Best Free DAW for Windows in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

  • James Parker
  • January 27, 2022

The industry standard DAW (digital audio workstation) is constantly being created with the intention of helping people make their music creation dreams come true. But with so many different ones to choose from, it is hard to know which one will bring your creativity alive.

This article dives into the best free versions of DAW for Windows. We’ll review the top DAW software and tell you about the features of each. We will also share our likes and dislikes about the programs. 

Why trust us? We review products daily for our devoted readers to help them with their buying decisions. They value our honest and unbiased opinions and we really appreciate them putting their trust in us.

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
mpc-beats-laptopK 1. MPC Beats
  • This is a full-featured program
  • The included loops are excellent
  • The included compression is very clean and great for mastering
CHECK PRICE
podium 2. Podium Free
  • It’s easy to use, and has lots of good options to help you make music quickly and easily
  • Has some pretty good tutorials and tutorials that are well written and very detailed
CHECK PRICE
wave 3. Waveform
  • Runs on any platform
  • Lots of tools for beginners and experts
CHECK PRICE
reaper daw 4. Reaper
  • Very powerful
  • Truly lets you make the program anything you want it to be
  • Plenty of plugin support
CHECK PRICE
cakewalk 5. Cakewalk by Bandlab
  • Lightweight but powerful
  • Minimal interface
  • Scratch feature is great!
CHECK PRICE

1. MPC Beats

mpc-beats-laptopK

Specification

PRICEFREE
OSWINDOWS, MAC
COMPATIBILITYVST/AU
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSWINDOWS 10, 8 OR WINDOWS 7 SERVICE PACK 1

MPC Beats is a powerful and feature-packed DAW that is available for free. It has a great set of pre-built loops for mastering and to add layers to your project. Also, it comes with a long list of features. It’s one of the more feature-packed tools in this list, but it doesn’t necessarily top them all.

WHAT WE LIKE

The program itself has a big influence on the quality of a recording. MPC is considered one of the best music production DAWs in the world. However, it is quite old and lacks some of the more contemporary features that users want to use in 2016. MPC does not include a mixer. It has basic EQ, although it also has a tool to edit EQs later. There is no MIDI-track, which means that it cannot be used with hardware MIDI-controllers. It’s not a bad thing that it doesn’t have these functions – but it would have made it even better.

However, MPC Beats brings a new MPC-like interface that is almost all customizable. This means you can make some minor changes and it will still look similar to the original version.

WHAT WE DONT LIKE

First, the interface is poorly designed, and the program isn’t well organized. Second, the interface has a steep learning curve, especially for beginners.

PROS

  • This is a full-featured program
  • The included loops are excellent
  • The included compression is very clean and great for mastering

CONS

  • The interface is pretty basic and limited
  • There is a limited set of MIDI mapping options
  • Keyboard and mouse input is limited, for a DAW for Windows

2. Podium Free

podium

Specification

PRICEFREE
OSWINDOWS
COMPATIBILITYVST
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS32-BIT AND 64-BIT WINDOWS

Podium Free, (Podium is a Unity company that has been acquired by Sony, a gaming company and now has its own studio) has a large number of features, including live performance, multiple audio and video channels, collaborative features and great effects.

The free version is still in beta but is generally comparable with the pro version. If you do decide to upgrade, you can get additional plugins, a session cap and everything else that you need. It is available to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux (for all three).

WHAT WE LIKE

It’s easy to use and has easy to use export plug-ins that help you make great sounding and easy to edit and share your music.

WHAT WE DONT LIKE

Very little to complain about except there seems to be any VST3 support.

PROS

  • It’s easy to use, and has lots of good options to help you make music quickly and easily
  • Has some pretty good tutorials and tutorials that are well written and very detailed

CONS

  • No VST3 support
  • Free version is limited in scope

3. Waveform

wave

Specification

PRICEFREE
OSWINDOWS, MAC, UBUNTU, RASPBERRY PI
COMPATIBILITYVST/AU
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSWINDOWS, MAC AND  UBUNTU 64-BIT
RASPBERRY PI (32-BIT)

We find that this DAW is one of the most interesting around, due to its cross compatibility. 

