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

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!

Best Macs for Music Production in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

You don’t have to have the fastest computer in the world in order to produce music. But if you are in the market for a new machine, making sure to get one that will optimize your music production capabilities is a great idea. Alternatively, if you feel like your hardware is really slowing you down, a new computer might be the piece you need to speed up your workflow and turn your ideas into songs. Both Mac and Windows computers are optimized wonderfully for producing music from home these days, but Macs do have a few perks that set them apart in the eyes of many users. If you use Garageband or Logic, for example, you will have to produce on a Mac, barring the hassle of finding a PC workaround. Today, we are going to look at some of the best modern Mac computers for producing your own music, comparing them based on their specifications and features. If you are looking for a new Mac, this review should give you some inspiration. 

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
2020 Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display (27-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage) 1. Apple iMac 2020 27″ 3.3GHZ i5
  • Large built-in Retina display
  • SSD Storage
  • Included keyboard, mouse, camera, speakers
CHECK PRICE
Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage) - (2020) - Z12N000G0 2. Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip
  • Affordable
  • Powerful CPU
  • Lots of RAM
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2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Processor (13-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) - Space Gray 3. Apple MacBook Pro 13″
  • Portable
  • Lots of storage
  • Lots of memory
CHECK PRICE
2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray 4. Apple MacBook Pro 16″
  • Portable
  • Lots of storage
  • Fast processor
CHECK PRICE
2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray 5. Apple iMac 2020 27″ i7 3.8 GHZ i7
  • Large built-in Retina display
  • SSD Storage
  • Fast processor
CHECK PRICE

1. Apple iMac 2020 27″ 3.3GHZ i5

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2020 Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display (27-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage)

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2020 Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display (27-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage)

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2020 Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display (27-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage)

Features

  • 5k, 27-inch Retina Display
  • 6 core intel i5
  • 256/512 GB SSD Storage
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • Camera
  • Speaker
  • Mics
  • Mouse and Keyboard

In terms of desktops, the 2020 iMac is perfectly suited for producing music in a number of ways. One of the most striking and noticeable features of this computer is its built-in display. While the vast majority of desktop computers have traditionally required an external monitor as a display, Apple has wrapped the monitor and computer into one in striking fashion. Their famous Retina display is here and capable of displaying in 5k, and the monitor’s ample 27-inch size will allow you to get a lot done on one screen. When it comes to music production, it is important to have enough space to work, and this display is perfect for the job. On the inside, this computer has a 3.1 GHZ intel core i5 processor, which is enough for smooth performance in the vast majority of home production scenarios. It also has SSD storage, which is crucial for production. Solid state drives, or SSDs, are significantly faster than traditional hard drives, allowing you to load software and other information stored on them very quickly. The iMac comes with either 256 or 512 GB of SSD storage. We recommend using this built in storage for your most-used software and files, and a cheaper external hard drive for everything else if you need more storage. 

PROS

  • Large built-in Retina display
  • SSD Storage
  • Included keyboard, mouse, camera, speakers

CONS

  • Not portable
  • Advanced producers may want more RAM
  • Some may need external storage

Especially if you are a relatively new producer, this iMac has everything you could want. Its 8GB of RAM is more than adequate for most projects, and the integrated, all-in-one design of the machine is beautiful and efficient. For ease of use and built-in features, you can’t go wrong here.

2. Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip

Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage) - (2020) - Z12N000G0

Features

  • 256 GB SSD storage
  • Apple M1 processor 
  • 16 GB of RAM

The Mac Mini has long been an affordable and reliable desktop computer, and this newer model packs a lot of power for its small size. While it has nowhere near as much baked in as the iMac – you will need your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse – this computer is perfect for those who do not need the iMac’s complete package. One of the most exciting features of this machine is the inclusion of Apple’s fairly new M1 chip, which can outperform standard intel chips in many scenarios. Processing power is one of the most important specs in terms of music production, so this computer may be right for you if you work with a lot of very large or intensive projects. It also has 16 GB of RAM, which, while it is more than most home producers need, is useful for demanding projects that involve aspects like video editing. Like the iMac, it has 256 GB of solid state storage. 

