10 Best Free DAW in 2022 (Digital Audio Workstation)

(Last Updated On: September 12, 2022)

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Are you a producer on a tight budget seeking a fantastic free DAW with the same features and qualities as an expensive mainstream one? We’re here to help you get started on your musical adventure without paying a single penny of your money, so we’re giving you not just one, but ten totally free, highly functional DAWs.

10 Best Free DAW

A DAW is one of the essential tools for a music producer, as it is impossible to create music without one. When starting out, it’s pretty normal to be on a budget as music-making has not begun to make you a living yet, which is why most entry-level producers search for a free DAW to help them experiment, create and advance in their production skills until they feel the need to upgrade and pay for a more professional DAW. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find a great, fully-functioning free DAW that is just as good as a paid one. Today we have ten free DAWs for you to check out and download, all guaranteed to help launch your music production career.

Also Read: Best DAW for Mixing and Mastering

Difference between Free DAWs vs. Paid DAWs:

  • Paid DAWS has far more features, plugins, FX, instruments, and loops than free DAWs.
  • Some free DAWs don’t support 3rd party plugins, while all paid DAWs do.
  • A lot of free DAWs don’t allow you to save and export your projects, while all paid DAWs do.
  • Some free DAWs don’t allow MIDI recording or vice versa (audio recording), which is an impossible feature to find on a paid DAW.
  • The quality of the sound tends to be higher on paid DAWs.
  • Free DAWs tend to have more bugs and crash more often than they should.
  • Free DAWs suffer from high latency, which could be highly frustrating to work with.
  • Paid DAWs tend to have a better workflow than free DAWs.
  • The recording and overall output quality on a paid DAW is much higher and better sounding.
  • Paid DAWs are fully functional and handle up to an unlimited amount of audio and MIDI tracks, while most free DAWs are more limited.

Best Free DAWs – Comparison Table

DAWVSTOSEffectsTracks RecordTracks Playback
Waveform Free VST, VST3Windows and Mac15UnlimitedUnlimited
Cakewalk VST, VST3Windows33UnlimitedUnlimited
SoundBridge VST, VST3Windows and Mac100+UnlimitedUnlimited
Reaper VST2, VST3Windows, Mac, and Linux100+UnlimitedUnlimited
Garageband Mac100+UnlimitedUnlimited
Studio One 5 Prime Windows and Mac9UnlimitedUnlimited
LMMS VST, VST2Windows, Mac and Linux100+UnlimitedUnlimited
Ableton Live Lite VST2 and VST3Windows and Mac16 Audio Effects and 11 MIDI effects8Unlimited
Pro Tools First Windows and Mac2316Unlimited
Ohm Studio VST, VST3Windows and Mac20UnlimitedUnlimited

1. Waveform by Tracktion

Waveform by Tracktion

Waveform Free takes the lead as the best free DAW available in the world of DAWs today. This DAW is so good and flexible that you won’t believe it’s free, which is precisely what we’re looking for today.

Back in 2021, Waveform free was awarded the bedroom’s producer best “DAW” award, and for a good reason. Tracktion were really generous with us when they created a free DAW that has no timeouts, no track count limits, no export/render restrictions, no 3rd party plugin restrictions, no saving or project limitations, and no copyright restrictions. With Waveform Free, you’re able to create and sell your tracks as you please.

So if you’re a music producer who’s just starting out, Waveform Free is the best free DAW you can find to start experimenting and create your next hits.

Features:

  • Pattern generator.
  • Step clips.
  • Midi typing.
  • Actions panel.
  • Instruments and FX.
  • Racks.
  • Mixing and automation.
  • Export and rendering.
  • Plugin support.
  • Available for both Windows and Mac.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy editing.
  • Extremely intuitive.
  • Easy to use.
  • More than perfect if you’re a beginner musician.

Cons:

  • Basic level automation.
  • Limited FX.
  • Could be challenging to use for a beginner music producer, but there’s nothing a tutorial can’t fix.

2. Cakewalk by BandLab

Cakewalk by BandLab

Another great free DAW on our list today is Cakewalk by BandLab (previously called Sonar.) We want to start by saying that Cakewalk is only available for PC users, so if you own a MAC, you might want to skip this one.

