DAW
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Best DAW In 2023 for Mac and Windows

So, you think you have what it takes to be a music producer and are looking for the DAW that you are going to call home for a while, eh?

Well, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that there are plenty of DAWs to choose from. The bad news is that there are plenty of DAWs to choose from.

But don’t worry, I’ve got you and I will help you choose the best one for you.

I’ve compiled this list of the top digital audio workstations that I have personally checked out, or have used, and I am here to guide you to the one that will fit you best. But you need to know…There is no one DAW that is so superior to all the others that it stands out above the rest.

Onto the best daws of 2023.

What Are the Best (Paid) DAWs in 2023?

Dearly beloved readers, we are gathered here today to discuss the union between aspiring music producer and digital audio workstations.

So, what are the best DAWs, exactly? Well, the best are, frankly, the most popular – the head honcho’s of the music world.

The ones that everyone from amateurs to professionals use, and lucky for you, I have gathered them all in one neat little article so you can make the determination for yourself which one is the best for you before you spend your cold, hard-earned cash.

Without further delay, let’s get to the best digital audio workstations!

1. Logic Pro

Overview

Logic Pro is my bread and butter, my main daw, it’s the best (in my opinion) daw at a low price. Logic comes packed with all of the essentials you need to get to creating music immediately, without extra content locked behind paywall. From some of the best software instruments, to its audio recording and audio editing, to its spatial audio capabilities, to its audio effects, this is the best daw 2023. It was created by Apple, and is therefore can only run on Macs, however, recently Apple released an iPad version as well. More on that later.

Key Benefits

  • Ease of recording
  • Access to Apple Loops (26,000 pieces of royalty-free audio content)
  • Easy to learn UI
  • Tons of stock plugins
  • Free updates
  • Import from GarageBand and Logic Pro for iPad
  • Huge community
  • Easy to understand workflow

Pricing

Logic Pro is one of the cheaper workstations you can get your hands on, and everything that comes with it comes in the “box” so you don’t need to spend anymore money after the initial purchase so it is easily the best value on this list.

Logic costs: $199

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Logic Pro is one of the best DAWs for literally anyone. You can make all genres of music as this DAW is like a Jack-of-all-trades, and a master of a few. This DAW is especially good for those who want to record their own vocals or instruments. Logic makes the download and installation of third party plugins easy as hell too.

My favorite convenient feature of Logic is the ability to import the songs you make on GarageBand or Logic Pro for iPad. This means that you can leave your studio home, and jot down ideas on the go so you can import them later.

Having access to Apple Loops is a real selling point here. Apple Loops comes with tens of thousands of pre-made audio loops and audio clips that are all royalty-free, meaning, you can use them as layers in your songs. The best part? Apple Loops change to match the tempo and key of your song, so it really is as easy as dragging and dropping to mix and match sounds in your interface.

Personally, this means it has a great workflow. It simplifies the process and makes using audio samples a breeze.

Another cool feature of Logic is drummer, which allows you to use an AI-like program that will make drum bears for you if you don’t feel inspired enough to make your own drum patterns at the time. It is easy to see why this is the best daw on the market.

Cons:

In order to use Logic, you must have access to Apple products. So if you are someone who is anti-Apple, this is one small part of that argument where you definitively lose and miss out. But, luckily there are plenty of others to choose from!

2. Ableton Live

Overview

Ableton Live is one of the top 3 DAWs that anyone can use for music production. It is a powerful daw. This DAW can be used on both mac and windows. This DAW is heralded as one of the best for electronic music production as it allows for a faster work flow than others and it’s simple to loop audio.

Ableton Live also comes in three different versions so you can dip your toes into it before you choose to pull the trigger on the full package. It is one of the best music production workstations for digital music.

