Digital Audio Workstations - DAWs, for short - are arguably the most important piece of software in our studios, to the point where it’s nearly impossible to picture a modern studio without (at least) one so it’s safe to say that they are something we can’t live without. As expected, it’s one of Gearspace’s main topics of conversation, so let’s find out which DAWs are the most popular on our forums:

Avid Pro Tools Studio

Pros: Widely recognised as one of the best DAWs when it comes to recording, editing and mixing. Still for the most part the ‘industry standard’, which facilitates easy session exchange between studios and professionals.

Cons: Relatively expensive when adding up the initial investment and annual fees, something that’s aggravated on the ‘Ultimate’ edition.

Apple Logic Pro X

Pros: The best DAW when it comes to bundled content, with an ever-growing array of excellent plug-ins, samples and virtual instruments that will likely be more than enough for casual users.

Cons: Audio editing is still not as flexible as others. Mac only.

Steinberg Cubase Pro 12

Pros: Arguably the most well-rounded DAW out there in terms of content and features, it might be a notch below Apple's flagship Logic Pro in terms of content but it has the benefit of working on both Mac and Windows systems.

Cons: Requires a specific protection dongle that can't be used for much else other than Steinberg’s software and a handful of selected plug-ins.

Cockos Reaper

Pros: A highly capable and immensely flexible DAW with deep customization, Reaper is your best pick if you want total control. It’s also extremely affordable and basically a no-brainer for the cost-savvy studio.

Cons: The deep ‘tweakability’ might be a bit too "nerdy" for some and there’s a good chance of getting lost amongst all those settings and options.

Ableton Live 11 Suite

Pros: Streamlined for composition and live performance like no other DAW, Live heralded a new era for electronic music production. It can be even more effective when used with special Live-friendly controllers which are optimised for the software’s array of performance features.

Cons: A very idiosyncratic piece of software whose unique workflow may or may not appeal to some, and those hardware controllers feel somewhat necessary to get the best out of it.

PreSonus Studio One 6

Pros: Another solid contender that has been climbing the ranks over the past few years, Studio One is now almost ten years old and has improved greatly on all areas since its introduction.

Cons: Hardly any, although it might not match the level of included content that Cubase and Logic Pro give you for the cost of admission.

Harrison Consoles Mixbus32c 8

Pros: An affordable DAW based on the open-source Ardour platform with a strong focus on mixing - and fueled by Harrison Consoles' vast expertise in the large-format mixer arena. This is a very cost-effective way of bringing the sound of Harrison's glorious analog gear to our computer!

Cons: Audio and MIDI editing not as advanced as other DAWs.

Image Line FL Studio All Plugins Edition

Pros: A favourite amongst electronic music producers and beatmakers, FL Studio has added many features and improvements over the years and it’s now a very complete package.

Cons: Mac support still only in the beta testing stage.

Reason Studios Reason 12

Pros: After being merged with its sister audio-capturing DAW 'Record' a few years ago, Reason is now a fully-fledged DAW that can tackle anything from composition to recording and mixing, which looks like a lot of fun with its 'SSL-esque' mixer.

Cons: Basically none since VST support was implemented on a recent version!


Some observations:

  • With the sole exception of Apple’s Logic Pro, and now that FL Studio is finally arriving at the Mac OS, all the DAWs on our list are cross-platform - they will run on Windows PCs or Macs, with Mixbus additionally offering Linux support.

  • Honourable mentions go to Cakewalk Sonar (now being sold under the BandLab brand/banner), MAGIX Samplitude and Bitwig.

  • It's interesting to note that despite their increasing popularity in the plug-in world, DAWs have not yet fully jumped into subscription models and Pro Tools is the only one on our list with that option.

  • On the other hand, annual fees for updates are becoming more common, with Pro Tools and Bitwig being two notable examples of this new(wish) business model. Others have more predictable cycles and are 'more or less' charging annually for major updates - Cubase comes to mind - whereas if you bought Logic Pro X, for example, you haven't paid for a single update since.

So there we have it, Gearspaces' most popular DAWs! Which one are you using? More than one? Different tools for different jobs? Are you happy with what they offer or are you planning a change soon? Share your thoughts below!

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