What is DAW? What is the best free DAW? Let's find out in today's article.
The first thing to say, DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstations, which is an app or electronic device for recording, editing, and producing music.
This sample pack provides real-time preview sounds. Free digital music software permits a wide variety of instruments and high-themed-tempo sampling.
It's like getting something for nothing if you try hard enough. Don't worry, the best free DAWs are fully capable of doing the job for you, particularly if you're a beginner or not used to producing music with your computer.
- What Are The Best Free DAWs In 2021?
- Top 15 Best Free Daws
- 1. Audacity (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- 2. Garageband (Mac only)
- 3. Waveform (Mac, Linux, Windows)
- 4. Pro Tools First (Windows, Mac)
- 5. AKAI Professional MPC Beats
- 6. SoundBridge (Windows, Mac)
- 7. Cakewalk by BandLab (Windows Only)
- 8. Studio One Prime (Mac, Windows)
- 9. LMMS (Linux, Windows, Mac)
- 10. Bosca Ceoil
- 11. Bandlab (Mac, Windows)
- 12. Qtractor (Only Linux)
- 13. Live 10 Lite By Ableton
- 14. Zenbeats (Mobile devices, Windows, Mac)
- 15. Mulab (Mac, Windows)
- Final Thoughts
What Are The Best Free DAWs In 2021?
There are various free DAWs available in the market. Some are great while some can disappoint you.
I would like to share some big brand names like Cakewalk, Garageband, Audacity, Waveform, to name a few.
Most of these DAWs boast a high performance and user-friendly interface.
Top 15 Best Free Daws
1. Audacity (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Audacity is a very powerful open-source DAW with lots of resources, almost anything that a regular DAW can do.
Everybody can use this program, as it is also compatible with Windows, OS X, and Unix/Linux.
It comes with a lot of effects, helping you achieve the sound you're looking for. Want to be machine-like?
Audacity has your back. It's not the most professional-looking DAW, but it will help you to get started.
Try it out, and if you don't like it, you can always use one of the other best free DAW on this list.
- Not difficult to use
- Good application for first-time podcasters and music composers
- Not many features available
- Only useful for basic mixing and recording
2. Garageband (Mac only)
Garageband allows you to record your iPhone or iPad music from a laptop or desktop computer with no extra purchase and no subscription.
While it lacks many of the Logic Pro X features, it resembles a simplified version of Logic Studio. Another obvious perk is that it is completely free.
Garageband is a great value to learn if you're planning on using multi-track recording software.
It allows you to start mixing using MIDI before purchasing more costly software.
You can use the Garageband to do everything, from simply composing songs to making full-length recordings, including every required tool and everything you need.
If you own an iPhone and want to record only with GarageBand, this is your best bet.
- Intuitive digital audio workstation
- Free to use various features
- Multiple tasking
- Available on Apple devices
3. Waveform (Mac, Linux, Windows)
Tracktion, now known as Waveform, is free and has unlimited features.
There are no restrictions of any kind with this DAW; there are no plugins, no use restrictions like Cubase LE, Pro Tools First.
To do this, you must register. You must select your operating system before you can download it.
What makes Waveform unique compared to other DAWs is the different initial workflow.
When you open it, you see tracks on the left, like other DAWs, but then the right side is the Mixer.
Still, if you prefer the mixer to be at the bottom of the display, all you should do is click on the “eye” in the top right-hand corner, and the faders will appear.
It will show a traditional mixer. Now, you can try Waveform Pro; it comes with pre-installed Celemony Antares and Antares Autotune.
- Fully featured and without any restrictions in full version
- No need to buy anything
- Loads of useful features
- Multitude of colors
- Not the same workflow initially
4. Pro Tools First (Windows, Mac)
Pro Tools First gives you a UVI Workstation 3 sample player and Pro Tools Xpand! 2 virtual instruments packed with various sounds.
It limits the number of tracks to four, but you can always buy the full version, which will allow you to have a maximum of 16.
Also included are 23 effects and utility plugins in Pro Tools First.
You can find it online for free of charge, but you have to register with iLoki.
When it comes to trying out free software, going through a few hoops isn't too terrible.
That said, there are tons of limitations, like four tracks being recorded at one time, which decrease the total number of recordings.
- More popular than all other DAWs in existence
- Free version available
- Various effects and plugins
- Limited in features and songs
5. AKAI Professional MPC Beats
This DAW boasts an appealing interface to beatmakers since its layout looks similarly to the iconic MPC workflow.
It offers a piano roll to record MIDI notes, a browser to search sounds, and 16 pads for loops and samples of triggering drums.
It can get you up and run fast. You can begin remixing and start off with a template of pop, trap or dance right when it is installed.
That said, there are some limitations you need to subscribe to.
- Appealing interface to beatmakers
- Feature piano roll, browser and pads for triggering drum loops and samples
- Easy to start mixing
- Some limitations available
6. SoundBridge (Windows, Mac)
SoundBridge is a perfect choice if you're interested in a relatively simple and uncluttered DAW.
It's extremely simple to use, as the DAWs usually are. It has multiple recordings, MIDI, mixing, and track recording functions.
- Multiple recordings, MIDI, mixings functions
- Useful, simple to apply
- Few included effects
7. Cakewalk by BandLab (Windows Only)
Cakewalk is a perfect choice for Windows users. It is considered to be the best DAW.
It's the new, better version of SONAR Platinum, in other words. It outweighs other options thanks to the access to unlimited numbers of audio, MIDI, loop, and aux tracks.
You're getting something of exceptional value for free! It is a good bang for your buck.
I highly recommend it for Windows users. If you are a Windows user, go for it!
Once you have downloaded Cakewalk, you will need to register (you can do this via Facebook or Google, it only takes roughly 5 seconds).
