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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Jackson

The Best DAW for 2022

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Choosing a DAW can be a daunting task especially if you're considering launching your first home-based studio or venturing into the world of freelance audio production. Music and sound is everywhere. Radio, Television, Films, Podcasts, and such. More and more people are getting into the game and all the newbies have the same questions? What's the best DAW to start with?


Well, the answer isn't so simple. DAW software can be simple cut and paste type applications to full blown recording, mixing, and mastering packages and the costs run from free to hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars when you take into account the supporting hardware you may need.


This article is going to try and simplify your choice as much as possible for the start up studio/producer. Taking into account budget, ease of use, and practicality.


Our top picks include:

Reason Studios Reason 11.

Reaper 6.

AVID Pro Tools.

PreSonus Studio One 4

 

First up is.........

1. Image-Line FL Studio (Fruity, flavorful, and a tasty treat)

Street price starting at: $99/£76/€99. There are several versions: Fruity, Producer, Signature, and the All Plugins Bundle.


Compatibility: PC/Mac | System requirements (PC): Windows 8.1, 10 or later, 4GB storage space, 4GB RAM | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.6 or later, 4GB storage space,

4GB RAM recommended.


This DAW is:

Great for Hip-Hop and EDM producers,

Is a great value and,

Comes with lifetime free updates.

(The workspace can feel a bit cluttered at times but overall this is a great package)


Originally called Fruity Loops, Image-Line's DAW is extremely popular among this young generation of producers, particularly in the hip-hop and EDM genres'. The popular feature in version 20 is a native 64-bit Mac version, so it can now be used on mac OS and PC without the need for tedious workarounds. Also, licenses can now be shared between both Mac and PC versions.


Free lifetime upgrades means that all existing users of the software now automatically own upgrades to version 20 across both platforms. Version 20.5 introduced Flex, a new preset-based soft synth, and 20.6 raises the bar with a variety of new features.


Many seasoned Producers and Engineers will never accept FL Studio as a ‘serious’ DAW, however the facts suggest otherwise, and it does have some noteworthy supporters in the pro community. FL Studio had humble beginnings but it looks like it's here to stay for quite a while.


 

2. Steinberg Cubase 10.5 (Ole Dog, new tricks)

Street Price: $579 (for the Pro Version) $315 (for the Artist Version)


Compatibility: Operating systems (Windows) 64-bit Windows 10 Version 1903, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 1809 Operating systems (Mac) macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina

CPU minimum: Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core, CPU recommended Intel i5 or faster RAM minimum 4 GB RAM recommended 8 GB Hard disk free space 30 GB Graphics

Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 1.1 support (Windows only)


Steinberg is synonymous with most of the music software technology today — They were the pioneers of MIDI and audio synchronization, VST effects, Virtual Instrument plug-ins, and the ASIO audio engine — all of which make DAWs possible.


Cubase has become more focused, fluid, and refined in recent upgrades. They've de-cluttered the workspace making it easier to seamlessly move between editing, mixing, virtual instruments, and have improved the overall workflow. Version 10.5 consolidates everything for a more professional feel.


What makes Cubase unique is that it doesn’t have a specialty. Although it's not a "Jack of all trades" it does give you everything you'll need to get the job done. Multi-tracking is simplified with on-track editing, you get a fantastic mixing console, you can colorize your channel strips to keep things organized, and the undo history is a great feature too. Cubase excels at Midi implementation. Key and drum editing is seamless and you can easily move between score editing and MPE expression editing. Recording may be enabled in the background so that you can always record Midi as well. So you won't lose that amazing piece you played because you forgot to arm recording.


Cubase has a robust set of virtual instruments. Drums, synths, workstation sounds, and a sampler. Top quality effects include multi-tap delays, spectral EQs, channel strips, and more. Really everything you need to process your audio.


Cubase now allows you to export your music directly mixed with the video and work on Virtual Reality with a complete suite of environmental and spatial tools.


Cubase is OG of DAWs and remains a leader in the industry. You won't go wrong if this is your choice.



 

3. Reason Studios Reason 11 (The coolest looking DAW hands down)

Street Price: $399 (Reason 11) & $599 (Reason 11 Suite). They even have a Rent-to-Own deal.


