Are OnePlus Nord Buds the best pair of earbuds for under $40?

Image Credit: OnePlus

OnePlus Nord Buds are one of the cheapest pairs of true wireless earbuds from a reputable brand. But are they any good?

Chinese consumer electronic manufacturer OnePlus just revealed the latest addition to their budget-focused Nord line. Debuting their first pair of AirPods lookalikes back in 2020, the Nord Buds are joining OnePlus’ other true wireless earbuds, including the Buds Z, Buds Z2 and Buds Pro.

Image Credit: OnePlus

  • 12.4mm Titanium Drivers
  • IP55 Dust and Water Resistance
  • 4-Mic Design + AI Noise Reduction (Calls)
  • Sound Master Equalizer
  • Ultra-fast Charging: 10 Minutes for 5 Hours
  • 7 Hours Listening (Buds)
  • 30 Hours Total (w/Case)

OnePlus Nord Buds come in a premium looking Black Slate colour, coated with the same metallic NCVM finish as the OnePlus Buds Pro. They’ll connect to your device using Bluetooth 5.2, for a steady connection at up to 10 meters away, with 94ms low-latency, making them suitable for gaming. Supported OnePlus phones can quickly connect using OnePlus Fast Pair. Newer OnePlus phones will also support Dolby Atmos. The equalizer has four presets: Balanced, Bold, Serenade and Bass, as well as a custom 6-level option, so you can tune the sound to your preference. In the box, you’ll find three silicone eartip sizes: small, medium and large, plus a USB-C charging cable.

Image Credit: OnePlus

At just $39.99, these look to be one of the best value for money pairs of earbuds we’ve seen. Coming from OnePlus holds weight in budget earbuds. Generally you should steer clear of cheap options from unheard of brands, as these will often experience connection and build quality issues over time, with little-to-no warranty. The OnePlus Nord Buds are available to pre-order on Amazon today, with shipping starting June 9.

Warm Audio introduces the WA-47F and WA-CX12 condenser microphones

Image Credit: Warm Audio

Warm Audio has announced the WA-47F and WA-CX12 microphones. The WA-47F is WA’s take on Neumann’s U47 FET while the WA-CX12 finds its inspiration in the AKG C12.


Warm Audio WA-47F

Warm Audio’s WA-47F gold spluttered large-diaphragm cardioid condenser capsule is a “faithful recreation” of the popular large-diaphragm U47 FET microphone. The renowned Neumann microphone is known for handling high sound pressure levels with more than impressive accuracy.

WA state the dynamic range of the WA-47F is a whopping 130 dBa, so this microphone should be well suited to handling the high SPLs of kick drums and bass/guitar cabinets. Furthermore, its custom-tuned frequency response (20Hz-19kHz) adds a “pristine edge” to solo vocals. The manufacturer states the WA-47F also “recreates the immediate transient response” of the U47.

Going back to sound pressure, the WA-47F can handle a maximum SPL of 137dB. Conversely, a switchable 10dB pad pushes that figure up to 147dB. And a switchable low cut filter at 140 Hz stops any low-end rumble that may cause problems in the mixdown phase too. Finally, WA state the microphone has an output impedance of 150 ohms.

The WA-47 is now available for $949.


Warm Audio WA-CX12

And the second new microphone from Warm Audio is the WA-CX12. It’s an “authentic adaptation” of the AKG C12 multi-pattern tube condenser artists like The Beatles used to record their hits. WA’s adaption has nine polar patterns ranging from cardioid to omnidirectional and figure-8 with six hybrid patterns.

The microphone has a dual-diaphragm capsule made from solid brass, made to match the detail and warmth of the original. It also features a TAB-Funkenwerk transformer and a 7-pin XLR input for near-perfect signal transfer. Also, Warm Audio state that the microphone is made of premium components, and its frequency response stretches from 30 Hz-20kHz; it has a maximum SPL of 149dB, and an output impedance of 200 ohms.

In addition to this premium microphone, you’ll get a tweed carry case, a shock mount, an external power supply, and a 7-pin cable by Gotham.

The WA-CX12 is now available for $999.

Sony LinkBuds S are the smallest and lightest noise canceling earbuds

Image Credit: Sony

Sony claims the “LinkBuds S are smaller and lighter than other noise canceling earbuds”.

Seemingly in the same line as the open design LinkBuds released early this year, LinkBuds S feature a more traditional truly wireless noise cancelling earbuds design. Strange branding aside, if Sony’s claims are true, these may be the most comfortable earbuds around.


The stand out feature of the LinkBuds S is the super compact and lightweight design. Weighing just 4.8 grams, Sony claims the earbuds to be smaller and lighter than other noise cancelling earbuds. The buds and case come in both black and white options, and the buds are IPX4 water resistant to splashes and sweat.


Pairing with Android devices and Windows computers is quick and easy using the pop-up Google Fast Pair or Swift Pair on Windows 11 or Windows 10. Google’s Find My Device app can help you find misplaced buds, by playing a sound or showing the last known location.

A newly developed 5mm driver unit and high-compliance diaphragm produce premium, rich, low frequency bass sound from a small device. Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 powers the noise cancellation, enhances sound quality and reduces distortion. Microphones are also included, with AI based noise reduction algorithms, isolating your voice and ensuring crystal clear calls, even in windy or noisy environments.

LinkBuds S also support high-resolution Audio Wireless, that sends three times more data than conventional Bluetooth audio using LDAC audio coding technology. As on Sony’s flagship overear headphones, DSEE Extreme upscales compressed digital music files, to restore high range sound lost in compression. 360 Reality Audio, as well as Dolby Atmos and 360 Spatial Sound when paired with a BRAVIA XR TV using the WLA-NS7 wireless transmitter, are available for immersive sound.

Image Credit: Sony

LinkBuds S come with premium noise cancelling to tune out the noise around you, as well as a natural ambient sound mode, allowing you to have conversations or be aware of your surroundings. Whether you’re in the office or at the cafe, Adaptive Sound Control learns from your behaviour, by senses where you are and what you’re doing to to automatically adjust the sound settings and providing the right sound for the moment. Speak-to-Chat uses voice pickup technology to automatically pause music as your speak. Once you finish, the music will automatically start again.

Using proximity sensors, LinkBuds S support Auto Play to automatically start playing music when the headphones are placed in the ears or as you finish a call, then pause when removed. The earbuds trigger music to match your behaviour, such as a mood-changing walk or post-meeting focus track. Resume Spotify music playback (via Spotify Tap) or Endel personalized soundscapes with Quick Access.


Playback, noise cancelling/ambient sound and quick attention can also be controlled via touch. Touch controls are customizable in the Headphones Connect app. Voice control is also available via Google Assistant and Alexa on supported devices, letting you listen to music and notifications, get information, set reminders, control noise cancellation, and more.

