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343 Labs' Top 5 DAWs

Choosing your DAW is kind of like choosing your fighter in a video game: there are going to be pros and cons to each choice, but it’s important to find the one that fits your needs the best. We’re going to explore the 5 that we here at 343 Labs enjoy the most about them.

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So, what is a DAW? A DAW, or digital audio workstation a piece of software used for composing, producing, recording, mixing and editing sound. DAWs allow us to mix multiple sound sources, or tracks, on a time-based grid. It’s a mainstay in music production and simply wasn’t around 30 years ago. It’s made music-making more accessible than ever.

In order to compile this list, 343 Labs has polled its students, community members, and instructors, and tried to analyze any current trends in the industry. Here’s what we found:

1.Ableton Live

There’s a reason Ableton is our most popular class and is incorporated into most of our courses: it is simply the best for electronic music production. The software provides an excellent path from producing a track to playing it live with its physical instrument, the Ableton Push, that allows you to trigger different song sections, create drum loops on the fly, and more. Beyond that Ableton, is renowned for having one of the most impressive libraries of quality plugins and instruments, including its Sampler and it’s synthesizers Wavetable, Operator, and Analog. It’s an accessible and powerful program that has a reputation for good reason.

Interested in learning Ableton 10? Check out our Ableton Live courses.

2. Logic Pro

Our next top DAW is another that we teach in our classes. Logic’s MIDI and Audio tasks are intuitive and the built-in plugins are simply amazing. Musicians buy Logic for its stock ES2 virtual analog synth and the EXS24 Sampler, and we can’t think of another DAW that people buy just for its stock sounds. From waveform time-fixing to pitch perfection, it’s an intelligent program built to understand your process and aid you on your creative progressions.  If you’re a Garageband user ready to make the jump to something more serious, the transition to Logic will be pretty seamless.

Its downside? The workflow isn’t very customizable, and it’s only available on Mac. So, you need to be an Apple person to use the software.

Interested in learning Logic? Check out our Logic Pro production courses!

3. FL Studio

Originally launched as FruityLoops, Image-Line's DAW has an iconic status for a generation of later 2000’s producers, particularly in the hip-hop and EDM world. FL Studio is a favorite for electronic music production thanks to its intuitive design that makes producing and mixing simple while offering deep customization and editing power. FL Studio is easy to use and has some great composition features, and also has an incredible line of stock plugins.

Its key features are the Real-Time Stretching of audio clips, that allows you to change the tempo of a clip while maintaining pitch. Producers that use controllers will find this extremely helpful.

Second, Piano Roll will highlight scale notes for you. This is a fantastic feature especially if you can’t remember your scales.

Downsides? Its additional plugins can get costly.

4. Pro Tools

Pro Tools from Avid redefined the music, film, and TV industry. It’s straightforward music editing solutions have made it a top choice for producers and editors in and out of the music industry.

Pro Tools is constantly being updated with new editing enhancements for MIDI and recording capabilities. Unlike most other DAWs which update their software in chunks, Pro Tools runs on a subscription basis and is constantly evolving.

The DAW is the industry standard for audio editing, and most mixing engineers choose it first for tracking, comping, and editing vocals. Pro Tools pioneered many innovations in non-destructive editing, take-comping, and bus-routing, it’s a deep program that is hard to beat.

Its downsides? Its MIDI interface leaves a bit to be desired.

5. You tell us!

We want to hear from our community members. What do you think number 5 should be? Why? What’re we overlooking?

Thanks for checking out this article. For more masterclasses, courses, and events, sign up for our newsletter and stop by 343 Labs.