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Powerful CPU
  • Lots of RAM

CONS

  • No included display
  • Only 256 GB of storage available
  • No mouse, keyboard, or camera included

Especially if you have your own external equipment such as monitors and keyboards, the Mac Mini is an incredibly cost-effective option for producing your own music. Its specs are excellent and will provide you with enough memory and processing power to make any kind of music you want. It could include more storage, but this is easily remedied with an external HDD.

3. Apple MacBook Pro 13″

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2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Processor (13-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) - Space Gray

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2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Processor (13-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) - Space Gray

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2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Processor (13-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) - Space Gray

Features

  • 13-inch Retina Display
  • 512 GB/1 TB of SSD storage
  • Quad core intel i5 processor
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Camera
  • Speaker
  • Mic

If you prefer to take the portable route, you probably want a MacBook Pro. Long the gold standard for laptops, these computers continue to get better and better each year. This 2020 Pro comes packaged with a 13-inch retina display and quad-core intel i5 processor. One of the most impressive features here is the option for either 512 GB or 1 TB of SSD storage. SSD storage is both much faster and much more expensive than HDD storage, so having up to a terabyte of it built in is a huge plus. Of course, since this is a laptop, you have a keyboard, mouse, camera, and microphone built in, along with some nice Mac features like the MacBook Pro touchbar controls.

PROS

  • Portable 
  • Lots of storage
  • Lots of memory

CONS

  • Processor could be more updated
  • Relatively small display size
  • Trackpad is not as precise as a mouse

This is a great basic MacBook Pro for people who like to produce music on a laptop. Using a laptop lets you take your work anywhere, which is a great option to have. The storage and RAM on this machine are its main selling points. While the processor could be a bit stronger, you will be more than set in terms of memory and SSD space. 

4. Apple MacBook Pro 16″

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2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

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2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

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2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

Features

  • 16 inch Retina display
  • 1 TB of SSD storage
  • Intel 8-core i9 processor
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Camera
  • Speaker
  • Mic

If you still want a laptop but aren’t convinced by the 13 inch MacBook Pro, this 16 inch 2019 model is one to consider. This machine has some impressive features that make it a beast for on-the-go music production. Like the 13 inch version, it has a terabyte of SSD storage and 16 GB of RAM. But it also has an impressive 8-core intel i9 processor, a marked improvement over the smaller laptop. If you are worried about having enough processing power with a quad-core processor, then this laptop has you covered. Along with these specs, it has all the great features you expect from a MacBook Pro: a large Retina display, touchbar, and more.

PROS

  • Portable
  • Lots of storage
  • Fast processor

CONS

  • Expensive
  • A bit bulky
  • Trackpad is not as precise as a mouse

This laptop surely has all the power you need for music production. The main downside here is price – all that power comes at a premium. But if you don’t mind spending a bit of extra cash, this is an excellent laptop that will keep you satisfied for years to come for producing music.

5. Apple iMac 2020 27″ i7 3.8 GHZ i7

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2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

Check Price

2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

Check Price

2019 Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray

Features

  • 5k, 27-inch Retina Display
  • 8 core intel i7
  • 256/512 GB SSD Storage
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • Camera
  • Speaker
  • Mics
  • Mouse and Keyboard

Finally, we have another 2020 iMac. Like the model listed previously, this is a nice all-in-one desktop computer that packs a lot of power. Its beautiful 27 inch Retina display is ideal for creating a clean workflow, and its specs are more than enough for producing professional-sounding music at home. The main difference when it comes to this particular version is its upgraded i7 processor. While the 6-core i5 offers enough power for seamless production in most scenarios, some producers may want to go for the i7. Ultra-complex projects may benefit from this more powerful CPU, resulting in fewer instances of lag and other performance issues. But if you are unsure whether you need the i7, then you will be fine saving the extra money and going with the i5. 

PROS

  • Large built-in Retina display
  • SSD Storage
  • Fast processor

CONS

  • More expensive
  • Advanced producers may want more RAM
  • Some may need external storage

If you like the iMac but require a faster processor, this machine is for you. While this upgrade is not strictly necessary for the majority of producers, especially beginners, it is a good option for those who know they need that extra processing power. 

Conclusion

Macs are great for producing music, but the number of choices available can be daunting. Our top pick for an all-around great machine is the 2020 iMac with intel’s 6 core i5 chip. This computer is the perfect balance of power and functionality, and it is great for producers of all levels who want a reliable, no-hassle machine. Pick one up and get producing!

