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Best Free DAWs in 2021

Photo by Clam Lo

It's hard to deny that DAWs are pretty expensive. For anyone who is just starting out in the music industry, it's hard to cover the cost of expensive DAWs. So, here are some great free DAWs that YOU should definitely try.

1. Cakewalk by Bandlab (Windows Only)

Cakewalk is definitely one of my favorites. Cakewalk, previously known as Cakewalk Sonar is a free DAW by Bandlab. It is a great choice for everyone - from beginners to professionals.

Pros: It's Free and has everything that a professional DAW should have.

Cons: It is available for Windows only.

2. Soundbridge (Mac/Windows)

Soundbridge is a free Digital Audio Workstation. It is a great choice for beginners. Its UI is quite simple compared to other DAWs. It also has everything a great DAW should have. So, if you're a Windows or Mac user, you should definitely try this one!

Pros: Free to use, Simple User Interface, VST Support.

Cons: Lacks some advanced features.

3. Podium Free (Windows Only)

This is my personal favorite. I have personally used this DAW for a few months. This DAW is definitely the best choice for beginners who want to learn music production from scratch. This DAW comes with nothing! This may seem stupid. However, that's the best thing. It's like a blank canvas. For using this DAW, you may have to rely on third-party VST plugins as it comes with no plugins pre-installed. It's a great DAW for beginners but I won't recommend it for long term use. It's better to upgrade to either paid version or any other DAW.

Pros: VST support, beginner-friendly interface.

Cons: Does not support multi-core processing, Available for Windows only. Also, the developer has not posted any updates for the free version since 2014.

4. Garageband (Mac Only)

It's hard to deny that Garageband is probably the best choice if you're a Mac user. It's a stripped-down version of Logic Pro. It's a great choice for both beginners and professionals. And, if you're comfortable with it, upgrade to Logic Pro can be a great decision.

Pros: Free, Simple User Interface, Support from Apple.

Cons: Available for Mac only, the user interface is limited.

5. Waveform Free (Mac/Windows/Linux)

Waveform Free is a pretty good DAW for everyone. It is the younger brother of Waveform Pro. It is good for music production for beginners. However, there are some limitations like lacking a track editor, customizable layouts, etc. You can see the full list of missing features here.

Pros: VST and Rewire support, Low Price for Upgrade, Cross-Platform.

Cons: Workflow is pretty hard to understand for beginners.

6. Studio One Prime (Mac/Windows)

Studio One Prime, the younger brother of Studio One Professional, is a fully-functional free DAW. It is a great choice for everyone. However, it lacks one massive feature: VST support. VST support is one of the most important features that a DAW should have. On the other hand, it comes with a high-quality sample pack from PreSonus. Also, it supports third-party SoundFonts.

Pros: Great Stock Plugins/Effects, Friendly User Interface

Cons: No VST Support

7. Ardour (Linux/Windows/Mac)

Ardour is a cross-platform DAW. It has all the features that a good DAW should have. However, with every free thing, there are some limitations. The free version of Ardour goes silent after 10 minutes of usage. So, you have to restart it again and again. However, it's quite cheap. You can buy a subscription to Ardour for $1 a month or you can buy the currently available version for a donation of $45 or more.

Pros: Fully-Featured DAW, Cheap Upgrade, Open-Source

Cons: You have to pay if you want to use it seamlessly.

8. Pro Tools First (Windows/Mac)

Pro Tools is probably the most famous DAW in the music industry. Pro Tools First is the Free version of Pro Tools. It's a great DAW if you want to upgrade to the full version of Pro Tools in the future. However, it has some limitations. It limits you to 16 audio, MIDI, aux, and virtual instrument tracks, and 4 inputs. Pros: Includes 20 Native Effects, Based on Pro Tools. Cons: Limits Track Count, No VST Support, Limits CPU Usage

9. MPC Beats (Windows Only)

MPC Beats is a DAW from MPC. The software is primarily made for beatmakers. This is a great option for producers who are not interested in vocal production and only want to make instrumental songs.

Pros: Great for beat-making, Can be used as a VST in other DAWs.

Cons: Only 8 instrument channels, Not great for full-fledged music production.

10. LMMS (Mac/Windows/Linux)

LMMS is similar to MPC Beats. However, it does not limit track counts and supports VST. Also, it's cross-platform. However, it lacks Audio Recording. So, just like MPC Beats, this DAW is great for instrumental productions.

Pros: Cross-Platform, Open-source

Cons: No Audio Recording, Steep learning.

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