Key Benefits

  • Faster workflow than others
  • Large fan base/community for support
  • Everything exists in collapsible windows/less clutter than other options
  • Can be used with Mac or PC
  • Easy to create loops
  • Unlimited tracks starting in Live 11 Standard and up
  • Great sounding virtual instrument

Pricing

Ableton Live is one of those DAWs where you get more out of it the more you pay. Ableton comes with three different “packages” that each come with progressively more plugins and software instruments for the user. Unfortunately, it does not have a free version, but it does come with a free trial.

Live 11 Intro: $99

Live 11 Standard: $349

Live 11 Suite: $749

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Ableton Live has a massive community surrounding it, so that means there is always someone with an answer to your question. It’s ability to be used on any operating system means that it is more accessible to more users and works on windows 7 or later.

Avid users of Ableton always talk about how fast Ableton responds to the ideas that you have and can turn a simple idea in your head into physical music fast due to its audio recording and editing.

There are pro’s and con’s to having access to unlimited audio tracks. On one hand, its unlimited, so you are only limited by your brain and computers ability to process audio. On the other, you don’t need an unlimited amount of tracks to make killer songs.

This is one serious daw.

Cons:

The starting price point is not for the feint of heart. While the intro package is cheaper than Logic, it also doesn’t come with everything fresh out of the box. Ableton also does not offer a free trial, nor are there free updates.

At that price, you need to be serious about music production in order to warrant the tag.

3. FL Studio

Overview

FL Studio is probably the best starting DAW for those on PC. You can get it on Mac as well, although I don’t know why you would when Logic is available. Fruity Loops is a popular daw. It is a great piece of music production software and you really can’t go wrong with it.

Key Benefits

  • Free lifetime updates
  • Great native plugins
  • Cheap
  • User-friendly
  • Huge Community
  • Free Trial

Pricing

FL Studio is another DAW with different packaging options ranging from affordable to nerve-wracking leap-of-faith purchasing.

Fruity (Intro): $99

Producer (Most Popular): $200

Signature: $299

All Plugins Edition: $499

Pros & Cons

Pros:

FL Studio is one of the most popular DAWs available on the market, coming in the top 3 easily. The fact that it is accessible to everyone on PC and Mac makes it an easy choice for many, AND it has an easy to understand interface. This also means that you can switch back and forth between both operating systems making it easy to collaborate with others.

The plugins that come with FL are powerful, and they sound great. When purchasing the All Plugin Edition, you will have literally everything you need to create your own songs.

The fact that this DAW offers free lifetime updates, and a free trial is a testament to the company about how they stand by their product, and support their customers. This makes FL studio an easy DAW for beginners to jump in and get their feet wet.

Fruity Loops was my first DAW before I moved on to Logic, and it’s one of the best audio workstations on the market.

Cons:

FL Studio has a somewhat steep learning curve, but so do all DAWs. Some of the processes and plugins are more confusing than other DAWs available on the market. The recording process is also a little inefficient.

4. Pro Tools

Overview

If you are anyone who knows anyone in the music industry, then you have heard of Pro Tools. Pro Tools is the industry-standard DAW, or at least, was.

To be honest with you, I hate Pro Tools. It’s a subscription based model as well, so you don’t just outright buy it and have it. You pay annually. It has a terrible interface. It’s a confusing and outdated DAW in my opinion AND I was taught it in college so I should know it better, but I don’t. It might as well be rocket science.

But, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it on this list because it was THE industry standard for the longest time and there are plenty of people that “get it” and are able to create great music with it.

I am not one of them.

It is Kanye Wests DAW of choice, though…So, take that however you want.

Key Benefits

  • Track record for being the industry standard
  • BROAD hardware compatibility
  • Highly customizable
  • Deep shortcuts and workflow tools
  • Free Trial

Pricing

As I stated previously, Pro Tools works off a subscription model. That alone makes it not worth it to me, and I believe that only people who are making money with their music should even consider using Pro Tools. But here we go anyway:

Pro Tools Artist: $99/Year or $9.99/Month

Pro Tools Studio: $299/Year or $29.99/Month

Pro Tools Ultimate: $599/Year or $99/Month

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Pro Tools is an industry standard DAW. If you ever make it and are working in a studio, you will most likely have to work with this software. So learning it may benefit you, but I would only take this as a pro if you’re making it.

