electronic music

Best Free DAW 2017

While we create music on our computers we want to play fair. We save pennies and cents to buy the license of the best DAW possible. But for beginners and non-professionals Digital Audio Workstations are quite expensive.

An image with computer and a hardware controller
DAW software is important but the hardware is essential!

During our software compatibility tests and daily work we have tested many software and hardware configurations. We have also proved that there are free DAW platforms that at least deserve some attention. Our experience in this terms is up-to-date and I would like to present you our selection of free audio editing software for 2017. In this article I will list the most important ones. I will divide the list into two main sections. The distinction is based on developer companies size and type.

In the first section I am going to describe the free versions of some major DAW software. They are well known, but not necessarily their free versions are popular. There are particular reasons why, though.

The second section of this article will feature some free and open-source digital audio workstations. They are less known than commercial ones but mostly they provide at least decent functionality and in some cases they can even enter the competition with their expensive alternatives.

Free commercial DAW programs

Apple Garageband

It is preinstalled on each new Mac computer. Even if from some reasons you own a Mac without Garageband, you can still download it for free from the Apple website. Nice, isn’t it? Especially if you realize that in fact this is in fact a bit stripped version of their Logic PRO software!

PreSonus Studio One Prime

We received much support from PreSonus Company in terms of creating our Studio One sample packs category. This workstation is a very powerful and versatile tool. To show everyone how great their software is, the company released the free version of their software. It has some limitations and works more like a demo version than a fully operational DAW. But still it is an option worth checking.

Magix Music Maker (Ex. Sony Acid)

This is a new position in the range of free DAWs. The Magix company decided to release the free version of their software earlier in 2017 and it immediately gained much attention as it is in fact the previous version of Music Maker.

Tracktion T5

This free DAW is a proof that what is a new practice in some companies, the other ones treat as a tradition. Tracktion attracts new users by releasing their older software for free as soon as they develop the newer version. In addition to that, if you buy some of Behringer or Mackie products, you can get for free the T6 version. Here you can download Tracktion T5 DAW for free.

Mulab Free

Mutools might not get the attention it deserves. It is the lightest and smallest in terms of installer size, DAW I have ever used. It does not need installation. Just download, unpack, do a basic audio setup and you are ready to go! Mutools can run on 15 year old machine with Windows XP as well as on a brand new multi-core beast. It is easy to learn and provides effects configuration similar to hardware cable and effects setup. You can arrange the VSTs and other plugins as easy as you draw lines in a basic graphic editor.
The free Mutools edition has some limitations listed on the Mulab website however if you are not pro, you will not need most of them. And when you turn pro, you can always save some extra bucks: the paid version Mulab is also very affordable!

Free, freeware and open-source DAW software

Audacity

Audacity is not 100% DAW. But it is 100% free. And it is able to do almost as much as Adobe Audition. It is mostly used to record, slice and clean up sounds. This tool is great for musicians recording their rehearsals or field recording enthusiasts. The interface is quite old-fashioned but all the functions are easy to access. Feel free to check the Audacity website. It is very sad that the only kind of samples that you can work with here are loops sample packs.

Ardour

Another great free and open-source platform. It provides the full functionality of a great free DAW program. It is the most complete and advanced audio editing software available for free at the moment. Some of its features are even not present in its paid rival software. On the Ardour website you will find its features list and download links.

Its only drawback is that you need to compile the software to make it work. There are several good tutorials how to do this on the Internet so there is nothing to fear. To compile means that you need to change the raw source code available for free into a program installer.

OHM Studio

Have you ever tried to work in real-time over the Internet? OHM Studio supports this feature nicely and provides a stable and quite complete work environment for your new music project to be born and raised. It is like Google Docs for music creation! You don’t have to be in the same room, or even on the same continent! You can check the OHM website and see for yourself!

Podium Free

Zynewave found its a way to promote their paid DAW version among new users. It is being developed as independent freeware version of Podium and can be found at Zynewave website. The software provides all the functionality needed to create a complete music project. The project gains more attention each year and is developed by very small company in person of Frits Nielsen since 1990.

Which free DAW is the best for me?

As you see, there is plenty of free DAW software in 2017 available for direct download. Which one is the best? Honestly, it depends. While choosing your free DAW you should consider:

  • Are you a professional music creator or composer? If so, consider using a demo version to learn the software features and after that buy a free version. Just be fair with yourself and others.
  • If you just started or you are still gathering money for the big one license, consider Garageband, Tracktion or Ardour. As for me, these are the Top 3 Free DAW platforms. They have the less limitations and you can easily create complete music projects for free and 100% legal.
  • If you like to experiment and try out something different – here is a field for you! Try each out! And, as a bonus I can recommend you another two free DAW projects:

Maybe the time comes for the commercial DAW developers to think more about releasing more free versions of their products?

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