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Best DAWs For Making Beats (Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Cubase, & More)

Posted by Juice God on

     

     We know that it's tough to decide which software is the best for making beats. That's why we've pulled together a list of the best DAWs for producing. Let me make a disclaimer. This isn't actually a list of the best DAWs for producing. I've compiled a list of what I believe to be the most popular DAWs among producers. I gathered this information through personal experiences and research. Before going through our Best DAWs countdown, you should consider a few things first.

       DAW is short for Digital Audio Workstation. You can use a DAW to record, mix, master, edit, and produce audio files. If you plan on making music with your computer, you're definitely going to need one of these. 

1. How far along in music production are you? Are you a beginner or advanced? 
2. Are you on a Windows or a Mac computer?
3. Do you use 32-bit plugins like Sylenth?
4. How much do you intend to spend on your next DAW? Nothing? $100? $200? $500? 
5. Does external VST and AU support matter when choosing a DAW? 
6. What style of beats do you make? Do you sample a lot? 
7. Do you record live instruments for your beats? 
8. How important are stock sounds to you? 
9. Are you looking for a drum pad MIDI controller?

     All of these factors are very important to think about before choosing a DAW. You want a DAW that complements your workflow and allows you to get your ideas out as fast as humanly possible. Alright! That's enough talking! Let's get into the list!  

Logic Pro X

       Logic is my favorite DAW (really because it's the only one I use). Apple revamped it's Logic series last year with the 10th release in the franchise. Logic Pro X comes with a whopping 50 GB sound library of instruments and effects. The program is available for Mac computers only.

      New features in this installation of Logic include the Drum Machine Designer, Drum Kit Designer, Enhanced Piano Roll Editor, and Region Based Automation. The easy export options Logic provides lets users bounce tracks to Soundcloud, Final Cut Pro, Airdrop, iTunes, or Mail Drop.

     The addition of Logic Remote allows users to control the program from their iPad as well. Mainstage 3 app is available for those who are looking for a live-performance companion for Logic Pro X. Mainstage 3 transforms your Mac into a highly efficient music making powerhouse. It allows for more processing power by freeing up your memory to focus on music tasks. You can also customize your layout by adding knobs, meters, faders, buttons, etc. This is a must have for live performances.

With a price point of $200, Logic Pro X is a great DAW to start making beats.

Famous Users: Justice League, Metro Boomin, illmind, Kenny Luck, Gwen Stefani, Kay Gee, Rick Rubin, The Roots, Coldplay, and Dave Pensado

The Good: Logic Pro X is really cheap considering how much comes with this DAW. Its a powerful DAW that's great for making most styles of music. If you're looking for a well rounded DAW, Logic Pro X may be right for you.

The Bad: Logic Pro X doesn't support 32-bit plugins. That means you are going to have to download 3rd party software to use plugins like Sylenth.

FL Studio 

       FL Studio is BY FAR the most cracked (illegally downloaded) DAW on this list. It has grown to be known as the "Trap" DAW, after producers like Lex Luger highlighted the simplicity of producing in FL Studio. If you are into beat making videos, you've probably seen Lex Luger in the lab making a beat in 10-15 minutes. His rapid production style shows how quickly you can get ideas out with FL Studio

     Everyone who uses FL Studio seems to love its piano roll. Grossbeat is a FL Studio plugin that's designed for time and volume manipulation effects. This is one of the most unique plugins to come bundled with a DAW. FL Studio comes with 30 instruments and several effects. FL Studio is compatible with 32-bit and 64-bit plugins.

      The update to FL Studio is focused on sound design. Its Bass Drum plugin is a percussion synthesizer with sample layering. Image Line has provided producers a new option for designing their own kicks. The Effector plugin comes with 12 performance oriented effects: Distortion, Lo-Fi bit reduction, Flanging, Phasing, Filter (low/high pass), Delay, Reverb, Stereo Panning & Binaural Effect, Gating, Granulizer, Vocal Formant and Ring Modulation.

       FL Studio is available in three versions: Fruity Edition ($99), Producer Edition ($199), and the signature bundle ($299).

Famous Users: Mike Will Made It, Lex Luger, Sledgren, Southside, TM88, Tarentino, Sonny Digital, Johnny Juliano, Jahlil Beats, Cardiak, Hit-Boy, Avicii, Deadmau5, Wondagurl, Afrojack, 9th Wonder, and Boi-1da.

The Good: FL Studio makes it easy to "bass bend". You can throw any WAV sample in FL Studio and easily apply a glide to it. If you are looking for a DAW that extremely efficient, FL Studio is worth exploringFL Studio is also affordable compared to other major DAWs.

The Bad: FL Studio is not available on Mac operating systems. If you have an Apple computer, you are going to have to bootcamp it to run the Image Line program. It's also rumored that the audio quality of FL Studio is slightly worse than the other major DAWs. That's just a rumor though. I don't have any data to support that claim. 

