If you are into music production, it’s great to have studio monitor speakers, an audio interface, and a MIDI keyboard with you in your home recording studio. However, it would help if you had a featureful digital audio workstation (DAW) software to turn your creativity into amazing music in no time.
Read the following article to learn about the best DAW for Mac to record, mix, master, produce music, design sound, etc. Not only that, but you can also edit audio files, capture Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) performance, explore mixes, etc.
Another great news is that you can find paid and accessible digital audio workstations for Mac that offer the desired features to create professional-level tracks and produce electronic music.
Reviews of the Best Digital Audio Workstation for Mac
Are you excited to record, mix, and produce great music using free or paid DAWs? Read the following reviews of the best DAW for Mac.
If you are an electronic musician, producer, or sound professional, Pro Tools is one of the best DAW software for Mac, courtesy of its seamless audio editing workflows.
You can select any three Pro Tools options that match your music production requirement. For example, Pro Tools First supports four inputs from different hardware or interfaces. Not only that, but you can also have 16 MIDI tracks and 16 instrument tracks, which is excellent.
On the other hand, the Pro Tools Standard supports 32 hardware inputs with a playback capacity of up to 128 simultaneous stereo tracks at 48kHz. Moreover, you can playback 64 tracks at 96kHz and 32 tracks at 192kHz. Additionally, you get 512 instrument tracks, 1024 MIDI tracks, 128 auxiliary tracks, a video track, and, most importantly, unlimited buses.
Lastly, the Pro Tools Ultimate offers a whopping audio track count of 384 that includes:
- 512 auxiliary tracks
- 192 simultaneous record inputs
- Native voice pack which can extend 384 voices to 768
- Multi-layer video edits up to 64 tracks
- Surround mixing
- Field recorder workflows
- Broadcast standards
The good news is you can use the Pro Tools in dark mode to minimize stress on your eyes. In addition, you can use the Pro Tools to convert to MIDI, whether you have a monophonic or polyphonic audio track.
One of the most significant advantages of using the Pro Tools is accessing the Ableton link controls present in the transport window.
Ableton Link is an advanced music tool that allows you to make unlimited audio jams and other collaborating sessions. All you need to do is synchronize with an Ableton user using the Internet or Wifi network to use virtual instruments.
Lastly, the folder tracks allow you to group tracks in a folder to edit them in an organized way.
- Super-fast mixing and 64-bit recording engine
- It comes with a dark theme
- Features Ableton Link
- Offers folder tracks
- Absence of an integrated pitch correction tool
- It doesn’t include AU or VST plugin support
The GarageBand is a free DAW software that offers presets for voice and guitar to beginner musicians with a comprehensive sound library.
To create different soundtracks, you can also select from 400+ sound effects and more than 3000 loops from popular genres, such as Hip Hop, Indie, Metal, Blues, Dubstep, EDM, and others. Hence, you can personalize prerecorded acoustics and create multiple grooves.
The GarageBand synths have a Transform Pad Smart Control to adjust the sound. Moreover, you can also convert the sound of GarageBand snapshots into an altogether new sound.
Fortunately, you can use the Mac Touch Bar to control Transform Pad snapshots. Not only that, but you can also convert the Touch Bar into drum pads or even one-octave keyboards in the Performance view of the GarageBand software.
If you are a beginner, you can benefit from the available 40 genre-based lessons, such as rock, classical, pop, blues, etc. Furthermore, you can also learn from the prerecorded lessons from actual artists. Lastly, you can use the GarageBand app to get feedback to improve your musical skills.
The good news is that you can download GarageBand on your Mac or iPad from the Apple Store for free. However, you can upgrade to GarageBand Premium or Apple Logic Pro to unlock all the features.
The iCloud integration allows you to record music and add tracks on the go using an iPhone or iPad. Not only that, but you can also import your voices and other song ideas into GarageBand.
All you need to do is plug in a mic or a guitar and use realistic amps and other available effects on GarageBand to convert your creativity into music. Not only that, but you can also record, create, share, and produce music without using any instrument.