Battery life is decent, with 6 hours of playback on a single charge with ANC turned on, plus 14 additional hours in the case. A 5-minute quick charge is good for 60 minutes of music. The USB-C charging cable is included in the box, along with 4 sizes of silicone earbud tips.

Image Credit: Sony

  • Always on, automated audio for whatever world you’re in
  • High quality noise canceling and natural ambient Sound
  • Immersive sound quality with Integrated Processor V1
  • Ultra-clear call quality lets sound come in clear
  • Listen all day, charge in minutes2
  • IPX4 water resistant for everyday use1
  • LinkBuds S feature intuitive touch control settings
  • Talk and hear only ambient sound
  • Instant pause. Instant play.

Find the LinkBuds S on Amazon for $198 or the original LinkBuds for $178.

Universal Audio UAFX guitar amp emulators promise the sound of iconic tube amplifiers

Image Credit: Universal Audio

Universal Audio’s new Dream ’65, Ruby ’63 and Woodrow ’55 UAFX guitar amp emulators promise an authentic sound of iconic vintage American and British tube guitar amplifiers housed in a timeless UA design.

UA’s new line of UAFX guitar amp emulators features three pedalboard-friendly units. The Dream ‘65 Reverb, Ruby ‘63 Top Boost and Woodrow ‘55 Instrument UAFX pedals offer vintage tube amp sounds, courtesy of Universal Audio’s analog modelling technology and dual-engine processing.


UAFX Guitar Amp Emulators

Dream ’65 Reverb Amplifier -The essential American tube amp used by the Beatles, Muddy Waters, Elvis Costello, and countless others for more than 60 years.

Ruby ’63 Top Boost Amplifier – The iconic UK valve amp that defined the sound of the British Invasion, beloved by Queen, Radiohead, and U2.

Woodrow ’55 Instrument Amplifier – The legendary tweed tube amp that started it all, beloved by Neil Young, Chuck Berry, and The Eagles.

Universal Audio

Furthermore, extras specific to each amp such as custom boosts and circuit mods, tube reverb and vibrato are available through the UAFX mobile app. As a result, you can use the mobile app for an extra level of hands-on tone-tweaking. You can also personalise footswitches, save presets, and “get the same tones used by pro guitarists including Tim Pierce, Nels Cline, Cory Wong, and more” via the app too.

Additionally, each of the three pedals offers speaker cabinet, mic, and room tones thanks to UA’s award‑winning OX Amp Top Box. Each of the three UAFX pedals offers six control knobs for adjusting sound and timbre. And each pedal has toggle switches with unique options across the pedals for engaging the onboard effects and speaker cabs.


Dream ’65 Reverb Amplifier

The Dream '65 Reverb Amplifier emulates what we can only guess is the Fender Twin Reverb. This UAFX guitar amp emulator emulates the sound that brought us bands like The Beatles. It features Volume, Reverb, Output, Bass, Treble and Boost knobs, in addition to a speaker-switching toggle with GB25, Oxford and EV12 options.
Image Credit: Universal Audio

The Dream ‘65 Reverb calls back to the clean spring reverb and vibrato of US tube amps that bands such as The Beatles favoured. It features Volume, Reverb, Output, Bass, Treble and Boost knobs, in addition to a speaker-switching toggle with GB25, Oxford and EV12 options. 


Ruby ’63 Top Boost Amplifier

The Ruby '63 Top Boost Amplifier UAFX guitar amp emulator emulates the sound that brought us bands like The Queen and Radiohead. The speaker toggle offers different options to the Ruby with Silver, Blue and Green options. Finally, the parameters include Volume, Cut, Output, Bass, Treble and Boost.
Image Credit: Universal Audio

Meanwhile, the Ruby ‘63 offers up the UK valve amp tones that brought us the sound of Queen and Radiohead. In addition, the speaker toggle offers different options to the Ruby with Silver, Blue and Green options. And the parameters include Volume, Cut, Output, Bass, Treble and Boost.


Woodrow ’55 Instrument Amplifier

Woodrow '55 Instrument Amplifier UAFX guitar amp emulator pays homage to the sounds of Neil Young and Chuck Berry. Parameter controls include Volume, Mic Volume, Output, Room, Tone and Boost knobs, while you can toggle between speakers via the BlU15, JP12 and GB25.

Finally, the Woodrow ‘55 Instrument is inspired by the Tweed Deluxe amplifier and pays homage to the sounds of Neil Young and Chuck Berry. Further, you can toggle between speakers via the BlU15, JP12 and GB25 the left-hand toggle switch. And parameter controls include Volume, Mic Volume, Output, Room, Tone and Boost knobs.

You can get the UAFX Guitar Amp Emulators now for $399.

Affordable MIDI keyboards for beginner home studios in 2022

Affordable MIDI keyboard controllers are an intuitive solution if you want to be more interactive with music composition on computers. With one small MIDI keyboard controller, you can make big moves within your DAW.

Manufacturers are always making new or improving existing affordable MIDI keyboards. After all, it’s these that many beginners use as entry-level MIDI controllers and forever expand the music-making community. With that in mind, we thought it was time to present you with a list of beginner MIDI keyboards that’ll empower you to make your music production and writing journey all the more interactive in 2022.


5. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

The Komplete Kontrol M32 MIDI keyboard has 32-mini keys and 8 knobs for flexible DAW integration. Its OLED display presents information based on interactions you make, and computer connectivity comes through USB 2.0 connectivity.
Image Credit: Native Instruments
  • $139
  • 32-key mini-keys
  • 8 touch-sensitive control knobs
  • Modulation and pitch bend touch strips
  • OLED display

The first affordable MIDI keyboard on our list is the Komplete Kontrol M32. It’s a fully portable MIDI keyboard that relies on USB 2.0 bus power. Weighing only 1.45kg, it houses 32 solid mini-keys and a lot of functionality. 

Due to its size, the M32 is perfect for on-the-go musicians and producers. Though the keys aren’t the biggest and don’t support aftertouch, the controller does present you with the perfect layout for testing sounds, melodies, and more. Additionally, the OLED display is pretty informative. Like with the MPK, it provides responsive information based parameters you play with.

Another feature that finds its origins in NI’s A-series of controllers is the Smart Play feature. As a result of Smart Play, scale snapping, chord triggering and arpeggiation are all options that you can make use of easily.

Due to its slightly larger size, the affordable M32 MIDI controller isn't the most portable. Though you can transport it, it won't fit in all backpacks.
Image Credit: Native Instruments

Rather than including pitch and mod wheels, the M32 makes use of a pair of short touch strips that fulfil those functions instead. Nevertheless, its eight capacitive knobs, 4D encoder and variety of buttons give you the ultimate MIDI experience. For example, its variety of controls allows you to manipulate plugin parameters in the included Komplete Kontrol software. Furthermore, you can operate the Maschine software easily and manipulate parameters in your DAW’s mixer too.


