Best Free DAWs

You’ve done some research and you’ve decided it’s time to try out a DAW, but you don’t have the money to spend on an expensive high-end Digital Audio Workstation. That’s OK! There are many options that will give you plenty to work and play with without breaking the bank. In this article, we will take a look at the best free DAWs available today for download. Let’s get started!

Audacity

 

If you ask anyone about free DAWs, the first that will likely pop into their mind is Audacity. Compatible on OS X, Windows, and Linux, this DAW can be used by pretty much anyone. The software is still being continually updated and improved in 2018 and it is a formidable choice if you are looking for something free. Able to record and mix multiple tracks, it is ideal for voice-over and recording speech for audio book or podcast. As with most freeware, it lacks the heavy hitting features provided by other professional DAWs needed for precise music editing. However, many musicians tout it as an excellent starting point, specifically citing it’s ability to record voices, easy to use interface, and multi tracking capabilities.

Head on over to https://www.audacityteam.org/ and give it a test ride yourself! You literally have nothing to lose!

Garageband

 

If you are an Apple user, congratulations you are already the proud owner of one of the best free DAWs on the market! Garageband comes pre-installed on all Apple computers and has a surprising amount of capability to work with. It’s not unheard-of for bands to record entire albums on this free DAW (although you may never have heard of them). A few of its biggest strengths are that it is easy to use, provides a plethora of different instruments to start with, and frankly, it just looks good. As with any free DAW, it pales in comparison to it’s more expensive brethren in the realm of effects, mastering, and its lack of proper mixing board. Garageband is the precursor to Apple’s professional DAW Logic Pro X, so if you’re interested in Logic then you owe it to yourself open up your Applications folder and try out this starter version!

MuLab 7 Free

 

Similar to Garageband, MuLab Free is a demo version meant to be tried before upgrading to the DAW (MuLab UL). Unfortunately, you are going to encounter this sales practice frequently whenever you are opting for free DAW. On the other hand, it is an effective way for you to try before you buy and is something that we would highly recommend. In this case, MuLab Free provides an easy-to-use interface that allows you to record, edit, and mix your multi-track compositions. The design is minimalist, which some users find agreeable for their workflow, while leaving others wanting more. With a little practice, you will be recording audio and MIDI, while experimenting with MuLabs own built-in effects and instruments. It should be noted that the free version of MuLab currently only supports four tracks per compositions, something that you will probably find greatly frustrating if you are working on electronic music.

MuLab 7 Free can be downloaded for Windows and Mac Os here: http://www.mutools.com/mulab-downloads.html

Reaper

 

Scary name, great product. Reaper is, once again, a free trial of a DAW that does require payment. However, unlike the demo versions of MuLab and other high-profile try-before-you-buy DAWs, Reaper is completely functional once you download it. That’s right, every function, every instrument, every feature is yours to use as if you had paid for it. The catch? You have sixty days to sit behind the wheel of this excellent software before your time has come and the reaper comes to claim his payment. But until then, it’s absolutely free and fully functional! If you choose not to continue to use Reaper, then you may absolutely make that decision and you haven’t put a single buck on the table. This is a powerful DAW with a powerful offer that should not be ignored, especially if you’re driven to get the most experience out of the 60-day trial as possible.

Head over to https://www.reaper.fm/ for a download and more information.

Other Free DEMO Versions

As we are starting to see, free DAWs do exist, but they are either limited in functionality or are a demo version of something greater. It is worth mentioning that “lite” versions of industry-standard DAWs do exist and provide an excellent look at what possibilities exist within each software. Many of these “lite” versions come as free downloads with the purchase of various hardware such as audio interfaces and MIDI controllers. If you are interested in trying out a professional DAW and also have your eye on MIDI keyboard to start making your own songs, do your research and see if the hardware comes with any free software downloads. Often times, it will state what software is included on either the packaging or the website from which you are purchasing. Here is a brief list of the most popular “lite” versions of professional DAWs. We have opted not to go in-depth with these demos since we will be reviewing their fully-functional siblings in a later post.

Ableton Live Lite

 

Pro Tools | First

 

Cubase LE

Are You Serious!?

At the end of the day, here’s the question you’ve got to ask yourself: Are you serious about making music? If the answer is no, or a lukewarm “I think so”, then continue on and give one of these free DAWs a try. It might spark something inside you that makes you come back to this question with a resounding “YES”. If your answer is already yes, then it’s important to recognize one thing: You will be using a professional DAW eventually. This can be hard to stomach, especially if you like to do things your own way. Maybe you even feel rebellious recording your entire solo EP with Audacity. That’s fine and true, but the fact remains that professional DAWs are everywhere. Recording engineers, producers, DJs, and other music makers are using them and if you want to be serious too, then eventually you’re going to have to take the plunge. Our recommendation here at Music Buy Guide is simple: Try the demos, maybe have an exclusive relationship with one for a week, then try the next, but eventually it’s important to buy a professional DAW and start getting experience. Remember – the more time you put this off, the less music you’re making.

6 Comments

  1. Hi James,
    I’m a proud Mac user, lol, so I have Garage Band. I don’t use it myself, but my son-in-law does. He’s not a serious musician but does some recording and he loves it for home use.
    I believe they use several different programs where he works if he wants a more professional sound.
    I’ll show him your article for interest’s sake!
    Cheers,
    Suzanne

    1. Author

      Thanks Suzanne! And I hope he can find it useful. Let me know if there is anything you would like help with in the future!

  2. Thank for all your research. I will take advantage of it before making a purchase. This is very helpful.
    Blessings
    Elaine

    1. Author

      No problem Elaine, glad it could come in useful! Happy music making and let me know if you have any future questions!

  3. Hello James,
    Thank you for the Awesome website, I really found the videos and information useful.

    I am currently searching for an easy to use DAW to start out. I have Audacity downloaded, but haven’t tried it yet. After watching one of the introduction videos, I am going to give Reaper a try.

    Thanks again,
    David

    1. Reaper is a one of my favorite “free” DAWs. The fact that you can use its full functionality right out of the gate is amazing and I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. Let me know if you have any other questions, I would be happy to help!

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