Cakewalk is a viable option if you’re new to the world of music production and want a free DAW that doesn’t lack in features just because you don’t have to pay for it. It is an excellent tool with almost no limitations for you to start creating. You’re free to build as many tracks as you want, create your melody with either audio or MIDI, and edit them using its native or 3rd party FX plugins. It’s relatively easy to use another excellent choice for entry-level producers.

Features:

  • VST and VST3 support.
  • Notation editor for MIDI.
  • Ability to work with video.
  • Instruments and FX.
  • Plugin support.
  • Mixing and automation.
  • MIDI editing tools.
  • 30-day trial of Melodyne.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Customizable User interface.
  • CPU efficiency.
  • Very intuitive.

Cons:

  • Not available for MAC users.
  • Could be complex for beginners.
  • Native plugins are “ok”.

Also Read: Best MIDI Pad Controllers for Beginners

3. SoundBridge by SoundBridge

SoundBridge by SoundBridge

Sounbridge, previously known as Lumit, is a full-featured free DAW available for windows and Mac. Even though it is free to use, once you download it, you will get the occasional “feel free to donate” window, which you can simply ignore or use to donate to the creators.

Soundbridge has a more straightforward interface than the DAWs we previously mentioned that is similar to FL Studio (if you’re familiar with it.)

It is full of free and easy features and provides easy access to all the necessary tools for musicians to let loose and easily design their sounds. We highly recommend you download Soundbridge and test it yourself.

Features:

  • Audio stretching and pitch shifting.
  • Manual mixer latency and automation curves.
  • Drum sampler/sequencer.
  • Mixing and mastering effects.
  • Instruments and FX.
  • MIDI mapping and editing.
  • MIDI and audio routing.
  • Automation editor.
  • Export and rendering.
  • Sidechain support.
  • Plugin support.
  • Original hand gestures to support devices such as the Microsoft Surface.
  • Available for both Windows and Mac.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Simple user interface.
  • Easy to use.
  • Easy editing.
  • Extremely intuitive.

Cons:

  • Might crash if overworked.
  • Limited native plugins.

4. Reaper by Cockos

Reaper by Cockos

Even though Reaper is not free, it entered our list because it offers an unlimited 60-day trial that allows you to explore the program slowly and thoroughly before deciding if you want to spend $60 for the basic edition or $225 for the professional version.

Reaper could easily be a cheap replacement for your existent DAW as it provides the same qualities and capabilities that other mainstream DAWs offer. Built in 2006, Reaper is available for PC, Mac, and Linux. It is full of free features that you can find in other paid DAWs. It also has an extremely helpful online community that you can go to if things get a bit complicated when you’re first taking off.

Features:

  • Multitrack Recording.
  • Instruments and FX.
  • MIDI mapping and editing.
  • MIDI and audio routing.
  • Automation editor.
  • Mixing and Mastering.
  • Flexible Routing.
  • Export and rendering.
  • 32-bit Plugin support.
  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Simple user interface.
  • Very stable.
  • Customizable User interface.
  • Fully functional, fast, and high-quality plugins.
  • Easy to use.

Cons:

  • Only free for 60 days.
  • Native plugins are limited.

5. Garageband by Apple

GarageBand by Apple

In contrast to Cakewalk, Garageband, created by Apple in 2004, is exclusively available to Mac users. It is known as Logic Pro’s younger sibling (primarily due to its interface) and as a superb beginner DAW for creating music. However, it is one of the best DAWs for entry-level producers and a fantastic creativity tool since you can easily download it on your iPhone and use it when inspiration strikes.

Features:

  • 3rd party plugin support.
  • MIDI mapping and editing.
  • Instruments and FX.
  • Mixing and mastering.
  • Flexible Routing.
  • Export and rendering.

Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Professional interface.
  • Very intuitive and user-friendly.
  • Ability to manipulate multiple tracks.
  • Simple export of MP3s.

Cons:

  • Only available for Mac users.
  • Has a few limitations.
  • Project files are large.

Also Read: Does Audio Interface Affect Sound Quality?

6. Studio One 5 Prime by PreSonus

Studio One 5 Prime by PreSonus

Studio One 5 Prime is a fantastic DAW not only for creating music but for recording podcasts and audiobooks as well. It is a very flexible, easy to use DAW with immense features and little to no complaints.

Not only does it have features that other DAWs seem to miss, but its excellent design created a DAW with one of the best workflows a DAW can offer.

