There are many DAWs, and most of them cost a lot of money. If you are just starting, you don’t have to pay for DAW software since there are some free alternatives that you can download just by creating an account and signing up on the software’s website. In this post, we will list some free DAWs and count all the advantages and disadvantages they have.
Studio One 4 Prime (Mac, Win)
Studio One 4 is developed by former Steinberg and Kristal developers, and it’s also a freeware to make you want to get the paid version Studio One 4. In the free Prime version, you’ll get unlimited audio, MIDI, effect tracks and buss tracks. But you are limited to the 9 effect plug-ins and the sound generator Presence XT that was pre-installed and cannot install your own. But this freeware DAW is definitely enough to start your first project. A user account with Presonus is mandatory for getting access to Studio One 4 Prime.
Ardour 5 (Mac, Win, Linux)
This Open Source DAW was originally developed for Linux and looks a bit old. Meanwhile, Ardour 5 is also available for Windows and macOS. Ardour 5 is an all-round DAW software, where the only limitation can be the hardware you use. You also have to install some effects on it since not a lot of them come pre-installed.
Keep in mind that Ardour 5 is free only if you compile the DAW software yourself by following the instructions. If you’re not familiar with doing this, you can buy the pre-compiled installer for at least $1 per month.
Pro Tools First (Mac, Win)
Everyone has certainly heard the name Pro Tools before since it was one of the first DAWs and Avid calls it the industry standard. In addition to a paid subscription or annual licenses, there’s also a completely free version. This version is much lighter than the full version and contains 16 tracks at 48 or 96 kHz in mono or stereo. A maximum of 4 inputs can be recorded on 4 tracks simultaneously. Also, there are 16 instruments, MIDI and AUX tracks. The video functionality is missing. You are not allowed to load external AAX effects, but there are at least a few plug-ins included in the package. It’s an appetizer for the big version.
For Pro Tools First you need to sign up for an account at Avid, and also sign up for an iLok account at Pace.
Cakewalk by Bandlab (previously known as Sonar) (Win)
This DAW was previously known as Sonar Platinum. After Bandlab acquired Cakewalk from Gibson, they decided to offer this DAW completely free. Since then, Cakewalk has become the most comprehensive free DAW out there. It offers a variety of effects, amps, virtual synthesizers, tracks, functions, loops, etc. All you need to do is sign up for an account at Bandlab, and get their download manager to download the DAW software.
Podium Free (Win)
Podium’s free version has been available for download since 2014, and even though this DAW software is already a bit old, it is still available for free for Windows in 32 and 64 bit. The free version is limited to MIDI in and out, mixing is done in 32 bit, and ReWire, surround and multiprocessing are disabled for plug-ins. If you don’t need the latest version and can live without these features, you should check the free version of Podium.
Music Maker Free (Win)
This DAW software is considered as the entry into the world of digital audio production for a lot of producers and music makers. Magix Music Maker does not only allow you to push loops and samples together but also to record and arrange your own stuff or compose with the sound generators it offers. The downside of this free DAW software is that you are limited to only 8 tracks in the latest version Music Maker 2020.
Creating an account at Magix is mandatory for using the free Music Maker.
Tracktion 7 (Mac, Win, Linux)
For years the company Tracktion has been releasing older versions of their DAW for people to download it free of charge. Meanwhile, the driving force and Tracktion’s successor is called Waveform, which is why you can download the latest version of Tracktion 7 completely free of charge. The package not only includes a slightly different DAW with more intuitive operations for beginners, but also a mixer, effects, editing functions and more. Also, Tracktion Cross-platform works, meaning their DAW software is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux and you can continue working on your projects in all of these operative systems.
Linux MultiMedia Studio (Mac, Win, Linux)
Linux MultiMedia Studio also is known as LMMS for short, has taken this name because it was originally released for Linux only. Meanwhile, the DAW is also available for Windows and macOS. It is often called the free alternative to FL Studio because of its similar functionalities. The interface and the usage is also relatively similar to FL Studio. You can easily record, arrange and mix audio and MIDI in the mixer. Editing is a bit more complicated in LMMS, but it is possible once you get the feeling of the software.
You don’t need an account to download and use LMMS, but since it’s a free open source project, you should consider donating to the developers if you are using the software and benefit from using it.