The 10 Best Free DAWs Available

There’s a plethora of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) available out there ranging from the massively expensive, feature packed professional studio software to the free and simple that offer basic editing with four-tracks. But just because  the top DAWs cost a pretty penny doesn’t mean that some of the free alternatives on the market don’t offer some valuable tools and some of the most efficient recording and editing software out there.

Here’s a list of the top 10 DAWs we know available for free.


 

MU.Lab

Our list starts with MuLab from MuTools, a little known but brilliant DAW that combines simplicity and efficiency to create a fantastic free package.  MuLab provides an easy interface to record, create and edit multi-track music with excellent efficiency and enough hidden features in it’s ‘right click menus’ to make most free DAWs blush.

MuLab may seem bare of features, owing to it’s simple, user-friendly design but what it hides under the hood should be enough to satisfy those looking for more than a recording program. MuLab supports MIDI and audio recording and features it’s own reverb, EQ, sample player, drum set, synth and more.

MuLab is available for Windows and Mac OSX for free from: http://www.mutools.com/mulab-downloads.html

Tracktion 4

Tracktion 4 was offered as a free music making program for Behringer customers in 2013 but earlier this year was made free for everyone. Though there are newer versions Tracktion 4 is the only one available for free, however with its fast audio editing and mix workflow Tracktion 4 should keep most satisfied.

Tracktion 4 is compatible with VST plugins and surprisingly video files, which you can edit the audio file of in the DAW. The user interface can hold a little bit of a learning curve when you first start but once you adjust you’ll see Tracktion 4 has one of the most streamlined interfaces you’ve used.

Tracktion 4 is available for Mac, Windows and Linux (older versions may not work) for free after signing up with Tracktion here: https://www.tracktion.com/account/signup/index?step=3a&type=free

Audacity

What would a top list of free DAWs be without Audacity. For the uninitiated Audacity is a free, open source DAW that takes audio recording to it’s basics. It has seen massive popularity despite it’s lack of features and basic design. With Audacity you can create multi-track recordings and edit them with effects for removing noise, stretching time, correcting pitch etc.

However Audacity has some drawbacks such as it’s destructive editing, so effects applied are permanent, as well as it’s software being too basic for proper music recording hence it’s popularity with speech recording. Despite all this Audacity remains one of the most popular and easiest to use DAWs ever created.

Audacity is available for free on Windows, Mac, Linux and other OS’s from here: http://audacityteam.org/

PreSonus Studio One 3 Prime

You may have heard of the PreSonus Studio One DAW but did you know that PreSonus had released a free version? PreSonus Studio One Prime is the stripped down, free little brother to the professional DAWs but what it loses in features isn’t lost in overall design and functionality. Studio One Prime is intended as a trial for experienced users but also as a fully working DAW for beginners.

Though some of the features it loses do hurt its usability, such as inability to import MP3 files, with Studio One Prime you get the interface and basic features of a professional  DAW. To read more about it you can see our blog post: http://routenote.com/blog/presonus-release-free-daw-studio-one-3-prime/

Studio One 3 Prime is available for free on Windows and Mac from here: https://shop.presonus.com/products/studio-one-prods/Studio-One-3-Prime

Ardour

Ardour was designed to be an all-in-one program for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio and MIDI projects. Ardour aims to give you complete control and flexibility with recording allowing you to produce CDs, mix video soundtracks and more packed into a free package of multi-track recording software.

Ardour is packed with features for editing is compatible with a wide range of equipment and plugins. Ardour is highly versatile and in-depth for a free DAW but it does fall back on a complete lack of inbuilt effects and instruments as well as not being available for Windows. The free version also caps you at about 10 minutes on tracks but for a minimum price of $1 you can access all the features as well as some updates.

Ardour is available for free on Mac and Linux from here: http://ardour.org/download.html

Soundtrap

Soundtrap is a very interesting DAW and probably not the software you will use to record your album on, but it is definitely worth checking out. First of all Soundtrap is an in-browser DAW so you don’t have to install anything or even leave your web page to use it. Secondly Soundtrap has collaborative options for you to record and talk with people around the world (this is optional though and you can use Soundtrap as a generic DAW).