Its plugins are high-quality, the interface is customizable, the mixing process is very simple, and the sound quality is crystal clear.

Studio One 5 Prime is another free DAW you don’t want to miss, as it’s one of the most flexible DAWs on our list today.

Features:

  • Drag-and-drop functionality and multi-touch support.
  • Unlimited audio and instrument tracks, virtual instruments, and FX channels.
  • Powerful Presence XT virtual sample player for keyboard and synth sounds.
  • Drum machine/step-sequencer.
  • Native Effects plugin suite.
  • Poly Pressure/ MPE support for advanced MIDI controllers.
  • 4-band parametric EQs.
  • Over 2 GB of bundled loops.

Pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Ability to record in 64bit.
  • Interface is well designed and intuitive.
  • Very flexible DAW.

Cons:

  • Limited number of native plugins.
  • Setting up the DAW could be difficult.

7. LMMS by LMMS

LMMS by LMMS

LMMS (Linus MultiMedia Studio) is a free and open-source DAW available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. LMMS has many built-in plugins and instruments and supports 3rd party plugins.

Its interface is a bit different from other DAWs on this list, so you might need to spend some time getting familiar with it before you start creating. Also, this should be less of an issue if you’re an FL Studio user, as they both share a similar interface.

LMMS can’t compete with professional and paid DAWs, but it’s a good option if you’re a producer on a budget.

Features:

  • MIDI Editor.
  • Note playback via MIDI.
  • Track Automation support.
  • 64-bit VST instrument support.
  • Built-in synths and FX.
  • Spectrum analyzer.
  • LADSPA plug-in support.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Great for MIDI recording.
  • Good workflow.
  • Only takes 100 MBs of space.

Cons:

  • Interface is a little dull and complicated.
  • Impossible to record audio.

8. Ableton Live Lite by Ableton

Ableton Live Lite by Ableton

Ableton Live Lite is a lightweight, free version of Ableton Live with the same workflow, plugins, instruments, and FX with a few limitations, making it the “lite” version.

Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAWs for producing electronic music. It has become a standard for many music producers that produce different genres of music due to its high-quality sounds, instruments, plugins, and effects.

Starting with Ableton Live Lite is a terrific choice and opportunity since it allows you to easily segway to the full edition of Ableton Live, which is guaranteed to produce some of the greatest results of any DAW on the market.

Features:

  • MIDI sequencing
  • Advanced warping and real-time time-stretching.
  • Group tracks.
  • VST2, VST3, and Audio Unit support.
  • Time signature changes.
  • 16 scenes.
  • 2 Send and return tracks.
  • 8 Mono audio input and output channels.
  • 8 audio and MIDI tracks.
  • Multiple automation lanes.
  • 16 audio effects and 10 MIDI effects.
  • MIDI Polyphonic Expression.
  • Track Freeze.
  • Capture MIDI.
  • Tempo Following.
  • Automatic plugin delay compensation.
  • MIDI remote control instant mapping.
  • MIDI output to hardware synths.
  • MIDI Clock/sync.
  • Multicore/multiprocessor support.
  • WAV, AIFF, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC file support.
  • Ableton Link.
  • Instrument Racks, MIDI Effect Racks, Drum Rack, Impulse, and Simpler.
  • Complex warp modes.
  • Groove Pool and extract groove.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Fast and flexible workflow.
  • High-quality sounds.
  • High-quality plugins and instruments.
  • One of the best DAWs on the market.

Cons:

  • Limited audio and MIDI tracks.
  • Limited send and return tracks.
  • Limited audio input and output channels.
  • Limited scenes.

Also Read: Mendini By Cecilio Review – Buyer’s Guide

9. Pro Tools First by Avid Technology

Pro Tools by Avid Technology

Pro Tools First is the free version of Pro Tools, another OG DAW in the music and movie production industry. Pro Tools First lets you experience Pro Tools, with a few limitations, of course. Even though it is intended for beginners, getting started with Pro Tools Lite and being familiar with the workflow will quickly transform you into a seasoned user of Pro Tools as they both use the same interface

Features:

  • Session templates for different genres.
  • Loop recording.
  • Xpand!2 virtual instrument.
  • MIDI editing tools.
  • 500MB sample library.
  • Soundbase for locating loops, samples, and sounds.
  • 20 effects/utility plugins.
  • Track freeze to save CPU resources.
  • Record up to 4 tracks simultaneously.
  • Collaborate with musicians as a member of Avid’s Artist Community.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Fast and flexible workflow.
  • Very stable.
  • Amazing DAW for singers and songwriters.
  • High-quality sounds.
  • High-quality plugins and instruments.
  • One of the best DAWs on the market.