Compatibility: MacOS:

Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration. Intel Mac with multi-core processor 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions) 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space. Mac OS X 10.11 or later (64-bit)Monitor with at least 1280x768 resolution Core Audio compliant audio interface or built-in audio hardware MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended For using Reason as a VST Plugin, a DAW host with VST3 support is required For using Reason as an AU plugin, a DAW host with AUv2 support is required


Windows:

Fast, stable internet connection for installation and registration Intel or AMD multi-core processor 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions) 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space Windows 7 or later (64-bit) Monitor with at least 1280x768 resolution Audio Interface with ASIO driver MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard recommended For using Reason as a VST Plugin, a DAW host with VST3 support is required


This is one of the coolest DAW's on the market. Reason from Reason Studios (formally called Propellerhead). Originally a virtual synthesizer workstation, it's become a major contender in the DAW world and its synth rack is now available as a plug-in for other DAWs. Reason is a very good DAW and excellent music production suite with the largest choice of built-in sounds and generators.


The synth rack is ridiculous with It’s full range of vintage synths, samplers, polysynths, and drum machines. You're only limited by your imagination with this software. Routing has seemingly endless possibilities, you can apply modulators and mix them with endless combinations. Step and drum programming, arpeggiators, and chord machines all works with its own internal CV based signal routing. Reason quite possibly be the reason vintage synths are popular again.


Reason has greatly improved its audio recording features with an impressive mixing console full of top notch audio processors and effects. All audio and virtual instruments can be mixed in the same window and as always It's the coolest looking DAW on the market.


Reason will allow you to take advantage of it's analogue and digital power via a protocol called ReWire if Reason is not your main DAW but it can be a bit complicated to set up because it does require both DAW's to run at the same time however , the Reason Rack Plugin is so much simpler.


If you like massive synth workstations then Reason is for you.

 

4. Reaper 6 (The industry's best kept secret)

Street Price: $60


Compatibility: REAPER supports all Windows versions from Windows XP to Windows 10.

REAPER has experimental native support for Linux, and the Windows version works well with WINE. REAPER also supports macOS X versions from 10.5* to 10.15.


Reaper is probably the industries best kept secret. It's almost free, high powered, and easy to use. This is an excellent choice for anyone just starting out in the home studio.


Reaper is very powerful. It's an easy install taking up little space. It was built and designed through a community effort by those who were tired of the expensive tier one DAW's that required massive computing power just to open. Reaper is a no nonsense get to the point type of DAW that is focused on one thing, making great recordings with no headaches. It’s focused, clean and compatible across all audio interfaces and plugin format you can think of.


Version 6 has brought it up to date with current DAW's on the market. Reaper is all about efficiency. It's practical, easy on your computer, and literally offers everything you'll need to run your studio, produce music, or anything you can think of


The interface is completely customizable to your requirements where everything from the color to the graphics and the layout can be changed and tweaked.


Reaper has always been looked at as basic by hardcore producers and engineers but trust when I tell you, it's the real deal. Reaper has a cult following and you can't beat the support and price of entry. It really is the best value and probably most feature rich DAW available. Don't sleep on Reaper. Try it out, you might love it.

 

5. AVID Pro Tools (The industry Standard?)

Street Price: $34.99 monthly subscription, $299 for 1 year upfront or $599 if you just want to buy it (There is a free version but it's very limited)


Compatibility: Minimum System Requirements:

Mac: Intel® Mac with macOS 10.13.6, 10.14.6 or 10.15.1/10.15.2. Pro Tools - Intel® Core i5 processor. Pro Tools | Ultimate - Intel® Core i5 (specific models only) or Intel® Core i7 processor 16GB RAM (32GB or more recommended)Internet connection for installation 15 GB disk space for installation. PCIe slot for HDX or HD Native card (incl. one power connection on motherboard), Thunderbolt port for supported PCIe-chassis or HD Native Thunderbolt, USB port, FireWire port or Thunderbolt port for Core Audio-supported audio device. Pro Tools | Ultimate requires a Pro Tools DigiLink I/O license to access HD hardware.Windows: Intel® PC Windows 10 Home, Pro, and Enterprise 64-bit Editions (please find version specific qualifications in the Windows OS Compatibility Grid below)Windows 10 for Workstations supported on Intel® Xeon processor-equipped machines. Pro Tools - Intel® Core i5 processor. Pro Tools | Ultimate - Intel® Core i9 or Intel® Xeon processor 16GB RAM (32GB or more recommended)Internet connection for installation 15 GB disk space for installation. PCIe slot for HDX or HD Native card (incl. one power connection on motherboard)USB-port, FireWire-port for ASIO-supported audio device. Compatible NVIDIA graphics card (see machine-specific Slot Order & Configuration pages linked below for tested NVIDIA card models)Pro Tools | Ultimate requires a Pro Tools DigiLink I/O license to access HD hardware.


