The Best DAW Software for Beginners

The Best DAW Software for Beginners (Review & Comparison) Of 2020 – Our Top Picks Reviewed

Anyone aiming to turn their home into a studio will want to make sure they have the best software to hand!  But where do you start as a beginner? Don’t worry. There are plenty of DAWs out there which are easy to get to grips with, and we’ve rounded up the best of them for you to peruse below.

Our aim is to help and educate you make the right DAW software product purchase for your needs. Below we have found and reviewed The Best DAW Software For Beginners 2020 which we hope you find helpful.

3 DAW Software’s For Beginners You Must See – Our Winning Picks

front facing Presonus Studio One 4
#1 Top Rated

Presonus Studio One 4

The #1 software we reviewed. An excellent all-rounder.

Features

Drag-and-Drop Functionality.
Unlimited Audio and Instrument Tracks.
New Virtual Instruments.

Read Reviews on Amazon


front facing Imagine Line FL Studio
Best Value

Imagine Line FL Studio

The best value for money daw software we reviewed.

Features

Mac and Windows Platforms.
Over 80 Instrument and Plugin Effects Included.
Powerful Mixing and Automation.

Read Reviews on Amazon

front facing ableton live 10
Premium Pick

Ableton Live 10

Our premium pick daw software on the higher end of the price range.

Features

Mac and Windows Platforms
Unlimited Audio and MIDI Tracks
5000+ sounds, 57 effects and 10 instruments

Read Reviews on Amazon

The Best DAW Software For Beginners

1. Presonus Studio One 4 (#1 Top DAW Software For Beginners)

front facing Presonus Studio One 4

Key Features:

Quick and easy drag-and-drop functionality and multi-touch support · Unlimited audio and instrument tracks · Incredible new virtual instruments

PreSonus’ Studio One 4 is a great beginner’s DAW thanks to the fact that it’s simple in its outward design.  Regardless of what you can and can’t do with a good DAW, the interface should always be easy to adapt to. It’s this which can really put some beginners off getting into a good piece of software.  Studio One 4 offers up a one-window function, which means you won’t be muddling around with several open instruments or programs.

What’s more, Studio One 4 might appeal to you if you want to take your time getting into the various intricacies of looping, sampling and DAW essentials.  There’s a lot of detail and depth here when you drill down. However, it might appeal to you if you’re looking for a solid system that grows with you, rather than one which locks you out.

Sound Quality
10/10 100%
Features and Effects
10/10 100%
Value For Money
10/10 100%
Overall Rating
10/10 100%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

2. Imagine Line FL Studio (#1 Best Value DAW Software For Beginners)

front facing Imagine Line FL Studio

Key Features:

Mac and Windows Platforms · Flexible Browser and workflow features · Over 80 instrument and plugin effects included

FL Studio is a name that many professional users will recommend to beginners, if not full stop.  The latest version for 2020 may well be obsolete soon enough, but it might work as a fantastic little playground for beginners to get into.  The interface is refreshingly easy to use, and it’s appealing enough from the off-set. It shouldn’t ever feel too excluding.

However, many people will likely say FL Studio in all its forms is an experienced user’s platform.  The editing and FX management here goes very deep – meaning it’s probably going to be a good DAW to grow into.  If you really don’t want your hand holding and want to try and explore the world of editing and mixing on your own, FL Studio 20 might give you the stability you need.  It’s not too basic, and certainly not overly complicated.

Sound Quality
7.8/10 78%
Features and Effects
10/10 100%
Value For Money
7.5/10 75%
Overall Rating
8/10 80%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

3. Ableton Live 10 (#1 Premium Pick Daw Software For Beginners)

front facing ableton live 10

Key Features:

Mac and Windows Platforms · Unlimited Audio Mixing Software and MIDI Tracks · 5000+ sounds, 57 effects and 10 instruments

We’ve already looked at Live 10 Intro, and the Suite is the next rung on the ladder.  With thousands of sounds and a clutch of authentic-sounding instruments, the Suite is likely to appeal to Ableton beginners who just want to explore at their leisure.  Real-time mixing and edits are easy to manage here, and what’s more, it all moves very quickly. It might appeal to you if you want to get into a DAW now, and on your own terms, without having to muddle with lengthy tutorials or anything else likely to bog you down.

