pro-tools 8Home recording has exploded over the past decade as digital technology has given musicians more and more powerful tools for capturing and mixing music on laptops and desktops. One of the key choices a musician or engineer must make is which DAW to invest time and money into.

What’s a DAW you say? Well, why don’t we see what good ol’ wikipedia says:

“Originated in the early 1980s, the term digital audio workstation (DAW) originally referred to a tape-less, computer-based system such as New England Digital’s Syn­clavier and Fairlight that used hard drives for media storage. ” – Wikipedia.org (read the full article)

The term DAW accounts for both software and hardware based production systems. However for maximum flexibility we’re going to just concentrate on computer-based DAWs today.

Choosing your DAW is much like shopping for a car. While your friend or co-worker may love their 4-wheel drive SUV, you might not find that it fits your needs as a commuter.  The same goes with DAWs. The main rule to remember in choosing a DAW is that there is no “one DAW solution”.  Though there may be a “one DAW full” solution for you (get it? one-daw-full.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  You may not get all your desired features in the DAW that you choose, but it’s important that you get most of them. The key here is to ask yourself “What’s most important to me?”

Here are some points for you to think about when choosing a DAW:

  • Price
  • Audio Editing vs MIDI Editing Capabilities
  • Workflow
  • User Interface
  • Compatibility with 3rd party hardware/software
  • Included Plugins (synths, samplers, effects)
  • Update Frequency
  • Customer Support
  • System Requirements
  • Stability

The important thing to remember is do your research. Again, buying a DAW is like buying a car. You want it to last long, fulfill all your needs, be cost worthy, and run well. Like buying a car, don’t buy your DAW on a whim! Read reviews, look at features, visit some forums and get opinions!

Below we’ve listed a number of DAWs. Please keep in mind we can’t list every DAW, as they are numerous. There are also a number of free DAWs out there, but since most of them lack a few key features, we’ve focused on more commercial/paid-for DAWs.

Read more of Home Recording: Choosing Your DAW – 

Article originally posted on 8/3/10 on HostBaby’s Blog.