What’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌Best‌ Digital‌ ‌Audio‌ ‌Workstation?‌

Two people working with Ableton PushFor more than a century, recording music professionally was left to those with the resources. This meant having their own studios or the money to rent studio space and hire audio engineers or producers. And if you didn’t have the attention of a label, the chance of gaining widespread appeal was next to nothing.

That all began to change around the turn of the century. Music-making technology (808-kick drums, synthesizers, even those old Casio keyboards) began to blossom in the late 70s and 80s, but being able to record music outside of a studio still meant pulling out the tape deck.

Then the first digital audio workstations were created. When home computer use exploded in the late 80s, DAWs became accessible to music makers who didn’t have recording studios and 8 track machines. So it should come as no surprise that EDM and its many sub-genres began growing just as fast as the advent of home digital recording. The software soon permeated all corners of the musical rainbow as artists from around the globe began to rely on these digital platforms.

What is the Best Digital Audio Workstation? Pro Tools vs Ableton vs Logic

Creative professionals in the music production marketplace now have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to equipment. And just like the computer wars (are you a PC or Mac?), most of us tend to stick with a certain brand. There is no brand loyalty quite like there is in the music industry.

For digital audio workstations, Pro Tools, Ableton, and Logic are three of the oldest and most widely used pieces of software. Now, most digital audio workstations have similarities, including a staging area for multiple tracks, instrument libraries, and controls that handle the bass, treble, and so on.

They all record, edit, and mix, so if you’re looking to record music, any one of these DAWs will do. All three are used to produce the biggest hits, year after year. So it really comes down to a personal choice about which features you find most important.

Recording Connection takes a look at these digital audio workstations and breaks down which is best for specific styles, practices, and workflows. While we reviewed the paid versions of these DAWs, their makers Ableton AG, Avid (Pro Tools), and Apple (Logic) all offer free or trial versions, as well.

Pro Tools

The first major DAW the world became familiar with, Pro Tools will always be the baseline for all others. And while we’ve used many other DAWs, there will always be certain features that continue to bring us back. The first of which is the simplicity of use, which could be attributed to the amount of time we spent using it.

Although it’s overwhelming at first, after you’ve learned the basics, making precision edits within Pro Tools becomes quite easy thanks to the grid and counter options. By allowing you to set gridlines (bars, beats, samples, time, etc.), you don’t need to zoom in to see smaller subdivisions of the song.

This is very handy when it comes to replacing samples and creating comp tracks. We’re able to see exact start and end times via the edit counter of any selection made. Pro Tools is tailor-made for recording, giving you complete control over punch-in, pre-roll, post-roll, and other features.

Ableton

In the EDM world, Ableton is often crowned “King DAW.” It was designed with the EDM genre and live DJs in mind, although it is used across a spectrum of musical tastes. The ability to quickly switch sounds is a head-turner. Being able to get your ideas out and then switch samples without resequencing via Sample or Simplr is a laudable feature.

You are able to pass on upfront sound design because there’s no need to re-sequence once you’ve laid your sounds out. Making wholly unique sounds is simple thanks to a large pool of audio and MIDI samples plus the ability to manipulate those sounds is unmatched.

As we said before, it all comes down to personal preference or experience. If you started out using Ableton, you’ll probably stick with Ableton. But it doesn’t hurt to at least try other DAWs to see if there are specific features that hit you right in the sweet spot. But there’s one thing a digital audio workstation can’t do—create great music. That’s up to you.

Logic Pro X

If you have any connections to modern music production, you may be familiar with the following saying. “Record in Pro Tools, Produce in Logic.” There is a bit of truth to that thanks in no small part to the number and the ease of use when it comes to stock instruments, effects, and plugins with Logic Pro compared to Pro Tools.

This DAW offers an outstanding organizational interface and is very intuitive to use. The well-conceived Library tab makes it a snap to load a new instrument to your track. If you’re into using high-quality loops, Logic Pro X offers an amazing amount of options. You can quickly incorporate MIDI and your own samples as well.

The “Drummer” feature, found only on Logic Pro, gives you the freedom to construct drum patterns based on the genre of music you are creating. That comes in handy when you’re trying to quickly get an idea out of your head and onto a track.

What is the Best Digital Audio Workstation for Music Production?

Here’s a quick rundown of common production practices and which DAW we feel offers the most for that specific task, followed by the next best DAW for that use.

Recording Live Instruments

  1. Pro Tools – Editing and recording are relatively straightforward, giving you the sounds that you want.
  2. Logic Pro X
  3. Ableton

Manipulating MIDI

  1. Logic Pro X – Logic’s clear display allows you to easily manipulate MIDI as well as your own samples.
  2. Ableton
  3. Pro Tools

Hip Hop Production

  1. Ableton – Designed for the EDM genre, manipulation is seamless and there are great options for sequencing, sound design, and more.
  2. Logic Pro X
  3. Pro Tools

Scoring to Video

  1. Pro Tools – Although there are limited choices when it comes to stock sounds, the grid and counter options make for fast audio to video syncing.
  2. Logic Pro X
  3. Ableton

File Organization

  1. Logic Pro X – Simply put, Logic Pro X provides the clearest media organization layout.
  2. Ableton
  3. Pro Tools

Audio Editing

  1. Pro Tools – Simplifying the process allows Pro Tools to be quite exacting when it comes to edits.
  2. Logic Pro X
  3. Ableton

Sampling

  1. Ableton – An impressive amount of stock audio effects and automatic warp help you quickly get the job done.
  2. Pro Tools
  3. Logic Pro X

Learn how to Master Digital Audio Workstations from the Music Industry Pros

Are you interested in learning more about how to create your own music? Check out Recording Connection’s wide range of music courses including our music production course, hip hop music courseDJ course, and more. If you are looking to find a Recording Connection music production school near you visit our school location page to find the recording studio to take your music skills to the next level.

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