Music producers, audiophiles and recording artists across the world have one thing in common: they all rely on a prolific audio recording software to create music. Also known as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), a nifty audio recording software lends the perfect blend of power, tools, and flexibility for recording songs on a computer. In fact, the best audio recording software can not only record, but arrange, mix and master separate tracks of all your band members or troupe of music-loving friends within the confines of your home at professional quality.
In case you are wondering there is no such thing as the best audio recording software or the best DAW so long as any DAW gets the job done, here’s the caveat. Pretty much anyone who creates and records music, inadvertently ends up having a favourite audio recording software. But, since there are just so many of them available online, it surely is a quandary to single out the best audio recording software.
Hence, in a bid to find out the best audio recording software (based on varied user preferences) we scoured the web and managed to compile a list of 10 of the best audio recording software that are replete with rich features, offer tremendous customization, and most importantly, are respected in the music industry!
So, are you ready to find out the best audio recording software in the world right now? Let’s start the countdown.
10 Best Audio Recording Software of 2018: Free and Paid
1) Avid Pro Tools [Windows and Mac] (Best Music Recording software)
Among laymen learning the ropes of audio recording as well as professionals familiar with the nuances of music production, Pro Tools has become the buzzword that encapsulates everything you need to record music on a computer. And, that’s not an overstatement. Ask any industry insider, and they will acknowledge the ubiquity and prolific appeal of Pro Tools 12, which is without a doubt one of the best audio recording software on the market.
Some of the highlights of Pro Tools are: a streamlined workflow for speeding up your audio recording process, retrospective MIDI recording and editing, track presets, and playlist comping. You can also polish your mixes with over 60 AAX plugins that include high-quality guitar amp emulators, varied reverb(s), EQs and dynamics to fine-tune your sound to the brim.
Interestingly, you can collaborate with your bandmates or friends (up to 10) on a single project remotely via Avid Cloud Collaboration. What’s more, you can integrate a wide swathe of VSTs, in the form of drum machines, synth samplers, et al. You can also use Pro Tools’ 2GB worth of quality loops to give your projects that much needed sonic edge.
Moreover, if video editing is your forte you won’t be disappointed either. Thanks to Pro Tools, you can record and lay over voiceovers, and mix stereo soundtracks in sync with HD video with timecode precision.
Price: $24.92 for 1-year subscription (paid monthly); $599 perpetual license
Best Audio Recording software for Mac
2) Logic Pro X [Mac]
One of the most popular DAWs in the audio recording realm, Logic Pro is a streamlined behemoth that is fully-equipped to handle high-decibel, multi-track, plugin-laden aural carnage in a smooth manner. It is Apple’s answer to a workflow-oriented professional DAW seeker. The latest iteration, Logic Pro 2018 proffers a tweaked GUI that looks sleek and more legible, boasting a Touch Bar that can be customized to access your favourite keyboard shortcuts as well as navigate your project in a timeline overview.
However, the highlight has to be its marquee tool called Smart tempo manipulation which allows users to record audio without using a click track or metronome and can adjust any backing track’s tempo to your current project’s predefined tempo, effectively.
So, if you want to lay down your guitar track, for instance over a backing drum loop, your tempo would automatically be adjusted without having to “play in time”. Marvellous!
Of course, you can spend less time on tweaking the timing of waveforms through Flex Time and Flex Pitch correction. We were equally blown away with the organic-sounding “Drummer” tool which lends the credence of a talented drummer to your project. You can choose from dozens of drummer styles encompassing varied genres as well as track a live band or solo instrument sessions with ease and grace.
Some other marvels include: music notation for MIDI, sound designing cum video editing, auto take management, smart quantizer for MIDI editing, swipe comping, track stacks and automating plugin parameters, channel strips, etc. What else could one ask for in the best audio recording software of their dreams?
You can avail some slick new plugin additions on Logic Pro X’s latest version such as Phat FX, Step FX, Space Designer, ChromaVerb, Vintage EQ and make use of around 18 diverse retro synth models. And, oh you can also sift through over 150 cinematic presets and 7000 royalty-free loops and patches spanning a gamut of genres ranging from metal, classic rock, grunge to trap hop and EDM.
What’s more, there’s a barrage of new features to undo plugin and mixer actions, plus you can bookmark locations in the files browser. SORTED!
Best Audio Recording Software for PC users
3) Fruity Loops Studio (FL Studio) [Windows and Mac]
FL Studio is renowned the world over as a steady groove/beat maker which has been used by EDM, hip-hop, and trap hop producers/artistes including the likes of Deadmau5, and Post Malone. Needless to say, creating drum loops and beats is a cinch with FL Studio that comes loaded with an intuitive drag-and-drop functionality for creating beats on multiple channels.
