Best Daw For Mac And Windows

Posted By admin On 16.02.22

So you’re looking to solidify your home recording studio with the best audio interface? To us, this is one of the most important parts of making music and we consider it to be the star on top of the Christmas tree. Without an audio interface, you simply can’t record optimally. Your gear is essentially missing half of its power and capabilities without one of these in your studio. The best audio interfaces help us with sound quality, phantom power and amplification, more overall control of our gear, organization of all of our inputsoutputs into one device, and lastly make the pesky concept of latency disappear. Today we highlight our top 10 audio interface picks available in the market and give you some info to help ease your shopping adventures.

  1. Daw For Mac

What is an audio interface?

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An audio interface is a device which connects your various audio equipment to your computer (microphones, MIDI keyboards, studio monitor speakers, etc). Some have even called them “external sound cards” since the components built into computers can’t make the cut (for good reason — they’re typically too expensive or aren’t big enough). In terms of capabilities (and it really depends on which model you go with), they can provide phantom power to amplify your microphones, hook up any instrument or controller you’ve got via MIDI inout, and use XLR ports for microphones. Audio interfaces convert the analog information into digital signals for your production computer or music laptop to recognize and lay down into your songs.

Ultimately, it helps get you that studio-quality sound that helps separate you from the newbies. Relying on consumer-grade sound cards in your PC or Mac isn’t ideal as it often gives us interference and delays in sounds — and to their credit, merely can’t fit powerful interfaces inside their computers. Audio interfaces are the standard sound card for any type of studio. Once I hooked up my audio interface to my setup, the headache immediately went away because I was not only more organized (rid a lot of cable clutter) but was able to record in a quicker, versatile and realistic manner. When producing music, my workload decreased, my songs sounded better and my overall creativity shot through the roof since my process was more efficient. Lastly and most importantly, the quality of my recording tracks increased dramatically – microphones were more clear, guitars crisp, and the overall sound I heard was better for mixing and mastering later on in my DAW.

How to choose your audio interface

When it comes to the best audio interface, it really depends on a few factors. We’d love to give you a straight answer, but it is too dependent on a lot of elements you must take into consideration when shopping for the device. It depends on what you need.

  • What is your budget? Most of these are relatively affordable, but you can always go higher for some powerful features. We’ve seen audio interfaces go within price ranges from $30 to $2,000. We tried to grab a few from each price-point to give you options in your search.
  • What type of connectivity? You can either go the more popular USB route, FireWire or even advanced Thunderbolt. The more advanced you go away from USB, typically the more money you’ll have to drop; however, it may be worth the investment if you have the cash.
  • How many inputs and outputs will you need? This is something to really take into consideration not only for now but the future as well. A lot of musicians who record multiple instruments at once such as with a band need numerous inputs and outputs to handle all of the equipment. Of course in my position, i’m a one-man band, so i’m fine with fewer ins since I record everything separately. Do you need a few microphone inputs? Additional USB ports? MIDI connectivity? Try to look at the gear around you and plan what you envision hooking up to your audio interface. If you do plan on buying more gear in the future, buy an interface you can foresee needing a few extra connections for your future studio.
  • Is there a software bundle you need? Some of these come with virtual instruments, effects, and even digital audio workstations. Is that important to you?

For some more info, check out the choosing your audio interface article by Sound On Sound magazine.

Our picks for top 10 best audio interfaces

The following is our list of top 10 best audio interfaces for both Mac and PC. Do some sifting through as we provide the retail price for your budget, the compatibility in terms of connectivity, how many inputs and outputs, as well as overall features for comparing. We tried to cover all ranges, all connectivity as well as I/O options. Let us know which one you ended up going with/already have!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Compatible with: Mac, PC, all hardware

  • Check prices and reviews of the Scarlett 2i2: US UK
  • USB connectivity
  • A/D resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Inputs: Two XLR/TRS combo
  • Direct monitor control on front panel (switch between headphones and speakers easily)
  • Comes with Ableton Live Lite and Scarlett bundle (processors, effects)