Cubase

     Cubase comes with 3,000 instrument presets and 1,500 effects presets in the Pro version. This music creation program is available on Windows and Mac platforms.  The newest version of Cubase comes with the redesigned MixConsole and Chord TrackChord Track is really useful for those producers wanting to quickly map out a harmonic progression.

     The Cubase update includes several effect plugins: Quadrafuzz v2, VST Bass Amp, Multiband Envelope Shaper, Multiband Expander, Deesser, Multiband Compressor, and Tuner.

    Cubase is available in Cubase Elements ($99.99), Cubase Artist Full Version ($299.99), and Cubase Pro Full Version ($549.99)

Famous Users: Superstar O, Cirkut, Hector Delgado, Jake Gosling, M-Phazes, Tiesto,  and Zedd

The Good: Steinberg (the company that makes Cubase) has lots software and hardware that's designed to work with Cubase. If you are looking for a DAW to use as a compositional tool, you should consider Cubase. 

The Bad: Cubase isn't Steinberg's only DAW. That means they're not completely focused on making Cubase the best DAW out. 

GarageBand

      Garageband is the only free (well technically free for Mac users) DAW on the list. Garageband is aimed towards the beginner musicians. It comes bundled with several guitar and piano lessons for users to learn the basics. The program really is a baby version of Logic Pro X. It comes bundled with instruments, effects, and loops.  

     Like it's older brother, Logic, GarageBand is incompatible with 32-bit plugins so say goodbye to Sylenth. You can shell out 5 bucks for additional GarageBand content designed to work with the app. Extra sounds, drummers, loops, and Learn To Play music lessons are at your disposal.

Famous Users: T-Pain, Kate Nash, Fred Durst, Fallout Boy, Nine Inch Nails, Seal

The Good: GarageBand is pretty easy to use overall. If you're new to making beats, GarageBand is a good option to start learning the ropes. It comes already installed on MacBooks and iMacs so there's no extra software to buy. 

The Bad: GarageBand has major restrictions. If you are an advanced beatmaker, GarageBand is probably too basic for you. The older versions of GarageBand can't open projects created with the newest version. If you're a PC user, you won't be able to use GarageBand on your computer.

Pro Tools

       Pro Tools has been known as the "industry standard" DAW for several years now. Musicians tend to use Pro Tools for recording, mixing, and mastering, but it can be used for producing too! The program is compatible with Windows and Mac computers.

     Pro Tools shines the most when it comes to recording and editing audio. If you like to use real instruments on your beats, Pro Tools may be the best solution for you. Its Loop Recording and Quickpunch features let you assemble the ideal recording from multiple takes.

       Pro Tools is still a legitimate option if you don't use live instruments that often. The DAW comes with a variety of virtual synths, drums, instruments, and loops. Pro Tools supports 256 tracks at once for you monster users out there! 

      Avid is developing the online functionality of Pro Tools. This year they are introducing a cloud based collaboration platform where users can work together via internet. Avid also included an in app marketplace in Pro Tools 12 for users to buy additional content. This is definitely something you're going to want to keep your eye on.  

Pro Tools 12 with upgrade plan is available for $899.

Famous Users: Dave Pensado, Bangladesh, Jake One, Harry Fraud, JR Rotem, Zaytoven

The Good: Pro Tools is what a lot of industry people use for recording, mixing, and mastering. Developing skills in Pro Tools will definitely help you down the road as long as you're still making music. If you are looking to engineer and produce, Pro Tools may be the best option for you.

The Bad: Pro Tools only supports 64 bit AAX VSTs and plugins so make sure your favorite programs are compatible before making the switch. 

Maschine 

      Maschine is both hardware and software for making beats on Windows and Mac computers. It comes with an 8 GB sound library and Native Instruments products like Massive, Reaktor Prism, Scarbee Mark 1, and Solid Bus Comp

      Maschine is more flexible than your typical DAW. You can load Maschine as a plugin in another DAW for sampling or drum programming. Even though this is an impressive feature, I personally haven't been able to use it with Logic Pro X because it crashes every time :( However, I do like Maschine's Drum Synth. It's easy to use and helpful for creating custom drum sounds.

      For those of you who make beats on the go, you can sketch ideas in the iMaschine app and transfer them to your DAW later. Its pretty useful as it comes with a voice recorder, sampler, and sequencer. 

      Maschine is one of the best DAWs for sampling. Its audio editing features allow for users to trim and chop samples very quickly. There are several options for assigning audio clips to the Maschine pads. If you like sampling and/or finger drumming, you definitely need to explore Maschine

Maschine is available in 3 versions: Maschine ($599), Maschine Studio ($799), and Maschine Mikro ($349). Even though there are 3 options available, the software is the same for each one. The hardware controller is the thing that varies.