Bear in mind, FL Studio is not just limited to loop creation. You can record, mix and master sonically-fuelled rock and metal tunes as well.
In fact, with a vectorial UI on FL Studio 12, you can deftly carry out micro edits and change the parameters of VST plugins thanks to flatter and cleaner graphics. So much so, integrating loads of third-party VSTs won’t be an issue as well.
Not to mention, an overhauled and re-sizeable mixer lets you do some real-time audio stretching, pitch variations, and independent tempo adjustments. Moreover, you can revel in hordes of free samples and classic bundled-in plugins such as Edison, Keyboard controller, envelope controller, et al. to brighten up your mixes and add a dash of creativity to a song.
Price: $199 (Producer’s Edition); FL Studio demo is Free
Best Free Audio recording software (with a caveat…)
4) Cockos Reaper [Windows and Mac]
For those not in the know-how of things, Reaper is remarkable free DAW whose trial period (with full features) is unlimited although you will be constantly reminded to shell out $60, which is the only downside. But, Reaper is well-worth the price tag if you want to honour its beauty. It is intrinsically renowned for its sophisticated MIDI and audio routing capabilities. But, what sets it apart from the rest on our list of the best audio recording software is a gamut of customizability options that it proffers through custom layouts and skins.
Any user can tweak Reaper’s interface up to their liking since Reaper allows a lot of flexibility for pretty much doing everything ranging from fader moves to zooming in and scrolling audio channels. Of course, you can integrate thousands of third-party VSTs and AU plugins besides harnessing Reaper’s inbuilt library of stock plugins and effects for processing MIDI and brightening up your mix.
The latest version of Reaper (version 5 upwards) offers features such as Notation Reader to view, compose or edit MIDI as musical notation and metronome beat patterns. Some other nifty features include MIDI editor, new volume envelope modes, FX parameter automation, 64-bit audio processing at any bit/sample rate.
Did you know Reaper has the ability to export audio into over 15 file formats and read from over 25 file formats.
All in all, Reaper is a budget soundware for music production nerds as well as newbies starting out their recording endeavours. Not to mention, perhaps the biggest upgrade on Reaper is its video editing credentials. You can slice up your videos and move and sync them in time with the soundscapes.
Price: $60 or FREE if you don’t wanna upgrade
Best Audio Recording software for Windows 10
5) Propellerhead Reason [Windows and Mac]
Reason by Propellerhead has always been an audio recording staple for those who want to do everything ‘within the box’. In fact, it is one of the best audio recording software if you want to overdub, edit, comp or tweak audio files through a audio sequencer. The latest iteration of Propellerhead (Reason 10) has some remarkable additions in the form of: Europa, a wavetable synth that comprises three sound engines, and Grain, a synth based around samples, both preset and customized.
Reason thrives off a handy browser where you can find all the patches, samples, and loops you need in your songs. Then there’s a hardware rack-esque interface. What’s more, you can make use of real-time stretch, a factory soundbank with samples and patches, and more!
Better still, Reason’s latest iteration has a broad spectrum of VST plugins including the likes of Softube Guitar Amp, BV512, MkII advanced reverb, MClass mastering suite that have all boosted the capabilities of Reason’s legendary rack.
The mixing console of Reason has been modeled close on the heels of some classic analogue models of yesteryears and is quite fulsome. Some other standout features include a transparent pitch correction, MIDI sequencing, et al.
Best Audio Recording software for experienced DAW enthusiasts
6) MOTU Digital Performer [Windows and Mac]
Despite being a relatively “unknown” DAW among audio production nerds, Digital Performer has made rapid strides in its quest to provide a profound DAW to its patrons. It was previously a Mac-only DAW, but it’s now available on Windows, too. The latest iteration of MOTU, that is, the Digital Performer 9 introduces the robust and brand new 64-bit MX4 MultiSynth as well as a signature EDM soundbank and many workflow enhancements such as custom track layouts and spectral display.
For starters, the MX4 MultiSynth is your go-to tool for summoning vintage and classic sounds alike thanks to the hundred of banks and presets that it houses.
It has it all that you need to achieve a state-of-the-art, professional sonic stamp – nasty leads, vintage electronica to fat basses, and analog pads.
Coming onto the plugins, DP 9 has inducted seven new plugins ranging from mega synthesis, MultiFuzz, MicroG (polyphonic octave generator for guitar) to vintage compression that will all come in handy for mastering your tunes. You can run all these beauties and your CPU won’t be overclocked at all!