This is in our opinion one of the best audio interfaces out there by a mile. This interface by Focusrite is best for home and semi-pro studios (I have two friends who make music full-time that use this). The Scarlet 2i2 gives us a great quality microphone pre-amp, a very rugged build for stability as well as portability, and quite a few selections for ins and outs. The ‘2i2’ name basically means that it has two inputs and two outputs, as well as two pre-amps built-in (their other models you’ll see have similar names which relate to the connectivity options). Highly talked about this is the amp quality, compared to mechanisms found in a lot of condenser and ribbon mics and more expensive interfaces. It’s ultimately just a simple interface for a great cost — one of the most popular choices out there if you read the user reviews.

Another huge plus with this one is that it comes with Ableton Live Lite, a very popular digital audio workstation among music heads. This is especially perfect if you’re looking for some software to start recording with or merely want to make the change over to one of the most popular pieces of software today — Ableton coming along with the package makes this a must. USB powered here, although it doesn’t have any MID ins or outs which bums me out but there are ways around that. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the best audio interface we’ve recommended to our readers numerous times for a reason — just make sure that it will cover your future needs in terms of connectivity if you plan on expanding later.

You can also check out the Focusrite Saffire Pro interface which is a step up (has some MIDI insouts and FireWire connectivity) but costs a bit more. There’s also a ton of other Scarlett models that pertain to ins and outs as stated previously — for only a few more bucks check out their Scarlett Studio Audio Bundle (comes with a mic, headphones, and the interface and it made first in our recording studio bundles guide).

Universal Audio Apollo Twin

Compatible with: Mac only

  • Check prices and reviews of the Apollo Twin: US UK
  • 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
  • Headphone and guitar input on front
  • Preamp/monitor switches
  • Dedicated master volume knob
  • 2 XLR/TSR mic ins
  • Realtime UAD Processing
  • Comes with plug-in bundle (analog classics)
  • Two mic/line pre-amps
  • Thunderbolt connection

Up next, we have a mac only interface and this thing is extremely powerful. It’s a 2 x 6 thunderbolt connection and the audio conversion is quite telling at 24-bit/192 kHz for some of the clearest, zero-latency sound possible right now. It’s got real-time UAD processing so the tracking with compressors, EQ’s, and amps for various instruments is the real deal. It’s only compatible with Mac but it’s one of the best out there — Universal Audio brings us quality builds that’ll last you a very long time, so this is an investment.

Here’s a cool video on the Apollo Twin interface. You’ll need a thunderbolt cable for this, but it’s worth it if you’re going the full 9 — you won’t be let down by the Universal Audio Apollo Twin if you have the cash. It’s one of the best, pretty famous and will be for quite some time.

Mackie Onyx Blackjack

Compatible with: Mac and PC

  • Check prices and reviews of the Onyx Blackjack: US UK
  • Two Onyx mic pre-amps
  • Amps go up to 60 dB
  • High-headroom design
  • USB powered
  • Separate studio monitor/headphone outputs
  • Comes with Tracktion 3 production software

Mackie equipment is more tailored to DJ’s, but this audio interface is very solid for the price, giving us two high-quality Onyx mic pre-amps that are very powerful. Gives us some distortion protection due to its high-headroom design. Great zero-latency recording but what stands out to us is the amp gain control: great for electric guitars and dynamic microphones. You can crank each line in (1 and 2) up to 60 dB, turn up the phantom power to max on the monitor or phones, as well as have even more controls on the front.

Standard ins and outs with two XLR and TSR. A step up from a lot of audio interfaces due to its high-quality amps. One of the best audio interfaces in the lower price-point in our opinion. We recommend the Mackie Onyx Blackjack for those who need powerful amplification at an affordable price.