It has broad hardware compatibility due to it being an older DAW, so older synths and audio hardware that they don’t even really make anymore will work with this DAW.

It’s highly customizable, which is great if you have the time to tune yourself into the DAW and really memorize everything. Otherwise its really clunky and confusing to use.

It offers a free trial, so if you want to check it out and get frustrated for an evening, that’s an option available to you.

Cons:

Subscription model. If I wanted to pay to be frustrated, I’d pay for someone’s OnlyFans. This DAW is seriously confusing. It’s interface sucks and is hard on the eyes and confusing to learn compared to daws like Ableton and Logic. Some features click kinda fast, but you’ll be watching a lot of tutorials to get those things to click. Pro Tools is the best at making frustrated beginners who use this daw.

This is the perfect daw for professionals and guys who gave been in the industry for a long time. It might not be the best for you if you are a beginner.

5. Studio One

Overview

Studio One is one of the more modern DAWs on this list, and with that, comes some ease of use not found in other daws. It was released in 2009, whereas Pro Tools was released in 1989, a 20 year difference.

Key Benefits

  • Prebuilt templates
  • Drag and Drop Workflow
  • Easy to add audio to videos
  • Customizable User Interface
  • Automatic Chords
  • Free Tutorial

Pricing

Various price packages allows you to choose where you want to begin, and, it’s one of the cheaper options to get started. The upgrades to the later versions are also cheaper, so if you buy their base model, the upgrades take that price into consideration.

PLUS (pun intended), if you tried out their Pro model, but can’t yet afford to purchase it, they offer a subscription-based model with monthly or annual payments while you save up to buy the whole thing.

Studio One Artist: $99.95

Studio One Professional: $399.95

Studio One+ (Subscription Model): $14.95/Month or $164.95/Year ($13.75/Month)

Pros & Cons

Pros:

This DAW offers all of the bells and whistles and quality of life improvements that you would expect from a more modern DAW. With ready to go templates, and and drag and drop workflow, it makes this DAW very easy to use.

I like that it offers a free trial to test out their strongest offering. While I am not a fan of the subscription model creeping its way into every aspect of life, I do love that this DAW offers a monthly subscription to allow people to save up to buy the software outright.

Music is an expensive hobby, and no one should be barred from being able to get into it due to budget. I love that options for cheaper music production exist.

Cons:

Not quite as popular as other DAWs, so there is less information on navigating the DAW and simple tips and tricks. They still exist, but its less. I imagine this will change with time.

Subscription model doesn’t sit right with some people, and I would agree, but at least it’s an offer that allows people to save up for the full software if they can’t afford it fresh out of the gate.

6. Cockos Reaper

Overview

Reaper is kinda dope for audio production. They seem like a business with humor, and is for the people. Right on their homepage it says, “cost: not so much” and they also offer free updates. Reaper also accepts all media formats, so you can upload videos into it as well.

Honestly, the only people that I know that use Reaper are metal bands due to its recording software, but half of me thinks its because of the name because it’s very metal.

Key Benefits

  • Cheapest entry DAW on this list
  • Can be run from portable or network drive
  • Hundreds of effects for processing audio and midi
  • Supports vast range of hardware, software, and plugins
  • 60 day free evaluation, full functionality, no strings attached
  • Available on windows and mac

Pricing

The pricing for Reaper is extremely fair for the discounted license. They state you can use the discounted license IF: You are an individual, and REAPER is only for your personal use or, You are an individual or business using REAPER commercially, and yearly gross revenue does not exceed USD $20,000, or You are an educational or non-profit organization.

Reaper discounted license: $60

Reaper Commercial license: $225

Pros & Cons

I’ll be honest, I have never used Reaper, but I hear great things.