Pro Tools considers itself to be the industry standard in recording software and with good reason. It is probably the DAW most widely used in professional studios. It was designed to replicate a hardware studio and integrate with it to become the recording center and so the way that it works is comfortingly familiar to people who are used to working with professional recording gear.


Pro Tools works with two views; the Mixer and the Arranger/Editor. Everything you ever want to arrange or edit can be done in the same view that lists all the tracks and all the recorded audio and MIDI. You have a simple toolset that tackles all the most common tasks and the workflow is very fast and logical. The Mixer is fast and powerful with multiple inserts and routing options a button click away. It doesn’t have the slick looks of many other DAWs but it has the power to handle huge projects with ease.


It comes with a wide range of professional-grade plugins to process and sculpt your audio and a handful of virtual instruments for sound sources. Although Pro Tools’ forte is audio it does have a comprehensive MIDI creation and editing side that has come along in strides over the last few versions.


AVID has pioneered the online Cloud Collaboration format where you can share projects online securely with other Producers so that they can add to your work wherever they may be.


Pro Tools is a comprehensive recording and producing solution that’ll always be a good choice for experienced Engineers and Producers.


 

6. Presonus Studio One (The New TOP DOG) OUR FAVORITE *****

Street Price: $399


Compatibility: Windows 7 (SP1 + platform update), Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 x64 Intel® Core™ Duo or AMD® Athlon™ X2 processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon X4 or better recommended)4 GB RAM minimum (8 GB or more recommended)Internet connection (needed for installation and activation)Monitor with 1366 x 768 resolution (high-dpi monitor recommended)A multi-touch enabled monitor is required for touch operation 40 GB hard-drive space Windows®. MacOS® 10.11 or higher (64-bit only)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor (Core i3 or better recommended)4 GB RAM minimum (8 GB or more recommended)Internet connection (needed for installation and activation Monitor with 1366 x 768 resolution (Retina display recommended)A multi-touch enabled monitor with TUIO support is required for touch operation 40 GB hard-drive space mac OS®

Compatible with Microsoft Surface 3 (and higher) and Surface Pro 2 (and higher)Windows 8.1, Windows 10, or later (Windows RT not supported)2 GB RAM minimum (4 GB RAM or more recommended). Tablet must be x86-compatible (not ARM-based).Studio One Remote for iPad® iPad Pro®, iPad 2, iPad mini®, and newer models iOS 8 or later Studio One Remote for Windows


Ok, we might be a little biased with this one but Studio One is in this writers opinion the Best DAW ever made. It's incredibly powerful, easy to use, and for an engineer such as myself it just makes sense. Pretty much the new kid on the block Studio One has quickly risen to the top of the ranks stealing many hardcore Pro Tools as well as other DAW users from their respective communities.


Let's start with the single window approach that Presonus has developed. The user interface in Studio One allows you to mix, edit, produce audio alongside midi and virtual instruments all in a single window so you don't have to flip between tabs and menus to get the job done. Their revolutionary drag and drop features makes this DAW a breeze and the ability to use practically any type of plug ins is simply amazing. And to top it all off, Studio One plays well with others. Exporting sessions for use in other platforms is as simple as a mouse click.


The virtual instruments are amazing and you have complete control over every parameter and setting you can imagine to perfectly tweak and tune your sounds to absolute pristine perfection. You can change tones and quality utilizing harmonic editing and Studio One even detects the key of your music and let's you change the chords in both midi and audio files. You can experiment with different versions of your songs without affecting your original session file and when your all done Studio One has built in Mastering to put the final smack on your musical master piece.


Studio One 4 has all the tools you need to create and deliver master projects from concept to final. This DAW is for serious Producers / Engineers / and Sound Designers and offers industrial strength power to compete with anything out there. I highly recommend you take a look at Studio One if you're truly serious about running a studio or production company.


Like to purchase Studio One? Just follow the link

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