Maschine Mikro

Maschine ($349)

Maschine

Maschine ($599)

Maschine Studio

Maschine Studio ($799)

Famous Users: Sledgren, Lex Luger, Bryan Michael Cox, El-P, Jeremy Ellis, Ski Beatz, F Major, 

The Good: Maschine comes with an outstanding library of drums and percussion sounds. I believe Maschine has the best stock drum sounds to ever come with a DAW. These sounds are usable and inspiring! If you like physically playing your drum patterns, you should consider Maschine as an option.

The Bad: I feel like Maschine is tedious to use as a DAW. Whenever I try to make a beat using Maschine, I feel so lost. I struggle to figure out how to sequence my beat properly in the program. Some producers have success with Maschine though so don't let my experiences dictate how you feel about it. 

Ableton Live

 

      Ableton Live is another great DAW for making beats on Windows and Mac platforms. It comes fully loaded with 4000 audio loops, 390 drum kits, 5 synthesizers, and 3 samplers. Ableton Live features signature drum collections from Daniel Miller, Soniccouture, Flatpack and Puremagnetik.

      The newest version of Ableton boasts some great features for capturing ideas quickly. It includes a "melody to MIDI" and a "drum to MIDI" function that allows you to record live instruments and convert that input to MIDI information. 

      The Ableton update places all sounds in an easy to navigate view. You will be able to quickly locate your VSTs, instruments, packs, and effects while you're making beats. 

     Like Maschine, Ableton Live is designed to work with its own hardware controller, Push. The Push control pad gives producers the tools necessary to create and sequence beats on the fly. The controller comes with 64 pads and is highly customizable. Push was designed by the creative minds at Akai Professional. 

      You can easily hook up your MIDI controller to Ableton and go to work. It's compatible with most controllers and automatically maps controls to the most popular ones.

Ableton Live comes in three versions: Lite ($99), Standard ($499), and Suite ($749).

Famous Users: El-P, Ski Beatz, ID Labs, Daft Punk, Diplo, M83

The Good: Ableton Live is great for live performances as the name suggests. If you want a DAW made to work with a specific MIDI controller, take a closer look at Ableton Live. 

The Bad: The development of the audio hardware Push may have taken away from the development of Ableton Live. The program is also on the expensive side compared to other DAWs.

Reason

     Propellerhead's Reason is available on Windows and Mac platforms. The DAW comes with 9 instruments and 25 effects. The stock effects include compressor, phaser, delay, reverb, distortion, chorus, and flanger.  If the stock instruments aren't enough for you, you can get some Rack Extensions from the Propellerhead Store. Hopefully, those Reason Refills are enough to hold you over because the program does not support VSTs or Audio Units. 

      Reason is a unique DAW in that once you go Reason you don't go back. Its lack of plugin support and distinct workflow encourages users to completely delve into Reason's creation process. You're either gonna love this DAW or hate it. 

Reason is available in two versions: Reason Essentials ($99) and Reason 8 ($399).

Famous Users: DJ Mustard, DJ Lucky Date, Cid Rim, The Runners, Scott Storch, David Banner

The Good: Reason makes the process of sampling easier by providing users with a variety of audio editing options. I can't think of another DAW that compares to Reason's virtual rack design either. If most of your beats are sampled or created with live instruments, Reason could be the best fit for you.

The Bad: Reason has major restrictions against using third party plugins within the software. You're pretty much left with Rack Extensions as your only option for getting new VSTs into the program. Reason does not have video support or surround mixing. Reason doesn't have a crossfade feature for blending overlapping audio clips.

Honorable Mention DAWs that didn't make the list: Mixcraft, Sony Creative Software Acid, MuTools MuLab, Steinberg Nuendo, Magix Samplitude Pro X, and Bitwig Studio.

     In conclusion, you're going to have to decide which DAW fits your production needs. The best DAW for you heavily depends on the computer you have. Be sure to try a demo of the DAW you're interested in before you buy it.

      There's no substitution for being a great musician. You're going to have to have great music making skills to make great music using any program. You need to commit to a DAW and learn all of its features to get the most out of it.

     What do you guys think? What's your favorite DAW? What are the pros and cons of the DAW you use? Leave some feedback in the comments section below!  


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6 comments

  • This is a nice post. I read this whole post and I’m really surprised that there is no mention of the digital performer. Best digital pianos

    Md Jasim on
  • Here’s the deal: If you have a Mac, get LogicProX, no question! That’s all you really need. If you use Windows, get REAPER, and make beats with FL studio (or Hydrogen and LMMS if you don’t want to spend the money, but it doesn’t compare to FL studio for quality). REAPER is the best DAW that I’ve used on Windows, and it’s free (or 60$ if you want to support the developers). REAPER is seriously no joke, it’s not only very intuitive (for a DAW…), but it’s SUPER functional and has a huge and active community. People just don’t even realize it…. I would use REAPER over ProTools any day.

