Which DAW is the Best?

Short Answer (TL;DR):

 Use what you like!  However, consider your work flow with the following role-based recommendations:

Beat Maker – FL Studio, Maschine,  Ableton, Logic

Sound Designer –  Bitwig, Reason

Recording / Mix Engineer – ProTools, Logic Pro, Luna, Cubase.

Recording Artist – ProTools, Logic, Luna, Reason, Studio One.

Film/TV Composer –  Cubase, Logic, ProTools Ultimate.

The Details

There are so many recording softwares on the market now.  Today, you can make and mix high quality audio from your phone or tablet.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Desktops and Laptops still offer more power and workflow efficiency respectively when it comes to doing serious work. 

In my time, I have used almost every DAW available from Cakewalk 2.0 to Bitwig 5.   My lack of mention in this article for other well-known software does not express my onion of them.   I’m going to touch on specific software I recommend for music production

FL Studio

I’m not a guru in FL Studio, but I like to jump in it occasionally.   I’m mentioning first to put some respect on the name.  When I was in Junior High, it was called Fruity Loops…and growing up in New York City, anything with the world fruity attached it had negative tropes.  Yet this software became the poor kid’s access to music creativity.  It also helped spawn a new culture of hip-hop and EDM while the software was trolled by the established, hardware-focused studios. 

Today, more than half of hip hop producers began their jouney with FL Studio.  On the development side, the software offer top quality sound and processing capabilities.  It is a force to be respected, especially after a major effort to bring compatibility to Mac computers.

Ableton Live

I have using Live since version 4 and keep my Suite license up to date.  This software revolutionized the way music ideas were organied and manipulated in the production process. Prior to this disruption, all recordings were plotted in linear fashion, left to right.  IF you wanted to try a slightly different arrangement , you would have to copy your initial idea to another section of the timeline, or do a ‘save as’ to make a separate project.  This was a frustration everyone experienced when ideas were flowing faster than the mouse could drag a bunch of rectanges rectangles. 

Apparently, Ableton solved this issue, but with the intial intent for guitarists to easily loop their melodic phrases with a foot pedal and remain hands-free.  This was achieved by using a grid they call Session View.  Session view allowed us to easily create loops quickly with various lengths, what would all loop independently while locked to the tempo (if you wanted it that way).  You can launch multiple clips at once  by placing them in the same scene.

Session view allow you to break sections of a song into individual scenes. Each clip in a scene are loops from individual tracks.  So, you want to try a different lyric or guitar lick for the chorus?  just duplicate the scene and make the changes to it.  You don’t have to touch your arrangement until you are ready to commit.  You can have infinite amount of scenes. so your remixes can be produced in the same session!

This grid concept of session view is what got the attention of superstars like Skrillex, David Guetta, and Timbaland, and thousand of producers around the world followed.  It was so influential that Apple introduced a similar feature in Logic Pro, called Live Loops.  To this day, it is a key feature that keeps me using Live.  Some former employees of Ableton spun this concept into a new package known as Bitwig.

Bitwig Studio

 Bitwig takes the core functionality of Ableton’s arrangement and session views to another level. There are so many tools within it, that you can achieve what most VSTs are offering (eg: wavetable synthesis, multi-band processing, and tools for virtually unlimited sound design capability). It also became the Flagship DAW for Linux users who previously relied on less than stellar solutions. 

One revolutionary feature not seen anywhere else (yet) is the ability to bounce a midi clip to audio and still have the ability to play the VST.  Did you get what I just said??  Imagine being able to create stems instantly, but still being able to continue recording new midi.  Ableton will let you freeze your track, but you’ll have to make another track to continue editing.  Bitwig lets you bounce in place and keep working with the same track count. Outstanding! 

So why haven’t I left Ableton? There are some relatively minor differences in workflow that add up to be significant to me during production. More on that in my Bitwig vs Ableton article. HOWEVER, anothoer golden feature of Bitwig is the ability to load Ableton Sessions!  So my preferred workflow is to do this when arrangement is complete, and I want my stems and midi on the same track.  There are some post-production benefits this way.  Enough about me, more about Bitiwig.