- Extensive sound library
- Intuitive and modern design
- Includes unlimited electronic loops of Hip Hop, Indie, EDM, and others
- It comes with free guitar and piano lessons
- A relatively larger size of the output file
- It doesn’t save preferences
Whether you want to compose, record, edit, mix, master, and arrange professional-grade music, the Image-Line FL Studio 20 has got it all covered for you. Not only that, but you can create complex music productions using more than 80 instruments and advanced plugins, including flanging, reverb distortion, phasing, chorus, synthesis, bit-crushing, and others.
One of the most significant advantages of using the Image-Line FL Studio 20 is that you don’t have to pay monthly or yearly to install the updates. Instead, all you need is a single license to unlock all the software for Mac users and enjoy lifetime free updates.
The Image-Line FL Studio 20 offers several synths, including PioZone, Harmor, Sawer, Sakura, Harmless, Toxic Biohazard, and many more. For example, you can use a synth bundle known as Sytrus that includes 13 filter types, subtractive synthesis, and frequency modulation.
The primary arrangement space of the Image-Line FL Studio 20 is called the Playlist. You can use this section to select different plugins and other virtual instruments and route the audio to the Mixer.
One of the most valuable features of this digital audio workstation for Mac is the step sequencer that allows you to place any sample material or sound on the grid as a part of the sequence. Furthermore, the length of the grid varies from two to a maximum of 64 steps.
You can double click on the samples in the step sequencer window to open up the attack, decay, sustain, and release (ADSR) functionality. Here, you can use different effects and features to time-stretch, reverse, and shift the pitch using the Image Line FL Studio 20.
Furthermore, you can conveniently copy a pattern to the next step sequencer window without losing the original data. Hence, you can customize the workflow and create beat progressions within seconds.
- Offers plugin delay compensation
- Supports complex score editing
- Includes more than 80 instrument and effect plugins
- The native 64-bit application supports Mac AU and VST plugins
- Free lifetime updates
- UI seems to be a bit cluttered
If you want to buy a featureful and comprehensive DAW software for Mac, the Steinberg Cubase Pro 11 Music Production Software won’t disappoint you. If you wish to perform post-production or create music, it’s one of the best recording software with an improved sampling audio editor, precise dynamic EQ, and advanced audio export.
One of the most significant features that allow the Steinberg Cubase Pro 11 to outshine the rest of the DAWs is the visual representation of your audio. SuperVision is an incredible plugin that displays different modules on a single dashboard.
You can configure and customize any of the available 18 modules, including waveform, phase, spatial domain, spectral domain, etc. Furthermore, you can use any of the eight bundled audio software instruments, such as spectral synthesis Padshop 2, virtual analog Retrologue 2, Groove Agent SE 5, etc.
The scale assistant allows you to match MIDI notes to the selected scale, whether you record or edit MIDI. Fortunately, you can choose from a mega list of scales and modes, such as Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Japanese, etc.
Additionally, if the song has chords that are out of the key, you can set the scale assistant to follow the chord track to change the scales automatically.
The slicing mode allows you to chop up a sample and play from your MIDI keyboard as an instrument.
The advanced editing options allow you to work with MIDI or any other file courtesy of the features such as group editing, monophonic pitch correction, audio warping, track comping, and many more.
You can use a spectrogram display to edit the frequency with time on the horizontal or x-axis and frequency on the vertical or y-axis. As a result, you can remove unwanted noise and fix different audio problems.
- Supports 256 inputs and outputs
- It comes with 64 VST instrument slots
- Includes 8 VST instruments
- Features new slicing mode
- Offers enhanced sampling editor and scale assistant
- Not recommended for beginners
The Reaper is an affordable and easy-to-use DAW software for Mac users to record, edit, process, and mix music using advanced features and plugins. It supports 512 inputs and outputs and up to 64 audio channels per track, which is excellent.
The user-friendly interface supports pop-out windows on the main screen with a drag-and-drop orientation. Furthermore, the project window is divided into multiple tabs so that you can multitask on different projects simultaneously.
Unlike the previously discussed DAWs for Mac OSX, the Reaper doesn’t include a sound library. But, don’t worry, as you can export projects into 15 file types while the software can read around 25 file types.