M-Audio M-Track Plus

Compatible with: Mac and PC

  • Check prices and reviews of the M-Track Plus: US UK
  • 24-bit / 48 kHz digital audio processor
  • Very little latency when monitoring
  • Solid aluminum build
  • 2 XLR inputs, 2 balanced 1/4″, MIDI in and out
  • Selectable phantom power
  • Headphone out on front
  • Comes with Pro Tools and Ignite by AIR

Here’s another one of the best audio interfaces for the money. This is a very solid model in terms of build and overall supply of necessary ins and outs, as M-Audio gear usually brings to the table. It’s USB powered and offers great phantom power for microphones and guitars, has insert jacks on each channel, and lastly comes with Avid Pro Tools Express and Ignite creation software by AIR. If you’re looking for a good software combo this is great, otherwise it’s still a solid audio interface as it offers us the essentials: 2 XLR, 2 TSR and MIDI ins/outs…what else do you need?

Unless you’re using and recording multiple instruments at a time, anything else is rather unnecessary. The M-Audio M-Track Plus is a solid audio interface for those looking for only a few ins and outs and some clear audio quality on top of it all. It’s pretty affordable and rivals the Scarlett model we previously recommended in terms of price.

Also check out our review of their M-Audio M-Track QUAD audio interface for a step up if you have a few more bucks to spare.

PreSonus AudioBox

Compatible with: PC and Mac

  • Check prices and reviews of the Audiobox: US UK
  • Rugged steel build
  • Combo XLR mic/balanced 1/4″ input
  • 48 volts of phantom power
  • 24-bit resolution and 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz sampling rate
  • MIDI inout
  • USB 2.0 port
  • Comes with Studio One software

Another 2 x 2 to check out here, and this one is a more simple and budget-friendly audio interface than many others. PreSonus gear has a very positive reputation around the equipment world and the AudioBox is a favorite interface among many. You get two very high quality pre-amps built-in, a nice small steel build, as well as two MIDI int/outs on the front. The back has your TSR ins, a USB port for power and connectivity as well as a left and right stereo inputs. Lastly, a headphone jack (on the back) although I usually like these on the front, but oh well. As it’s more budget-friendly, it isn’t recommended for those with instruments that need more than around 35 decibel of gain or headphones above 100 in impedance. Keep this in mind as the power is great for a lower price-point audio interface but it isn’t jam-packed either.

This is great for those on a budget and need the standard capabilities of an interface, and even though it doesn’t have any fancy digital conversion (like the Apollo Twin), you’re getting what you pay for. The PreSonus AudioBox is considered to be another one of the best audio interface picks if you wanted a simple solution and also need some software alongside your setup (it comes with their Studio One digital audio workstation which isn’t necessarily a heavy-hitter in the software community, but can get the job done if you need something simple and don’t have a DAW yet).

Check out our reviews on their latest models, the AudioBox iOne and AudioBox iTwo if you’re looking for some different alternatives.

Apogee ONE

Compatible with: Mac only (and iPad)

  • Check prices and reviews of the ONE: US UK
  • A/D and D/A conversion: 44.1/48 kHz 24-bit
  • Single input channel
  • Internal condenser microphone
  • XLR microphone pre-amp
  • Encoder knob (gain control, output level control)
  • Maestro software included

Apogee electronics brings us one of the best audio interfaces for Mac. It’s rather simplistic in terms of connectivity, but the reason it’s at such a high cost is because of the amp. It goes up to 63 dB which is pretty high for its size. Another plus is the 48 volt phantom power but it also has a built-in condenser microphone if you think you’ll be using it for that. You can merely mount it and use it as a mic while having an audio interface at hand at the same time. It doesn’t have any MIDI ins or outs or even XLR ports but it does give us a 1/8″ for headphones. What most people do is use a converter cable which can be plugged in to an external microphone, MIDI keyboard or controller, etc.

Check this one out as it gives us a bit of a different spin to audio interfaces. Don’t let the small size of the Apogee ONE make you assume it isn’t powerful — it’ll up the quality of your music like no other (if you’re on Mac, that is).

Best Daw For Mac And Windows

Although it’s two times the price, also check out the Apogee Duet audio interface for some power if you’ve got the dough. We review their new Avid Pro Tools Duet by Apogee as well, which is a new interface out that’s been paired up by both companies for a new spin on the interface.