Best Music Production Software for Beginners in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

Just a few short years ago, music production was not an easy hobby to break into. If you wanted to make music in your bedroom, you could record yourself on a tape recorder, but that was pretty much it unless you wanted to spend exorbitant amounts of money. Now, the magic of technology has made it so practically anyone can start producing music from home at relatively nominal cost. But now, a new problem arises: where do you start? The list of music production software – even just the mainstream, widely accepted variety – is quite long, and may leave you scratching your head as to what the differences actually are. These softwares range widely in what they can do and who their audience is, and it is important to choose one that will provide you with the functionality you want without throwing you too far out into the deep end without a life preserver. Today we’ll be looking at five popular options for people just starting out in audio production and looking at what makes them unique. By the end, you should have a better idea of which software is right for you.

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
1. Apple GarageBand
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of samples and instruments included
CHECK PRICE
flstudio 2. FL Studio
  • Full-featured professional DAW
  • Intuitive interface
  • Multiple versions at reasonable prices
CHECK PRICE
audacity 3. Audacity
  • Free
  • Open source
  • Intuitive
CHECK PRICE
reaper daw 4. Cockos Reaper
  • Generous trial
  • Fully customizable
  • Full-featured, professional-quality DAW
CHECK PRICE
mixbus 5. Harrison Mixbus
  • Affordable
  • Analog-inspired workflow
  • Made by Harrison
CHECK PRICE

1. Apple GarageBand

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsFull version is Free
CompatibilityMac only
System requirementsOS x 10.11 and later

If you have heard of just one digital audio workstation (DAW), then it is probably GarageBand. The software has become a household name mostly due to the fact that it comes pre-loaded for free on all Mac computers, and, despite there being some stigma around free or “stock” programs, GarageBand actually has a lot to offer. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you will need expensive software to even get started producing serious music, but that simply isn’t true, at least not anymore. While you may need to upgrade to a more premium software down the line at some point, GarageBand does an excellent job of teaching you the basics of producing music. It comes with a great selection of virtual instruments, effects, and loops, and functions much like most other DAWs.

PROS

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of samples and instruments included

CONS

  • Only on Mac
  • Limited in terms of more advanced mixing/mastering/effects use
  • Not as customizable as some other DAWs

Despite some of the flack it gets, GarageBand is a great starter DAW. It will get you used to all the essential elements of music production such as virtual instruments, automation, mixing, and more, which is great for a free, preloaded software. You will only need to upgrade once you feel like the software is limiting what you can do in terms of mixing songs, which shouldn’t be for a long while. 

2. FL Studio

flstudio

Specification

Price$99-$499
VersionsFruity, Producer, Signature, All Plugins
CompatibilityMac and Windows
System requirementsWindows 8.1, 10 or later
4GB free disk space
4GB of RAM
The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run
For in-app purchases: Internet Explorer 11 or higher
Intel and AMD CPUs. ARM not supported
macOS: 10.13.6 (High Sierra) or later
4GB free disk space
4GB of RAM
The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run
Intel or Apple Silicon (M1) CPU

Fruity Loops Studio, now known simply as FL Studio, is a step up from GarageBand while remaining user friendly and viable for beginners. Unlike GarageBand, FL is used professionally by a long list of mainstream producers to make polished, studio-quality music. The program has a nice-looking user interface and a fairly intuitive workflow compared to some other DAWs. The important thing to remember when it comes to professional DAWs is that the differences between them are often based more on personal preference than strictly better or worse features. FL studio is most commonly used in the production of electronic and hip hop music because many producers find its MIDI (the information that triggers notes on a virtual instrument) capabilities easier to use. It is less popular with artists who rely heavily on recording external instruments due to a less streamlined recording process.

PROS

  • Full-featured professional DAW
  • Intuitive interface
  • Multiple versions at reasonable prices

CONS

  • Not Free
  • Not the best for recording audio

If you want fairly easy to use software that you can continue to use even if you want to become a professional producer, then FL Studio is a great choice. Especially if you record electronic-based music, you will never find yourself wanting more features or feeling limited with this one. It comes in a starter edition at $99 with limited features, the full version at $199, and more expensive versions that come with plugins. Another great thing about FL is that its free trial does not have a time limit, though you will have to purchase a paid edition before you can save projects and reopen them later.

