How to Choose a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Photo: Vladimir

The independent label music production market in the U.S. is $310.2 million.

Nowadays, even individuals can make high-quality songs using their laptops.

If you want to make music, consider using a digital audio workstation, or DAW. This is software that gives you all the tools you need to create finished tracks.

However, high-quality software comes with a price. Making the most out of your money means knowing about the most desirable DAW features.

Do you want a good starting point? Read the rest of our guide to help you choose the right DAW for you.

Think About Your Operating System

Are you using Windows or macOS? Regardless of your answer, narrowing your search starts with your operating system. After all, many top-tier DAWs only run on one specific OS.

There’s no point in choosing a DAW that doesn’t run on your computer. At the same time, you need to think about whether you want to collaborate with other musicians. If that’s the case you’ll want to go for a DAW that’s available on both Windows and macOS, otherwise, collaboration will be a real challenge.

Consider Your Audio Plugins Compatibility

Knowing the formats that your DAW uses helps avoid compatibility issues. That’s especially true when it comes to plugins such as audio effects or virtual instruments.

Right now, three types of plugin formats are available in the market:

  • Audio Units (AU)
  • Virtual Studio Technology (VST)
  • Real-Time Audio Suite (RTAS)

AU is a native macOS X format, but it’s also available to some Windows DAWs. VST is the most popular plugin standard for both major operating systems. As for RTAS, it’s only available for Pro Tools DAW.

Discover Your Music Production Goal

Choosing the best digital audio workstation is all about the workflow. Are you looking to make music quickly, or do you want a lot of features so you can spend your time tweaking your masterpiece to your heart’s content?

Can you make music quickly on your current DAW? Look for a new tool if you always break your creative workflow to try to fix problems. The same also applies when you have to figure out how to use functions all the time.

As a beginner, you might have no idea of your ideal workflow. To avoid costly mistakes, download trial versions of the DAWs that you like the look of. Trying all these tools enables you to discover your favorite DAW.

Not all DAWs offer the same level of features. For example, comparing Ableton Live vs FL Studio will uncover some considerable differences in what you can do and how you work.

Look at Your Budget

Your budget limits your DAW options. If you plan to work as a freelancer, paying for your DAW can make a significant dent in your finances.

A music producer makes around $51,000 every year, so if you’re serious about getting into the industry then choosing a more expensive DAW could still be an investment.

If you don’t have much spare cash, consider buying DAWs with seasonal discounts. In most cases, Black Friday or Thanksgiving sales give the best deals.

Find the Right Digital Audio Workstation Now

These are some tips to help you choose the best digital audio workstation for your needs. The right decision will help to make your audio production tasks a breeze.

Finding the right DAW is only the start, however. Look for other guides to help discover the best music production practices.

Did you find this guide helpful? If so, consider reading our other posts today.