Things are pushed even further with the addition of advanced time stretching, octave-doubling, beat tweaking and the pencil-tool based minute pitch shifting features. You can also mute MIDI notes and save project notes directly into your project. With so much intricate detailing taken care of, getting the hang of DP 9 might be a bit complex for a run-of-the-mill beginner. But once they have gotten over the hump, rich rewards come aplenty.
Price: $499 or $395 if you own any other competitive DAW such as these DAWs.
Best Audio Recording Software for Beginners
7) GarageBand [Mac]
Also known as the stepping stone for Logic Pro X, GarageBand is the mini-version of its powerful DAW brother. However, Garageband is a force to reckon with if one were to compare it with other free DAWs on the market. As well as Flex Time and Flex Pitch, Garageband boasts incredible Touch bar features for Macbook Pro users who want to finesse their sound with micro edits.
It is the best audio recording software for beginners who own a Mac thanks to its easy workflow, streamlined interface and a great collection of lessons for piano and guitar.
You can choose from a wide swathe of realistic sounding presets for guitar and voice, stock AU plugins, amp simulators and effects traversing eclectic genres such as Indie, EDM, Deathcore, and more. You can also avail over 28-virtual drummers and produce a variety of fill and groove combinations. So much so, you might also like its Drummer loops that come in handy if you don’t want to indulge in songwriting per se.
What’s more, you can add up to 255 audio tracks, and polish your mixes with channel EQ, reverb and a nifty compressor. If you are someone seeking guitar-based production, GarageBand is the perfect remedy thanks to a van-load of stompboxes, cabinets, and pedals for not just electric but bass guitar as well.
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8) MuLab [Windows and Mac]
Although MuLab has been slightly under the radar, it has built a community of avid fans who are passionate about it. After all, MuLab does offer all the basic audio recording fare where you can – integrate third-party VSTs, record/edit MIDI and audio, etc. If you are a fan of a simple, decluttered and scalable interface, MuLab is definitely your cup of tea.
But, it is not a basic DAW by any means. That is, if you dig a bit deeper, you will stumble across a robust modular sound system under the hood. In fact, MuLab’s latest iteration has made it worthwhile to modulate VST parameters as well as add an arpeggiator/step sequencer module into your project.
We were very impressed with MuLab’s MuDrum workhorse for virtual sample drum loops and beats. Also, there is a nifty MuSynth workhorse that has integrated world-class synths and samples that can enrich your soundscape and give that much needed timbre to your tunes.
Price: $85 or €69
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Best Audio Recording Software for Windows 7
9) Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio [Windows]
If a PC user ever sought a DAW reminiscent of GarageBand for their Windows operating system, then Mixcraft would probably take the crown. After constantly evolving through the years, Mixcraft has become a powerhouse that boasts some awesome goodies such as a range of new stock plugins, global automation recording with Freesound.org and a brand new audio engine.
For starters, you would be amazed with the massive collection of royalty free loops (over 7500 audio loops) for giving a finishing touch to your mix. What’s more, Mixcraft 8 features advanced audio and MIDI routing, live performance recording, Melodyne pitch correction, track grouping and allows users to control VST and effect parameters. You can also do some slick video editing on the side and add ambient soundscapes to go along with the videos.
Further, MIDI scoring and editing becomes a cinch with Mixcraft 8 as you can craft custom musical patterns and beats at lightning fast speeds with a MIDI step sequencer plus, piano roll editor and notation reader to write, view or edit your music scores.
Price: $89 for Mixcraft 8 recording studio; $179 for Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio
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10) PreSonus Studio One 3 [Windows and Mac]
Rounding off our list of the best audio recording software is Presonus Studio One which has been gaining traction amongst audiophiles, so it’s safe to call it a modern digital audio powerhouse in the making. For real though, you would feel at home with its fast-workflow oriented drag-and-drop interface. Why? Well, Studio One 3 (the latest iteration) pops a homepage from where you can call up recent projects and songs.
It is followed by a Song Page wherein users can arrange, compose, edit and mix audio tracks without having to open any other windows, plus do a keyword based musical search. You can also devour a 14GB strong sound library with 45 native effects/VSTS, call up Melodyne for polyphonic pitch correction and time manipulation. Basically, the Sound Page is where all the action takes place.
Moreover, there’s a smart tempo control wherein a backing track can automatically adjust to the tempo of your synth harmonies or soaring guitar solos. You can also gorge on over 10,000 audio loops and produce songs with 64-bit precision. And, oh you can craft some sick melodies using a Scratch Pad if you have a new synth arrangement idea. All together, Presonus’ Studio One 3 is a well-rounded DAW that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of its more established counterparts.
Price: Studio One 3 Prime is free; Studio One 3 Professional costs $400
And…that’s a wrap! Did you like our list of the best audio recording software? Did we miss out on any of your favourites? Sound off in the comments.
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