Soundtrap isn’t just incredibly easy to access it is also incredibly simple to use with a stripped back design that maintains the essential features. Soundtrap also features some uncomplicated built-in instruments in the shape of a keyboard and drum kit with a multitude of versions for each as well as a decent number of built-in effects. You can read more about Soundtrap in our blog post here: http://routenote.com/blog/soundtrap-the-free-in-browser-daw/

Soundtrap recommend using Google Chrome or Safari. You can use Soundtrap by making a free account on their website here: https://www.soundtrap.com/

Rosegarden

Rosegarden can be a little visually jarring but it’s users attest to it’s accessibility with an easy-to-learn interface that can be very attractive despite it’s slightly unusual design. One of Rosegarden’s strongest features is it’s music notation editing capabilities which are in-depth and provide detailed visual scoring and arranging.

Recording with Rosegarden can affect performance and you won’t be able to use plugins without some programming knowledge or a good tutorial  but it is brilliant at interpreting and sequencing MIDI. Unfortunately Rosegarden is only available on Linux but there are talks of a Windows version coming.

Rosegarden is available for free on Linux from here: http://www.rosegardenmusic.com/getting/

Zynewave Podium Free

Podium Free is the freeware edition of Zynewave’s brilliant Podium DAW. Developed by one man Podium is a complete audio and MIDI recording program with multi-tracks (though only one input/output can be used at a time with the free version), VST support, bundled plugins and more.

The free version has certain performance limiting restrictions such as no multiprocessing, no 64-bit mixer engine option and more. Despite this though Podium Free still does what it’s made to and does it well with an intuitive design full of editing options.

Podium Free is available for free on Windows from here: http://zynewave.com/podium-free/

LMMS

LMMS may not feature audio recording capabilities but what that means for LMMS is that they’ve designed one of the best DAWs for MIDI recordings and arrangements. It features multiple instrument and effect plugins as well as supporting VST plugins.

It’s multitude of easy to access synthesizers is one of the most appealing features of LMMS which ranges from it’s embedded ZynAddSubFx to Nintendo, Gameboy and game sound effect emulation.

LMMS is available for free on Windows, Mac and Linux from here: https://lmms.io/

Cockos REAPER

Reaper is a fully fleshed out, professional DAW that is quick, powerful and compatible with audio and MIDI, various plugins as well as featuring loads of studio-quality effects. So how is it free? Well REAPER is technically free with a free trial for 60 days after which you will still be able to use the software but will be prompted to pay for it regularly.

REAPER features a design familiar to anyone that has used a DAW before so it’s not complicated. It wouldn’t look amiss inside a studio with it’s multitude of sophisticated features but REAPER is great value even if you do purchase it for $60 (commercial license costs $225).

REAPER is available for free on Windows and Mac OS X from here: http://www.reaper.fm/download.php


Are there any free audio workstations you think we should have included? Let us know what they are in the comments below!

 

 

Amazon Echo gets a $45 rival home speaker from Xiaomi

Google, Apple, Facebook – it seems everyone is making smart home speakers now, but Xiaomi’s super cheap one may knock others out of the running. Xiaomi have revealed their very own home speaker that will…

Control multiple devices with Electro-Harmonix’s new Dual Expression pedal

Electro-Harmonix have unveiled a new expression pedal just one week after announcing their very first. Electro-Harmonix’s new ‘Dual Expression’ pedal is an expression pedal that – surprise surprise – lets you control multiple devices at…

19 comments

    For $60 you can use Reaper commercially. If you make less than $20k a year [with your business I guess, not from your McDonald’s job]. Pretty amazing deal since Reaper is one of the best DAWs on the market for any price.

    Presonus One 3 Prime (the free version) is a joke — does not allow VST or other plugins. Even the $100 Artist version needs an $80 “upgrade” to allow plugins.

    Really surprised I didn’t see Nanostudio on here! Originally an iOS app, The ported Mac/PC version is free with a $5 upgrade (more tracks).
    Its biggest downside is that it doesn’t support external plugins (e.g. VSTs).
    However, from a beginner producer standpoint this is one of my go-to DAW recommendations. It’s got a pretty decent proprietary synthesizer & sampler, the workflow is intuitive, automation is pretty convenient and the mixer is a great starting point for new producers.
    blipinteractive.co.uk is Nanostudio’s website.

