Best Free DAW: Top Picks for Music Production

best free DAWs

If you’re on the hunt for the ideal music production tool, the right digital audio workstation (DAW) can make all the difference. Yet, when budgets are tight, finding the best free DAW for your music studio becomes even more vital. In this guide, we’ve narrowed down the top 10 free DAWs to kickstart your musical journey without breaking the bank.


Choosing the right digital audio workstation is pivotal for seamless music production. Apple GarageBand stands out as the premier free DAW, particularly for Mac and iOS users. For those on Windows, BandLab  Cakewalk is unmatched. Nonetheless, aligning the DAW with one’s specific musical goals remains essential.

10 Free DAW Software

GarageBand: Top Choice for Mac and iOS Users

Apple GarageBand

GarageBand, a staple for Mac and iOS users, remains one of the best free DAWs available. It provides a simple yet powerful platform, ideal for both beginners and more seasoned music enthusiasts.


With an array of virtual instruments, audio loops, and voice recording capabilities, it offers versatility in music production. Its modern user interface makes it easy for users to dive into creating tracks without a steep learning curve.

What you might like:

Its seamless integration with Apple products, beginner-friendly approach, and the quality of its stock sounds position it as the best free DAW for music production on Mac.

What you might not like:

While it’s the closest thing that beginners can get a pro DAW, professionals may find it lacking some advanced features. It’s also exclusive to Apple, leaving Windows users out.


For Mac and iOS users looking for a free, robust, and user-friendly DAW, GarageBand is a top choice. However, advanced users might seek more comprehensive tools elsewhere.

Cakewalk by BandLab: Ideal for Windows Users Seeking Professional Features


Cakewalk by BandLab, previously known as SONAR, has been resurrected and is now a major player among free DAWs, especially for Windows users.


This DAW offers a professional-grade, multi-track recording environment with a rich suite of editing tools, MIDI capabilities, and advanced VST support. It’s designed to cater to both producers and musicians.

What you might like:

Being a fully-fledged DAW software for Windows, its vast array of tools and features – usually found in pricey alternatives – stands out. The intuitive interface coupled with high-end features makes it arguably the best free DAW for Windows.

What you might not like:

There’s a bit of a learning curve for beginners. Plus, its extensive features might seem overwhelming to those just starting out.


For Windows users seeking a professional, comprehensive, and free DAW, you can confidently download Cakewalk by BandLab. It’s a formidable option, though newbies may need some time to get acquainted.

Ableton Live Lite: Best for Live Performance and Electronic Music Producers

Ableton Live Lite

Ableton Live Lite is a condensed version of the renowned Ableton Live, tailored for live performances and electronic music creators, offering a glimpse into Ableton’s world without the price tag.


Live Lite boasts real-time audio track warping, hands-on control for live sessions, and an impressive array of instruments and effects. Its unique session view is perfect for improvising and quickly building tracks.

What you might like:

Its emphasis on live music performance is unparalleled in the free DAW space. The seamless integration of MIDI controllers and the ability to swiftly manipulate tracks on-the-fly make it a top pick for electronic music enthusiasts.

What you might not like:

Limited to 8 tracks, it might feel restrictive for larger projects. Additionally, transitioning from other linear DAWs might require an adjustment period.


For budding electronic musicians and live performers, Ableton Live Lite is a gateway to a professional version of music production software, albeit with some limitations.

Pro Tools Intro: Ideal for Those Starting in Professional Audio Production

Pro Tools Intro

Pro Tools Intro offers a taste of the industry-standard Pro Tools experience, giving newcomers a chance to familiarize themselves with professional audio production tools without the cost.


This free DAW software boasts up to 16 audio/virtual instrument tracks, extensive MIDI capabilities, and a range of bundled virtual instruments and effects. Its cloud collaboration feature also enables online project sharing.

What you might like:

Its pedigree as a stripped-down version of the industry’s best DAW is evident in its quality and interface. The inclusion of the Elastic Time and Pitch feature, typically reserved for premium DAWs, is a significant bonus for beginners.

What you might not like:

Some may find its track limits restrictive, and the lack of third-party VST plugin support can be a downside for those wanting to expand their sound palette.


For those dipping their toes into professional audio production, Pro Tools Intro is an excellent starting point, but be prepared for some limitations.

PreSonus Studio One Prime: Best for Beginners Transitioning to Professional Use

PreSonus Studio One Prime

Studio One Prime, the free edition of PreSonus’s acclaimed Studio One, provides a streamlined DAW experience, making it a favorite for beginners eager to transition to a more professional setting.


Offering an unlimited track count, unlimited MIDI notes, buses, and FX channels, it also includes a selection of PreSonus’s native effects and virtual instruments. Its single-window workspace promotes a fast workflow.

What you might like:

Its drag-and-drop functionality simplifies the music-making process, while the robust feature set provides a taste of professional music production. Being a free DAW for PC, its accessibility is commendable.

What you might not like:

The absence of third-party VST support can be limiting for those wanting to incorporate their favorite plugins. Additionally, some advanced features are reserved for the paid versions.