Live 10 Suite is another great DAW choice which should allow new users to start growing into music production.  It has the edge over the basic Live 10, but ultimately, both might be good choices if you’re looking for a big DAW playground to dive right into.

Sound Quality
8.8/10 88%
Features and Effects
10/10 100%
Value For Money
10/10 100%
Overall Rating
9.5/10 95%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

4. Propellerhead Reason 10

front facing Propellerhead Reason 10

Key Features:

Windows 7, Mac OS X Platforms · Instruments and Effects Included · Three Player Devices Included

 

Reason 10 tends to lean more towards the professional end of the market, which might put a few beginners off in the first place.  However, dig a bit deeper, and you might be surprised at what you’ll find. Reason is one of the most ‘complete’ DAWs on the market, meaning that if you are wanting to set up a home studio without the lengthy faff or hassle, you don’t have to do much muddling around.  For beginners, this might be an attractive prospect.

Beginners might get on famously with Reason for the fact that it offers up much of what you’ll need, at a pace you can digest it.  It competes very well with leading DAWs on features and functionality alone, particularly thanks to the fact that you can scale up and down and upgrade it with new bits and pieces when you’re more confident.

Sound Quality
10/10 100%
Features and Effects
10/10 100%
Value For Money
10/10
Overall Rating
10/10 100%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

5. Mixcraft 8 Home Studio

front facing Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home Studio

Key Features:

Mixcraft 8 home Studio is the perfect introduction to digital music creation at a price anyone can afford

Mixcraft is a brand that’s been around long enough to build up a quiet following.  It’s actually pretty well-levelled towards beginners and regular mixers, thanks to its simple, multitrack interface and its reported enhancements over the competition.  Once again, as with Band in a Box, Mixcraft is likely to appeal to those beginners who are muddled by samey-looking software elsewhere. 

Acoustica Mixcraft 8 might be your best shot at an entry-level DAW for many reasons.  For one, it’s likely to keep you on the straight and basic. As with some of the other DAWs in this list, Mixcraft will make sure to slowly walk you into the process without things ever getting too confusing.  For some people, the interface and overview may not seem the most professional, but if you ask us, it works.

Sound Quality
9.5/10 95%
Features and Effects
9.5/10 95%
Value For Money
9.5/10 95%
Overall Rating
9.5/10 95%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

6. Band-in-a-Box 2019

front facing Band-in-a-Box 2019 UltraPAK

Key Features:

New 2019 Edition with over 50 new features – Band-in-a-box 2019 Ultra PAK for Windows includes both Band-in-a-Box 2019 and real band 2019

Band in a Box isn’t a name that might leap out to seasoned DAW users, but it does offer plenty of the simple functionality and feature-rich interfacing that beginners will be looking for.  It should appeal to anyone who wants to throw in loops by the hundred, though it might appeal more to people who are putting together band music as opposed to anything close to electronic. Then again, there is MIDI functionality, so it could well be what you make of it.

We’ve chosen Band in a Box Pro because it presents a brilliant alternative to some very samey DAWs.  It’s a DAW which should appeal to anyone who wants to look at music production from a very different angle.

Sound Quality
10/10 100%
Features and Effects
9.5/10 95%
Value For Money
9.8/10 98%
Overall Rating
9.5/10 95%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

7. Ableton Live 10 Intro

front facing Ableton Live 10 Intro

Key Features:

Up to 16 tracks and 8 scenes per project – Includes 1500+ sounds (5+GB), 29 effects and 3 instruments – Automatically sync music and loops, regardless of tempo

You’ll probably find that plenty of DJ controllers and MIDI tech is built for Ableton.  That’s for a good reason, as it’s famously easy to adapt to. Ableton Live 10 Intro keeps things refreshingly basic, serving up more than what their Lite version offers.  While Lite is a good starting point, Live might appeal to more beginners as it brings in more of the standards you’ll expect once you hit the ground running.