4. AKAI MPK Mini MK3

  • $119
  • 25 velocity-sensitive keys
  • 8 MPC performance pads
  • 8 encoder knobs
  • OLED display
  • Four-way joystick for pitch and modulation control
  • Onboard arpeggiator
  • 1500+ sounds
  • Bundled with MPC Beat & 6 virtual instruments (Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, Velvet)
The AKAI MPK Mini MK3 is the most notorious affordable MIDI keyboard. It retains many features seen on previous models with the addition of an OLED screen that provides feedback on interactions you make with the controller. The 8 pads are the same pads found on the high-grade MPC performance controllers.
Image Credit: Akai

Though it does retain the 25 mini keys, eight velocity-sensitive pads, the eight knobs, and the notorious thumbstick pitch bend/modulation control, the AKAI MPK MK3 does have some big differences from MK2.

For example, the key bed is Akai’s new Dynamic Gen 2 design. They’re more responsive yet quieter than previous iterations. As for the knobs, these are now a continuous rotary design compared with both absolute and relative options to the encoder knobs of the MK2. The velocity-sensitive pads are more sensitive than the MK2 model too. They’re actually the same design found in the MPC series hardware! Of course, the most obvious difference is the little OLED screen. You’ll find this screen provides you with useful feedback on controller data and MIDI channels, just to name two. No noticeable latency presents itself either, and great pressure performance when playing sustained sounds. They also have channel and polyphonic aftertouch for creating melodies and chords that emulate that of a real instrument.

The overall design of the MPK Mini MK3 has changed slightly too. The USB over MIDI port is found on the back of the unit, and the layout of the buttons has also changed too. But controlling MIDI CC messages and Program Changes from the pads is as it was in the MK2.

The MPK MIDI controller is small enough to fit in your bag for easy transportability. And more features that the MK3 also retains are the joystick-style pitch bend/modulation control, and an A/B pad bank selector to switch between pad banks.
Image Credit: Amazon

The MK3 also retains the joystick-style pitch bend/modulation control, and an A/B pad bank selector to switch between pad banks. There are still eight onboard preassigned presets, pad options for full velocity and note repeat, and a very fun onboard arpeggiator.

Finally, within the MPK Mini 3 Program Editor, you can tweak more settings such as MIDI channel edits and specific CC assignments too.


3. ARTURIA MiniLab MKII

  • $99.99
  • 25 velocity-sensitive keys
  • 8 velocity-sensitive pads
  • 16 encoder knobs
  • Pitch and modulation touch strips
  • Sustain pedal input
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Lite and UVI Grand Piano Model D
The ARTURIA MiniLab MKII has 25 mini keys, 8 pads and 16 knobs for transport controls across virtual software and DAW integration.
Image Credit: Arturia

The 25 mini keys in the Arturia Minilab MK 2 have an equally strong build quality to the previous MIDI keyboards we’ve discussed. But compared to the previous MK 1, the new unit itself looks more modern due to the transition to piano-style mini-keys. However, the keys and controls haven’t changed at all.

The Minilab has pitch and mod touch strips rather than wheels (the sensitivity of which has seen a boost), as well as 16 rotary encoders and eight trigger pads. Controls for shifting octaves up/down and switching between two pad banks the pads between two banks are also present on the unit. Furthermore, a Shift modifier allows you to switch between eight MIDI maps via the pads and the first 16 keys can select different MIDI channels. The pads themselves are both pressure and velocity-sensitive, and you can edit the colours in the MIDI Control Center too.

The affordable Minilab MIDI keyboard also has pitch and mod touch strips rather than wheels, much like previous options on our list of affordable controllers.
Image Credit: Arturia

The 16 assignable encoders make DAW integration seamless because they make browsing and selecting presets quick and easy. Encoders one and nine double as push-buttons, but every knob is pre-mapped to the included software (Analog Lite). However, you can map the encoders and touch strips however you wish with your DAW’s MIDI Learn function. In fact, the plethora of controls on the Minilab means it’s unlikely you’ll find a plugin or virtual instrument with too many parameters for the MiniLab MkII to handle in real-time.


2. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3- best MIDI keyboard for beginners

  • $99.99
  • 25 velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads
  • 8 encoder knobs
  • Onboard arpeggiator
  • Pitch and modulation touch strips
  • Ableton Live control (including clip and scene launching)
  • Fixed Chord mode for triggering chords from single notes
  • MIDI Out enables connection to synths, drum machines and other MIDI hardware
The Novation LaunchKey Mini MK 3 is one of the best looking affordable MIDI keyboards there is.
Image Credit: Bonners Music

Next, we have the Novation LaunchKey Mini MK 3. Novation’s MIDI keyboard for beginners has had a serious upgrade.

The Novation Launchkey Mini presents a set of 25 mini keys keyboard and 16 velocity-sensitive pads into one neat controller. 8 assignable knobs also sit above the pads. The Launchkey Mini presents “plug-and-play” compatibility with Ableton Live, so it’s a one-stop-shop for budding musicians and producers alike. In addition to Ableton compatibility, you can integrate the controller with other DAWs such as Reason and Logic.

Map your pads to a virtual drum pad and jam a beat, map the keyboard to a virtual instrument and write a melody. And you can tweak the rotary controls at the top of the hardware to adjust instrument parameters! To the left of the pads, you’ll find two touch strips for controlling pitch and modulation too.

Moreover, its small size (no bigger than the width of a laptop) allows for easy transportation. As a result, this small and lightweight design is perfect for on-the-go music-making! With its rugged build, easy transportability, and nice layout feature, the Launchkey Mk3 is rugged and coupled with its easy feature layout too.

The Novation LaunchKey Mini MK 3 will fit anywhere in your studio or on the go.
Image Credit: MusicTech

The onboard arpeggiator and fixed chord modes are two unique selling points of the Launchkey. The arp itself has a four-octave range, a range of modes and rhythmic patterns, not to mention timing divisions! As an example, you can auto-generate variations with Mutate mode and then trigger them up and down the keyboard using Fixed Chord mode. 

Finally, you can control other hardware equipment with the MIDI output port. , too, enabling the Launchkey Mini to operate in standalone mode for use with hardware, with the arp and chord modes available. Unfortunately, this requires an adapter that is sold separately, and due to a change in format to adhere to new industry standards, existing Novation adapters for Launchpad Pro or Circuit synths will not be compatible.


1. Nektar SE25cheapest MIDI keyboard

The Nektar SE25 is the most affordable MIDI keyboard controller.
Image Credit: Scan
  • $37.57
  • 25 velocity-sensitive keys
  • 3 velocity curves (default, soft, hard)

Finally, we have the most affordable MIDI keyboard controller. At just 400g, this lightweight 25 mini keys MIDI keyboard will fit in your bag for easy transport. Though the controller only has basic controls, they’re essential and functional. Freely assign controls to different parameters in your DAW via MIDI Learn, and, double up controls with other functions too.

