What Actually is the Best DAW for Beginners?

You can make professional music in any popular DAW.

If this is the case, then it shouldn’t matter which one you choose, right?

Not exactly.

While you can produce professional music in any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), not all are created equal. Each possesses strengths and weaknesses.

In this article, we’ll look at a few critical factors to consider when choosing a DAW.

Let’s take a look at them.

Table of Contents

  1. Options
  2. Decision Making
  3. Conclusion

Options

Now, there are a lot of competitors on the market for DAW.

I could spend time reeling off a bunch of names, but that’s probably going to leave you confused and annoyed. And I know why.

Because, if you’re looking to make electronic music, you’ve probably already heard a few names, but you aren’t sure which is the best. Or you just want to use the best, and don’t want to hear a thousand options.

But before we see some options, let me tell you a secret – there is no best DAW.

But, there is the best DAW for you. What do I mean by that? I mean that there is one that is probably best suited to how you want to work, the kind of music you want to make, and probably even the kind of person you are.

So, what are the options?

Ableton Live

Ableton Live 10

Ableton Live is a DAW that was designed with both production and live performance in mind. Hence, it doesn’t come with as many bloated features that some of the other DAWs do. Simplicity and workflow are central to Ableton Live’s design. It’s one of the most popular DAWs, along with FL Studio, its arch nemesis.

Current Version: 10

Editions: Intro, Standard and Suite

Price: $99-$799

Notable Users: Skrillex, Diplo, Flume, Deadmau5 and Netsky.

Strengths: Live performance, fast workflow, clean interface.

Weaknesses: Plain GUI, fewer options, most expensive.

Resources

There are some great, high-quality resources for Ableton Live out there. Starting at the home base, Ableton’s website has some great content, including the blog and the One Thing series.

Recommended:

FL Studio

FL Studio 20

Created by the Belgian company Image-Line, FL Studio is a Windows (and now Mac) DAW that is popular mainly in electronic music, arguably number 1 in terms of popularity. It comes with an array of synths and options for producers to play around with.

Current Version: 20

Editions: Fruity, Producer, Signature, All Plugins

Price: $99-$899

Notable Users: Porter Robinson, Madeon, Martin Garrix, Metro Boomin and Seven Lions.

Strengths: Great plugins included, good options, flexible workflow.

Weaknesses: Confusing interface, overwhelming options, live performance mode is sub-par.

Resources

FL Studio probably has the best access to resources out there. The FL Studio website has a lot of articles, and we have a few key ones for those who are just starting out.

Recommended:

Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X

Credit: Musician on a Mission

Although it’s a Mac-only DAW (being owned by Apple), Logic Pro X has been the staple of many electronic music producers for years. Logic is focused on high-quality sounds and a robust interface.

Current Version: X

Price: $199

Notable Users: Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, Flosstradamus, Disclosure and David Guetta.

Strengths: High-quality sounds included, easy-to-use interface, ideal for recording.

Weaknesses: Not designed with electronic music in mind, Mac-only and fewer resources.

Resources

Logic doesn’t have as many resources in comparison to Live and FL Studio, and a lot of them are aimed at a traditional musician market rather than a production market. That being said, it still has some great resources out there.

Recommended:

Other Options

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to include a long list of other DAWs. But here is a shorter list of other possible options if you want to consider them. We won’t deep dive into these in the article, so feel free to do some research of your own.

  • Cubase
    • Great if you like a Logic Pro-style layout, but geared more towards electronic music and audio engineering
  • Reason
    • Features a modular-style workflow where you can connect cables and route things endlessly – good for sound design
  • Studio One
    • Somewhere between FL Studio and Cubase
  • Bitwig
    • Designed to be similar to Ableton Live, but is newer and has a slightly different feature set
  • Reaper
    • A good, fully-featured DAW with a focus on simpler, easy-to-use look, and doesn’t come with anything you wouldn’t use

Now, let’s get into some of the comparison points for Ableton Live, FL Studio and Logic Pro.

Decision-Making

There are many different factors to weigh up when making a final decision on your DAW. We’re going to focus on the main three: price, resources and workflow.

Let’s talk about price first.

Price

Naturally, the price is going to be a big factor for most producers.

Many people want to start producing electronic music but are immediately scared off by the price. Here are the prices for the ‘Standard’ versions of each of the DAWs.

These aren’t cheap, but the cost is justified.

You’re investing in a high-quality, professional-grade program that you’ll use throughout your entire career.

Each of these DAWs is beginner friendly, but they’re also top quality software used by the best producers in the world.

Sure, you could save money by purchasing a cheaper DAW. That said, I can guarantee it will take you longer to get to where you want to be using a more affordable DAW than if you purchased Ableton Live or FL Studio from the beginning.

Invest in yourself and invest in your career by purchasing a professional grade DAW.

Comparison

Of these options, Live is definitely the most expensive at $449, although it has an educational discount if you are attending a school. If you want the full Suite version, be prepared to fork out $799. It’s a lot, but worth it for the extra sounds, devices and features.

FL Studio and Logic Pro X are tied at $199, although Logic is the fully-featured version, whereas FL Studio doesn’t include all the plugins in the ‘Producer Edition’ that is being compared here. The All Plugins Bundle for FL Studio comes at a hefty $899 if you want every feature and plugin.

Logic Pro X just comes in the one version, which is the simplest pricing structure and includes a fully-featured version with extra free and downloadable content.

A free trial is pretty good though, because well, it’s free and gets you well acquainted with your potential DAW.

Note: Even though it has no demo or trial version, if you want to get a feel for Logic Pro X, try using Garageband for a while. The features can’t compare, but the interface is similar.