Studio One Prime is a solid starting point for newcomers, offering a blend of simplicity and power, though with some feature restrictions.

LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio): Best for Electronic Music Producers on Linux

LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio)

LMMS stands as a beacon for Linux users seeking a robust, open-source DAW tailored for electronic music creation.


This MIDI DAW provides a suite of synthesizers, sample-based instruments, and a range of effects. Its Beat+Bassline Editor simplifies beat creation, while the Piano Roll allows intricate melody crafting.

What you might like:

Being an open source DAW, it’s continually evolving with community input. It supports VST plugins, even on Linux, a rarity in free DAWs. The active community ensures ample resources and tutorials for newcomers.

What you might not like:

Its interface can feel a bit dated compared to other modern DAWs, and some users might find the workflow less intuitive than its counterparts.


For electronic music enthusiasts on Linux, LMMS offers a powerful, community-driven experience, though it might take some time to fully master its interface.

Tracktion Waveform: Best for Intuitive Workflow

Tracktion Waveform

Tracktion Waveform, a part of the revered Tracktion software series, stands out with its unique, single-screen interface, making music creation a breeze.


This DAW boasts unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, detailed automation, and a suite of built-in instruments and effects. Its signature “clip layer effects” allow non-destructive audio editing, enhancing the creative process.

What you might like:

Its clutter-free, single-pane design ensures a straightforward workflow, perfect for those who prefer a no-nonsense approach to music production. The 4OSC synthesizer, a notable inclusion, provides a range of sound design possibilities.

What you might not like:

While its interface is clean, newcomers might initially find it unconventional compared to other DAWs. Some advanced features are reserved for the paid version.


For those seeking a free Digital Audio Workstation with an emphasis on an intuitive, streamlined experience, Tracktion Waveform is a strong contender, though it may have a slight learning curve for some.

Ardour: Best for Customization and Flexibility


Ardour, a prominent open-source DAW, offers unmatched customization and flexibility, catering to a wide array of audio engineers and musicians.


Supporting both audio files and MIDI, Ardour boasts a plethora of audio editor tools, plugin capabilities, and recording options. Its automation system and support for hardware control surfaces stand out.

What you might like:

Its open-source nature ensures a vast array of plugins and frequent updates. The flexibility to tweak and mold the software to one’s needs makes it arguably one of the best DAWs for those who love to personalize their workspace.

What you might not like:

The extensive features might seem overwhelming to beginners. As it’s community-supported, occasional bugs or inconsistencies might arise, though they are typically addressed swiftly.


Ardour is a dream for those who prioritize customization in their music production journey, though it might present a steeper learning curve for novices.

SoundBridge: Best for Touch Screen Integration


SoundBridge offers a modern DAW experience, shining particularly with its seamless touch screen integration, making it a great choice for producers on the move.


This Windows DAW includes standard multi-track recording and editing, a range of built-in instruments, and effects. Its standout feature is the touch-optimized SkyTracks Bandmate collaboration platform.

What you might like:

For users with touch screen devices, SoundBridge provides an unparalleled tactile experience. The intuitive interface, coupled with SkyTracks, facilitates real time collaboration, making remote music creation a breeze.

What you might not like:

While its touch features are innovative, those without touch screen devices may not fully benefit from all its offerings. Some users might find its sound library limited compared to other DAW apps.


SoundBridge is a must-try for touch screen device users seeking a collaborative, intuitive DAW experience, though it may have certain limitations for traditional desktop users.

FL Studio Free Trial: Fully Functional with Unlimited Time and Export Features

FL Studio Free Trial

The FL Studio Free Trial offers a taste of one of the music industry’s most popular DAWs. Unlike many trial versions, it provides unrestricted access to its new features, with no time constraints.


This DAW boasts a robust sequencer, rich sound library, and an array of plugins. The piano roll, step sequencer, and mixer are highlights, facilitating versatile music production.

What you might like:

You get a fully functional DAW with unlimited time to explore, making it perfect for those hesitant about purchasing the full version. The ability to export projects is a significant boon, allowing users to finalize tracks without any hindrance.

What you might not like:

While you can save projects, reopening saved projects is restricted to the paid version, which can be a drawback for continuous workflow.


For those seeking a comprehensive DAW experience without an immediate commitment, the FL Studio Free Trial is a valuable asset, despite its project-reopening limitation.

Guide: How to Choose the Best Free DAW for Your Needs

Understanding Your Requirements

Free DAWs

Evaluate Your Musical Goals

Before diving in, understand what you want from your DAW. Are you mixing, recording, or producing electronic tracks?

Project Size and Complexity

Consider how many tracks you’ll typically work with. If you’re recording a full band, you’ll need a DAW that can handle numerous tracks simultaneously.

Compatibility and Hardware

Ensure the DAW is compatible with your PC or Mac. Some DAWs may also require specific hardware configurations.

Plugins and Instruments

The quality and variety of built-in instruments and effects can significantly impact your music. Think about what you need versus what each DAW offers.

User Interface and Learning Curve

While some prefer a straightforward design, others might opt for more advanced features, even if it means a steeper learning curve.


