Updated: Oct 7, 2021
The past two decades have been turbulent for technological development, especially in the arts. Most individuals have at least one computer, laptop, or tablet in their home, and creating music is now easier than ever. Many people have dove into music production as a hobby or a goal that is finally within reach given the new technology. In this blog, we are going to take you through the ten best music recording softwares out now. We hope to help you choose which is right for you!
What is a Digital Audio Workstation?
Music recording software is most often referred to as a digital audio workstation or DAW. Production software allows you to record audio, edit, and produce. DAW software is a useful tool whether you want to record music, produce a podcast, or edit pre-existing audio.
There are many DAWs you can choose from depending on your budget, operating system, and needs, but here are some of our favorites at The Recording Den.
The Music Recording Softwares
1. AVID Pro Tools
Pro Tools is the industry standard for recording studios due to its powerful editing features and comprehensive interface. With this in mind, users can be confident that they’re getting all the essential features needed to produce great music.
It is one of the priciest recording softwares, but can be a worthwhile investment if you’re serious about audio engineering or looking to make a career out of it. It’s important to note you may need a console for success in this DAW, so it can be a bit high-tech for beginners.
The Recording Den’s lead audio engineer, Mike Sorrentino, believes one of Pro Tools’ biggest assets is its mixing capabilities and natural sound. “What you put in, you get out,” he said, “it captures the recording without changing how it sounds.” Every software is going to affect audio tracks slightly, but Pro Tools is the least invasive.
Of all the music recording softwares out there, Sorrentino has used Cubase the longest. For him, the MIDI functionality and advanced built-in features are what sets this recording software apart from others.
Instead of having to load presets, plug-ins, and other functions in, Cubase has features built into its channel strips, making it similar to a console. With this in mind, old-school producers with more analog experience might find comfort in this DAW.
Sorrentino also loves the production in Cubase, which sets it apart from Pro Tools in his opinion. As a composer himself, he often finds himself turning more often to Cubase for production and writing.
3. Presonus Studio One
Presonus Studio One is another all-around good DAW. Although it’s #3 on our list, Sorrentino rates its audio engine as #2 just behind ProTools. Like any machine, an audio engine is important in music production. These softwares are highly powerful and can require a good computer system to operate them, but this power generates great sound.
One of the downsides to Studio One is that the hardware controllers sometimes seem “prosumer instead of professional,” as Sorrentino says. This shouldn’t deter all who are trying to create music, especially those just starting out. Every DAW has its learning curves, but Studio One can get new users going faster. Additionally, PreSonus often includes it in purchases of their Audioboxes, which is important for instrument and vocal recording.
4. Logic Pro X
If you’re already a Mac user, chances are you’ve spent some time playing around in Garageband – Apple’s free, built-in audio production software. Those familiar with GarageBand often experience a rather seamless transition to Logic Pro X as they share many similarities.
Workflow is a major component in determining which software is best for you. If you know GarageBand’s interface works well for you, it might be worthwhile to invest in Logic as a next step. Many producers have also experienced a smooth transition from Logic Pro X to Pro Tools.
Logic touts many features which make it a worthwhile investment, especially at its one-time cost of only $199. Apple also offers a free trial version of the software, so users can determine if it works for them. The software has many great built-in features such as plug-ins, virtual instruments, and templates, which make learning to mix music and produce even easier.
A fun new addition is a session template for Billie Eilish’s hit single “Ocean Eyes,” produced by her brother and Grammy-winning producer, Finneas.
5. Ableton Live
Ableton is another great recording software and often favored for electronic music. This is due to its looping and splicing capabilities. Within the “best DAW’ debate – Ableton and FL Studio are often staged as head-to-head. Their respective fanatics will argue for their favorite program, but personal preference truly triumphs in these conversations.
This program has many sampling and synthesizing plug-ins built into it. Their broad plug-in suite features every producer’s editing necessities, such as reverb, compression, delay, and much more. It’s a solid DAW, but very right-brained. The tech of it can inhibit some people’s creativity, so it’s important to understand your workflow before investing.
The past few years have seen substantial updates for many of these DAWs, but Ableton’s in particular is praised for its improved MIDI capabilities and syncing for live recording. These new updates have answered many of the calls of devout Ableton users.
6. FL Studio
Originally called Fruity Loops, Image Line FL Studio has many loyal fans similar to Ableton. The software is formatted differently than traditional audio editing softwares, so transitioning to other software down the line can have a bigger learning curve.
However, many producers have transitioned from Logic or Pro Tools to FL Studio and actually prefer it. Users often praise this software as being great for beginners and a bang for your buck. There are many misconceptions about FL Studio, mainly that it’s best for rap or trap music. However, it has a wide range of capabilities and a powerful operating system, making it great for any producer.
Reaper is another great workstation. If you’re interested in more than just producing music, Reaper might be the right audio editor for you. Although most DAWs can be utilized for more than creating music, Reaper is acclaimed for its usage in video game development, sound design, and broadcasting.
Many podcasting studios utilize Reaper for its multitrack recording and audio editing capabilities. It’s often referred to as “lightweight,” booting up fast, so users can open the software and get working quickly. Some have claimed the user interface can be a bit confusing, but the software is also highly customizable. With the ability to support a wide range of plugins, audio formats, and MIDI routing, it is one of the best digital audio workstations.
8. Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition is another DAW to turn to if you’re doing more than just audio. This audio editing software compliments the rest of the Adobe suite, “accelerating video production workflow,” as the company describes. Users can design sound effects, restore audio, and produce podcasts all within its system.
That is one thing that sets Audition apart from other digital audio workstations – the system specifically lauds its audio restoration capabilities. For some users, having this right in their DAW could be helpful, especially video editors who often work with dialogue. However, if Audition doesn’t seem like the right fit, but audio restoration is still a high priority, there are many plug-ins with the same effect. There are many reputable third-party plug-ins for audio restoration that are compatible with most DAWs.
If you’re an Apple user, this free software is already at your disposal. Although GarageBand has many limitations, it’s an incredible gateway DAW. New production hobbyists will likely find the interface easy to learn and fun to explore. Like Logic, GarageBand has many high-quality loops and presets for users to produce music they’ll love.
As said before, it’s a great gateway, especially to Logic. Transitioning from one to another is seamless. Program and audio files can be easily transferred to Logic, so you don’t have to worry about recording music all over again. GarageBand is easily the best free recording software.
Users who grew up in the 2000’s will always have a soft spot for Audacity. The program is totally free regardless of your computer system. The Recording Den’s summer intern, Jenna, used Audacity often in her previous podcasting experience.
It’s a great resource for those just getting started and not yet ready to invest. The noise removal effect is an incredible tool for editing vocals and can be useful for those without a high-quality microphone.
Audacity does have its limitations, though. The interface is visibly outdated and hasn’t changed much in the past decade. It is also unable to do multitrack recording, so if users are podcasting, the tracks will be blended together. This can make it difficult to edit audio.
So Which Digital Audio Workstation Do I Choose?
To definitively proclaim one program as the best DAW music recording software would be nearly impossible. Users will find that personal preference is what truly prevails, but there are certain considerations which can make that decision.
Many producers note workflow as a significant factor in their choice of digital audio workstation. It's hard to know what one’s preferred workflow is with no prior experience, but many DAWs offer free versions of their software, allowing budding producers to explore before putting their money where their mouth is.
Looking to skip the headache altogether? Let our team help you! Book a session at The Recording Den or send us your audio files here!