Just about anyone who has flair for music production or is simply enthusiastic about music has heard the term DAW. It is an acronym for Digital Audio Workstation and is essential software designed for the purpose of recording, editing, and mixing digital audio.
There are primarily two types of digital audio workstations:
- Standalone DAW
- Software DAW
Standalone systems are designed to look like a sound mixing desk that is equipped with an LCD screen. While the standalone DAW is great and has its uses and indeed strengths, this article will be focusing just on software DAWs.
As with every other software program, DAW programs are launched via personal computers such as AppleMacs, Linux, and Windows. Some of the software’s main brand names include the likes of:
- Avid Pro Tools
- Steinberg Cubase
- Apple Logic Pro
- Cakewalk Sonar
- Adobe Audition
- MOTU Digital Performer
- Ableton Live and more
While there are tons of these players available in the music production market, every music producer and artist wants to use the best software to produce their songs and this is where the idea of listing these products and prioritizing them stirs up a debate of which one is the best option for music production. It is important to note that each software and player alike has its strengths and perhaps depending on the user (artist, musician or producer) and circumstance it is being used for.
For the purpose of this article, however, we should be as impartial as we possibly can as we highlight the attributes of these programs.
The evolution of DAW software
Initially, there were 4 different types of music creating software program that existed as their own standalone programs. However, following the evolution of music production, these four individual program functions have all become fused into what we now know to be standard software DAWs.
- The digital audio processor is essentially a program designed for recording, editing, and mixing digital audio information.
- The MIDI sequencer is designed to record, edit and mix MIDI information.
- A virtual instrument a plug-in that accepts MIDI information then assigns it to various pre-recorded sampled sounds.
- A music notation editor enables users to create music by inputting notes straight on to a virtual stave. Essentially digital sheet music.
How does a DAW program work
Depending on the power of your PC (Personal Computer), a DAW is able to record, edit and mix. There are 3 primary components that are necessary for a system like this to function well.
- Personal Computer: This serves as not only the core power provider but also the information processor and in most cases, disk storage place for audio and music data.
- DAW Software: This provides the visual timeline of the music with features necessary to record, edit and mix music.
- Sound Card: Also known as the audio interface. The sound card enables conversion of audio from analogue information to digital information such that the new sound information can be recorded to and played back from the 2 components above.
Some DAW’s can work on any system you use to operate however check before purchasing the music production software to ensure that your OS and your DAW are compatible.
Which is the best DAW?
We cannot possibly end this article without answering the first question that aspiring music producers ask:
“What DAW is the most popular? / Which DAW program is the best?”
Most people consider Pro Tools, Logic or Cubase to be the most popular but we believe that the “best” is very dependent on individual perspective and music production preferences.
While we have promised not to be biased in our judgment of each DAW, based on experience and functionality we say Pro Tools is perhaps the preferred DAW program in the music production business, closely followed by the trio of Logic, Ableton Live, and Cubase.
Your choice of digital audio workstation depends on what music you want to create and your preference of how to create it. It’s all about what works best for you!