Pros:

It’s cheap, cheap enough anyone can get into it. It supports a lot of hardware, software, and plugins. I think the coolest part is that its extremely efficient and can be used through a portable drive.

Cons:

In order to get a license after your evaluation period, you have to send in mail with your name, e-mail, and money order or check, and they’ll e-mail you your license code.

This seems odd for 2023, and a business that creates software. Doesn’t it?

Bonus DAW

1. Cubase

Overview

The reason that I put Cubase as a bonus is because I have never touched it. Cubase is one of the best online from what I have read. I know very little about it, but I had to put this daw inside my article as it seems popular enough. As with most DAWs it can record live audio, work on windows 10 or Mac, can be used for digital distribution of your music. Cubase has a dedicated community as with most DAWs.

Maybe someday I will grab Cubase and write something on it, but for now, that is all I’ve got for it.

What are the Best DAWs of 2023 for Producers on the Go?

1. GarageBand

Overview

The best free DAW ever created, exclusively on Apple, is GarageBand. Not only do you get access to a lite version of Apple Loops. While not as extensive as Logics Apple Loops, it’s a great start. You can also import audio files you find on the internet, including from Splice!

The greatest feature of GarageBand is that you can import the songs you make here into Logic on your Mac.

Oh, and did I mention this is FREE?

Key Benefits

  • Free
  • Mobile
  • Access to some of Apple Loops
  • Great for jotting down ideas
  • Import to Logic Capability
  • Cross device compatibility
  • Apple Pencil friendly

Pricing

FREE

Pros & Cons

Pros:

The best Pro of GarageBand is that it is free. It’s on every Apple product from iPhones, to iPads, to Macs and MacBooks. If you have an Apple product and can’t find GarageBand, you can easily download it from the App Store.

You can easily work on projects from your phone, or move it to your tablet, or import it to your Mac(book). This is all in GarageBand, NOT including the ability to import it into Logic.

For someone who wants to dip their feet into music production, this is the first place to start, because it takes no investment other than an iPhone, iPad, or Mac(Book). Another fun perk is being able to use the Apple Pencil for some greater control over the placement of your audio files and MIDI.

Rihanna’s song Umbrella, was created on GarageBand, thus proving its not the tool you have, its how you use it that makes the difference.

Cons:

The mobile version is a little clunky, but with some time it will start to become second nature. It’s just a bit of a hassle to import audio and MIDI files, but once you get the hang of that you won’t think second about it.

Due to its free nature, it doesn’t have the capability to pump out super complex sounds or work with the best synths.

It also doesn’t have the best audio output. As a DAW for music producers on the go, this is an excellent mobile scratch pad, and treating it more than that could lead to frustration.

2. Logic Pro for iPad

Overview

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was the day I saw the banner “Logic Pro for iPad.” As you read previously, Logic is my favorite music software, currently, and to have a mobile version is super exciting.

However, at the time of this article, its still rather new, and I haven’t had the chance to do too much of a deep dive into it yet, but I can tell immediately that it’s an improvement from GarageBand, and the ability to import it to my MacBook Pro without having to worry about the instruments changing is amazing to me.

Key Benefits

  • Import straight to LogicPro on Mac
  • Apple Loops
  • Touchscreen support
  • Improved UI for mobile
  • Apple Pencil friendly

Pricing

Currently, and probably forever, Logic Pro for iPad has a subscription model. Do I care? Yes. Is it a dealbreaker? Not this time, and honestly, it’s not the worst subscription model. I have been begging for Logic for iPad for years, and pretty much right up until it was released, Apple didn’t say much about it.

Also, can’t be shocked, it’s a mobile app and everyone and their brother runs a subscription model. At least with this you can’t pay to win…looking at you Diablo Immortal.

I forgot to mention, there’s a month-long free trial before the subscription starts up and it unlocks Logic for your family plan as well…if you’re a musical family.

