Last Updated on January 25th, 2023 by Chris Von Wilpert

7 Best DAW Software for Music Production 2023 (PC & Mac)

Last Updated on January 25th, 2023 by Chris Von Wilpert

Today there are 85 different DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. We spent 90 hours comparing the top 50 to find the seven best music production software you can use. 

What is the Best DAW Software?

  1. Cubase — best of the best
  2. Studio One — best for home music recording
  3. Cakewalk — best free alternative
  4. Logic Pro — best for Mac devices
  5. Ableton Live — best for live performances
  6. FL Studio — best for electronic music producers
  7. Pro Tools — best for recording studios

Our Verdict — Best Of The Best

Price: Starts at $99.99

Cubase is arguably the most powerful DAW out there, especially when it comes to MIDI capabilities.

It’s incredibly customizable, which makes it easy to create templates that are just right for you. Lots of keyboard shortcuts make navigating between tracks super straightforward, and automation shaves off most of the boring stuff.

The Best Part:

  • Cubase is often seen as the music industry standard. Cubase has been around since 1989, and is one of the most prominent music production softwares out there. Most aspects of the DAW industry were created by Steinberg and copied by everyone else. 

The Worst Part:

  • It can feel a bit “bloated". Cubase is a big software, for big productions. If you’re looking for a quick and easy software to put your ideas together, it may feel like it’s a bit of overkill.

Get it if you’re looking for a rock solid DAW with all the horsepower you could ask for. 

I recommend you ride the Pro plan on a 60-day free trial ($579.99) so you can get all the horsepower Cubase can offer.

(60-day free trial)

Best For

Cubase is best for experienced producers and composers who create lots of songs that require hundreds, or even thousands of tracks at a time, and need to streamline their workflow — regardless of what type of music they’re working with.

Top Features

  • As solid as it gets. There’s no other DAW that compares to Cubase when it comes to workflow. reliability, advanced features, and customization capabilities. It’s the GOAT, and it keeps getting better with each new version.
  • Edit audio as if it were MIDI. With the auto audio Warp Quantize, you can non-destructively quantize multiple audio tracks with a single click — they even follow tempo and pitch changes on auto-pilot.
  • Automatic MIDI devices detection. Plug in your controllers, open Cubase, and it will automatically detect and map your devices. You can also use the Mapping Assistant to customize it as you wish.
  • Spot-on automatic monophonic tune correction. VariAudio allows you to edit pitch, correct timing and intonation of individual notes swiftly, and easily. Available on the Artist plan ($329.99) or higher.
  • Automatic conversion from audio tracks to MIDI chord progressions. Drag your recording to the Chord Track, and it will automatically detect the chords, and suggest alternatives. It’s the fastest way to create new MIDI tracks!

Pricing

Cubase offers three pricing plans:

  • Elements: $99.99 for beginners who want to start with the basics.
  • Artist: $329.99/month for musicians and composers creating complex tracks.
  • Pro: $579.99/month for talented pros who need to expedite their creation and execution processes, and do more in less time.

Try Cubase today with a free 60-day trial.

Our Verdict — Best For Home Music Recording

Price: Starts at $99.95

Studio One is the simplest, most straightforward DAW there is.

We think it’s the best for beginners or anyone who just wants a simple way to create quality tracks, because you can do a bunch of stuff with single clicks, everything can be dragged and dropped, and their smart templates are heavenly.

The Best Part:

  • Unbelievable workflow. Studio One makes your life easier, no matter where you are in your production: music composing, audio recording, mixing, mastering… Everything about this DAW is as simple as it is powerful.

The Worst Part:

  • It can get a bit cluttered. Sometimes it may be a bit hard to get everything you want on the screen at the same time, and the user interface doesn’t really scale to higher resolutions.

Get it if you want the simplest, yet pro-quality track creation experience.

I recommend you get the PreSonus Sphere monthly plan, for $14.95/month.

(30 day free trial)

Best For

StudioOne is best for home music recording, beginner producers, and anyone who wants the simplest DAW workflow that can actually deliver pro-level audio quality.

Top Features

  • Less clicking around. Record, turn on the metronome, or split a track with a single click — and a lot more. StudioOne is quick and easy.
  • Drag and drop everything. Set up virtual instruments, add effects, copy FX chains and much more with a quick drag and drop motion.
  • Smart templates that get you going on a whim. Set up custom workflows for recording, mixing, mastering, and more, so you can have whatever you need in place within a single click.
  • Get settled quickly. The learning curve for Studio One is a breeze, and it even suggests dates and names for your new projects so you never get lost. If you’re coming from other DAWs, you can set the keyboard to mirror their shortcuts.
  • Edit pitches and tempos like a pro. When you get the Professional or the Sphere plan (starting at $14.95/month), Studio One integrates with Melodyne so well you won’t even have to ALT + TAB your way around.

Pricing

Studio One offers four pricing plans:

  • Studio One Prime: Free for beginners who want to dip their toes in the DAW world.
  • Studio One Artist: $99.95 for those who want to power up their amateur productions.
  • Studio One Professional: $399.95 for those looking for professional recording capabilities.
  • Studio One Sphere Monthly: $14.95/month for those looking for a premium, Grammy-winning producer-like experience.
  • Studio One Sphere Yearly: $164.95/year for an 8% discount over the monthly plan.

Try Studio One today with a 30-day free trial.

Our Verdict — Best Free Alternative

Price: Free forever

Cakewalk is a full-featured DAW with everyone’s favorite price tag: $0.

We think it’s the best free DAW because it’s the child of an incredible DAW (SONAR). It also comes with tons of tools like Melodyne (for free), and it makes collaboration incredibly easy.

The Best Part:

  • Cakewalk carries a respected “family name”. When the awesome SONAR DAW was abandoned after 30 years of development, BandLab acquired the assets and made it into the most incredible free DAW out there — SONAR used to go for $600!

The Worst Part:

  • It’s only for Windows. If you’re looking for a good free DAW to use on your Mac or Linux, go with Studio One Prime or Garageband, instead.

Get it if you’re getting your first ever DAW, or need a free option that is actually good.

I recommend you download Cakewalk and give it a try today!

(free forever)

Best For

Cakewalk is best for beginners or anyone who wants a free, powerful DAW for their Windows desktop computer.

Top Features

  • It almost feels like winning the lotto. Cakewalk really goes above and beyond, as it’s comparable to paid options — it comes with a free Melodyne Essential add-on, a bunch of built-in instruments (including drum machines), and native plugins.
  • A ton of raw material, just a click away. There are thousands of beats and loops you can download from BandLabs’ extensive library for your songs, or just for inspiration.
  • Unlimited tracks. You can create as many Audio, MIDI, Instrument, Loop, and Auxiliary tracks in every project… No holds barred.
  • Powerful vocal audio alignment. VocalSync is a BandLab exclusive tool that automates timing between vocal tracks, double-tracking existing vocals, instruments, and so on.
  • World-class collaboration features. Music is often a team effort. You can record with your bandmates or find new ones across the world with BandLab’s collaboration tools — and you can even record from your phone.

Pricing

Cakewalk offers a single pricing plan:

  • Cakewalk: Free forever!

Try Cakewalk today for free.

Our Top Three Picks

Here’s a quick summary of our top three picks:

  1. Cubase — best of the best
  2. Studio One — best for home music recording
  3. Cakewalk — best free alternative

Here’s a quick comparison of our top seven picks:

Tool

Entry Offer

Pricing

Cubase

60-day free trial

Starts at $99.99

Studio One

30-day free trial

Starts with a free version

Cakewalk

None

Free forever

Logic Pro

90-day free trial

$199.99

Ableton Live

90-day free trial

Starts at $79

FL Studio

Unlimited free trial

Starts at $99

Pro Tools

30-day free trial

Starts at $74.99/year

Here are the top 50 DAW software tools we considered in this review:

  1. Cubase
  2. Presonus Studio One Professional
  3. Cakewalk
  4. Logic Pro
  5. Ableton Live
  6. FL Studio 20
  7. Pro Tools
  8. Cockos Reaper 6
  9. Bitwig Studio 4
  10. Mixcraft Pro Studio
  11. Reason
  12. MOTU Digital Performer
  13. GarageBand
  14. Nuendo
  15. LMMS
  16. Sequoia
  17. Adobe Audition
  18. MultitrackStudio
  19. Qtractor
  20. Ardour
  21. Pyramix
  22. SoundBridge
  23. Magix Samplitude
  24. Mixbus
  25. SAWStudio
  26. Stagelight
  27. Waveform
  28. MultitrackStudio
  29. Jeskola Buzz
  30. Tracktion
  31. Maschine
  32. Acid Pro
  33. Zynewave Podium
  34. Sequel
  35. Zrythm
  36. Music Maker
  37. Ocenaudio
  38. ReNoise
  39. MuTools MuLab
  40. LANDR Studio
  41. Waveform Free
  42. Audacity
  43. n-Track 8
  44. Seq24
  45. Rax'n'Trax
  46. Psycle
  47. Odesi
  48. Serato Studio
  49. Soundtrap
  50. Mixpad

The Bottom Line

To recap, here are the best DAW software to try this year:

  1. Cubase — best of the best
  2. Studio One — best for home music recording
  3. Cakewalk — best free alternative
  4. Logic Pro — best for Mac devices
  5. Ableton Live — best for live performances
  6. FL Studio — best for electronic music producers
  7. Pro Tools — best for recording studios

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