Ableton Live 10 Intro actually isn’t the most feature-heavy of all their suites.  However, it does a great job of showing you what it’s capable of. And why not? There are more than 1,500 different samples for you to bring into the mix, too, which might appeal to those users looking to create something special from the ground-up.

Sound Quality
9.2/10 92%
Features and Effects
9.5/10 95%
Value For Money
9.4/10 94%
Overall Rating
9.2/10 92%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

8. MAGIX Music Maker 2020

front facing MAGIX Music Maker 2020

Key Features:

Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows 7 – Easy drag & drop song production with sounds & loops – Customizable audio software: choose sounds, loops, instruments and features worth a total of $910.00

Finally, let’s take a look at MAGIX.  MAGIX is a name which can fly under the radar, however, for those starting with DAWs, their 2020 Music Maker might just offer a nice, introductory edge.  Regardless of all the sound enhancements and bells and whistles the marketing says it holds, the interfacing and the selection of samples and loops might give it the edge in the eyes of beginners.

It offers another different slant on what can be quite a samey medium.  It boasts some nice features which are unique to the brand and the suite, meaning that if you want innovations as well as ease of use, you might be heading in the right direction.  It’s just as well to consider the rest of the pack, but MAGIX shouldn’t be one to discount right away.

Sound Quality
10/10 100%
Features and Effects
9.2/10 92%
Value For Money
9.2/10 92%
Overall Rating
9.5/10 95%

Want to know more about this software? Read the reviews on amazon

How We Chose The Right DAW Software For Beginners On Our List

checklist with star rating

We wanted to look at a cross-section products which included the big players as well as those smaller names which are genuinely making a difference.  Naturally, the aim of this guide was to find the best beginner platforms, and thanks to the adaptable nature of DAWs, it’s safe to say that there was plenty to pick from.

However, the software which stands out will give beginners the chance to have a play around and then upgrade to bigger and better things as they go along.  As you can see from our list above, there’s plenty of that in play.

What is a DAW?

A DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation.  Basically, a DAW helps you to organise and record audio, meaning they are often used by producers, musicians, podcasters and other audio content creators.  A DAW will help you to organise your sounds and to import samples, so that you can create your own unique compositions.

There are plenty of different DAWs on the market, which means it can often be difficult to narrow down your options.  However, it’s generally best to go with the crowd – or to listen to your own way of building and playing music.

Are There Free DAWs Available?

Yes.  However, arguably, the best DAWs are paid DAWs.  Leading software will normally ask you to pay a license to access their features, sound banks and any further updates.  If you are serious about making music and building your own audio, then it may be well worth thinking about investing some real money in such tools.

That’s why we’re here.  We have tried and tested free DAWs, and while some show promise, the leading names in the game and the paid software available generally does more.  For good reason, too – where are free DAWs getting their money from?

What Can a DAW Do?

It’s likely going to be quicker to tell you what they can do.  With a fully-fledged DAW, you can:

  •         Record audio and edit it as-is, directly in the suite
  •         Play virtual instruments and insert samples into your soundscapes
  •         Create percussion and drum loops
  •         Adjust FX and acoustics as per your tastes
  •         Create music using a variety of different physical inputs, such as MIDI controllers
  •         Master your track using a variety of on-board tweaks

DAWs, on the whole, will aim to offer you the same experience.  However, it is how their interfaces align and how they appeal to the average user where they differ.  While one system may seem intuitive to one person, it may be a poor choice for another.

How Do I Pick the Right DAW?