If you were to use the controller as-is with no manual mapping then its top two buttons are Octave Up and Down. Beneath are PB1 and PB2 buttons which you can use to adjust pitch bend. Bear in mind though that you can assign one of six other functions to the P-Bend controls. These include transposition, volume, panning, track or patch. To make this parameter change you’ll need to enter Setup mode which you can do by pressing the two bottom buttons until the LEDs blink. You’ll then be presented with the different options that you can select with particular keys on the keyboard.

Its tiny size means you can transport the Nektar SE25 anywhere and everywhere.
Image Credit: Buscar Instrumentos

Further down the controller sits the S button. Simply put, you can use it as a Sustain or Modulation control. But the 2 button is a bit different. You can assign Octave, Channel, Transportation, Layer, or Latch by pressing the button once. Finally, press Play and Rewind together and the buttons will function as their assigned transport controls according to the graphics in them: play, record, rewind and fast-forward.

Included is a USB over MIDI cable for computer connectivity, and the port on the controller itself is a miro-USB. If you’re looking to include a sustain pedal in your setup, you may way to choose another MIDI keyboard on our list.

Sonos Ray is their most affordable and compact soundbar

Image Credit: Sonos

Multi-room wireless home audio experts Sonos extend their home theater line, with an all-new soundbar perfect for TV, music and gaming.

Sonos Ray packs big sound into a compact size. At $279, the new soundbar joins Sonos’ Beam (Gen 2) at $449 and Arc at $899. Available in black and white, Ray houses new innovations, including balaced sound, crisp dialogue and solid bass from four Class-D digital amplifiers, two tweeeters, two high-efficiency midwoofers and a bass reflex system.

As with other Sonos speakers, setup is easy with the Sonos app. Ray can be paired with any other Sonos speakers for multi-room audio, or a pair of Sonos Ones for surround sound ($677 for all three speakers). Connectivity is decent, including WiFi (Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect), ethernet and optical, while existing TV remotes and touch can be used for controls. Beyond television, Sonos Ray is compatible with all of the major streaming services for music, radio, podcasts and audiobooks. Use the Sonos app to adjust the EQ to taste.


  • Room-Filling Sound: Custom-designed waveguides project sound from wall to wall, and advanced processing accurately positions elements throughout your room so you feel like you’re at the center of the story.
  • Precisely Balanced: A new bass reflex system with a proprietary design delivers thrilling lows with perfectly weighted bass, while custom acoustics precisely harmonize mid and high-range frequencies.
  • Tuned to Perfection: Like all Sonos speakers, Ray was tuned with the input of the Sonos Soundboard, a collection of leaders across music, film and more. Fine tune the sound even further with Trueplay to create the ideal listening experience for any room.
  • Enhanced Listening: Sonos’ Speech Enhancement ensures even greater clarity so you never miss a word, while Night Sound reduces the intensity of loud effects so you don’t disturb anyone else at home.
  • Compact Design: Whether you’re placing it on your media stand or tucking it inside a credenza, Ray’s understated and impressively compact design blends into any space.
  • Sustainable Sound: Ray also features our most sustainable design packaging to date, with a gift box and protective cushions that are 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
Video Credit: Sonos

Homes have become movie theaters, fitness studios, gaming hubs and so much more, all supported by a streaming era that is no longer exclusive to just TV, music and film. Ray makes it easier than ever to enhance those listening experiences, thanks to its smaller size and impressive sound.

Patrick Spence, CEO, Sonos

The new soundbar from Sonos, along with its more accessible price point makes it a great option for those setting up their first home theater, or expanding their setup to multiple rooms. Sonos Ray is available to preorder today, with shipping starting on June 7. An optional wall mount can be added for an additional $39.

Audient EVO 16: an affordable ‘smart’ audio interface for seamless recording

The Audient EVO 16 is a 24-in/24-out device with a one-knob control system.

Please welcome what seems to be setting off the next generation of affordable audio interfaces, the Audient EVO 16! This delightful interface seems to rewrite everything we know about Audient Evo interfaces and changes the game completely.


Audient EVO 16

Eight award-winning EVO Preamps provide 58dB of microphone gain, and “advanced converter technology” provides a huge 121dB of dynamic range.

The Audient EVO 16 has two features that are really going to make an impact in digital audio. First of all, the high-resolution full-colour screen on the front of the unit. Coupled with the Motion UI (user interface) control system, this wide-angle screen displays relevant information about your session and interactions with the audio interface. Every adjustment you make is displayed on the screen in real time!

Furthermore, the screen aids in enabling the interface’s one-knob control system. As a result, the interface can determine appropriate settings without you having to worry or interfere. Notably, Audient claims that the experience is like using a smart device as you don’t need to explore different menu options as on older equipment.

EVO 16 offers the intuitive user experience, professional sound and technical quality you’d expect from parent company Audient, with plenty more I/O than its smaller counterparts. And yet it still fits firmly into the ‘affordable’ audio interface category.

Andy Allen, Marketing Director – EVO by Audient

Secondly, there’s the Smartgain feature which automatically sets the gain for all 8 input channels with the touch of a button. It’s available on the smaller EVO products too, and it’s the ideal solution for saving time when working on big sessions. For example, drummers in need of multiple microphone inputs no longer need to worry about gain staging.

Now, you can perfectly match the level of stereo pairs with the power of the lightning-quick Smartgain algorithm. Using “advanced peak analysis”, it automatically analyses, adjusts and sets your gain to the “perfect levels” in less than 20 seconds.

Finally, ADAT and SPDIF options add further room for expanding your recording workspace with up to 16 extra channels of mic preamps.

Additionally, the bundled EVO Mixer software is compatible with both MacOS and Windows. Then you’ll have more options for routing inputs & outputs, setting up ultra-low latency monitoring and much more.

All of this is housed inside a solid steel chassis sitting on non-slip rubber feet. EVO 16 will easily sit with style on a desktop, under a laptop or installed in a rack with its optional rack ears.

Audient expects to ship the EVO 16 in the second quarter of 2022 priced at $499/£400/€469.

Rodecaster Pro II: a home mixing desk for recording artists

Image Credit: Rode

While the original Rodecaster Pro was a mixing desk for podcasters, the Rodecaster Pro II is a desk for all creators – including recording artists.

The Rodecaster Pro streamlined the slog of recording multiple people at once, including over the internet via a computer or smartphone. Furthermore, content creators could add background music with ease, and onboard audio processing and enhancements allowed for professional audio creation. So the Rodecaster Pro was a one-stop-shop for hosting a podcast, really.

Now, the Rodecaster Pro 2 is expanding on the awesome feature set and presents a desk that promises to be more than capable for all creators. Rode claim you can use the Rodecaster Pro II for music production, so let’s take a look.