Cons:

  • Limited audio tracks and FX.
  • Limited virtual instrument tracks.
  • Limited sound library.

10. Ohm Studio by Ohm Force

Ohm Studio by Ohm Force

Ohm Force has created a free DAW for its users called Ohm Studio. It is the first real-time collaborative digital audio workstation, meaning you can work on your projects with other musicians in real-time. This is a feature that no other DAW has. So producing and working on Ohm Force could be a fun, new experience.

Features:

  • Pro-grade audio engine (low latency, up to 24-bit 96 kHz audio, MIDI, VST plugins.)
  • Pro-grade features (full audio routing, unlimited tracks, automation, etc.)
  • State-of-the-art UI providing unmatched edition in context, high-speed project navigation, and composition.
  • Landmark FX and instruments from the Audio Industry + partner plugins (Voxengo, Poulyn).
  • Extensive sound library.
  • Free online storage space for up to 200 projects.
  • Chat room.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Allows you to publicly work on a project as a group, no matter where each user is located.
  • Supports 3rd party VST plugins.
  • Overall a good DAW for beginners.

Cons:

  • You need to create an online account and be connected to the internet to use the software.
  • Can only expert in OGG format.
  • Limited to compressed audio export and 16 bit audio recording.

Read More: 15 Best Microphones For Recording

FAQ

What is the most user-friendly DAW for beginners?

One (or two) of the most user-friendly DAWs to download or buy if you’re a beginner is FL Studio (and Garageband if you’re a Mac user). Both these DAWs have a very flexible, smooth workflow that makes it very simple for a new musician or producer to create and experiment with sounds. Everything in both DAWs is very clear and straightforward, whether it’s the instruments, plugins, or FX, making the process incredibly smooth and fun, which is what music should be all about.

What DAW do professionals use?

We'd have to say it's a tie between Pro Tools and Ableton Live. Pro Tools is well known for recording vocals and mixing, while Ableton Live has become the standard DAW for recording EDM music. However, Pro Tools adopts a more expert and audio engineering approach, whereas Ableton is a DAW heavily focused on experimentation and creativity. As a result, many music producers begin working on Ableton Live before moving on to Pro Tools for mixing and mastering. This doesn't necessarily mean that you can't mix on Ableton Live or unleash your creativity on Pro Tools; it's just that each DAW is designed for a specific purpose.

Can I publish the music I create in a free DAW?

Plenty, if not most DAWs will let you export your songs and publish them on all main platforms such as Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc. for people to enjoy. Some of the free DAWs that let you publish your songs with no legal issues are Cakewalk, Waveform Free, Ableton Live Lite, and many others. Suppose you don't want to deal with the hassle of publishing your own music. In that case, you can always hire a publishing business like Distrokid or TuneCore to do it for you. They will also give you the option of publishing your song on Shazam, which is extremely useful if someone hears your music in a club or bar since Shazam can identify the artist and song for them.

What can I do with a free DAW?

Most free DAWs have a significant number of functions that help you produce and save your music. However, to convince you to purchase the full version, those DAW companies will offer limited features such as a limited number of recorded tracks or disable the export feature, some will only allow you to work on audio without MIDI and vice versa, and some will enable all features but only for a limited time. Despite these restrictions, you can still arrange and experiment with sounds and produce a whole track that you can ultimately post for others to listen to. If you're concerned about the limitations of free DAWs, all you have to do is look over the ten free options we provided today and determine which one best meets your needs; perhaps you don't need to work with MIDI or don't need more than 16 recorded tracks, or maybe don't care to use 3rd party plugins, and you're more than satisfied using the DAW's native plugins. So go ahead, look them over, and choose the best one for you.

Conclusion

Music production should always be a fun and exciting process. And money should be the last thing on your mind and concerns, especially when you’re just starting out. All ten free DAWs we featured today are excellent and are guaranteed to help you create, progress, and grow into a better music producer.

However, once you feel that the features offered by those free DAWs are limiting you, you should consider paying for a more advanced DAW that will allow you to test your abilities further and eventually help you develop into a more skilled, professional music producer.

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