Furthermore, you can also download third-party plugins to increase the functionality of the music production software to edit digital audio and create new sounds. Not only that, but you can also use the audio editing options present in the Reaper, such as trimming, fading, moving, time-stretching, splitting, pitch shifting, and many more.
You can use SWS Extensions to perform complicated tasks, such as creating action loops triggered by some action and auto-coloring tracks. You should know that the active window in the Reaper contains more than 4,500 actions which you can set using the toolbar button.
Moreover, you can also embed different plugins into soundtracks to edit the parameters without opening the FX window.
You can customize the software using ReaScript and other programming languages, such as Lue Python if you love to code. And EEL.
The automation capabilities of the Reaper are unmatched in terms of effect and instrument parameters. In addition, you can always freeze tracks and free up the memory to mix and master audio tracks for continuous hours.
The good news is you can download a full-version 60-day free DAW trial to test the performance and other features before buying a paid license.
- Affordable price
- Features customizable commands and hotkeys
- Includes a free Ambisonic Toolkit plugin
- Offers 60 days of free DAW trial
- It doesn’t have a MIDI list editor
- Absence of audio restoration tools
PreSonus Studio One 5
The PreSonus Studio One 5 is an advanced DAW software for the Mac version that supports mastering and organizing albums and managing live performances.
The main window features a straightforward layout with an inspector panel and different controls on the left side. Similarly, you’ll find the timeline area of the clips and the browser on the right side. Lastly, the mixing console is present at the bottom.
The good news is you can swap the mixing module with different editors, such as drum, piano roll, musical notion, and visual audio editing using ARA2.
You can also mirror the changes in one audio editor into the other in real-time based on your preferences.
The support for dual monitors allows you to use one display screen for mixing and editing while the other can display the track area. You can open multiple songs and copy clips between them.
Fortunately, you can stack VST instruments on the same track using the PreSonus Studio 5. This way, you can layer sounds from different sources.
The MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) editing is an advanced feature this DAW software offers. MPE allows different notes to have individual pressure, pitch, and timbre.
One of the most significant advantages of using the PreSonus Studio One 5 is the flexibility to mix different variations and effects. Hence you can save scenes with extra volume and panning settings, send levels, and other effects. Moreover, you can also define the elements you want to recall, such as pan, mute, inserts, sends visibility, cue mixes, and others.
- It comes with a project mastering module
- The monthly affordable subscription fee
- Drag-and-drop windows
- Features Project and Show pages
- Exceptional online service
- Busy user-interface
- Tiny icons
How to Select the Paid and Free DAW Audio Recording?
One of the most significant factors when selecting a digital audio workstation for Mac OS is the intended purpose. For instance, some music software offers exceptional performance for MIDI programming and music production, while the others have dedicated features to mix, record, and edit music.
Lucky for you, the majority of the DAWs come as a complete package comprising of:
- A core application which is the DAW software itself
- A bundle of paid and free plugins, effects, and instruments
Furthermore, you should know the basic features of the best DAW software for Mac to make a well-informed decision while selecting one.
In addition to producing beats, multi-track recording, and creating music, you can use the DAW software to finetune the layering of all such projects, courtesy of the VST plugins.
The good news is that DAW software allows you to edit and mix the recorded tracks that capture the real-time sound of the band or orchestra performances.
You can use DAW software on Mac to adjust the parameters and FX levels to balance and blend different individual elements of the entire soundtrack.
Some premium-quality DAW apps allow you to build and edit tracks in real-time.
In addition to regular soundtrack production, you can also use DAWs to compose and construct games, files, or TV scores.
You should know that all DAWs sound the same; however, the plugins differ in music recording software. Furthermore, some DAWs are designed for specific genres. For instance, Ableton Live focuses on electronic music production.
Lastly, the cost of DAWs varies significantly. On the one hand, you can download free software on Mac, while the other charges around $600. Furthermore, some DAWs also offer a free version with limited features, allowing the users to understand and test the music software.
You can select any of the above best music recording software for Mac to convert your creativity into music.
The key takeaway of the above guide is to discuss different features and operations of the DAWs compatible with iOS or Mac. It’s all about experimenting and creating original soundtracks using other DAWs and plugins.
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