Choosing the best DAW boils down to your specific needs and how you envision your musical journey unfolding.

Considering Your Operating System

Windows vs iOS

Platform Specificity:

Many DAWs are platform-specific. While some are exclusive to Mac (like GarageBand or Logic Pro), others cater primarily to Windows users.

Cross-Platform DAWs:

Options like LMMS or Ardour offer solutions for both Windows and Mac, ensuring flexibility if you switch systems.

Performance and Stability:

Ensure your chosen DAW runs smoothly on your operating system. Some DAWs might be optimized better for one platform over another.

Future Updates:

Stay informed about the DAW’s update roadmap. Some free software may phase out support for older OS versions.

In essence, your operating system plays a pivotal role, so choose a DAW that aligns with your platform and its performance needs.

The Importance of User Interface and Ease of Use

First Impressions Matter:

A clutter-free, intuitive interface can greatly impact your initial experience with a DAW.

Learning Curve:

For beginners, a straightforward design helps in grasping fundamentals without feeling overwhelmed.

Workflow Efficiency:

A well-designed interface can speed up tasks, from track layering to audio editing.


Advanced users often appreciate a DAW that allows interface tweaks to suit their workflow.

Hence, for those starting out, the user interface can make or break the DAW experience. Opt for one that resonates with your comfort level and expertise.

Exploring Sound Libraries and Virtual Instruments

Virtual Instruments

Stock Sounds:

Evaluate the quality and variety of the default sound libraries. Good stock sounds can elevate basic instrument tracks.

Virtual Instruments:

Assess the range and authenticity of built-in virtual instruments. This is crucial for those without access to physical instruments.


Can the DAW support third-party plugins and sound libraries? This feature allows for growth and diversification of your sound palette.

Genre Suitability:

Some DAWs cater to specific genres with their sound libraries. Ensure the DAW’s sounds align with your musical direction.

Specialized DAWs: Beat Making vs. Vocal Recording

Beat-Centric DAWs:

Some DAWs, like FL Studio, are tailored for beat production, boasting features like step sequencers and drum machines.

Vocal Recording:

DAWs like Pro Tools prioritize audio recording quality, offering pristine vocal captures with advanced editing tools.

Plugin Integration:

For vocal effects or beat-enhancing plugins, ensure your DAW supports third-party integrations.

Workflow Considerations:

Your creative process matters. If you frequently switch between beat making and vocal recording, a versatile DAW like Ableton Live might be ideal.

Budget Considerations: Free vs. Cheap DAWs


Free DAWs:

Many renowned DAWs offer free versions, like Pro Tools Intro, providing solid features without the price tag.


While free versions are enticing, they often come with track limits or restricted functionalities.

Cheap DAWs:

Affordable DAW programs, such as Reaper, provide a comprehensive set of features without breaking the bank.

Future Upgrades:

Starting with a free or cheap version often allows for discounted upgrades to premium versions, ensuring you get more value as you invest in your music production journey.

The Value of Community Support and Online Resources

Active Forums:

Popular DAWs like Ableton or FL Studio have vast online communities. Forums can be a goldmine for troubleshooting and tips.

Tutorials and Guides:

Extensive DAW lists and resources are available online, helping users navigate features and enhance skills.

Plugin Recommendations:

Communities often share insights on the best plugins, expanding your sound possibilities.

Collaboration Opportunities:

Engaging with DAW communities can lead to collaboration, providing a platform to share, learn, and grow in the music production world.

Frequently Asked Questions about Free DAWs

Is BandLab a real DAW?

Yes, BandLab is a real DAW. It’s a cloud-based music creation platform that allows users to record, edit, and produce songs directly in their browser or through the BandLab app.

Do musicians use BandLab?

Absolutely. Musicians, both amateur and professional, use BandLab for its accessibility and collaboration features. Its cloud-based nature allows for easy sharing and collaboration among users, making it an excellent choice for joint projects.

What is the best cheap DAW?

Reaper is often cited as one of the best cheap DAWs. It offers a vast array of professional features for a fraction of the cost of other professional-grade DAWs. Its customizable interface and robust plugin support make it a favorite among many musicians and beginner producers.

What is the minimum RAM for a DAW?

The minimum RAM required for a DAW largely depends on the specific software and the complexity of the projects. However, as a general rule of thumb, 8GB of RAM is recommended for basic projects. For more extensive projects with multiple tracks, plugins, and virtual instruments, 16GB or more is preferable.

What is the easiest DAW to make music?

For beginners, GarageBand (for Mac and iOS users) and FL Studio (for Windows) are often recommended due to their intuitive interfaces and user-friendly features. Both DAWs offer a range of tools that are accessible without being overwhelming.

What DAW do rappers use?

Rappers use a variety of DAWs based on personal preference and needs. Popular choices include Pro Tools, known for its recording capabilities; FL Studio, favored for beat production; and Ableton Live, which offers flexibility in both recording and production.

Is Reaper DAW still free?

Reaper offers a fully functional trial version that is free, but it’s not entirely free in the long run. After the trial period, users are prompted to purchase a license. However, the licensing fee is reasonably priced, especially considering the features and capabilities it offers.