I do wish they’d offer a one time buy it outright payment like the one for Mac, but I’ll live, especially if they keep up with it and keep it updated.

Price: $4.99/Month or $49.00/Year

Pros & Cons

Pros:

It’s Logic for iPad! It’s in the name. It has a large catalogue of Apple Loops, significantly larger than GarageBand. You can import your Logic project into Logic. It also has touchscreen support for finer tuning, especially on your iPad with an Apple Pencil.

It’s very easy to start a new audio project and from what I’ve seen, the daw software is pretty similar to its fully fledged version on Mac.

Cons:

Monthly subscription. I hate them, but in this case it is what it is. While it is Logic, it is not quite as powerful as the Mac version, but that is to be expected. You also require an iPad in order to be able to use this app, a smart phone is insufficient.

As it is new audio software, there are some bugs and clunkiness associated with it, but I suspect Apple is going to fine tune this thing until it’s perfect and make it a capable daw.

What Is a DAW?

The DAW you choose is a big decision that every individual must weigh for themselves based on the hardware they have available to them, their interests as an artist, their budget, and what the DAW is capable. Luckily, all DAWs are capable of pretty much everything that the other DAWs are capable of, with some minor tweaks to make them different. Ultimately, it is up to you and what workflow works best for you.

There is no best single daw. Every daw works better or worse for different people. Most workstations need little free system disk space required, but their libraries can be quite extensive and you may require external hard drives.

How Can a DAW Benefit You

If you want to produce and record music, a DAW is a non-negotiable. It is the most important part of capturing, tweaking, mixing, mastering, producing, and ultimately getting your music ready for distribution. A DAW, once mastered along with your musical talents, could make you a superstar.

But the dream starts there, and the journey to stardom is long and filled with many pitfalls, self-doubt, trials and tribulations.

Are you the next big digital performer?

Buyers Guide: How I Conducted My Research

When doing our research to find the best product, we determined using these factors:

  • Experience: Have I used these DAWs or worked with someone who has?
  • Pricing: How much did each product cost?
  • Features: What were the best features of each product?
  • Negatives: What was missing with each product?
  • Ease of use: Are these DAWs beginner friendly?
  • Known: Are these DAWs something everyone in music should at least be aware of?
  • Audio: Can it record audio? Does it have an audio editor? What is its audio interface? What audio software does it come with?

Conclusion/Wrapping Up

The DAW you choose matters, and it doesn’t. If you are looking to make EDM, then for the most part, a lot of big name EDM notable producers (especially the Dubstep guys) use Ableton, but there are exceptions to every rule.

Alan Walker uses FL Studio and Logic, for instance.

David Guetta, Tiesto, Marshmellow, Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, Steve Aoki and Martin Garrix all use Logic.

To be fair, most of those guys use Ableton too.

BECAUSE EACH DAW IS BETTER AT SOMETHING THAN THE OTHERS AT SOMETHING.

But, it truly does not matter where you start, or which DAW you choose so long as you do start and you don’t stop. Embrace the journey, and your inner artist!

Add In Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best DAW for PC?

Ableton Live.

  • What is the best DAW for Mac?

Logic Pro.

  • What is the easiest DAW to learn?

That’s an impossible question to answer, although it is asked a lot. Every single one of them have a learning curve, so it’s important to pick the right daw for you and your goals. There are plenty of online daw tutorials.

  • Do you need a powerful computer for DAWs?

Yes and no. The mobile DAWs will run on your smart devices. All DAWs will run on basic laptops as well, but the more complex your song gets, and the more plugins you install and run using up your free disk space, the more demand will be placed on your computers CPU.

  • Can I make music only using a DAW?

Yes. All you need is the ability to make midi or audio. With the right instruments and audio work, pretty much any workstation can be an amazing daw.

  • What are the bare minimum devices I need for making music?

You will need a smart device or laptop, a DAW, and a decent set of headphones. If you plan to record vocals or an instrument you will also need a mic.

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