Deciding which recording software to use can be overwhelming at first. In this article we will analyze which DAW is best for you, depending on your preferences.
To make things a little bit easier we have reduced the list of DAWs to 6: Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Reason, and FL Studio. First of all, your OS will determine if you can use Logic or not. So if you are using a PC you can forget about using it, however, there are still 5 great options left (read more about Mac vs PC for music production here).
To make a good decision you should ask yourself 4 questions. What type of projects will you work on? Where will you work? How do you like to work? Are you planning on using external plugins?
What type of projects will you work on?
This is an important question because there are some sequencers that work better for certain styles and others that are more versatile for multiple styles. So depending on what type of projects you are going to work with you can decide which program is better for you. For instance, if you are going to use the DAW for EDM then Ableton Live, Reason, or FL Studio would be a good choice. If you plan on recording some vocals, however, you may have a hard time working with them. Although they allow audio recording the features are very limited, especially on Reason and FL Studio.
If your main goal is to record and mix audio, then Pro Tools, Logic Pro, or Cubase would be a great choice. In my opinion, Pro Tools is more focused on audio recording and processing and Cubase or Logic Pro have a more versatile combination MIDI/Audio. Although the three of them have advanced features on audio and MIDI depending on your needs you may prefer one or the other.
Where will you work?
Any DAW will work fine in your studio, but some are more prepared for external recording. For example, Ableton Live is designed to create music in your studio and also in live sessions, this gives you a lot of versatility to record and improvise. This can be a huge advantage if you work with electronic music, and that’s why Ableton Live is one of the top DAWs for EDM.
How do you like to work?
This can feel like a silly question, but it’s not. Some programs like Reason, FL Studio, or Ableton Live work using loops, for example, you start creating drum loops, then you create a bass loop, a synth loop, etc. It’s very easy to copy and paste those loop tracks through the song to extend the song, but creating new loops is a bit messier once the project becomes bigger. For instance, in FL Studio you can only have 1 loop per line in the song view. That makes it easier to add that loop anywhere you want but can make your project huge if you have a lot of different loops for the same instrument. This way to work is obviously designed for electronic music because loops will tend to repeat with maybe slight changes, this is not very useful for other styles that keep changing more often.
Are you planning on using external plugins?
Usually, you’ll say yes, or maybe… Each DAW uses a different plugin format and some plugins won’t be available for all of them.
Pro Tools uses AAX, which are usually more expensive, Logic Pro allows AU plugins, Cubase, Ableton Live and FL Studio work with VST plugins and Reason only allows for Rack Extensions with a more limited library. VST is probably the most extended format and this can be an advantage. Numerous unique Waves plugins are also worth investigating for your DAW.
Choose the DAW that is best for you.
Choosing a DAW is a matter of personal taste, but after reading this article I’m sure you will be able to make a good decision. So, if you’re planning to work only with electronic music and with little audio recording, then go for Ableton Live, FL Studio, or Reason. But if you’ll have a different type of project, or you plan to open a recording studio in the future and record other artists, you should go for Cubase, Pro Tools, or Logic.
Post image under Creative Commons License by David Podosek
About the Author
Dídac is a professional audio engineer, music producer and software engineer. He is the founder of MasteringBOX and the author of many of the articles on the blog.
Studio One of presonus is the most apreciatted for me.
Appreciate Ableton for electronic music, Fruity too, to use a lot of plugins Reason or Pro Tools, but for me the most versatile is SONAR, only my opinión
I have worked with Reason since year 2000, and will stay with it. Currently using v.6.5, but will upgrade at some point to newest version, i will probably wait for the version 10.
Too bad theres no VST plugins for it, but refills and rack extensions are ok, besides, reason 9 includes pretty big bunch of sounds in it.
Logic Pro X is great, but i seriously think about Studio One
what about acid it seems to be the forgotten program all the time but its great!
Recording & Mixing-Pro Tools 10HD & Cubase 8 Pro! for Beats FL Studio 10!
Does not download to mac???
Creo que Nuendo o Cubase de steinberg ofrecen más posibilidades. Yo trabajo con ellos desde hace años con resultados óptimos. Los vst tienen gran calidad y no suelen dar problemas. Tienen un manejo sencillo para principiantes y muchas posibilidades para trabajos más profesionales.
Thanks for your comment, although many of the DAWs are capable of doing similar things, some advanced features aren’t available. Does Reason or FL studio allow audio quantization with a similar process as AudioWarp in Cubase? FL Studio only offers slicing for instance. It is clear to me that some DAWs are designed better for certain types of music, that’s a bit what this article is about, I’m sure you wound’t use FL Studio for Jazz.
I don’t consider them better but to make the comparison simpler I reduced the list to the most used (or the ones I think are more used).
I thought Rack Extensions were only made by Popellerhead but I see there’re other vendors too, I will correct it now. However I also ment to say that most companies such as Waves, Antares, Native Instruments, etc. do not develop for Reason.
Reason allows Plugins. They are called Rack Extension – you can buy them in the Propellerhead store.
Lol! Is this article based on a research from 10 years ago? I am a power user in 5 of this DAWs and work on every day. Differences are more about the work approach, because in the present day all of them are capable of doing same things.
DAW I use is Sonar. Why others are considered better?
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