    I’ll continue by saying that I’ve tested and tried many DAWs, mostly Cubase, Audacity, FL studio, LogicProX, REAPER, Hydrodgen, and LMMS. I’ve poked at a few others, such as ProTools, but I’ve really dug into those mentioned in depth. I would say that I didn’t like ProTools or Cubase. ProTools was lame for many reasons, mainly because they are overly priced and SUPER proprietary, and I just didn’t see a reason to use it at all when compared to what else is out there.

    In my opinion (that nobody cares about because nobody knows me), Logic Pro X is “best” DAW out there, and I say that in terms of quality of plugins and samples that are available, capability, and value. You get ALOT for 200$, and it’s not just the relatively low cost, the sample qualities are nearly unmatched, and though it’s a bit hard to figure out certain functionality at first, it makes sense once you learn how features work. Things may change down the road… but LogicProX is the best right now. As one example for, if you compare to FL studio for cost alone… you will pay over 700$ to get all the features, that doesn’t even touch the features that are available on LogicProX, not to mention the $500+ price difference, and FL studio can’t touch the general DAW capability of LogicProX anyways, though it’s better for quickly making electronic beats. ***also, with FL studio, you get all future versions and updates if you buy it once, you will have to buy each version of LogicPro, though they hardly EVER have new versions, so that’s not really a factor, and you obviously get all future updates on LogicProX, so their is nothing more to buy after the initial $200.

    If you don’t use a Mac, get REAPER! It’s amazing. It’s solid, reliable, free to use with 100% functionality (but donate the 60$ to be nice!), and the ONLY thing it lacks are very high quality samples. For mixing and editing, it’s king on Windows, and I compare that to ProTools and Cubase for ease-of-use and workflow. If you want to start adding samples and use piano-roll editing, that’s where it lacks in quality. If you want to tie a drum machine to it, then Hydrogen is THE BEST DRUM EDITOR OUT THERE…and it’s free… it does NOT have good sound samples, but for creating the MIDI patterns, panning/mixing them, etc… the workflow cannot be beat. I wish LogicProX would build a MIDI drum editor exactly like Hydrogen. From Hydrogen, you can simply export the MIDI file to any DAW (such as REAPER), and apply your samples or instrument or whatever to it, so if you want to sound professional, us it only for the super easy workflow and excellent pattern organization. If you are happy with the sound samples that are available in Hydrogen, then you can always export them as an audio file…and that may work for you depending on the sound you’re going for, I just don’t think they sound very “realistic”, but music is relative and people may want those sounds. To be fair, programs like Hydrogen and LMMS are community-driven, so the samples are created for free by enthusiasts… some sound great, most sound very low quality. It will take alot of your time to sort through the crap, or you have to spend lots of time making your own samples. LMMS is the best free comparison to FL studio, and the samples are “OK”… but it takes some work to figure it out, so keep the wiki/handbook up for searching how to do functionality. I would REALLY recommend just buying FL studio, though. The samples that are readily available in LogicProX and FLstudio are AWESOME, and they are ready to go, so it’s worth the money to save you crazy amounts of time that you would spend filtering through “free” samples to find good stuff, or making your own, which is not worth it when you can quickly find an excellent paid sample and quickly manipulate it to make it unique for yourself.

    I could go on and on, but that would be another article, lol…. In short, to recap: Get LogicProX if can afford to buy a MacBookPro. If you don’t have or can’t get a MacBookPro, and you use Windows, get REAPER for your DAW, use Hydrogen to create your MIDI drum pattern/sequences, and buy FL studio to build electronic sounds and to get excellent sound samples. Or just use REAPER and FL studio if you don’t want another program in the chain and FLstudio works for your drum editing.

    Again, nobody knows me, but I DO know what I’m talking about, and maybe this ridiculously long comment will help somebody get some ideas to do some research, if they don’t want to take my word for it. : )

    me on
  • I’m really surprised there’s no mention of Cockos Reaper here. But along with Maschine I’d say it’s the best designed DAW by far with minimum CPU load and maximum functionality and its free to try out for 60 days. Pro Tools has a free version out as well now but it’s not as intuitive as Reaper but still pretty good.

    Suro Nakamichi on
  • No mention of Digital Performer? I’ve been making electronic music with it for over 2 decades now. It’s automation features are still the best of any DAW. For example sine, triangle, sawtooth automation drawing tools: and its snapshot automation features that can morph between user assigned plugin presets is an amazing sound design tool. As for beat making the pattern brush feature in the drum editor is still one of my favorites!

    Miah on
  • Thank you for all this info!

    jb on

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