DAW – Digital Audio Workstation

The oldest question in digital audio production: Which DAW should I use?


It is not easy to answer this and you will find many web articles about this subject.

And again, comparable to the most things you will find about VSTs, the things they tell you are rather generic than acutally helpfull. Especially if you are just beginning.

So here are my (hopefully helpfull) 2 cents on the subject:



-But it is the industry standard!?!?!?!?

Yeah well. I don’t care! Reasons:
Pro Tools is awful in some regards. You have to configure stuff you do not want to worry about. Watch this video! (it is not the only one on this subject). Ok, it is two years old now, maybe they have fixed some of this, but there is more!
Pro Tools is very expensive. Yes, you can get a free “pro tools first” copy, but this lacks some essential features – like committing – and has restricitons in aspects like hardware outputs, tracks…
When you are just starting, this may be no problem but:
No native VST support.
Pro Tools changed their plugin format from RTAS to AAX – both proprietary – and stopped supporting the former format. So you could throw away all your plugins and buy new ones. (Some would offer an update, but understandably you’d had to pay for most of these too).
There are some VST wrappers but I’ve tried to use some of my favorites and could not get them to work. Just check the forums. What you will find, are buzzwords like: buggy, unstable….

Whilst the DAW still might be good, in my opinion it is not the right choice for hobbyist. It might get better, if you are ready to spend a lot of money and time. But there are just better, easier and more affordable options.
At least to begin the long journey through the amazing world of audio.


Some more DAWs, frequently mentioned in the “the definitive and ultimate guide to choosing the best DAW in year 20xx”

Presonus Studio One 3
FL Studio
Ableton Live
Cockos Reaper
Steinberg Cubase
Apple Logic Pro X
Cakewalk SONAR Discontinued
Propellerhead Reason


It is hard to say, which one will the best for you.
Some thoughts:

Logic is mac only. The VST format has to be build (or at least compiled) for the OS. Problem here: Many (free) VSTs are PC only.

FL Studio and Ableton Live.
Both great for electronic music. “Traditional” recording is possible, but nah. Use something else if you want to do this.

Studio One:
I tested this, couldn’t convince me. But it still is a good DAW. Get the free “PRIME” version and check, if it is a fit.


Prices (“Full Version”):

Presonus Studio One 3 ~300€
FL Studio  200-300€ (free updates for life, yeah!)
Ableton Live 300-600€
Cockos Reaper 60-225€ (free updates for life, yeah!)
Steinberg Cubase 300-600€
Apple Logic Pro X 230€
Cakewalk SONAR 200-400€ Discontinued
Propellerhead Reason 340€
Pro Tools 600-2600€

Two prices mean: The “smaller” version has almost everything the bigger one has too. Mainly there are some instruments, buid in effects, samples, loops…. missing, but no essential functions (as far as I could see).

Please note that most companies offer educational licenses, which will save you 100-300€ average.


My advice (personal preferences):

Recording, mixing, “real instrument” orientated composing: Go for Reaper.
Reasons: It is small, not overloaded with stuff you won’t need. No huge libraries of effects, loops, samples you will never use – basic but awesome effects included and extensive routing options. At the same time the download is small (you could download this with a 56kModem in reasonable time), and get ALL possibilities. Also unlimited free trial – you have to be honest yourself and pay. “Both” is unlimited: Time and functions!
Well time is “limited” to 60 days, but will just work on. If you don’t like it – unistall it. No harm done. Spend your money elsewhere.

And with 60 bucks for non-major commercial use, this is one of the cheapest DAWs too.
Effects, samples, instruments,… well just look here or on any of the other webpages. Get them for free or pay for what you really need!
Oh! Also very customizable. Like skins, shortcuts, actions, mouse actions, even scripts….
But prepared to invest some time, to adjust all the things you might need.
-there are videos on youtube which will help you configuring.


Electronic music: Ableton.

I just like the interface and it gets you where you want to go quickly. It is not the cheapest DAW, but many midi keyboards include a basic lincense. The ristrictions are there, but at least you can check out the most important stuff. Also if you are a student, the edu licenses are at a price you’d pay for most of the other major DAWs.




Nice little program, even more flexible routing than Reaper, nice GUI and easy to understand. Pricing: Pay what you want. Trial has no major restrictions (asks you every X minutes if you want to leave. Just click no and continue).
Downside: Developed for Linux – in my tests not stable on Windows yet. Maybe an alternative for Linux users.

Sends can be placed like plugins – not only pre/post effects/faders but at any position in the plugin chain. This means for example it is possible to eq and compress a signal and then send it to another channel for disortion or different reamping or ….


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