Avid MBox + Pro Tools Express

Compatible with: Mainly built for Mac, but can with Windows 10

  • Check prices and reviews of the Mbox: US UK
  • Two XLR mic/line combo inputs
  • Two 1/4″ DI inputs
  • Stereo S/P/DIF digital in and out
  • MIDI in and out (1×1)
  • Monitor control
  • Dedicated volume knob
  • Built-in guitar tuner
  • Comes with Pro Tools Express

If you want Pro Tools and one of the biggest industry standards out there, we recommend going with this. Avid‘s bundle is a bit more expensive than the budget-friendly audio interfaces we’ve listed thus far but it’s very worth your money if you’re interested in investing in a DAW software that many call it the best — the golden Pro Tools (Express is not the full version, keep in mind). The Mbox is a very solid interface not just because it is Pro Tools’ sidekick — it comes with 4 x 4 channels of ins and outs (two XLR mic/line combos, two 1/4″ inputs and outputs, as well as a headphone out and MIDI ins/outs).

You have phantom power of the standard 48 volts for your condenser microphone, has a nice soft-clip limiter and if you play the guitar, it’s got a built-in tuner with some on-board effects. A nice package if you’re looking for a big punch. The Avid Mbox is great for semi-pro and even some professional studios.

Lexicon Alpha

Compatible with: Mac and PC

  • Check prices and reviews of the Alpha: US UK
  • 44.1kHz to 48kHz sample rates
  • Record up to two tracks at once
  • Inputs: One (1) XLR, Two (2) TRS, One (1) Hi-Z
  • Two TRS & RCA outs
  • USB powered
  • Headphone output on back
  • Low-noise mic pre-amp
  • Comes with Cuba LE4 and their Pantheon reverb VST

Sleek and stable. This interface by Lexicon Pro has a lot of positive reviews and for good reason. At a super low retail price, it’s got one XLR mic, two TRS and one Hi-Z input. The only thing we’re missing here is the lack of phantom power as well as MIDI in and out, but if you don’t need these the price of this is a steal, especially for the audio quality for under $100. What’s highlighted with this is the low latency giving you no delays with recording, pretty much the benchmark of an interface so if that wasn’t possible we wouldn’t even list it here. This is basically a solid audio interface for recording instruments that don’t need phantom power as well as hooking up some studio monitors to your rig.

The Lexicon Alpha is perfect if you’re OK with switching cables to different equipment when recording, such as between a guitar and a keyboard. There is also some pretty decent software included as well with Cubase LE 4 and their Lexicon Pantheon VST reverb plug-in.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Compatible with: Windows and Mac

  • Check prices and reviews of Komplete: US UK
  • 24-bit/96 kHz processor
  • MIDI in and out
  • 2 balanced mic/line/instrument XLR
  • 2 balanced line 1/4″ TRS
  • 4 balanced analog outputs 1/4″ TRS
  • Two mic inputs headphone output
  • 48 volts of phantom power
  • Direct monitoring with mono input switch
  • LED status lights
  • USB powered

We’re huge fans of Native Instruments equipment and software, and this is a competitor to the Avid bundle we’ve listed previously. They were a top pick in our best VST plug-in guide for a reason. The Komplete Audio package here is very powerful, not only due to the solid build that will help with longevity but because of the software that it comes with — Cubase LE 6 (a solid DAW), Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements, giving you over 1k VST’s and effects. As far as connectivity goes, you’ve got some decent plugs — 2 balanced XLR’s, 2 balanced 1/4″ TRS, four balanced outputs, a MIDI in/out, and it’s USB powered for hassle-free hook ups with a dedicated volume knob up to for convenience.

This is an all around great package to look at if you’ve got the dough, especially if you’re looking to add some instruments and effects to your arsenal as well. The sound quality is very clear and reliable in terms of latency reduction. The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 is little cheaper than Avid’s bundle but you get Cubase instead of Pro Tools.

Behringer UCA202

Daw For Mac

Compatible with: Mac and PC

  • Check prices and reviews of the UCA202: US UK
  • High-resolution 48 kHz conversion
  • No drivers necessary — USB powered and connectivity
  • Stereo headphone output
  • Free editing software (nothing crazy) – KRISTAL Audio Engine and Audacity

Behringer audio equipment gives us the definition of a budget audio interface here. This is straight to the point and it’s powered via USB with no external power supply needed, great for portability. The resolution goes up to 48 kHz so in terms of conversion it is solid for the price. There’s just no XLR or TRS inputs here, so connecting a microphone might get tough — standard RCA ins (which can be converted with proper cables) while giving us a headphone jack and volume control. It also comes with a bundle of free software worth checking out.

I’d recommend grabbing this you’re on the go and need a simple digital converter, otherwise continue reading on. The Behringer UCA202 is a great model for those who want only the essentials at a very affordable price. We’d consider it the best cheap and budget-friendly audio interface in the market today.

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A Recording Studio for Your PC

There has never been a better time to buy digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Twenty years ago, to record a music album at a professional level, you needed a sizable mixing console, several eight-track digital records (such as ADATs or DA-88s), and a good selection of outboard compressors, reverb units, and other effects, plus a two-track deck to mix down to. In other words, you were looking at about $10K to $15K worth of gear to start—and that's before you got to microphones, speakers, and other accessories.

If you were on a budget, you'd probably stick with a tried-and-true Tascam or Yamaha four-track tape recorder and Alesis compressor, get used to bouncing tracks in mono, make peace with tape hiss, and remember to clean the tape heads every week. And you'd be sharply limited in the kinds of projects you could produce. The only easy multitrack recording you could do at the time was with MIDI, with hardware synthesizers or samplers, and maybe with a Mac or an Atari ST computer attached as a sequencer.

It's an entirely different world now. Software packages that cost a few hundred dollars now deliver hundreds of audio tracks and incredibly flexible editing. Some programs are even free. You can create as many instances of effects plug-ins as you want, including spot-on emulations of compressors that cost several thousand dollars each, and attach them to as many mixer channels as you want. It's all nearly unlimited and 'in the box' now.

Choosing the Right DAW

From the standpoint of someone recording 20 or 30 years ago, a DAW today is like a giant candy store; it's as if you can do almost anything. For the newcomer, though, it may seem almost hopelessly complex. Choosing the right audio software can be quite difficult. Most of the famous packages like Pro Tools and Logic have been around for decades. They've grown incredibly powerful, and as a result have user interfaces that are as complex as…well, professional mix consoles.

So how to decide? To help with this task, we went out and tested the most popular DAWs. Numerous venerable (and excellent) recording magazines have reviewed these applications many times over the years. That's great for the existing user base of each DAW, but maybe not always quite as clear for newcomers. In each of our reviews, we did our best to approach each product as a whole, rather than devoting the majority of the space to just the latest features that were added in the most recent point update.

Before we get to the specifics, the simplest program for audio editing is a two-track editor; probably the most famous example here is the free Audacity. While Audacity aspires to some extremely basic multitrack recording with overdubs, its real use is as a solid stereo editor. If you're recording a podcast or editing a clip of your kid's piano recital that you recorded on your phone, Audacity is an excellent choice; you can probably start and stop there. If you need something more sophisticated, read on.

It helps to think about the kinds of projects you want to create. Are you planning on producing beats for hip-hop or fully electronic compositions? Do you want to record multiple musicians playing live instruments at once? Will you be using your setup to score for picture, or creating sound effects and dialogue for TV and video games? Do you need to produce fully polished, printed scores, or otherwise prefer to work with musical notes and staves? Do you plan on tuning the pitch of vocal performances? Working out the answers to these kinds of questions up front will help you narrow down your choices.

What Comes With Each DAW?

The good news is all of the packages can we tested can more or less do all of the above tasks, with a few notable exceptions. The trick is that each program has strengths in different areas, and some tasks may be a bit more complicated in one than they are in another. One overarching rule to decide faster is to look at what your colleagues or friends are using, and then choose the same package. That makes it easier to share tips or even projects between each other, rather than being the lone person using a particular product and then introducing session import issues.

Another is to look at what's bundled with each program. Would you prefer a DAW that comes with a ton of virtual instrument sounds, such as synthesizers, sampled violins, guitars, and electric basses? You may want to look at something like Logic Pro X, Cubase Pro, or Studio One, all of which include many gigabytes of sounds and loops. Do you have or plan to buy your own instrument plug-ins you want to use? Reaper is a fully stripped down DAW at an excellent price, and it makes an excellent host for third-party VSTs. It's also great if you're recording a band full of live instruments and don't need much in the way of virtual ones. Do your tastes lean toward the electronic and synthesized realm? FL Studio, Reason, and Ableton Live are inspired choices with plenty of built-in synths, though you can produce electronic music with just about any of these programs.

Often, it comes down to the details and the editing philosophies. Do you prefer pattern-based recording for electronic music? FL Studio is going to have plenty to offer. Would you rather have a 'do-it-all' DAW with a large built-in sound library at a low price? PreSonus Studio One beckons. Do you want to not just be able to bring projects into major studios, but collaborate online and also open sessions directly as you work on them with others? It's impossible to top Avid's Pro Tools for this. Is the music already done, and you work in post-production and want to produce more professional podcasts or videos? Adobe Audition is a prime contender for these tasks. And if you've got a Mac, it's worth giving the free GarageBand a spin, if only because it's more powerful than it ever was and you already own it.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

Closely correlated to the bundled instruments and effects is price, and that's a factor that can cloud the issue a bit. Many of the top-tier packages also have less expensive (or even free), feature-limited editions available. It's not as simple as saying 'Reaper is a budget DAW at $60 and Studio One 3 is a professional-level DAW at $399,' because you can also buy the stripped-down (but still pretty feature-rich) Studio One Artist for $99. What do you lose? What do you gain? We try and touch on this as much as possible within each review.

Which DAW Is Right for You?

In short, read our reviews (linked below) and try some demos where you can. But otherwise, don't sweat it too much. We spent countless hours testing these products and putting together both the reviews and this guide. Despite the complexity of the software here, we've found it's honestly tough to go wrong. It's not like computers or cameras, where you can clearly see that of the latest crop of products, a few perform well and a few don't perform as well as the leaders. These are all mature, well-established products, each with thousands of fans.

As a result, more than half of the packages in this roundup score at least four out of five stars. You can get professional-level results with all of them. Each has some specific workflows that work really, really well for some people—hence the endless 'X is the best and Y is garbage' arguments on the internet—but they all can work for just about anyone.

Even so, we single out two DAWs, one on the Mac and one on the PC, for Editors' Choice awards: Apple Logic Pro X, for its absolutely unbeatable value with its built-in instruments and effects plug-ins, and Avid Pro Tools, for its seamless audio editing and suitability up and down the pro studio chain. But we'd happily use any of the programs listed below for new projects. Choose one, learn its secrets, and get to work creating and editing amazing music and audio projects.

Best Audio Editing Software Featured in This Roundup:

  • Avid Pro Tools Review

    MSRP: $599.00

    Pros: Still the cleanest audio editing workflow on the planet. Fast 64-bit recording and mixing engine. New cloud-based project collaboration tools. Robust, useful track freeze and commit options. High-end hardware and support policies are tops in the industry.

    Cons: Lacks built-in pitch correction. No VST plug-in support or instrument track presets. USB dongle-based copy protection. Monthly fee required for new software patches past 12 months.

    Bottom Line: Avid stays the course with Pro Tools and maintains its status as the standard cross-platform solution for professional audio editing work for music, film, games, and broadcast.

    Read Review
  • Image-Line FL Studio Review

    MSRP: $299.00

    Pros: Vector-based interface is attractively animated, and supports 4K, multi-monitor, and multitouch configurations. Brilliant loop and pattern-based MIDI composition tools. Visible automation clips are easy to manipulate. Light memory footprint. Free lifetime updates.

    Cons: Convoluted, inflexible audio recording (in higher-priced versions). Must manually assign instrument tracks to mixer channels. Built-in sound library could use some updating. Lacks notation editor.