3. Audacity

audacity

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsFull version is Free
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsWindows
Audacity 3.0.5 requires the CPU to support the SSE2 instruction set which should be available on any Intel hardware produced after 2001 and any AMD hardware produced after 2003.
3.0.5 does not support Windows XP.

macOS / Mac OS X
Audacity 3.0.5 is for Intel Macs running OS X 10.7 and later and macOS.
There are legacy versions for older OS X at http://audacityteam.org/download/legacy-mac/.

Linux
In addition to the traditional update path via package managers, Audacity 3.0.3 and onwards are distributed as an AppImage. The AppImage gets updated at the same time as the Windows and macOS versions, so if you collaborate with users on those platforms, you may want to use the AppImage over your distribution’s package manager.
Linux support is tested on Ubuntu Linux

Audacity is a very accessible piece of software in more ways than one. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it is open source, meaning its code is out there for anyone to use. It is a widely-used and fairly intuitive program, but keep in mind that it is not a DAW in the same way as a program like FL Studio. Audacity has multi-track audio recording and editing capabilities, but the difference is that it isn’t meant for use with virtual instruments and other production plugins. Instead, Audacity should be used primarily as a way to record and edit audio, rather than a full-featured DAW for producing music. If you want to make electronic music, you will have a hard time figuring out how to do it in Audacity. But if you simply need a way to record multi-track songs using mostly external equipment, Audacity could be the perfect production software for you. 

PROS

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Intuitive

CONS

  • Not compatible with many plugins
  • Mainly used for simple recording and editing
  • Dated interface

Even if you want to go a step above Audacity for getting into music production, you should probably download it anyway. It is a great tool for recording audio, and since it is so widely used, there are plenty of tutorials online to help you use it.

4. Cockos Reaper

reaper daw

Specification

Price$60
VersionsTrial version and full version are the same
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsWindows – 64 or 32 bit, XP or later
Mac – 64 or 32 bit, OS X 10.5 or later
Linux – 64 or 32 bit

Something of a dark horse in the music production community, Reaper is an amazing piece of software that has unprecedented features and functionality for its price. While Reaper’s stock plugins and basic interface won’t turn any heads, it is hailed as being one of the most completely customizable DAWs around while remaining accessible to pretty much everyone. At full price, Reaper is only $60, a crazy value for a professional quality DAW. But to sweeten the deal even more, Reaper’s free trial allows you free, unlimited access for sixty days. While this price point eliminates one of the biggest barriers for entry for beginners, it is important to note that Reaper can be a fairly complicated software. GarageBand and similar programs may provide a smoother start. With that said, there is a great series of tutorials on their website, making the process of learning what Reaper can do much less daunting.

PROS

  • Generous trial
  • Fully customizable 
  • Full-featured, professional-quality DAW

CONS

  • Dated interface for built-in plugins
  • Doesn’t get the respect it deserves
  • Can be overwhelming to learn

Reaper is one of the best options for a beginner who is prepared to spend some serious time learning. It doesn’t have the user-friendliness of GarageBand, but it has everything else you could want at a great price.

5. Harrison Mixbus

mixbus

Specification

Price$89
VersionsDemo and full version
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsMac OS: 10.6.8 or newer, including 10.16 (Big Sur).
Any CoreAudio-supported audio device
Supported plugin formats: AudioUnit, VST, and VST3.

Windows: Windows XP or newer (Windows7 is the suggested minimum)
ASIO audio devices preferred for high performance
Supported plugin formats: VST, VST3

Linux: Kernel version 2.6 or higher. Audio-based distribution such as AVLinux, UbuntuStudio, or CCRMA recommended.
ALSA or JACK-supported audio device.
Supported plugins: VST, VST3

Finally, Harrison Mixbus is a pretty unique DAW that offers a user experience meant to emulate analog, console-based mixing. Harrison is a company that manufactures mixing consoles, and their Mixbus DAW is best suited for people who have experience with old-fashioned studio mixing. Originally fully audio-based, it has since added MIDI support, although it probably won’t be the easiest to use if you mean to make virtual-instrument-heavy music. 