Other DAW Pricing

If you’re curious about the other options we mentioned, here is the basic pricing for all of them:

  • Cubase
    • $302-$552 (Artist or Pro version)
  • Reason
    • $399
  • Studio One
    • $99.95-$399.95 (Artist or Professional version)
  • Bitwig
    • $399
  • Reaper
    • $60-$225 (Discounted vs Commercial license)

Resources

As mentioned before, each DAW has a different level of available resources.

Why do resources matter? Because this is what is going to take you from aimlessly clicking buttons to making professional music. You won’t be able to grow as a producer if there aren’t enough resources available.

Fortunately, all of the 3 options have great resources available. But there is still a difference, depending on what genre you want to make, the quality of the resources and the relevance to you.

In order, first being most resources available, the three DAW’s would compare:

  1. FL Studio
  2. Ableton Live
  3. Logic Pro X

Quantity vs Quality

FL Studio features a large number of resources, a lot of which are high-quality and made by people who know what they’re talking about. Image Line (who makes FL Studio) have a Power User program to certify people who are pro-FL Studio users, so you’ll know who’s legit. The downside with FL Studio is with a large quantity comes bad quality. You might have to sift through the videos and articles to find helpful and relevant content.

While Ableton Live doesn’t have the number of resources, it definitely has the quality. Similarly to FL Studio, Ableton Live has a certification program for trainers, so they have curated information sources you can trust. But even beyond that, there are just a lot of good tutorials out there for Live. Sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you need, but the manual is always there for you too.

Logic Pro X has some great resources, although they aren’t always aimed at the EDM Production market and are often geared towards recording musicians. A lot of the techniques taught in the videos are relevant, you just have to find the diamonds in the rough.

90% of tutorials on YouTube and other resources are all done in these DAWs, at least in electronic music anyway. You may find some more mixing-based tutorials done in Pro Tools, which is good for engineering.

So make sure you check out some of the resources we linked above to get a feel for what’s out there, especially before purchasing.

Other DAW Resources

The other DAWs mentioned earlier all have resources available too, but not nearly as much. It tends to be on a case-by-case basis, but all of them come with a manual and customer support system at the very least.

Workflow

When it comes down to it, the main factor in deciding on a DAW should be workflow, even if it requires a bit more investment.

You can think of workflow as the way you produce and arrange a track.

As a beginner, you don’t know what your workflow looks like.

However, there is likely one DAW that lines up best with your production goals. Some DAWs are better at recording, others are better at manipulating audio, and others are better for live performance.

If you’ve got a general idea of what type of music you want to create, I can help point you in the right direction.

Here are some important DAW considerations:

  • Do you want to produce electronic music?
    • FL Studio
    • Ableton Live
    • Logic Pro X
  • Do you want to record vocals and instruments?
    • Ableton Live
    • Logic Pro X
  • Do you want to manipulate/mangle audio?
    • Ableton Live
  • Do you want to mix/master for other artists?
    • Ableton
    • Logic Pro X
  • Do you want to produce hip hop?
    • Ableton
    • FL Studio
  • Do you want to perform live?
    • Ableton Live
  • Do you want to produce bass music?
    • FL Studio
    • Ableton Live
  • Do you like a LOT of options?
    • FL Studio
    • Logic Pro X
  • Do you prefer a simple workflow? 
    • Ableton Live
  • Do you want a lot of stock plugins?
    • FL Studio
    • Logic Pro X
  • Do you want high-quality sounds?
    • Ableton Live
    • Logic Pro X

These are not steadfast rules. They are observations based on my experiences in the industry. There are plenty of examples which defy what I’ve written above, but in general, these rules hold true.

Based on everything I’ve told you, if I had to recommend only one DAW for beginners, it would be Ableton Live 10.

I’ve used Ableton Live, FL Studio, and Logic Pro X extensively, and while all three DAWs are great, Live stands out.

Whether I’m working in MIDI or audio, whether I’m starting tracks or mixing them down, Live has an intuitive and powerful workflow that is second to none. It’s also what most of my friends use, making it easy to collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other.

This is a subjective opinion, but it’s backed by years of research and experimentation.

It’s also the preference of EDMProd founder Sam Matla, who’s helped educate thousands of new producers. It’s what he uses to teach our flagship course EDM Foundations, and it’s what I use for my Track Breakdown series.

Other DAW Workflow

As you can see from the previous three options, each DAW has it’s own unique workflow, and that doesn’t change with the other options.

Here are a few pointers and highlights for the workflow in each DAW:

  • Cubase
    • Similar workflow to FL Studio and Logic Pro X
  • Reason
    • Unique workflow designed to mimic working with hardware and out-of-the-box gear
  • Studio One
    • Similar workflow to FL Studio and Logic Pro X
    • Includes Melodyne pitch correction
  • Bitwig
    • Similar workflow to Ableton Live
    • Incorporates more modulation options for creative sound design
  • Reaper
    • Similar workflow to FL Studio and Logic Pro X
    • Simpler workflow

Conclusion

I hope you’ve come away with a better understanding of what to look for in a DAW.

While I recommend starting with Ableton Live, know that you’ll be happy with any of the DAWs listed above.

If you need future help with deciding, download our free DAW Checklist PDF below.

The DAWs mentioned are the most beginner friendly DAWs, but it doesn’t make the rest obsolete. For example, I enjoy using Bitwig, but being that it’s a newer DAW there isn’t a ton of educational content surrounding it.

If you have any questions about choosing a DAW or anything else related to production, feel free to shoot me an email.

Lastly, if you’re looking to jumpstart your production journey, check out our course EDM Foundations. EDM Foundations helps you master the fundamentals of electronic music production by making 4 songs in 4 weeks.

About the Author

Connor O'Brien

Product manager & lead support at EDMProd. He is the author of Songwriting for Producers, the Ableton Workflow Bible, and our popular article series: Track Breakdowns

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