That said, if you are a novice of DAW, you can have many difficulties using it as its features are quite complicated.
- Powerful, open-source digital audio workstation available
- Offers a lot of features
- No payment or use restrictions
- Difficult to use
8. Studio One Prime (Mac, Windows)
PreSonus Studio One is an easy-to-use DAW. There is an uncluttered and streamlined approach to the user interface.
You cannot load VST and AU plugins, which is the biggest drawback. If you are using Studio One, you'll need to install the upgraded version of Studio One and buy AU/VST plugins to do that.
Studio Prime includes nine native effects, such as distortion, delay, etc.
These new instruments can have improved workflow, drum patterns, plus MP3 encoding has been implemented. It is the "lighter" version.
And you'll have to buy another DAW or pick an effect you require from the list in your DAWs. Studio One Artist requires a paid upgrade for the AU/VST add-on for working.
You must register to download just like other DAWs.
- Suitable for learning about old-school DAWs
- Few but beautiful sound effects
- Need to buy the "Artist" version for VST plugins
9. LMMS (Linux, Windows, Mac)
This DAW is an excellent suggestion for MIDI. It boasts an instrument and effect plugin pack that supports VST plugins.
It offers a wide range of synthesizers, all the soundscapes you can think of, from GameBoy to Nintendo-type sounds. If you like LMMS, do not hesitate to download it!
Once again, it is free and available on all platforms.
The only downside of this DAW is it only supports MIDI, and there is no audio available.
- A good starting point for people interested in doing bit-music projects
- A wide variety of acceptable-sounding instruments available
- Supports only MIDI
10. Bosca Ceoil
It is an awesome DAW, especially when you open it on the browser. Anyone, regardless of experience, can utilize and enjoy it.
However, the third-party plugin is disabled, as it is so simple. And it features a rigid design that can challenge its users.
- Fantastic for making retro music
- Simple instructions, beginner-friendly
- Rigid design
- Third-party plugins not available
11. Bandlab (Mac, Windows)
Bandlab is an ideal tool for collaborating, similar to Ohm Studio, and possible to use as long as you can connect to the Internet.
Plus, you can use your phone to record. It's quite versatile and my go-to option!
You can expect over 120 awesome instruments and effect modeling, too. At Bandlab, you can benefit from royalty-free samples.
With over 2,000 royalty-free loops, samples, etc., you can truly be inventive. Bandlab offers several creative choices, so you can make an arrangement, mix, master, or anything that comes to mind.
Especially, this DAW offers unlimited space for your storage.
However, it will be better if the manufacturer can make it powerful like other dedicated DAWs.
- Ideal to collaborate with others to take their ideas and develop them into a fully formed recording, polished track
- Free sounds, rhythms, drum patterns, and other cool sounds
- Not powerful like other dedicated DAWs
12. Qtractor (Only Linux)
It is a multi-track, audio/MIDI-based, for Linux only. It can support LADSPA, DSSI, LV2, and NativeVSTi.
Qtractor is an infrequent update. For example, you can cut the entire sections without harming the originals. That's the editing feature without destruction.
Other features are MIDI sequencing, multi-track audio, recording, support DSSI, LADSPA, NativeVSTi, LV2, standard support MIDI files, non-linear editing, monitor controls, etc.
It is only available for Linux, which is a big downside in my opinion.
- Editing without destruction feature
- Support LADSPA, DSSI, LV2, and NativeVSTi
- Available only for Linux
13. Live 10 Lite By Ableton
Live 10 stands out among other DAWs since it can allow you to compose, record and offer live instruments.
It is compatible with MAC and Windows, so it’s nice to see. This DAW also works great for a host of people.
This DAW comes with an easy-to-use interface. Thus, if you are new to using DAW, it might be the right choice for you.
It pays to check out your video before committing and that way you will have a greater idea of what you get yourself into.
- Allowing to compose, record and offer live instruments
- Compatible with both MAC and Windows
- Need careful checking before committing
14. Zenbeats (Mobile devices, Windows, Mac)
Zenbeats is available on all iPhones and Android devices, PCs, Macs, and iPads. There is registration and activation involved in this app, and nothing else!
After that step, you will have full access to the DAW functionality, along with samples, beats, etc. Zenbeats now focuses mostly on electronic music, but you can process and record audio.
If you load an Audio Track, you can easily add multiple loops to it. It's quite simple! There is nothing that possibly stands in the way.
It has virtual instruments, such as an electric guitar, synthesizer, sampler, and organ.
In general, I believe Zenbeats is great for newbies who want to practice more in producing electronic music.
- Easy, simple operation
- Excellent sound expansion module for producing electronic music
- Available on any device
- Not many features
15. Mulab (Mac, Windows)
Mulab is just 35 MB, and it is still only around 80 MB after you unzip it, and that's all. Overall, it's pretty simple; dragging and dropping what you need, and it will do the work.
It comes with an abundance of VSTs, including choirs, bells, drums, and more. Unfortunately, one problem: You cannot save your projects with free Mulab.
Sometimes, you can hear a sound randomly played. To remove these limits, you'll have to buy the software license for the premium version.
Thus, you may feel annoyed when using the free version of Mulab.
- Helps users to enhance their pitch shifting abilities and be creative with time-stretching
- Well-established modular architecture
- Simple to use
- A lot of great VSTs
- Using free Mulab can be annoying.
So we have gone through the best free DAWs. In short, Cakewalk blows away the competition if you have a Windows PC. It is a full DAW and stands out with a different workflow.
If you have an Apple/Mac device, you may want to download GarageBand and give it a shot to see if you like it.
Briefly say, test them out and let me know which one you like!
Don't keep me waiting!