Make music with the Rodecaster Pro II

The Rodecaster Pro has a variety of inputs and connectivity for music production. You can connect up to four microphones, instrument-level inputs such as guitars or synthesizers, and four headphones. Two 1/4" jacks are available for speaker outputs too. Furthermore, USB-C ports is available for MIDI.20 devices and computer connectivity.
Image Credit: Rode

Fitted with a new “high-performance quad-core audio engine”, the Rodecaster Pro II has an audio resolution of 24-bit/44.1kHz.

Though the hardware looks very similar, Rode has made some changes in the name of improving functionality for recording artists. But first, let’s talk about the physical differences. The new hardware loses two fader strips and frees up more desk space. Despite the loss of these faders, just as many channels are available (9) – only you need to assign two via virtual controls. And on its rear, you’ll see Rode has included four XLR/¼” jack combo inputs rather than exclusively XLR. As a result, musicians can plug in their guitars or synths, play away and record.

For monitoring, there are four 1/4″ jacks on the RodeCaster Pro’s rear too. However, Rode states these outputs have a maximum output of only 250mW. Though not necessarily a bad thing, power-hungry headphones won’t be very satisfying to listen to. In addition, coiled cables may prove to be a nuisance as the ports are on the hardware’s rear. A pair of 1/4″ stereo speaker outputs sit next to the four headphone outputs too.

On the rear of the Rode Procaster are the four XLR/¼” jack combo inputs. You'll find the four headphone outputs next to the two USB-C ports, in addition to an SD card slot and the power input.
Image Credit: Engadget

Rode has made a big point about its new preamps. With up to 76dB of input gain and a dynamic range of 113dB, your gain hungry condenser microphones should capture the intricate details of a sound source when recording to the Rodecaster Pro 2. Whereas before the Rodecaster Pro was pretty limited for musical recordings and could only really capture vocals, now there are onboard capabilities like stereo panning that enable you to capture a full space with two to four microphones. Additionally, Rode claims these preamps to be pretty quiet with an equivalent noise of -131.5dBV.

Customisation

The eight pads on the right of the interface can both trigger audio samples and send MIDI information. But you can also assign them to “mixer actions” such as fade out. A button below the 8 physical pads also allows you to switch between pad banks too. As for the mixer channels, you can reassign them however you like and map two inputs to one mixer channel. Once you are happy with your own customisation, you can save them as presets/profiles.

A small variety of audio effects are also available such as reverb and echo. Though some may find this pretty limiting so further editing in a DAW may be necessary. The hardware does have funny voice effects too, so some quirky vocal adlibs are an option…


WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity

A lot of the digital features such as WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity may not strike you as useful at first. However, artists that proactively promote themselves online by live-streaming or other means may be intrigued. For example, you can connect the Pro II to two PCs at once or your smartphone via WiFi which will make for some interesting audio routing options. And the ability to save these performances directly to SSDs and memory cards means you can repurpose that content for future use. Alternatively, an Ethernet port is also available and two USB-C ports sit next to it for smartphone and computer connectivity. You can also connect an additional MIDI controller as long as it is compatible with USB-C.

Then there’s the Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth on the Rodecaster Pro II supports both audio out and in. As a result, wireless monitoring is possible… but I’m not sure that’s an entirely practical means of monitoring a recording. Due to the compression that a file will experience before travelling between devices, the Bluetooth feature set may not be entirely useful for music production purposes.


Final thoughts

Upon first glance, the Rodecaster Pro II does seem primed for podcasters and streamers. Though this is true, the unit does appear to back up Rode’s promise that recording artists will find a valuable bit of kit.

The preamps provide ample gain, and the ability to customise mappings and controls allows for a workflow unique to each user. Whether you’re a solo artist looking to collaborate or in a band, the Rodecaster seems to provide the necessary tools to capture the depth and sonic clarity of a professional recording.

For $699, I think this looks like a cool all-in-one audio interface. Rode expects to be shipping “early to mid-June.”

Best beginner audio interfaces for recording vocals and guitars

An audio interface is an essential tool for recording audio. Each interface has different traits that may or may not suit your needs better.

Entry-level audio interfaces for beginners come in different shapes and sizes. In case you’re wondering, you’ll find compatible audio interfaces for both Mac and Windows PCs too. Furthermore, the purpose of an audio interface is to create connectivity between your recording equipment and computer.

The interface you decide to go for will depend on your needs. For example, are you a solo artist or in a band? This factor concerns the amount of microphone/instrument and inputs you’ll likely need. But all interfaces provide the necessary technology for recording acoustic and electric guitars, as well as connecting a microphone for vocals. Additionally, some audio interfaces have connections for controlling MIDI devices and synths!

But no matter what you’re recording, this list will provide you with 5 audio interfaces that are best for beginners.


SSL 2+ – best audio interface for beginners under $500

Its simple design makes the SSL 2+ makes the best audio interface for beginners.
Image Credit: Thomann

Firstly, the SSL 2+ is the number one audio interface on our list.

  • $309.99
  • 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamps
  • Legacy 4K – analog colour enhancement, inspired by classic SSL consoles
  • 2 x professional, high-current grade headphone outputs

Features

Its two inputs and four outputs have powerful drivers that deliver 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution and the audio precision that SSL is known for. Coupled with its compact design, you’re getting a lot for a nice low price. In fact, its design is perfect for home studio integration! But the SSL 2+ is lightweight and portable enough for performers and travelling producers too.

The SSL2+ is a little bulkier than its predecessor thanks to the additional two RCA outputs and added MIDI I/O. The RCA outputs make connectivity with a variety of other audio gear such as turntables possible too. In addition, you’ll find a second headphone output, two XLR/¼” inputs, a pair of balanced ¼” monitor outputs, and a USB-C port for bus power/computer connectivity.

Though each knob and buttons feel stable, the XLR ports do have a little bit of give. You may find your audio cables to be a little bit loose. But for its low price tag, Solid State Logic’s SSL 2+ is well-built.

Two XLR/¼” inputs allow for microphones and instruments to connect to the SSL 2+. It features MIDI In/Out connectivity too, so it's also futureproofed should you expand your studio. Furthermore, RCA outputs allow you to connect to performance equipment such as turntables! Its simple design and plethora of inputs/outputs allow beginners to expand their home studio as and when they need.
Image Credit: Mix Online

Signal Processing

The SSL2+ has a bit-depth of 24-bit, a sampling rate up to 192kHz, and a dynamic range of up to 110.5dB. The preamps on the SSL 2+ have a gain range of 62 dB and don’t add any noticeable noise. In fact, even the most gain-hungry microphones will be at home with this interface and you’ll get a clean recording. Moreover, the SSL 2+ has Solid State Logic’s Legacy 4K mode – bringing the legendary sound of the SSL’s notorious SSL 4000 series analog console to your recording. Put simply, this adds a slight boost to higher frequencies for a crisp sound.


Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB – best beginner audio interface for recording guitars in a home studio

The Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB is the best beginner audio interface for recording guitars in a home studio thanks to its Air mode. Air mode triggers a relay which changes the internal circuit and accentuates the high -end of your guitar signal.
Image Credit: Amazon

Next, we have the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB audio interface. We think the Clarett is the best beginner audio interface for recording electric guitar thanks to its Air mode which we’ll cover later on. Many know of Focusrite’s infamous Scarlett series, and the Clarett is here to improve on that feature set rather than expand.

  • $499.99
  • Two professional-quality Clarett+ preamps
  • Requires 15W USB-C port
  • Air Mode: relay-controlled analog circuitry on both preamps

Features

On its front, you’ll find two 2 in 1 XLR/¼” jack JFET instrument/microphone inputs that deliver extreme quality. And you’ll find independent gain controls and individual self-illuminating phantom power switches next to these inputs. Meanwhile, the main monitor level knob sits further to the right. On the bottom right is the headphone jack for direct monitoring too.

And on the rear of the interface, you’ll find four balanced 1/4″ line outputs for connecting your studio monitors, DIN MIDI In and Out ports and an optical ADAT input which enables you to add additional inputs via another console.

On the rear of the Focusrite Clarett, you'll find four balanced 1/4" line outputs for connecting your studio monitors, DIN MIDI In and Out ports and an optical ADAT input which enables you to add additional inputs via another console. The interface is full of features that make it a great audio interface for beginners.
Image Credit: Amazon

The unit has a USB-C port on its back for USB-C bus power, so you’ll need a USB-C compatible device. With that said, you’ll find both USB-C and USB-A cables in the box.

Where audio resolution is concerned, the new and improved A2D and D2A converters process at 24-bit/192kH while presenting plenty of headroom. Coupled with 48V phantom power, you can rest assured you’ll capture every sonic detail with Clarett’s crisp and clean mic preamps! As a result, the signal to noise ratio is better than in previous Focusrite interfaces and the dynamic range is wider.

Focusrite Control

The 2Pre interface operates in conjunction with the Focusrite Control software. Though this may not be to everybody’s liking, you can only undergo some tasks like selecting an instrument input or adjusting certain parameters in the software. However, the software is very easy to use. And the software does provide a few extra features like setting up low-latency monitoring and choosing what output pairs the monitor knob controls. If you’re an iOS user, you can also download the Focusrite Control iOS app and control your Clarett from your phone.

An additional software bundle includes Focusrite’s Red 2 and Red 3 plugins, as well as Plugin Alliance’s bx_console Focusrite SC.

Air mode

Now for why we think the Clarett is the best interface for recording both acoustic and electric guitars. The “Air” button is a new feature which you’ll find on the front of the Clarett. By pressing this button, you’ll notice a change in the sound of the preamp that emulates the classic Focusrite ISA preamp. More specifically, the Air option tells the onboard relay to switch the circuit inside the interface. It switches the impedance of the circuit/electrical resistance to 2.2kΩ (ohms) and adds two high shelves to the frequency response – adding a 4dB boost. An Air LED will indicate when this mode is on.

If you push the gain hard you’ll notice the inputs actually clip in a nice fuzzy way too. So if you’re looking to record acoustic or electric guitar, the relay will add a nice tone to your recording that you won’t get with other audio interfaces.


Audient iD4 MkII – best audio interface for recording vocals on the go

The fully portable Audient iD4 MkII includes all of the necessary circuitry for high fidelity recording. As a result, we think it's the best audio interface for recording vocals as a beginner.
Image Credit: Audient
  • $199.99
  • Bus-powered with USB-C
  • 1 JFET instrument input
  • 2 headphone outputs
  • 1 microphone preamp

The notorious iD4 interface has had an upgrade! Much like the Clarett, it now has an improved dynamic range and signal to noise ratio, while the headphone output has also seen an upgrade.

We think that the Audient iD4 MkII is the best audio interface for condenser microphones and vocal recording thanks to its portability. With no mains required, this audio interface is great for those who may travel from place to place looking to record in different environments.

The iD4 is made with all-metal casework with chunky controls and decent connectors. As a result, it definitely has a quality feel.

Features

With two XLR/¼” JFET instrument/microphone inputs, both ¼” and ⅛” headphone outputs on its front, and two line outputs on its back, the iD4 converts signals at 24-bit / 96kHz like the Clarett too. Also on its back, you’ll find its 48V phantom switch alongside the ¼” balanced monitor outputs. The microphone preamps are Audient’s 8024 Class A circuit which is notorious for its crisp and defined sound. Thanks to the 8024 Class A circuit, the iD4 preamp is transparent and clean with 58dB of clean gain. And the JFET design on the instrument inputs is punchy and offers plenty of headroom too.

Recording

Two preamp gain controls, hardware monitoring, and the large push-button encoder empower you to set the best levels that you can throughout your signal chain while monitoring/mixing. On the top panel, you can dim the volume of both headphones and speaker outputs by pushing on the main volume knob, or you can mute the speaker outputs via the speaker button too. Using the speaker button and iD button together allows you to adjust the left/right balance of the zero-latency monitoring. But alone, the iD button activates the encoder mode – enabling you to adjust DAW plugin parameters with the main volume knob. In the middle of the top panel is a zero-latency hardware monitoring balance control (Input – DAW knob) which allows you to solo your input signal or your DAW signal. In the middle, this knob tells the interface to send both the input and DAW signal to your outputs. Additionally, the top panel features a five-step output meter that can double as a level indicator when you adjust any one of the controls. 

Two XLR/¼” JFET instrument/microphone inputs and both ¼” and ⅛” headphone outputs give you all the inputs and outputs you need to record vocals.
Image Credit: Audient

Portability

The iD4 is a little more compact than the Clarett and relies exclusively on bus power – making it a portable interface. Unlike its predecessor, the iD4 MK II relies on a USB-C port for power – so a USB 3.0 connection on your computer is required. But this additional power that USB 3.0 provides gives you an improved headphone output and true 48V phantom power to the mic preamp.

Additionally, you can connect the interface to iOS devices – but without a new USB-C equipped iPad Pro, you’ll need the Camera Connection Kit and a PSU.


Universal Audio Apollo Solo – best audio interface for Mac

With its Thunderbolt 3 port, the UA Apollo Solo is the best audio interface for solo artists on Mac computers.
Image Credit: Universal Audio

Next, we have the UA Apollo Solo. Powered by a Thunderbolt 3 port, this audio interface presents a lot of functionality in a simple interface. With just one knob you can control many of its features. Its rugged design is a compact metal chassis so you can travel with it too.

