Posted on May 29 2018
There are dozens of DAW’s (digital audio workstations) to choose from in today’s industry. With new features and developments being added to the software frequently the process of deciding which one to choose can be overwhelming. You may be looking to jump ship from your current DAW because you think the “grass is greener on the other side.” Maybe you’ve hit a wall in your production and your frustrations are pushing you to consider moving to another DAW in hopes that it will make your production better. If you find yourself in this dilemma, or even if you just have been searching around curious to know which DAW is best, here’s some tips we gathered for your consideration in the process.
What is the “Best DAW?”
Many will argue endlessly about which differences between the DAWs gives one the upper hand over another. You can be rest assured that this argument is extremely subjective and inconclusive. If you’re waiting to find that piece of content that will convince you that one DAW is “the best,” you may be on a wild goose chase that will ultimately just have you wasting time. To simply clear this debate we can just look at what all DAWs were created to do—mimic analog gear like consoles and tape machines. So to properly assess this topic we must first start at this point of realizing that all DAWs are just simulations of the old analog process. When realizing this you could possibly then make a better decision about which DAW is right for you because you can judge this based upon your relationship to the original analog process. For instance, the industry standard that has been taught in audio schools for decades now has been Pro Tools because it was really one of the first programs that engineers who were working on all analog learned. Even in audio schools to this day Pro Tools is a standard really just because the professors teaching the courses are these engineers and producers who learned digital music making on this workstation. On the other hand we have countless producers who really have no real relation to the technical and original analog process, being self taught on DAWs such as FL Studio. We now live in an era where quality hit songs are made in bedrooms with such DAWs and the need for engineering tech savvy isn’t necessary. You may find yourself on either of these one extremes of the digital workstation debate, or somewhere in between within Reason (see what I did there?). Either way we must again realize that they really are all trying to achieve the same thing, but the real question becomes—what are YOU ultimately trying to achieve?
Choose According to How You Will Use the Software
Like mentioned above, focusing on the simulation aspects that will serve you best is a good road to take. If you have some extensive engineering knowledge and want to best simulate hardware rack routing, maybe that’s what you base your decisions on. Or if you are a producer who will be recording live instruments into your DAW frequently, that also should be a focus in the process of choosing what’s best for you. Some would prefer multi-tracking drums and or multiple band members in programs like Pro Tools or Logic Pro as opposed to programs like FL Studio or Reason. Nevertheless, on the other side, many producers just want to sit down and make a beat without ever recording any other audio besides vocals. So in a more simple set up some may prefer programs like FL or Studio One. Maybe your favorite producers endorse a certain DAW and you want to get that sound. There are legitimate arguments about different programs even catering to certain genres such as electronic music being made largely in programs like Cubase. Maybe you’re looking for live performance capabilities and need to run your DAW real time at a show. Many argue for certain specs within programs like Ableton that cater to circumstances like this! The conversation here really just comes back to how you will be using the program.
Let Your Workflow Dictate your Choice
The “How” is really important in this dialogue about choosing DAWs and it can be even further a point of discussion when breaking down workflow. A great rule of thumb to keep in mind when considering which DAW to use is to choose the one that gives the least path of resistance in translating an idea from your mind to a recording. If you are struggling to create because of constant workarounds in your DAW you may either need to dive deeper in your knowledge of the program through instructional content, or just go to a new DAW all together. In order to make the best music, creating and exploring should be easy for you in whatever program you use. With that being said it could be very important for those who are considering a new DAW to stop and take inventory on their work process. Are you able to quickly create in a session accessing all of your instruments, sounds and audio shaping tools with minimal effort? Do you enjoy the aesthetic of the program you use? Does it inspire you and make you want to create? Like I mentioned before, this point really can often be addressed by assessing just how proficient one really is in the current program that they are using. But un-inspiration can also hinder you from wanting to learn more and go deeper in your knowledge of your program. If this is what you struggle with, then making the jump to something else sooner than later may be ideal. All in all your workflow could solely be the factor that determines your choice of DAW.
Use What Your Friends Are Using
If you are surrounded by producer contemporaries of yours who are easily accessible and experienced in a particular DAW, it may just be easier and wiser to use the same program that they are using. You can search all through the web finding forums full of different DAW users chatting and troubleshooting. While these forums and online connections are valuable and helpful, there’s still no beating face to face help from a friend who can walk you through a misstep or blindspot of yours in a program. Community is key. Almost every program can present glitches and problems that are baffling and hard to overcome. Think-tanking issues like these can keep the process quick and less stressful. Community DAW use can also make collaboration a lot easier with session sharing and file formats. There’s nothing like talking to someone who knows exactly what problem you’re encountering in a session because they’ve either dealt with it too or know the program enough to give a different perspective on it. Feedback and troubleshooting help from someone who you know and trust is definitely something to consider when thinking about which DAW to choose.
Stay With Your Current Work Station
This may seem anticlimactic and it probably isn’t what you want to hear if you are in search of which DAW to try next, but it is an overlooked logical solution to the dilemma of deciding if you should change DAWs. Most likely if you are at least proficient in a specific DAW and have no experience in any other, than the one in which you are proficient in is your best option. This is because the time spent to learn a new DAW may set you back and just waste valuable time in your career as a producer. Now none of these systems are rocket science but sometimes the discipline needed to sit down and learn a new program can’t be afforded by the average person with a busy life who already was used to creating without hindrance. Different variables can always be at play with some of us being fast learners or disciplined enough to take extensive time out to learn a new program to quickly get back to making music at a high level again. Overall the average producer no matter what is going to have to at least give some time for any adjustments between programs if they make a switch. Yes these programs basically all do the same thing but many times in quite different ways. As mentioned earlier it often is best to just increase your knowledge in your current DAW before moving to another one, especially if you’ve already put valuable time and money into learning the one you currently work in. A good example in the video above was that with these DAWs emulating consoles your can compare a studio owner to yourself in your decision to ditch your investment or not. Usually in these studios if they purchase a $100,000 console, they usually aren’t going to abandon ship due to a couple of frustrations or preferences. Instead they embrace the gear they’ve invested in and become experts on it to maximize its potential. This same mentality can be very beneficial with DAW users because it’s pretty relative.
The DAW debate will always exist. There always will be different takes on which program is best, but the biggest take away from it all is to choose what is best for you! Only you can personally decided this by getting out there and pushing to create every chance you get.