    Bottom Line: If you want to produce some of today's slickest beats, right up to full electronic dance music tracks, FL Studio could be the ideal key to unlock your creativity.

    Read Review
  • Adobe Audition CC Review

    MSRP: $20.99

    Pros: Strong audio-restoration, sound-removal, and noise-reduction tools. Excellent stereo waveform editor. Useful visualization tools. Adheres to film and television broadcast standards for audio.

    Cons: Lacks MIDI support. Only available via an expensive monthly subscription.

    Bottom Line: Audition is a comprehensive audio editor for video post-production, podcasts, and audio restoration. It's expensive for what you get, though, and makes the most sense as a supplement to a video editor or as part of an existing CC subscription.

    Read Review
  • Steinberg Cubase Pro Review

    MSRP: $559.99

    Pros: Comprehensive editing and automation support. Robust plug-in bundle. Powerful mixer. Rock-solid stability.

    Cons: Expensive. Dongle-based hardware copy protection.

    Bottom Line: Steinberg Cubase Pro is a top-notch digital audio workstation particularly suited to MIDI and virtual instrument composers.

    Read Review
  • Ableton Live Review

    MSRP: $749.00

    Pros: Inspirational clip-based live and composition workflow. Fast navigation. Powerful automation. Suite version contains plenty of sample material to work with.

    Cons: No track comping. No notation view. No pitch correction tool. Mixer view could be more robust.

    Bottom Line: In its latest iteration, Ableton Live is a powerful all-in-the-box solution for composing music, particularly electronic-influenced, but it's not for everyone.

    Read Review
  • PreSonus Studio One Review

    MSRP: $399.00

    Pros: Fast workflow for music composition and audio recording. Robust included sound sets. Attractive drag-and-drop interface. Powerful free version. Multitouch-enabled on the Windows side.

    Cons: No notation editor. No easy way to import session data or save I/O templates. MIDI editing is still weaker than the competition. Cluttered mixing console.

    Bottom Line: PreSonus reinvented the common digital audio workstation in 2008 with Studio One; the latest version is the most inspired yet.

    Read Review
  • Propellerhead Reason Review

    MSRP: $399.00

    Pros: Versatile array of bundled instruments. Awesome sound set serves as instant inspiration for new electronic tracks. Fast composition workflow. SSL-style mix compression and EQ.

    Cons: Aging rackmount-and-patch-cable UI idiom. No surround or scoring features. Track editing still lags the competition.

    Bottom Line: Despite its flaws, it's tough to knock Reason as an all-in-one recording, mixing, and mastering tool, particularly if you're into electronic or hip-hop music and want a tremendous array of sounds and beats right out of the gate. It's still as much fun to use as it has always been.

    Read Review
  • Cockos Reaper Review

    MSRP: $60.00

    Pros: Multi-channel audio recording, mixing, and mastering at a bargain price. Heavily customizable. Fast. Extremely light memory footprint.

    Cons: No built-in instruments or loops. Uninviting, unintuitive interface.

    Bottom Line: Reaper offers nearly all of the features and flexibility, if not the ease of use or visual appeal, of powerhouse digital audio workstations like Pro Tools at a fraction of the cost.

    Read Review
  • Apple Logic Pro X (for Mac) Review

    MSRP: $199.99

    Pros: Excellent value. Stunning array of bundled instruments and effects. Terrific interface. No copy protection, unlike many competitors.

    Cons: A few older plug-ins still need a UI makeover.

    Bottom Line: Apple Logic Pro X 10.4 is a tremendous update to an already-excellent digital audio workstation, and if you own Logic Pro X, it's free.

    Read Review
  • Audacity Review

    MSRP: $0.00

    Pros: Free. Lots of editing options ideal for dialogue, sound effects, and trimming music tracks. Supports multitrack audio and batch processing.

    Cons: Destructive editing only. Multitrack audio support is exceedingly basic.

    Bottom Line: If you're looking to get started in podcasting or recording music, it's tough to go wrong with Audacity. A powerful, free, open-source audio editor that's been available for years, Audacity is still the go-to choice for quick-and-dirty audio work.

    Read Review