  • $699
  • Best-in-class headphone amplifier for loud, detailed, low-noise monitoring
  • Low cut filter for cutting low-end rumble while recording

Features

On its front is a Hi-Z input with high impedance for your guitar on the left and a headphone jack on the right. And on the back, two XLR/¼” inputs enable you to plug in your microphones and synthesizers. Moreover, a pair of stereo monitor outputs and the Thunderbolt 3 port also sits on its rear for computer connectivity. We should mention that a Thunderbolt 3 cable isn’t included with the interface though.

On its rear, the Apollo Solo has A pair of stereo monitor outputs and the Thunderbolt 3 port also sits on its rear for computer connectivity. We should mention that a Thunderbolt 3 cable isn't included with the interface though.
Image Credit: Universal Audio

As for sound quality, it’s top tier. Every input is crystal clear with a wide dynamic range. And its outputs present a clean signal that makes the little details audible no matter what you’re playing. The mechanism behind the volume knob is pretty tight too. For example, positioning the knob between 5% to 10% is plenty loud on active studio monitors. And its headphone amplifier can power headphones with high impedance values too.

Recording

Despite its three inputs, you can only actively record at any time. But the Apollo does have top-of-the-line A2D/D2A converters so anything you do record will sound pristine. Furthermore, the Apollo features UAD’s proprietary Unison technology on its input channels. As a result, the interface can accurately model the characteristics of analog hardware!

Finally, the Apollo Solo has a lot of bundled software for you to play with. The bundle includes emulations of vintage gear and everything you could wish for making quality recordings at home.


Arturia MiniFuse 2 – best audio interface for low latency monitoring

The Arturia Minifuse3 2 is the best beginner audio interface for low latency monitoring.

The final audio interface on our list is the Arturia Minifuse 2.

  • $149
  • On-board low latency monitoring controls
  • Control software makes level setting decisions all the easier

Features

With two XLR/¼” inputs with mic/line/instrument options and audio resolution up to 24-bit/92kHz, the Minifuse 2 is a USB powered interface. Furthermore, the interface also has a USB port that allows you to plug in a MIDI controller to save space in your computer ports. With that said, the MIDI device that you choose must have a power consumption that’s 250mA or less.

On the front panel, you’ll find the two inputs with dedicated backlit switches for phantom power and instrument mode switch. You’ll also find a monitor output control knob and two level meters. In addition, the zero-latency hardware monitoring balance (Input-USB knob) is here too, as well as the headphone output and level control.

Zero-latency monitoring

The zero-latency monitoring will affect what you hear through headphones and your monitors. By default, inputs 1 and 2 are panned to left/right. But there’s a backlit button to mono the inputs, and the headphone and monitoring knobs also have integrated blue LEDs too.

With MIDI In/Out connectivity and balanced 1/4" speaker outputs, the Minifuse 2 has enough connectivity for beginner studios.
Image Credit: Arturia

Minifuse Control Centre

Like other audio interfaces on our list, the Minifuse 2 has its own control software – MiniFuse Control Centre. Here, you can access its online onboarding. To get started, all you need do is register/log in on the Arturia website and enter the serial number and unlock the code that you’ll find at the bottom of the interface – that’ll download the Control Centre installer. Though the front panel gain knobs do have integrated LEDs that indicate if your signal is clipping, the level meters within Control Centre presents a detailed view so you can make informed decisions. 

Upon registration, you’ll get access to the software bundle. You’ll find software such as the Intro version of Arturia’s Analog Lab, Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig LE, Ableton Live Lite and four Arturia effects – Rev Plate 140, Pre 1973 vintage preamp, Delay Tape-201 echo and Chorus Jun-6 analog chorus. In addition, you’ll find three-month trial subscriptions for Splice Creator Plan and Auto-Tuner Unlimited.

3 free DAWs for professional recording, beat making and producing

Image Credit: Synth Anatomy

Making music has long been expensive, and that’s before you even touch a microphone. But free DAWs are changing that. As they become more feature rich, free DAWs for beginners are becoming more and more professional.

DAW is short for Digital Audio Workstation, and it’s a piece of software for recording and editing audio. You can add effects to your sounds or groups of sounds, and mix different audio channels so they work together in a song. There are many free DAWs for you to choose from, so we’ve put together a list of 3 free DAWs that will help those starting out in music learn the ropes. We must warn you though: these three DAWs will fool you. They may be free, but they are jam-packed with professional functionality for laptop, Mac, and PC users.


1. Waveform Free – best free DAW for electronic music and beginners

Waveform Free is our favourite free DAW because it offers an excellent array of features. It comes with an in-house synth (4OSC) and drum sampler (Micro drum sampler) and additional plugins.
Image Credit: Gear News

In our number one spot sits Waveform Free. Based on Tracktion’s Waveform Pro, Waveform Free is a free and easy to use DAW. This free DAW in particular is available across Windows, Linux, and Mac too! Unlike DAWs that cost, Waveform Free has a single panel user interface. Though this does differ from the standards set by the aforementioned software, it does make it exceptionally easier to navigate while unfamiliar with its layout.

What’s most exciting for me is just how many features this free DAW has. For example, it offers full VST plugin support, time-based automation tools, and a workflow that’s optimised for softsynth integration too. As a result, I think Waveform Free is the free DAW that electronic music producers should go for.

As electronic producers use virtual instruments and VST plugins religiously, they’ll be right at home with the intuitive MIDI sequencing available too. To illustrate, let’s talk about FL Studio for a second. The incredibly popular Fruity Loops flexes an easy-to-learn sequencer; MIDI integration; a mixer designed around beat making; and a simple piano roll. Of course, these are just the basic features. But they’re why FL Studio is often a go-to for newcomers to EDM and beats. Now, Waveform Free features more or less all of those same tools – just in a singular tab layout.

Waveform Free is packed with professional tools. It's an excellent gateway into recording, mixing, and producing music.
Image Credit: OMG! Ubuntu!

In Waveform Free you can load any virtual instrument of your choice – free or paid. And with a MIDI controller, you can take advantage of every available feature for creative sequencing of said instruments and softsynths. Oh, and let’s not forget about plugins!

Waveform Free offers a lot of creative freedom with its third-party plugin support. Coupled with a smooth user experience thanks to built-in sandboxing, you need not stress about software crashes. Moreover, the built-in plugin manager, keyboard shortcuts, control surfaces, and more arm you for hours of fun that you can jump right into. You can access all of this and more via the main Settings section. Simple!

Outside of functionality, Waveform Free still comes in strong. You can change themes and colours, tab and window sizes in addition to moving, flattening and “docking” them! There is a lot to play with within the Window Manager that empowers you to create a layout and workflow that’s right for you.


4OSC & Micro drum sampler

I think what sold Waveform Free to me was the softsynth and drum sampler.

4OSC is a powerful subtractive synthesizer that doesn’t eat up processing power. Its simple UI features four oscillators, and plenty of parameters and tools are available for modulation. Coupling these with a variety of onboard filters, effects, and MIDI mapping gives you a more than a capable synthesizer.