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Analog-inspired workflow
  • Made by Harrison

CONS

  • Not particularly well-suited for MIDI
  • Not widely used as a sole DAW

Harrison Mixbus is a nice option to have, especially if you are looking to get into digital music production from analog mixing. If you are a complete beginner, however, this likely won’t mean much to you. If that is the case, you may have better luck – and greater online support – with a different DAW.

Conclusion

Choosing a DAW is hard at first, but remember: whichever one you choose, it will be you making the music, not the program. You can learn to make most types of music in most DAWs. Once you choose the one you feel is best suited for you, you will have a fun and rewarding learning process to look forward to. 

Best Free Mastering Plugins in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

If you have been practicing music production for a while, then you have probably heard a good deal about mastering. “Mixing and mastering” is a common phrase in discussions about music, and it isn’t hard to gather that mastering has something to do with turning your song or album into a finished product. But what actually is mastering? How is it different from mixing? What are the processes that go into it? In this article, we will go over what mastering is and how mastering plugins might differ from mixing plugins. Then, we will take a look at some of the best free mastering plugins you can download to take your music to the next level. Mastering at home can be a challenging pursuit – many hobbyist producers never even attempt it – but it is an extremely useful concept to be familiar with, and a great skill to have. Let’s get started.

Mixing vs. Mastering Plugins

The difference between mixing and mastering can be confusing; why make a distinction when the goal is always to make your project sound good? Put simply, the difference is scope. When you mix a song, you are balancing the levels and equalizers of individual instruments and tracks. When you master, you are turning that song – already fully mixed – into a finished project. This means that you will be making changes to the entire project, be it a song or a full album, without adjusting the individual components. While some plugins can be used for either process, there are some plugins that are used mainly for mastering rather than mixing and vice versa. One common example of a mastering plugin you wouldn’t typically use during the mixing stage is a limiter. Similar to a compressor, a limiter allows you greater freedom in tweaking the dynamic range and volume of audio. But unlike a compressor, limiters place a hard cap on audio crossing a certain volume threshold, allowing you to make your project louder without causing audio clipping or distortion. Thus, limiters are a common tool in the mastering stage. 

In short: mixing is adjusting the relationships between tracks, while mastering is making broad changes to the finished product, whether that involves making it fit in with other songs on an album or simply creating a polished single.

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
loudmax 1. Loudmax
  • Simple to use
  • Clear sound
  • Very low CPU usage
CHECK PRICE
span 2. SPAN
  • Great variety of options
  • Clear interface
  • Great tool for getting better at mastering
CHECK PRICE
Waves 3. BL Waves – Blue Lab
  • Cool to look at
  • Easy to use
  • Useful for getting an idea of your mix/master
CHECK PRICE
limiter 4. Limiter No6
  • Great range of uses
  • Organized interface
  • Clear sound
CHECK PRICE
clip 5. LVC-Audio – ClipShifter
  • Versatile functionality
  • Clean UI
  • Free version is still capable
CHECK PRICE

1. Loudmax

loudmax

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsLatest full version is free
CompatibilityWindows, Mac, Linux; works with most DAWs
System requirementsVST2/VST3/AUP – 32 or 64 bit Windows or OSX, 32 bit linux

Loudmax is a free limiter plugin intended to do just what its name suggests. If you want a simple limiter to boost the loudness of your project, this one is a great place to start. The first thing you will notice when you open it up is a very simple interface without many controls. Given its intended function, this is not really much of a downside, and it makes using the plugin a breeze. To increase the volume of your track, lower the threshold slider in Loudmax. This will lower the volume at which audio will be limited, allowing you to increase volume without encountering clipping. This plugin does a good job compared to other free limiters. Play with the sliders to make sure you don’t distort your audio too much or end up with an overly compressed song. If you compress or limit too much, you will be left without much dynamic range, which can make your mix sound flat.

PROS

  • Simple to use
  • Clear sound 
  • Very low CPU usage

CONS

  • Limited controls
  • Can’t handle some tracks
  • Bare-bones interface

If you need a solid free limiter or you just want to explore what a limiter can do, Loudmax is a great free option. It gives you everything you need for basic limiting and nothing more. It will not perform quite as well as some fancier paid plugins, but it is excellent for what it is. Its incredibly low CPU load is also a great bonus.

2. SPAN

span

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsLatest full version is free; paid version SPAN Plus also available
CompatibilityWindows, Mac; works with most DAWs
System requirementsWindows – XP or later
Mac – 10.11 or later

Voxengo’s SPAN plugin is a spectrum analyzer. Unlike a limiter, a spectrum analyzer plugin does not alter the sound of your song at all. Instead, it is meant to give you information about your mix or master. SPAN will provide you with a visual similar to what you would see in an equalizer plugin. But instead of a simplified frequency chart, this plugin will give you incredibly detailed information about the shape of your project. It will also allow you to adjust a wide variety of settings and parameters to zero in on the information you want. This plugin will take some time to learn, but if you want to get better at making purposeful decisions and learn to master your own music, the time investment will be worth it.

PROS

  • Great variety of options
  • Clear interface
  • Great tool for getting better at mastering

CONS

  • Steep learning curve
  • Has fewer features than “plus” version

SPAN is worth downloading for anyone seeking to get into mastering. If you take the time to learn how to use it and what you should be looking for, you can be sure that you will get better at mixing and mastering in the process. It includes a staggering amount of functionality for a free plugin, and many home producers prefer it to popular, more expensive analyzers.

3. BL Waves – Blue Lab

Waves

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsLatest full version is free
CompatibilityWindows, Mac; works with most DAWs
System requirementsMac OS X 10.9 or later (limited Catalina support)
Windows 7 or later
Graphics card compatible with OpenGL
Formats: AU / VST / VST3 / AAX

Blue Lab’s Wav3s is a plugin that allows you to visualize the audio from your project in 3D. It bears some resemblance to spectrum analysis plugins in the sense that it will show you what the sonic shape of your track looks like. Unlike SPAN and other spectrum analyzers, however, it does not include very much in-depth information. In this way, Wav3s is like a very simplified version of SPAN. In addition to simply looking cool, this plugin can be of use as a way to gauge the direction your master is taking without requiring you to have very in-depth knowledge about audio. If SPAN seems too daunting to try out just yet, Wav3s can be a nice way to ease into thinking about the big picture.

PROS

  • Cool to look at
  • Easy to use
  • Useful for getting an idea of your mix/master

CONS

  • Not a ton of practical use
  • Not available for Linux
  • Mostly a novelty for more experienced users

The Wav3s plugin sure is cool to look at, and it can be useful for looking at the big picture when you begin to mix or master a song. Other than that, however, this plugin does not have a ton of functionality. It is totally free, so it is worth checking out. But you may not get much use out of it once you begin to use plugins like SPAN.

4. Limiter No6

limiter

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsLatest full version is free
CompatibilityWindows, Mac; works with most DAWs
System requirementsVST, Windows, 32-bit version (CPU with SSE2 support required)
VST, Windows, 64-bit version
VST, Mac OS X, 32-bit version (Intel)

Next, we have another free limiter. Unlike Loudmax, however, Limiter No6 packs in quite a bit of functionality. While you would likely only use Loudmax to increase the overall volume of your song, Limiter No6 can work as a regular compressor, as well as a few different kinds of limiters. This allows it to work in a wide range of scenarios during both mixing and mastering. If you want a simple place to start with compression and limiting, this plugin has everything you will need. 

PROS

  • Great range of uses
  • Organized interface
  • Clear sound

CONS

  • Not available for 64 bit Mac OS
  • Requires some fine tuning to get clear limiting

Limiter No6 has a great array of features for a free plugin. While the simplicity of Loudmax may be attractive in some situations, it is great to have a capable compressor-limiter combo at your disposal. This one is definitely worth a download.

5. LVC-Audio – ClipShifter

clip

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsFree and paid versions
CompatibilityWindows, Mac; works with most DAWs
System requirementsOSX, AU, VST, VST3, RTAS, AAX
Windows, VST, VST3, RTAS, AAX 32- and 64-bit

Finally, we have ClipShifter, another limiter of sorts. This plugin is quite versatile, as it can be used as a simple compressor, a clipping-style limiter, or a distortion tool. The controls it gives you to walk the line between clear, compressed sounds and intentionally-clipped distortion are useful and fun to play with. While the three limiters we have looked at today can all achieve the same basic result, each has a different focus and flow, so it is worth trying them all out!

PROS

  • Versatile functionality
  • Clean UI
  • Free version is still capable

CONS

  • Slight learning curve
  • Not on Linux

ClipShifter is great fun to play with, and has the widest application of the three limiters listed here. Try playing with it as both a limiter for mastering and a distortion plugin while tracking. 

Conclusion

Mastering can be a hugely daunting task. It is – if you will – difficult to master. But there are so many free tools out there that prevent cost from being a factor. If you put your mind to it, mastering your own music is a great skill to have. So try out some free plugins and start learning to master!

Reaper Daw Review

Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW, is software for recording, mixing, editing, mastering, and processing of digital audio. DAW lets you bring all the different elements of various pieces of music, like musical instruments, effects, and more, into one computer package which you control. If you want to make your own music and aren’t sure where to start, DAW software is just the tool you need to get started. 

Let’s take a look at some of the details behind DAW software so you can see how it works and why it will make the biggest impact when it comes to creating music.

What is DAW? 

DAW is software specifically for recording, mixing, editing, mastering, and processing digital audio. There are several different kinds of software used within DAW.  The most commonly used DAWs are Audacity, GarageBand, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and, of course, the Reaper.

While each software has its own unique interface and features, all DAWs are capable of recording digital audio, editing and processing them, and mixing multiple tracks together. Most of them also incorporate MIDI functionality, which allows notes to be programmed or played via MIDI controller to let you control different virtual instruments like synthesizers.

Plugins are also a major feature of DAWs and bring new capabilities into the different software, like simple EQ and even compression to amp modelling.

4 Things to consider when buying a DAW? 

There are several things you need to consider when purchasing a DAW. They are:

  1. Budget
  2. The kind of operating system you have (Windows or MAC)
  3. Your technical skills
  4. Genre of music

Budget is a large part when it comes to buying a DAW because this software can be expensive. However, most DAW software allows you to have a free one-week trial before making a purchase, so this can help you make the decision without spending anything at all. Once you test out the software, you will be more confident in your decision. 

Whether you have a Windows or a Mac, you will be able to use DAW software, however not all DAWs are created for both systems. Some software is only made for Windows, while others are only made for Macs. Do some research according to the system you have. 

Is this your first time using a DAW, or are you an experienced music guru? Your technical skills play a part in buying a DAW because not all software is made for beginners. If you are just starting out, there is specific software you can buy that will ease you into the process of mixing and creating music. If you are more on the experienced side, you will want to look into different software.

Software Overview

Some DAW is great for electronic music while others are good for recording and editing live instruments. There are also DAWs perfect for scoring cinematic music for movies. And, of course, you have DAWs that can handle all genres. 

Knowing what type or types of music you want to produce will greatly help you in choosing the right DAW for you. The Reaper Daw comes with a variety of plugins, such as: 

  • Offers full multi-track audio
  • Comes with plenty of effects and plugins
  • Highly compatible with flexible designs 
  • Customizable user-friendly interface
  • Easy to learn and use


Reaper is a complete DAW application for Windows and Mac. It offers full multi-track audio and MIDI recording, editing, mixing, processing, and mastering tools, effects, and plugins.

The Reaper offers a full version 60-day trial and a full personal license for only $60, so this is a great software if you are on a budget. 

Reaper is compatible with:

  • Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 (32 & 64-Bit)
  • macOS X 10.5 – 10.14
  • Linux (Still Experimental)
    • Requires GTK+3 and ALSA
    • Supports x86_64, i686, and armv7l

Pros and Cons

Here are some pros and cons of Reaper Daw software:

Pros

  • Has 60-day trial 
  • Can be Used with Windows and Mac
  • Very Affordable
  • Wide Array of MIDI and Audio Features
  • Fully Customizable Commands and Hot Keys
  • Comes with FREE Ambisonic Toolkit Plugin
  • Great Selection of Editing and Effects Plugin
  • Support Thousands of 3rd Party Effects

Cons

  • Manual is Thick, Detailed, and Daunting
  • Lacks in Audio Restoration Tools
  • No MIDI List Editor

Conclusion

As you can see, buying a DAW doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does require a little bit of research. If you are a more experienced musician, you will want to look for different software than if you are a beginner. You will need to think about budget, your skills, and what kind of computer you own. Reaper DAW is great software that will be flexible for you no matter where you are at with your music experience. This DAW has everything you are looking for and so much more. Check our Reaper Daw today!