The Grid is another outstanding feature that competes with Ableton’s Max4Live and Native Instrument’s Reaktor. It has an easier learning curve.  You can build out your own synths and effects from the smallest components.  I have managed to create very interesting synths without reading the manual using. You just need a basic understanding of signal flow and synth components (oscillators, filters, envelopes). 

Lastly, Bitwig developers are collaborating with other developers to establish a new plugin standard (CLAP) that brings standard compatibility to Windows, Mac and Linux systems.  There is so much about Bitwig, I could write a separate article…but instead I recommend you checkout their site.


For the classic beatmaker, this may be the best entry into the computer music world.  Once installed, and launched, you really don’t have to look at the screen much at all.  Maybe to name the session for saving, and to export.  Other than that, you can lock into the hardware and enjoy a more robust workflow than the days of MPC. I keep a Maschine MK3 around, because sometimes I just want to zone out and pretend it isn’t connected to the computer.  With Maschine+ you can truly cut the usb cord, but I primarily work with VSTs, so keeping a computer tethered is my preference. 

Reason Studios

Where it all began for me on the computer.  I had previous experienc with analog hardware, so Reason was the best start in the box.  Pressing the tab key to flip virtual gear rack around was the greatest pleasure of that time.  I knew what that felt like physically, especially when going back and forth during experimentation, writing notes and drawing wire diagrams, and implementing ground wire methods to keep the hum to a minimum. 

Reason put those pains away and kept me engaged with creativity.  I remember interviewing the CEO at the time, Edward Noost, for my school paper.  I asked him if he would ever support the VST standard.  He cleverly answered “We don’t have any plans for that at this time.”  Surely, it would take a decade before being announced.  Now we have even better than VST support….using Reason as a VST (this is inception)!  As a producer, the latter is my preference.

For a recording band or artist, Reason studio has a lot f built in features that don’t require a VST (eg: pitch correction, comping, mastering fx). They also try to tackle the limitations of linear production by offering blocks mode…a way to try different production ideas before committing to, or altering your current arrangement.

Logic Pro

A full package solution for Mac users at an unbeatable price.   Its Live Loops mode likens to Ableton and Bitwig.  They offer a large (and growing) library of sounds to get started.  Their channel strip presets are quite awesome and give you a headstart for vocals and other mixing techniques.  Pitch correction is built-in. 

Logic especially shines in its ability to mix for Spatial Audio and Dolby Surround.  When using all internal tools on Apple Silicon, Logic may be the more resource efficient DAW on the market. Now that it is extended to the iPad, recording your vocals in a booth by yourself is painless. No worries about the microphone picking up computer fan noise. 


The developer (Steinberg) is the ‘father’ of VST! I only have a specific use for it…working with other composers on large projects.  When I say large, I mean 300+ tracks of VSTs.  Not saying that all are being used in a given session, but all are ready to be used if any idea or purpose arises for it.  Cubase has an organization feature called the logical editor. It can be used to filter and arrange tracks intuitively in ultra large sessions that would otherwise drive you insane. 

Imagine trying to find a string staccato in a track folder with 50 other string tracks, or trying to view only tracks with recorded data in a template of 400 tracks.  I have seen it, and a lot of established composers work this way.  They also expecct you to be able to cope with this kind of workflow.  Is it necessary for success in the composer field? No, do what works for you. 

Having some familiarity with Cubase and particularly its use with Vienna Ensemble Pro will increase your chances of working with meticulous teams..  I have a computer just for this with 128GB of RAM, which is the norm in the area, but not strictly necessary.


Is doesn’t matter what you use to make music for yourself. Use what ultimately inspires you. When you want to work with teams, there may be some additional software and work flows you need to learn. Personally, I have enjoyed all of the DAWs mentioned in this article and found unique features in each that inspired me on a different day. Maybe this article left you with more questions than answers.  That’s okay.  New perspectives are in order, and tech is moving fast.   Regardless, you will start somewhere and spend enough time with it to develop your craft. 

Already have an idea of which Daw you want to use? Are you wondering what plugins you should consider? Check out my articles about the best VST Instruments and VST Fx I have used.

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