Crucially, it’s worth giving the biggest and best software a go first before you buy.  In many cases, you can install and run demos to see if you get on with the interface. As this is likely to be a big factor in how you get on with software in the long run, we think that trying before you buy is always going to be a good idea and a decent place to start.

You should also look at DAWs which offer tiered packages and services.  For example, one might offer an entry-level subscription, with the option for you to upgrade to something more ‘professional’.  In some cases, this can also cut down on the cost of what you pay for your licensing in the long run.

What Do I Need to Run a DAW?

There are always going to be a few basics you’ll need to run a beginner’s DAW.

  •         Make sure you have a PC, laptop or Mac that has the right specs for the DAW you want.  This should be easy enough to check.
  •         Consider buying an audio interface or midway connector.  This will help you to plug in several instruments and a variety of inputs into one computer.  This means that you can assign different channels to different voices as you play and record.
  •         Audio inputs and devices you’ll need to get started might include a basic microphone and preamp, and a MIDI controller.  However, if you already have an on-board mic on your laptop, and if you’re happy to feel your way around the virtual instruments on a DAW, then you might not need to invest in much more to begin with.  Again, your experience may vary.
  •         Consider looking up video tutorials and guides, too, to check that you have everything you need.  If you’re just starting with a DAW, it’s probably going to work in your favour to keep things simple, at least for now.

 

What is the Best DAW For Beginners?

It’s probably going to be hard to narrow down the choice to one clear winner.  However, most DAWs – modern standards, in any case – should offer tutorial modes.  Beyond this, all good DAWs should be easy to get into by design. DAWs exist so that home users and recorders can experience the full studio setup without having to invest in too much tech, and without having to dive too deep into the technical side of things.

Can I Run a DAW on More than One Computer?

This isn’t a guarantee, but many DAWs offer licenses where you can install on different PCs and laptops.  It’s something you are going to need to shop around for. However, we don’t think it’s always a bad thing if your licence just allows you to create and play on one system.  It’s all dependent on your needs.

Should I Use an Older DAW?

It’s not advisable.  When searching, you may find that there are older versions of DAWs out there with years after their name.  This, of course, is because software has a habit of upgrading and evolving year on year.

In our collective opinion, it’s never worth staking money on an older DAW.  Modern DAWs move with the times, and the best licences, on the whole, should protect you from obsolescence.

FAQ’s

What is the Most User-Friendly DAW?

As you can see from the above, this really is going to vary on your own tastes and experiences.  Some people may find simple interfaces to be user-friendly, while others will appreciate massive collections of samples and loops to be the best introduction.  A good start, naturally, is to look through our picks above and to try them out for yourself.

What Are Some Good Free DAWs?

As mentioned, we don’t like to promote free DAWs much as they fail to live up to paid standards.  However, if you’re just starting out, you will likely find something simple like Audacity to be worth your time and interest.  This will help you to cut up audio and to mix it to a very basic standard. Apple’s GarageBand software, too, free in some quarters, is very intuitive and fantastic to use on iPad.

What Do I Need to Start Making Music?

Crucially, a voice helps!  A good DAW should actually give you all of the tools you need to start making professional songs, however, you’re obviously going to need a decent PC or Mac to be able to run it.  Moreover, a few decent inputs and a good audio controller won’t go amiss. Did we mention a microphone, and an instrument of some kind? It turns out you can either use a handful of items, or a lot – it’s up to you!

Are DAWs Generally Hard to Learn?

No.  While we’ve set up this buying guide to help you find your way to the most user-friendly systems, most modern DAW suites are pretty easy to get on with.  However, as we all learn and perceive things differently, it’s worth taking a look across various suites and options to see what moulds best to your style and personality.

 

Conclusion

DAWs are great for helping beginner musicians get their tunes down on paper, or at least on the screen.  Finding a good beginner DAW shouldn’t be too tricky – start by taking a look through our picks above, try out a few demos, and see how you get on.

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