probably reach out to Tracktion’s support team to fix this issue.

  38. tracktion is not fully functional. you can’t export. makes it useless to see how the track sounds outside the program.

  39. Finally I see Soundbridge here =) I guess Zenbeats by Roland is also worth to mention in “honorable mentions” section.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Still haven’t tested Zenbeats properly, but that’s a good suggestion, thanks. I’ll test it and consider adding it to the article.

  40. Cyantheproducer

    on

    Hi Tomislav…
    Which DAW mentioned in the article is Perfect or decent enough to make music like Nazaar, RL Grime, or Zomboy and what plugins and such would you recommend.

    Here are some songs from each artist listed:
    UCLA (ft. 24hrs) – RL Grime
    Endgame – Zomboy
    Legacy (ft. NJ) – Nazaar

    I’ve used FL Studio Mobile (14.99$ – 19.99$ (may vary on which app marketplace you use)) on my phone to make music there and its very noice but I want to use the computer I got recently to make my music wayyy better. I recently got into music around early 2020 (i was 15 but now I’m 16). I’ve made about 13 songs throughout the year (only 5 or 6 were released on my SoundCloud due to me being grounded and lack of internet).

    Here’s my Soundcloud so you can hear what I’ve made (they’re only instrumentals since I have a horrible singing/rapping voice…also is there something I can use to fix that?)
    “https://Soundcloud.com/users/Toni_the_Producer”

  41. dont forget a small website called soundation its really good for beginners and has a social part of it to to get you music out

  42. I was looking for Linux DAWs and found this page mentions SoundBridge has Linux version, but I don’t see it on their website. Maybe it has changed?

Leave A Reply