DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): Which one is right for you?
Introduction to DAWs
When I first began my journey as an audio producer, this term quickly became a need-to-know. It's interesting to learn that a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW for short, is not just one device or software but can be a multitude of both. I know that the cover photo is something out of a producer's nightmare, but today we will break down the things that you need to know about DAWs and which DAW might be best for you.
What is a Digital Audio Workstation?
As previously mentioned, a DAW could be either software that you download such as Garageband, FL Studio, or Ableton, or it could be a conjunction of software and midi devices allowing you to record straight from wherever your studio is located.
History of DAWs
The history of digital workstations goes way back to the 1930s when British scientist and inventor Alec Reeves created a method to digitally represent sampled analog symbols. This method became known as pulse-code modulation (PCM). You may have seen this abbreviation as .PCM when you bounce a project from the software you use. This method was not created for the main purpose it is used for today as its main function was for use in the military as a way to encrypt communication. Pulse-code modulation got its first real use in the music industry in the late 1970s. Soundstream, a record company, was one of the first companies to create a widely available digital audio tape recorder, giving power to the consumer to create tracks in their own home. Moving into the 1980s, computers began to have the capability to host digital audio editing software. The creation of compact discs (CDs) greatly increased the awareness of this technology as it broke a financial barrier that kept most people from using this technology. 1991 was a very important year for DAWs and the reason lies within a digital audio tool called Pro Tools by Digidesign for Mac. This system integrated multitrack recording and editing with visual digital mastering abilities on Macintosh computers. By the end of the 90s, Pro Tools was available on Windows as well as Macintosh The 2000s brought more options for software to use with the introduction of Ableton, Adobe Audition, Propellerhead Record, and Garageband. Today most of the previously mentioned software continues to be used and improved with new versions and updates releasing annually. The availability and accessibility of these programs are much easier because almost 50% of the world's population has a computer at home. The price for these DAWs is much lower.
What you need
Most artists and producers know the financial necessities that come along with the career and unfortunately, DAWs do come with a decent price tag in most cases. Of course, if you are creating your music using a DAW, you will need to have a laptop that is capable of downloading and performing the functions of the software you end up using. We will get into the varying options available for both Apple and Windows devices further in the article. The software as well comes with a cost ranging from $100 to even some at the $500 price tag. Along with this software, a midi device is essential to your workstation and is one that can open more doors for you down the line.
Choosing the best for you
The growing variety of DAW software applications available can make it difficult to find which software is best for you. We've gone ahead and put together a quick list of the top 5 used DAWs on the market right now.
1 Ableton Live 10
Ableton has been around since the early 2000s and it serves as software for music creation and performance. Their interface is easy to maneuver around and they have a very good reputation as a big presence in the digital music industry. They offer many preloaded sounds and sound packs with the purchase of the software. The price for this depends on what you are looking for and your comfortability with DAWs. They offer Live Intro for $99, $449 for Live Standard, and $799 for Live Suite. This software is available on Mac, PC, and Linux.
2 FL Studio 20
Another very recognizable name (and logo) in the digital music industry, FL Studio has put itself in the spotlight of DAWs. In 1998, FruityLoops, FL for short, was an early digital audio workspace only available on PC. Luckily, in 2018 a MacOs-compatible version was created. A notable feature of FL Studio is that they have a mobile version for creating music on the go. For a fully unlocked version of FL Studio, it'll run you $737 but there are other options too such as just having full song creation and extra plugins -$299, full song creation and mic recording -$199, or the simplest version, basic melody and loop creation -$99.
3 Pro Tools 2021.6
As mentioned previously in the article, Pro Tools is a real OG when it comes to DAWs. There have been many updates since its release in the late 1980s. This software IS the industry-standard software so you know that this investment is worth the price. Another benefit of using Pro Tools is that it is optimized for multimedia projects. For example, if you wanted to sync a video with audio, this tool creates a simple and seamless way for that. The price of Pro Tools will cost you about $300 and is available on Mac, PC, or Linux.
4 Logic Pro X
This is where we get into an operating system-specific DAW. That's right. Logic Pro X was developed by Apple in the 1990s and has been one of the most popular DAWs to date even though it is only offered on MacOs. In my personal opinion, this application has the easiest interface to use as it is basically a Garageband if Garageband took steroids and got a nice haircut. If you are looking to purchase this software, the price for Logic is $200 all included.
This is one of the lesser-known DAWs on the market. Releasing in the early 2010s, they have been growing as a real competitor in the digital audio market. They offer a unique layout and powerful editing tools. Being a newer company than the others on this list, they have been able to see the successes and failures of the older software released by other companies. Its plugin visuals are appealing and make sense to the user. The price tag associated with Bitwig is $399 and it's available on all operating systems.
In The Loop Community
We hope you've learned a bit more about DAWs and which one is best for you. The entire purpose of In The Loop is to connect growing artists and producers and allow them to showcase their work in a space for constructive feedback while also participating in competitions tailored to the community. Currently, we are creating our community on Discord as we finalize our application, In The Loop. We are always looking for new beta testers to help improve the application so that we can be sure to match our app to user wants and needs.
Discord: Stay In The Loop
If you enjoyed this blog post or any of our previous posts, be sure to join our Discord server which can be found at discord.gg/c7Hf3HX6Hh
Interested in learning more about DAWs? Check out these other articles and videos to learn more!