Five Free DAWS For Windows & MAC
Post date:Fri, 08/17/2018 - 10:53
Although most vintage synthesizer enthusiasts would no doubt prefer a room full of hardware, there can be doubt that software synths have come a long way. However, to make use of the myriad of soft synths that are available, you need a MIDI controller as well as a digital audio workstation. Both of these have numerous options to choose from, but in the case of digital audio workstations, you actually have a large number that are completely free. We have already taken a look at some of the best options that can be found on iOS and Linux, so here is a closer look at the options that Windows and MAC users have to choose from.
Cakewalk by Bandlab (Windows)
Download Link: https://www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk
It was quite a shock when Gibson announced that they are discontinuing the development of call Cakewalk products, including the popular SONAR DAW. This DAW was from the same generation as Cubase and Logic, which made it one of the few tools to survive so many decades. To make matters worse, many users of the Cakewalk products were paying subscription fees for "lifetime" ownership of the products. However, BandLab, a Singapore-based company stepped in and announced that not only are they now supporting Cakewalk SONAR, but they are also relaunching it as a free DAW. The result was Cakewalk by Bandlab, which is basically the DAW along with the entire SONAR Platinum feature set. The downside is that some of the third party products and content bundles are no longer included, although this doesn't affect existing users who have already purchased these. A lot of free or "lite" versions of DAWs cripple some of their functionality, but Cakewalk offers the ability to record unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, built-in mastering tools, advanced mixing tools, as well as support for VST3 and more.
MuLab Free (Windows / Mac OSX)
Download Link: http://www.mutools.com/mulab-product.html
MuLab Free has a couple of features that make it very enticing for synth fans on a tight budget, but unfortunately it does come with a couple of restrictions. The good news is that it gives you a streamlined and versatile mixing desk, easy modular architecture, multi-core CPU support and integrated synths, samplers and effects. In addition, it has a versatile step sequencer and arpeggiator, support for audio and MIDI VST plug-ins and gives you the freedom to mix MUX modules and VST plug-ins. While this DAW can be used for free, it also has an "unlimited mode" which requires payment if you want to upgrade. Doing so lifts a couple of limitations, such as increasing the number of tracks per composition from four to unlimited, as well as increasing the number of VST plug-ins per project from eight to unlimited.
Tracktion 6 (Windows / Mac / Linux)
Download Link: https://www.tracktion.com/products/t6-daw
For free DAW that truly is free without any limitations, restrictions or upgrades, look no further than T6 DAW from Tracktion. It is a very decent DAW for beginners and offers everything you need to get started. This includes full audio and MIDI recording as well as unique features such as warp time audio editing and the time correction tool kit. Compared to previous versions, the latest version of Tracktion also sports an improved plugin management system, dedicated sub-mix and automation tracks as well as a powerful audio compiling tool. Users hungry for more can make use of the Marketplace hub that is part of the software to find new content.
Ohm Studio (Windows / Mac)
Download Link: http://www.ohmstudio.com/
Ohm Studio does things a little differently from other digital audio workstations as it is the first to offer online real-time collaboration. When recording tracks or working with MIDI, the tracks are all available to every member of your project. Ohm Studio has a traditional mixer view along with the option to view all your racks in a modular fashion where you can connect them together with virtual cables. Although the program itself is rather basic compared to other digital audio workstations, it covers all the essentials and the collaboration features are great if you want to create music with other people.
Podium Free (Windows)
Download Link: https://zynewave.com/podium-free/
While Podium is a commercial DAW, you also have the option to make use of the free ware edition, called Podium Free. It is still a fully functional digital audio workstation, but obviously comes with a couple of limitations compared to the full version. In fact, you can even make use of Podium Free for commercial purposes if you wish. It is still a complete audio and MIDI multi tracking environment, complete with full VST support, but the MIDI interface setup is limited to one input and one output while the 64-bit mixer engine option is also disabled. If you can live with these limitations, it is still a great DAW and a good introduction to the software to try out before purchasing the full version.
The five digital audio workstations mentioned above are by no means the only ones as programs like Soundbridge (https://soundbridge.io/), Ardour (https://community.ardour.org/download), and Pro Tools First (http://www.avid.com/pro-tools-first) are also available. Let us know in the comments or on the forum what you think of free DAWs, whether they are worth it compared to paid versions and what your digital audio workstation of choice is.