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Top 5 DAWS

by | Apr 6, 2020 | Blog, Invasion Mondays | 1 comment

5. Reaper 6

A seriously powerful DAW at a bargain price

Launch price: From $60 | Versions: Standard | Compatibility: PC/Mac/Linux (experimental) | System requirements (PC): 32-bit: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, 12MB storage space; 64-bit: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 x64, 13MB storage space | System requirements (Mac): 32-bit: OS X 10.5-10.13, 18MB storage space; 64-bit: OS X 10.5-10.14, 20MB storage space (dedicated OS X 10.15 Catalina version also available)

  • + Amazing value for money
  • + Sophisticated MIDI/audio routing capabilities
  • + Tiny storage footprint
  • – Doesn’t come with loads of plugins

For the benefit of those not in the know, Reaper is a remarkably affordable cross-platform DAW that has a tiny footprint and sophisticated MIDI/audio routing capabilities. What’s more, the demo is fully-functional, though if you want to keep using it after 30 days, you’re required to pay the license fee.

This is one of the most customisable and affordable DAWs around. What’s more, it’s wonderfully responsive, with everything from scrolling and zooming to fader moves and item editing feeling quick and fluid. The recently-released Reaper 6 continues the good work of previous versions, offering subtle refinements that you’ll appreciate on a daily basis.

Factor in some budget for the soundware of your choice and Reaper makes for a top-class music production environment.

4. Reason 11

The rack-based DAW can now be used as a plugin

Launch price: From $99/£69/€79 | Versions: Intro, Standard, Suite | Compatibility: PC/Mac | System requirements (PC): Windows 7 or later (64-bit), Intel or AMD multi-core processor, 4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions), 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space | System requirements (Mac): Mac OS X 10.11 or later (64-bit), Intel Mac with multi-core processor, 4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions), 4 GB free system disk space required, plus 8 GB for optional content. Additionally, program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space.

  • + Unique rack-based workflow
  • + Great SSL-modelled mixer
  • + You can use its devices as a plugin
  • – Hardware design won’t be for everybody

2019 was a big year for Reason. Its developer, Propellerhead Software, became Reason Studios, and version 11 of the rack-based DAW was released. This introduced the Reason Rack Plugin, which enables the DAW’s core tools to be used as a VST 3 or AU plugin within another DAW. 

A second smart addition to Reason 11 is the ability to use elements of the DAW’s SSL-modelled mixer as individual devices. Having them available alongside rack instruments is a great touch, and works particularly well in the Reason rack plugin.

Of course, you can still use Reason as your main DAW, but with the stock instruments and effects now available to use anywhere you like, this is the most attractive that the software has looked in years.

3. Bitwig Studio

A great option for the creative producer

Launch price: From $99/€99 | Versions: 16-track, Standard | Compatibility: PC/Mac/Linux | System requirements (PC): Windows 7 or later (64-bit), Dual-core AMD or Intel CPU or faster with SSE3 support, Minimum 12GB free disk space (for full content installation) | System requirements (Mac): Mac OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit Intel CPU, Minimum 12GB free disk space (for full content installation) | System requirements (Linux): Ubuntu 17.04 or later, 64-bit dual-core or better x86 CPU with SSE3 support, Minimum 12GB free disk space (for full content installation)

  • + Flexible modulation system
  • + Built-in modular environment
  • + Genuinely forward-thinking feature set
  • – Ableton Live still casts a shadow…

It’s a little over five years since version 1 of Bitwig Studio first hit hard drives, which makes it a relative infant in DAW terms. The application has come a long way in that time, though, throwing off the shackles of its inevitable Ableton Live comparisons – the two share a number of original developers and some significant workflow similarities – by adding multiple features that have bolstered Bitwig’s reputation as possibly the most inventive DAW on the market.

Now we have version 3 – an update very much focussed around just a single new feature, albeit a significant one. We’re referring to The Grid, a new type of device that brings a fully modular environment to Bitwig Studio’s toolkit. This, along with some nifty pitch enhancements in version 3.1, further cements Bitwig Studio’s existing stake as the creative producer’s DAW of choice.

2. Image-Line FL Studio

MusicRadar users have voted this the best DAW

Launch price: From $99/£76/€99 | Versions: Fruity, Producer, Signature, All Plugins Bundle | Compatibility: PC/Mac | System requirements (PC): Windows 8.1, 10 or later, 4GB storage space, 4GB RAM | System requirements (Mac): macOS 10.13.6 or later, 4GB storage space, 4GB RAM

  • + Great for EDM producers
  • + Good value for money
  • + Lifetime free updates
  • – GUI can feel a little cluttered

Originally launched as FruityLoops, Image-Line’s DAW holds near-iconic status for a certain generation of producers, particularly in the hip-hop and EDM realms. The headline feature in version 20 was a native 64-bit Mac version, meaning that FL Studio can now be used on macOS (as well as PC) without the need for a clunky workaround. Pleasingly, licenses are shared between both Mac and PC versions. 

Image-Line offers lifetime free upgrades to FL Studio users, meaning that all existing users of the software now automatically own upgrades to version 20 on both platforms. And the updates just keep on coming: version 20.5 brought in Flex, a new preset-based soft synth, while 20.6 has added a variety of new features. Hell I used it myself sometimes!

There will always be those who claim that FL Studio isn’t as ‘serious’ as some other DAWs, but the facts suggest otherwise, and it has some notable fans in the pro community, too. The thousands of votes it received in our poll suggests that this really is ‘the people’s DAW’, a title FL Studio shows no signs of relinquishing any time soon.

1. Ableton Live

An inspiring DAW with a next-level workflow

Launch price: From $99/£69/€79 | Versions: Intro, Standard, Suite | Compatibility: PC/Mac | System requirements (PC): Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10, 64-bit Intel (Intel® Core i5 processor or faster recommended) or AMD multi-core processor, 4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended) | System requirements (Mac): OS X 10.11.6 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo processor (Intel Core i5 processor or faster recommended), 4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended)

  • + Fast and creative workflow
  • + Excellent built-in devices
  • + The choice of countless pros

It’s hard to overstate the impact that Live has had on the music software marketplace. When the first version was released in 2001 it threw out the traditional design rulebook and established itself not just as a recording program for composers, but also as a performance instrument in itself. Since then, it’s exploded in popularity and influenced the development of countless other desktop and mobile apps.

The eagerly-awaited Live 10 was a deceptively extensive update, making plenty of meaningful changes, most of them to the arrangement view. There were some new plugins too, of course: the Wavetable synth and Echo, Drum Buss and Pedal effects. 

Live 10.1 represented another well-judged update, adding some significant new features and – notably – the long-awaited support for VST3 plugins.

Of course, users will inevitably have a long wishlist for Live 11, but for many, Ableton’s software already sets a standard that no other DAW can match. Also you can try out the 90 day trial right now while we are all in quarantine!

WHO WINS?! Say in the comments below

1 Comment

  1. Jay Jay Aye Zee

    no logic 🙁

    Reply

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