4OSC is the in-house synthesizer with Waveform Free. It features 4 oscillators and a plethora of modulation tools and effects.
Image Credit: Tracktion

And if you like hands-on control over your percussion, Micro Drum Sampler is a tool for you. You can build your own sampled-based kits with its drag and drop interface. Finally, if you have little experience in sequencing, you can get hands-on by building a kit and using a MIDI controller to play it into your arrangement via MIDI Step Clips.

Waveform Free's  micro drum sampler empowers you to create your own drum kit and percussion. Coupled with MIDI integration, Waveform Free is the bets free DAW for budding producers and musicians.
Image Credit: Tracktion

Thes two awesome tools come as stock instruments with Waveform Free. They’re very easy to learn, and they sound great!


Free DAW for beginners

What makes Waveform Free such a good free DAW for beginners is that it’s made to be. For example, many users love Tracktion’s approach to workflow because it’s simple. It’s not complicated or frustrating so you can get busy creating. With that said, if you transition to Waveform Free after using another DAW, you may find it confusing. But that’s okay. It’ll just take you some time to get used to!

To help you along your journey, Waveform Free comes with a user manual. Additional training videos are available on Tracktion’s website too. These videos cover topics ranging from the basic setup, installing plugins, audio editing and automation, and more. Everything you need to get started!

There’s full audio tracking to be found in Waveform Free along with a plug-in manager, keyboard shortcuts, control surfaces, preset chords and plenty besides. All this is easily accessible through the main Settings section.

Top Ten Reviews

2. Cakewalk by BandLab

Cakewalk by BandLab our second favourite free DAW. It's based on Cakewalk's SONAR DAW and offers the same functionality. Unlike Waveform Free, Cakewalk is only free for Windows users and not Mac.
Image Credit: Bandlab

Our second choice of best free DAWs has to be Cakewalk. It’s based on Cakewalk’s SONAR DAW and offers the same functionality. However, it does lack the bundled third-party software. But it’s still under development we may see some implementation in the future. Unlike Waveform Free, Cakewalk is only free for Windows users and not Mac. But like Waveform Free, it’s a fast and reliable tool.

You’ll find all of the original SONAR Platinum features and functions. These include its effects, its mixer which has an analog console feel to it, third-party VST plugin support, and more advanced features including multi-touch support, Bluetooth MIDI, and more. Once upon a time you would have had to use the BandLab Assistant app to run Cakewalk. Now you can directly install Cakewalk without any additional software.

Cakewalk by BandLab has plenty of in-house effects that are perfect to learn the basics on music production with. Its parametric EQ is full of tools and functionality
Image Credit: Bandlab

This free DAW enables beatmakers, musicians, composers, and electronic producers to jump right in and get creative via its workspaces. Upon installation, you’ll have full access to the Cakealk’s features and future updates too. 

“Basic Workspace” is the default layout of the DAW and it includes a Help module in the bottom-right corner of its screen. Here, you’ll find clear information that advises how to use the DAW’s controls and their functions. Much like Ableton’s help modules, simply hover over a button and the Help module provides you with information about what it does. Moreover, you can save any and all changes to a workspace or even create a new workspace. Finally, you can access all workspaces from the Workspaces menu as Cakewalk lets you toggle between different workspaces seamlessly.

Cakewalk’s 64-bit mix engine, ProChannel, and mixing console interface combine to give the user a sleek mixing experience.

Musicianwave

Free DAW for Windows

Windows users not familiar with any DAW will be able to slip inside the workflow of Cakewalk easily. Basic Workspace only presents a limited amount of controls so as to not overwhelm you.

Despite its simplicity, Cakewalk doesn’t compromise on functionality whatsoever. You can record and edit audio across unlimited channels; record multiple tracks at once; comp and overwrite your takes too. You can integrate a MIDI controller and edit any notes within the piano roll with a plethora of options such as quantise, pitch correction, and more!

Finally, let’s talk about the mixer. You’ll find a selection of modules for audio processing on each channel strip. Compressor, EQs, a console emulator, and many more await. Additionally, you can manipulate the signal chain by moving the modules up or down, inserting new ones and replacing or removing old ones.

And if you’re not too into the UI of the mixer, you can customise it to your taste! In summary, at the heart of its design is the intention of streamlining the mixing process.


3. Garageband – best free DAW for macOS

Garageband is arguably the most notorious free DAW on the market. Garageband is free with any and every iOS device.
Image Credit: Amazing Radio

Finally, we have the most notorious free DAW that there is. Besides, it didn’t seem fair to talk about a free DAW exclusively for Windows and leave out macOS users.

Garageband, which doesn’t need all that much of a review, is free with any and every iOS device. It’s Logic Pro, just stripped-back. As a result, it’s definitely one of if not the most user-friendly DAWs for recording and editing audio. As an iOS user, you’ll get a taste for multitrack recording, integrating and using MIDI controllers, audio editing and mixing fundamentals. Furthermore, it provides great tools and automation for creating volume fades between audio clips – something that Garageband does better than a lot of other DAWs. Whether you’re using your Mac computer, iPad or iPhone, you can write, record and produce an entire song. That’s why Garageband might be the best free DAW for recording vocals.

On Garageband, you can record notes straight into your piano roll with a MIDI controller. Or you can arm a track and play into your microphone.
Image Credit: Happy Mag

In this free yet fully functional recording DAW, simply arm a track at the click of the Record icon and play into your microphone. Alternatively, you can record notes straight into your piano roll with a MIDI controller. Whether with an XLR or USB microphone, 24-bit recording is available across 255 channels. As for recording simultaneously, you’re only limited by the number of inputs your audio interface has.

GarageBand works with the excellent Logic Remote app that’s available free on iOS devices. You can use your iPad or iPhone to wirelessly play any GarageBand instrument on the Mac, adjust the Smart Controls for individual sounds, and otherwise edit and arrange your project.

PC Mag

Producer packs – where things get interesting

Garageband has eight producer packs that house royalty-free sounds from some big names. These include Boys Noize, Mark Lettieri, Mark Ronson, and more. You’ll get full access to 2800 loops, 50 drum kits, and 120 synth patches. Think ambient sounds, bass samples, and TR-808 drum sounds. And yet, there’s still more. A range of both acoustic and electronic drums, basses and a group of synth pads and leads are available for you to get stuck in with. 

Other than digital sounds, these producer packs include acoustic piano, electric piano, clavinet, and tonewheel organ, plus Mellotron patches and acoustic and clean electric guitars too. The orchestral instruments contain several choir samples, a harp, and a pipe organ, in addition to the usual strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion.

And finally, its Chinese instrument section includes the Erhu and Pipa, and for Japan, the Guzheng, Koto, and a set of Taiko drums too.