    I’m totally enjoying using “OhmStudio”
    It’s free for up to 10 projects (songs), and limits some of the plugins…but if you download free plugins elsewhere you can use them. And you can always download your finishted tracks, delete them and start anew. The limit is 10 at a time.
    It’s also a collaborative community, and if you can lay down a basic track with some instrument, (and if it catches anyones interest) the other folks on there enjoy laying a track down in each others projects.
    Limitations? not much… you can’t render your song as a wav unless you pay, but you can render it as an ogg, and change it over yourself.
    Does both midi and audio tracks.
    I have logic, but in logic, I don’t have my free Australian live drummer or my Canadian bass player!
    DF

    Tried Reaper (on Ubuntu Studio Linux) but couldn’t get ASIO drivers working so I’m now starting with Ardour 4, no such problems running that with JACK. Anybody know how to get the ASIO running?

    The 2nd paragraph of the Audacity review is not very accurate.

    The Audacity editing is brilliant, easy to use and works very well indeed.

    The effects are not “permanent” as stated ….. after you apply the effects you can easily go back and change them or delete them.

    The software is GREAT for proper music recording. I record vocal/acoustic guitar music and get a great, natural, noise free sound with Audacity. There’s many devices in Audacity for removing noise and distortion and adding final volume. The only extras you need are reasonable quality mics (LOTS of cheaper mics are of really good quality these days) and an efficient interface for the mics.

    Jonno’s review is pretty dead on. Audacity I have found to be great for everything from a raw audio recorder to a final mix DAW system. It’s fairly basic and dry in terms of the UI, BUT that actually is a lot of the appeal as far as I am concerned. If you can work an MP3 player, you can work Audacity, which is great for the beginners, and you can import VSTs from where ever you like. I have only run across a handful that didn’t work or got buggy in Audacity’s environment, and most of them were ones that I really didn’t care about using in the long run.
    Audacity does have two major draw backs though as I see it:
    1) Regardless of how many individual tracks your interface may allow to be recorded simultaneously, depending on your computer’s sound card you may hit a “cap” in how many individual tracks are able to be recorded. Meaning if you have a USB mixer with 8 track recording capability, and you have eight instruments all recording say a jam session, the 8 may crunch onto four audio tracks being recorded on Audacity, and there is no way that I am aware of of separating them after the fact, you if you want true multi-track at that point, you are left with over-dubbing new tracks as your only option (not ideal for jam session recording), and there is absolutely no way I can find to tell which systems are going to be affected by this or how. I’ve been using Audacity since it came out and this is one bug I wish they would fix, but it has never been addressed to the best of my knowledge.
    2) For what ever reason, LAME (mp3 codec) and the helper files for both OGG and FLAC are not built in. You will be prompted about this the first time you go to export a track, and the system has links to the locations these files can be downloaded free of charge, but for the rookiest of rookies, or the technically challenged musician among us that may prove to be a turn off.

    Mixing is also rudimentary, but gets the job done very well. And I wouldn’t recommend cheaping out on either your mics OR your cables, Audacity is awesome at picking up “dirty” electrical current, and line noise, so if you are going to use it as your solution, be prepared not to take any hardware shortcuts. And for the love of God, don’t even bother with playthrough over dubbing. Regardless of your system’s specs, and despite how lightweight the software is in terms of resource draw, you WILL get massive latency issues almost without exception for any practical recording application.

    Reaper is great, and if you start with Audacity, you’ll slide into Reaper very easily (but for noobies, start with Audacity, trust me). It’s way more versatile, however it is a little bit more system intensive, so you’ll need to make sure your computer can handle it ($300 Walmart laptops are basically not an option here is what I’m saying for those who need it spelled out).

    What the….you mentioned LMMS at the bottom…..yes it’s true it cannot record audio,because it’s still in beta…so you call LMMS as a 9th popular software.Come on,stop joking.Have you ever used LMMS ver.1?

    Should have included Mixcraft 7, which comes in 32-bit and 64 -bit versions, and only disables mix-down when the the free period runs out. This is probably the easiest DAW to use. It even has a score feature.

    I’m a complete newbie and want to buy a mini controller piano to start a hobby! I tried Reaper and the manual just blew me away as way to complicated for someone with no experience at all with a DAW! I going to try Mixcraft 7 next and hopes this is easier!!

    Hey guys, I need some help here. I’ve recorded/almost done on a TASCAM 2488 MKII. But it seems a little slow. I can not believe MKII does not have a capability to increase the speed/tempo. For U know, at times, after listening to it and asking the wife and others, it seems a little slow or a little fast on previous recordings I’ve done. BUT I’VE NEVER USED A DAW EVER. I know I can transfer from 2488 MKII to computer whatever was recorded via USB. And maybe edit even more for the best?

    Appreciate a feedback from someone who’s familiar on this scenario. Thanking you in advance,

    Mike

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *