Thank God for the 1970’s when Soundstream was successful at selling digital audio tape recorders commercially. As a result of which digital audio workstations (DAW) were made a concept. The idea of making music was given a whole new platform.
Whether you’re starting to create your first track or need finishing touch-ups for your masterpiece, you will need a digital audio workstation to ensure that you master your plan to the T! Each year as technology advances, so do the capabilities of DAW software and newer versions replace the older ones.
After what appears to be a long hiatus, the original creators of the products - Trackiton - had come back and created Waveform 10 - the 10th version of the famous DAW software which comes equipped with exciting new features. With this software, the company updated its Properties panel to Action panels - which is considered to be a massive restructure that the company introduced with the launch of version 10.
The Action panel now displays a list of related actions, wherein users can select a track, apply actions such as Mute, Freeze, Solo, etc and finalize clips accordingly. Following which, digital producers can simply import the audio clips to Macros. Owing to the inclusion of Action Panels, users can safely assume that they will be able to carry out multiple tasks without facing too many problems.
Additional highlights of the software include inclusion of features such as Loop Properties, Macro Parameters, MIDI Controller Mappings and so on. The platform has also further received another update in terms of its View Manager. This allows users to control the visibility of other panels.
In addition to this, Waveform 10 further introduces 62 processors in the form of ‘Artisan Collection’ which are powered by Airwindows. Grouping has also become a full-fledged feature with Waveform 10 and it includes items such as Volume, Pan, Mute, Solo, Record, Send, Visibility and Height to name a few.
This year, Avid decided to reintroduce Pro Tools. It is now known as First, a new addition to the list of free products that they offer. The DAW software offers 16 audio and 16 MIDI tracks. In addition to this, it is capable of recording up to four tracks at once as it comes packed with four different types of inputs.
This proves to be of great advantage as digital producers can simply edit the MIDI notes with ease. Users have the option of altering the volume of each note. You don’t have to hold yourself back from giving your music the emotions and dynamics that it may need.
However, the only glaring limitation with it is that unlike its competitors, you will not get access to an unlimited number of saves. Other DAW software offer a minimum of 1GB of cloud storage for free. This DAW software offers up to three project saves. At the same time, there is always a way around this, i.e. you can simply store your tracks locally or on cloud.
The technology giant has packed the software with the ability to function on minimum system requirements. You need not own a powerful computer with 32GB worth of RAM to be able to optimise Avid Pro Tools to the fullest. You can still have the same experience on a 4GB worth of RAM system as well.
Acoustica launched its Mixcraft 8 DAW software as the kind of tool that is driven by a “lightning-fast sound engine.” It features several unique features. Chief among the top unique features is the software’s ability to allow users to influence the audio signals through instrument and effect parameters, which come already embedded in the system.
It comes packed with an all-round support system through the help of its VST3 plug-ins and MP4 video capabilities. With the support of VST3, digital producers can remain assured that their software is able to handle the latest virtual instruments. What’s more? Mixcraft 8 comes with support for Melodyne.
It is limited in terms of the number of platforms it supports. Acoustica has designed Mixcraft 8 to run only on Windows. Other additional features of the DAW software include flexible rendering options, unlimited access to submixes, a configurable mixer with clip-based automation capability and a vast array of hardware control options such as Mackie Control-compatible hardware, Novation Launchpad and Acoustica’s proprietary mobile application version as well.
This DAW software, written in C++ and Qt framework, operates on Linux. Qtractor is built on two main infrastructures i.e. Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK) which is primarily meant for the audio output and the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) which targets the MIDI requirements. There is more than one reason to why Qtractor can become your personal home studio system.
First of all, it truly is a steal that Qtractor is available for free, especially given the number of tools that it offers. This open-source software supports multiple audio file formats including OGG, MP3, WAV, FLAC and AIFF to name a few. It supports the standard MIDI format and includes VSTi plug-ins. You even have access to loop recording and piano roll. The one thing that Qtractor lacks is a key-signature map. In addition to this, this DAW software does not provide a score/notation editor. Unlike Acoustica Mixcraft 8, Qtractor does not feature any automation tools.
An entry level version of Ableton Live Suite, Able Live 10 is a music production software that sports the same user interface as the former. The only difference is that this entry-level DAW software carries a limited selection of instruments and sample loop packs to choose from. However, let’s not forget that the very same limitation enables the software to go easy on both, your computer as well as your wallet.
Accustomed to its traditions, Ableton released its Live 10 software in three different versions, i.e. Lite, Standard and Suite. One of the most exciting parts about Ableton Live 10 are its new additions. For instance, you get multiple effects to choose from such as Wavetable, Pedal, Echo and Max. These are more than capable of keeping you busy for some time while you produce innovative tracks.
The software provides enough space for you to test your creativity. The software is carrying the same GUI as its predecessor, Ableton Live 9. There’s a new Collection view tab, which is located on the left-hand side of the screen. This tab consists of 7 color-coded tags which help you distinguish and choose between multiple options such as clips, samples, plugins, folders and patches to name a few.
Described in the market as a clean and user-friendly DAW software, Soundbridge offers all that you’d expect a basic DAW software to offer. Normal functionalities of the software such as a quality MIDI and audio-mixing capability, lesser processing time and a decent set of effects to choose from -- all come packed in Soundbridge.
When this DAW software was initially released in the market, it came across as quite mysterious. The company behind Soundbridge decided against disclosing features of the software. The only other way of learning what it had to offer was to download it and get the experience yourself.
Productive features of the software include fully-automated MIDI and audio tracks, a special drag-and-drop interface that supports finger-size touch gestures and an online collaboration platform called SkyTracks.io, was comes for absolutely free of cost.
Soundbridge extends its support for VST plugins and there is also an option for you to add further ones, if applicable. You are required to register on the official website in order to download the software. The registration process can come across as quite taxing. However, once you register, you gain access to a range of freeware effects and instruments, which is provided by third parties. This software is functional on MacOS and Windows.
Ohm Force - the force behind Ohm Studio, has a reputation of launching efficient plugins in the market. Examples of the good ones include OhmBoyz, Oddity and Ohmicide to name a few. Therefore, when the company decided to take the wraps off Ohm Studio, it was looked at as if it were a potential tool that can reshape the music-producing space. The software is free of cost and comes packed with basic plugin options such as Vocoder, Compressor and a Flanger. Apart from this, you get access to audio, MIDI recording, editing and arrangement tools such as automation and sidechaining.
The DAW software also goes on to equip a third-party VST plugin support. At the same time, the main limitation of the software is the absence of important tools such as Groove Maps, Quantisation tools and Audio slicing capabilities.
There are more pros than cons when it comes to the Reaper DAW software. There is much more that Reaper has to offer than just its basic features. It features a highly compatible nature as it features VST, VST2, VST3, VSTi, AU, DX and DXi (Windows only). There is no limit to the number of tracks that digital producers can edit with the use of this software.
The software is easily customisable by users. You can change the system’s themes to suit your style and there are plenty of extensions that you have access to. It holds the ability to record music in the following formats such as WAV, AIFF, FLAC, WAVPACK, MP3 and OGG. The company has ensured that users gain the most simplistic experience with the software, as they have made it possible for users to place all manner of clips on the same track.
For those who are at a beginner level with using a DAW software, will find it easier to adapt with Reaper. The instructions are simple to follow and anyone would be able to install the Reaper by themselves. Before you know it, you’d be able to tie up your miscellaneous tools up and render your very own master mp3 track in just a couple of hours.
When Bandlab decided to enter the market by acquiring Cakewalk, it was a whole new ball game. The technology giant decided to adopt a new approach when they bought over the DAW software. They introduced the software as being a full-fledged professional digital music producing tool that is compatible with Windows platform only. It sports a multi-touch capability, which in other words means that it provides easy flexibility for those who wish to make use of the Surface Pen or Dial or any other touch-enabled device that runs on Windows.
The DAW software features a 64-bit audio engine that comes clubbed with a plug-in support for DirectX and VST3 effects. If you are the kind that makes use of virtual instruments to mix up your tracks, Cakewalk extends support for this as well, in addition to ARA support which helps users correct the pitch.
The software comes equipped with a special ‘Pro Channel’ tool that enables users to bring in professional effects straight into the mixer console. This option is further accentuated through tools such as reverbs, resonant filtering, dynamic compression, EQ and tape emulation, which all come included along with Cakewalk by BandLab for absolutely free.
Just like any other basic DAW software, Bitwig is also considered as a Digital Audio Workstation that comes with multiple platform support including Windows, macOS and Linux. Experts describe the software to sport a quick workflow which makes life easy for digital producers, especially when it comes to designing sound, recording or even putting together a live performance audio with a lot of disruptions.
The Bitwig package comes along with options of up to 80 different types of instruments and effects. The company even provides access to free content from selected partners that help in putting together a track. The user interface is easy to follow, as it sports a standard audio interface that most DAW software feature. It extends support for multiple MIDI instruments as well. Additional features that come along in Bitwig include an easy-to-navigate modulation system, the ability to kickstart multiple projects and a touch-screen support, which makes it easy for users to follow through on different types of devices.
Depending on your requirements and what capacity you are looking to use the DAW software on, chances are higher that you’d be able to settle on one of the above mentioned software. There are multiple options to choose from, each having something unique to offer. It is up to you to decide which one you’d rather opt for.
DAW could be a expensive purchase for an new musician/pianist, however there're free options like Tracktion T7, Qtracker, OhmStudio, etc. If you're someone whose just starting out, I'd highly recommend you try the free softwares.
There're lot more DAW softwares in the market, do you guys want me to extend the list to top 15? Let me know in the comment section.
I'm the lead researcher and content manager at PianoNadu. I test various different digital pianos and share our unbiased reviews here. We test them on various different aspects and make sure it passes our quality criteria. During my college years, I was a part of my college band known as DMT. I was the Pianist in our band. My love for playing the piano grew during middle school. Read more about me here