Packed with full-featured sound and performance tools, this program has most everything a person can ask for in an audio editing tool.

Waveform is a particularly good option for vocalists. It has a section for editing voice overs and is easy to use.

The program has plenty of virtual instruments, as well.

WHAT WE LIKE

You can make use of a vast selection of instruments, and the pre-programmed sets include sample playback. You can make use of an advanced VST (Virtual Stereo) effect for making your sound richer, and even import your own samples and live instruments.

WHAT WE DONT LIKE

In our opinion, Waves’ line of products tend to be a bit old. We found Waves’ previous versions less intuitive to use. However, the latest version of Waveform brings with it many new features that may tempt you to give it a try. Wavetable 4.1 was released in 2014 and in the 4.1 release, a new user interface has been added and a lot of stability improvements have been made.

PROS

  • Runs on any platform
  • Lots of tools for beginners and experts

CONS

  • A bit dated

4. Reaper

reaper daw

Specification

PRICEFREE 60 DAY TRIAL
OSWINDOWS, MAC, LINUX
COMPATIBILITYVST/AU
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSWINDOWS: XP/VISTA/7/8/10 (32 OR 64-BIT)
MACOS: 10.5-11 (BIG SUR)
LINUX: REQUIRES GTK+3 AND ALSA

Reaper is a very interesting DAW that works with Windows and Macs. It lets you import anything you need to make your music such as MIDI and other synths. You can even make your own menus, toolbars and much more. 

Items can be dragged and dropped to make the program what you need it to be for music production. 

WHAT WE LIKE

Lots of options let you expand your musical horizons. We also like the rather extensive (at least 400 pages) manual. Believe us, you will need it.

WHAT WE DONT LIKE

This is a complex program that beginners may have difficulty with. 

PROS

  • Very powerful
  • Truly lets you make the program anything you want it to be
  • Plenty of plugin support

CONS

  • Steep learning curve

5. Cakewalk by Bandlab

cakewalk

Specification

PRICEFREE
OSWINDOWS
COMPATIBILITYVST3/AU/ARA
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSWINDOWS 7 OR HIGHER (64-BIT ONLY)

Cakewalk is a brand from a well known maker of live performing instruments called Roland. The software comes with a wealth of great features including MIDI sequencing, audio processing, loops and Instruments for creation and performance.

Cakewalk Pro comes with a great set of features which, apart from music creation, help one produce and edit videos. It also comes with a suite of other video editing tools, including slow motion effects, stabilization, video editing and so on. The software is very versatile, and can be used for a number of different purposes.

Cakewalk Pro (32 bit) – FREE

Cakewalk Pro (64 bit) – $99.95

As usual, cakewalk is the best choice for people who want to learn how to use the most powerful computer software ever invented.

WHAT WE LIKE

Cakewalk Studio Audio Software is very lightweight compared to the big DAWs. The program is focused on producing audio content, not editing it. As a result, it is easier for new musicians to use it with a minimalistic interface.

One of the major attractions is its ease of use. The program is simple and doesn’t require any knowledge of coding to operate. It is also friendly to beginners as it does not have many options or instruments.

One of the best features of Cakewalk Studio Audio is its most famous “Cakewalk Scratch” tool. The Scratch tool allows you to create any kind of scratch to record any music that you like.

WHAT WE DONT LIKE

Nothing to complain about

PROS

  • Lightweight but powerful
  • Minimal interface
  • Scratch feature is great!

CONS

  • May be too bare bones for some

Conclusion

Thanks so much for sticking with us to the end of this article about the best free DAW for Windows. 

After a lot of research and testing, we have found out that all three programs have their pluses and minuses. They also have some amazing features that separate them from the rest. However, all three of them have their pros and cons, so we decided to choose the top three best free DAW for Windows.

So after thorough research, the three programs have been picked. However, it’s important to know that they do have limitations. Other than that, we feel you will enjoy any of these DAW programs. Happy Music Making!