What is the best DAW?
Go back 30 years and the DAW - Digital Audio Workstation - as we know it today simply didn’t exist. Sure, we had MIDI sequencing software, which could be used to trigger synths, samplers and the like, but the computer was just one part of a much wider music-making setup.
Here’s the consensus when it comes to the best laptop for music making and recording — The Apple MacBook Pro. Talk to many producers who have a laptop in their setup and they’ll swear by it (if they’re “Mac people” of course). Best Mac for musicians on a budget: Mac mini. If funds are low, the Mac mini is a reasonably good choice for making music.
As technology progressed, these sequencers became more powerful, with the introduction of larger and faster hard disks enabling us to record audio into them. The scene was then set for PCs and Macs to become the centrepieces of our studios; early versions of Steinberg’s VST standard made it possible to add plugin effects, and it wasn’t long before virtual instruments became a thing, too.
Still, even at the end of the century, there were those who scoffed at the idea of a wholly software-based studio, but we don’t hear them scoffing now (although, to be fair, they might just be scoffing very quietly). Yes, there’s still something to be said for involving a hardware synth or drum machine in your electronic music-making, but the fact that you can Do It All within a single piece of software is now undeniable.
Spoilt for choice
Best Mac Book For The Money
As far as DAWs go, the class of 2018 is certainly the most powerful yet. What’s more, these applications are getting more and more accessible, and offering alternative ways of working that will appeal to both beginners and diehard producers who are looking to change their creative ways. But the fundamentals of the DAW remain the same: fire one up and you can record, arrange, edit, mix and master your music right there on your computer.
These are the basics, but it’s also true that every DAW enables you to go about your music-making business in a slightly different way, and the right software for one person won’t be the right software for everyone. Ultimately, the best DAW will be the one that enables you to get your music-making done as effectively and painlessly as possible.
However, what’s life without a bit of healthy competition? This year, as in others, we asked you to pick the best DAW in the world right now by voting for your favourite, and you did so in your thousands. What follows is a ranked rundown of all the contenders, so you can get a good idea of each DAW’s strengths and weaknesses and see exactly what other musicians are using.