How To Master Your Song

Mastering your song can be confusing and complicated; we understand that. But it’s also essential to bring the work together in a harmonious way. That does not mean mastering the song in a manner that changes the entire aesthetic or tone. But, it often means adjusting the music to bring a finished feel to your work. 

We suspect that you already have a good idea of how important this process is, that’s why you’ve come to us! So don’t worry at all; you’re in excellent hands on this one. 

And you can master your song on your own! Yet, industry professionals specializing in this bring these works to a complete state.

We’ll be taking some cues from those pros that do it the best. So we make sure that you feel comfortable and confident when you lay the finishing touches on your song. From picking the correct equipment, programs or using the best practices, We have compiled everything you need to know in this list.

Mixing or Mastering? Knowing The Difference:

The difference can be subtle to some that are not familiar, but several things set them apart. Mastering means bringing all the sounds on an album to the point of harmony and completion. Mixing is more focused on adjusting the different levels of each song to build a sort of mass melody.

Mastering is like coordinating Halloween costumes with friends and having an organized theme. But mixing is akin to all your friends going as individuals with great costumes that don’t mingle.

Tips Before Mastering Your Song.

  1. You need to understand your references. But you need to make sure these references are appropriate to the genre of your work. Try to locate songs like yours. Then obtain an intact file that is the highest quality, such as .WAV; this will give you a clear picture of how yours should sound in the end. 
  2. Leave room for the mastering. It’s an easy mistake to make but avoidable. You can leave about 12 dB of headroom to master.
  3. Master at the highest resolution possible. You want to produce at the highest end that your system can take. And from there, you can take these files for mastering. Watch out for any sample rate conversion as well.
  4. Put the final touches on the ending and beginning of the songs. It’s as simple as creating a fade in and out sometimes. Listen to your songs, where they cut in and out to make sure there aren’t any clicks or technical glitches there.

Step 1: Balancing!

Listen to your song altogether without pauses or interruption. It is your last chance before proceeding, so be sure there isn’t a part that you aren’t happy with the volume of or a piece that you’d like to skip! You must do this to settle in with the music and ensure there isn’t anything you want or need to change. 

Utilize the reference tracks that we mentioned earlier to give yourself an idea of what you need to shoot for when balancing the music. While you can do this with your ears, you can use tools to help out! We recommend a software called Tonal Balance Control. It will give you a comprehensive representation of the spirit throughout the music. Or consider using a SPAN; it’s a free frequency analyzer alternative to Tonal Balance Control. 

But don’t let these tools keep you from listening to your ears! Sometimes they know best! 

Step 2: Try some things out!

Many try and fail to add things in when mastering; this may give the impression that you shouldn’t try at all. Yet, there is a way you can do this and bring a flourish to it!  It can seem counterintuitive but trust us!

Get experimental and add some harmonics here or there. Or add some saturation! The idea is to try something and see where it takes you; keep in mind these changes shouldn’t be significant.

Doing these things as a beginner can not only help your music reach the next tier. But it can also help you learn on the move! What you do and don’t like, also what works and doesn’t! 

Step 3: Loudness! 

Your music needs to be appropriately loud. You need to decide what this master will be for; the best mastering level for streaming will be an integrated -14 LUFS. So we’ll focus on that. 

Understand that this means we can’t push our songs to be louder than the next guys anymore. The site will bring it down to an equal -14 LUFS. So unless you like the sound of it, there’s no need to blast your volumes.

Consider using a program like Youlean Loudness Meter for this. Focus on the loudest parts of your song here. And make sure that you can use limiters but don’t put your ceiling any higher than 1 DB. 

There are many more minor details to worry about when it comes to this step that is for another time. But doing more research on what loudness can mean for mastering will make all the difference.

So, in conclusion, mastering your songs is a challenging task, to be sure. Yet, it’s not as daunting with help and understanding! We’ve all taken that first step, and we understand how intimidating all those numbers and dials are. But, you can bring your songs to a state of completion that anybody would be proud of.