Best Free DAWs in 2019

Best Free DAWs in 2019

The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that you choose to work in is one of the most principal factors in your productivity and workflow when creating music on a computer. Some years ago, the two good options for a totally free DAW where basically Audacity for Windows and Garage Band for Apple users. Today, whether you are on a Mac, Windows, or even mobile platforms, you have several fantastic free options for a DAW in 2019. This list will be comprised of picks with a wide variety of features, layouts, and workflows to ensure that you can pick out the right choice for you. However, if you are not familiar with multiple DAWs, I suggest that you give multiple of these software options a try, these are all awesome!

 

Studio One Prime

A truly worthy competitor for being the best free choice of DAW, Studio One Prime has a lot going for it as a music workstation. Being the downgraded version of PreSonus’s high tier paid DAWs, you are getting a lot of premium features at no cost when going with Prime. The window layout and few but great built-in plugs are what make this a standout choice for many budget music makers. It is also a great way to determine how you feel about Studio One in general, possibly to look into getting their paid Pro or Artist versions later on down the road. Regardless of what you plan to do with it, this DAW is a great one to check out.

What we like –

  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Modern aesthetics and coloring 
  • Solid built-in effects

What needs work –

  • Not super-efficient (for the CPU)
  • Obvious absences of features from the paid version
  • Limited effects with no support for third party VSTs

 

Open Labs Stagelight

This one is going to be for mobile users or the beatmakers out there. While you can use Stagelight as a standard layout DAW, the Loopbuilder mode is really what has this software making the list. Currently, this is one of the best free ways of making music on the go. Everything in this DAW is laid out rather well and with the end-user in mind. Android and Apple users alike can take advantage of this excellent mobile platform and we highly recommend you give it a try.   

 

What we like –

  • A mobile platform that works great
  • Great support for creating and using samples
  • Has cloud-based saving options
  • Includes some basic instruments

What needs work –

  • No support for any type of third part music software

 

Cakewalk

This one has been around for a while. Cakewalk has always been a great professional DAW loved by many music makers. However, up until last year, it was a paid DAW offered from Gibson Brands (called Sonar back then). But thanks to the new owners at Bandlab, this is now a free piece of software for all. And this is not even a “free version” or anything, you are getting a full-on pro-level DAW for absolutely free. Coming with support for most third-party plugins and VSTs, you will not be missing anything when it comes to the instruments that you already use. Yet it still might be worth trying the built stuff that Cakewalk has to offer, there are plenty of good sounds to be had! It is worth noting that this all might be a little much for someone just starting out, I would recommend this one be for those of you with a little experience.

What we like –

  • Up to date features like Bluetooth midi support
  • High-end built-in effects
  • Feels like it should not be free

What needs work –

  • Not the best for beat-making
  • Tough for a beginner to jump into

 

Reaper

Okay okay, I know that this one is technically not “free”. After the 60-day trial you are supposed to (and should) pay $60.00 for the basic discounted license. However, I did want to make sure I included it on this list for several reasons. One of the coolest things about Reaper is the community that surrounds it. Reaper’s website has an excellent forum and video page that will be immensely helpful in your experience with the software. You will find that people using and developing Reaper are all about individuals working together to benefit the group. This mentality has yielded a piece of music software that is truly great for complete beginners to the most advanced users.

What We Like –

  • Constantly receiving updates with new features (for free)
  • Highly customizable interface to fit any workflow
  • Comes with a solid lineup of built-in effects and VSTs
  • Great support for third party plugins 
  • Wonderful developer and community support

           What needs work –

  • Could have better built-in plugins
  • Not great for electronic music (or other comparable genres)

 

In 2019 the world has more free-to-access software than ever before. This could not be truer than when applied to music and DAWs. For most musicians, money is tight and finding free options for a DAW can be a particularly important thing. All the DAWs listed here are great for a lot of reasons, but they might not all be great for you. So, make sure to shop around. Give each of these picks a try and see if one sticks out as being the best for your situation. Having the proper DAW for your music-making can yield great a great increase to your creative productivity. However, always remember, the DAW will not fix your mix, that one's on you! Thanks for reading.

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