Do you have a passion for crafting beats? Maybe you’re looking to get your feet wet but don’t know where to start.
The first natural step to consider is selecting the right digital audio workstation (DAW) that suits your beatmaking needs. It’s worth noting that there are various DAWs that shine in specific areas, from live recording to sequencing.
Today, we’ll get into the weeds on each one of these popular DAWs so you can start uncovering your own rhythms and grooves today.
What is a DAW?
A DAW, or "digital audio workstation," is a software application designed for various music-related tasks such as production, composition, audio recording and editing, MIDI sequencing, mixing, mastering, and more.
Today's DAW programs have come a long way in terms of their capabilities, and are incredibly versatile. You can record a wide range of audio sources, including vocals, live instruments, and virtual instruments (VSTs), as long as you have the necessary hardware equipment at your disposal, such as a microphone, audio interface, or MIDI keyboard.
When it comes to making beats, most DAWs offer features that enable users to sample, loop, and apply various audio effects to their audio tracks, simplifying the process of layering and mixing numerous sound elements on a grid.
In all, you can think of a DAW as a digital representation of a comprehensive physical music production studio right that you can access on your computer, providing you with all the tools needed to refine and professionalize the creations you come up with.
How to Find the Right DAW for Your Needs
As with many other types of software, the world of DAWs offers a multitude of options, each with its unique strengths and limitations. Many of these options are available for both Mac and Windows platforms as well, and while there are many paid and premium versions of DAWs, there are many free options as well, perfect for either novice or professional musicians.
As you embark on the journey of selecting your ideal DAW for making beatsth, there are several crucial factors to decide on.
For starters, the first thing to note is that despite their varying approaches to workflow or overall appearances, the core purpose of all DAWs is pretty much the same – music creation.
Once you grasp the fundamental concepts of digital music production, the significance of your choice of DAW software becomes somewhat less daunting. The primary distinctions between them mostly revolve around their features and workflow, so if you have the ability to try out multiple DAWs and see what feels best to you, I’d recommend it.
With all of that said, it's impossible to overlook Ableton Live as one of the most successful digital audio workstations for beat-making, especially with its evolution over the past two decades.
It offers a swift and fluid workflow and has undoubtedly left a profound impact on countless hip-hop and electronic artists, making it a go-to choice for many.
In terms of getting the best bang for your buck, Cockos' Reaper stands out, offering robust functionality at an incredibly affordable price. The same thing goes for Logic Pro , though it’s important to note that it’s exclusively available for Mac users.
If money-saving is the name of the game, check out Image-Line's FL Studio . It comes with a generous provision of lifetime free updates, which can save you significant money over the years.
If you’re just getting started and you’re considering a free or entry-level option, I’d recommend checking out
. Not only is it completely free, but it’s also a no-brainer choice for Mac users since it comes installed with the stock operating system. It’s even available on iOS devices as well, so you can produce on the go!
On the PC side, Tracktion Waveform Free is a solid choice.
Best DAWs for Making Beats
Famous Users - Afrojack, Metro Boommin, Lex Luger, Martin Garrix
Best Beat-Making Features
- Intuitive Interface: FL Studio has one of the most user-friendly and visually intuitive interfaces out of all the DAWs on this list, making it accessible for both beginners and experienced producers. I absolutely love the pattern-based workflow, especially when it comes to beat production.
- Sequencing and Arrangement Tools : FL Studio's step sequencer and piano roll are incredibly powerful when it comes to creating intricate beat patterns and melodies. You can easily use multiple instances of these tools to arrange and layer different elements.
- Sampler and Slicing: Hop in the DAW, and you’ll find a wide range of powerful sampling and slicing tools, making it easy to manipulate and resequence samples and loops. Having a decent sampler in your DAW is pretty crucial if you want to craft original beats using pre-recorded audio.
FL Studio originally hit the scene back in 1998, and in less than a decade, Image-Line's DAW would achieve near-legendary status, particularly among producers in the EDM and hip-hop genres.
One of the most significant highlights of version 20 was the introduction of a native 64-bit Mac version, eliminating the need for cumbersome workarounds and allowing FL Studio to operate seamlessly on both macOS and PC.
Speaking of macOS and PC, it’s worth noting that licenses are interchangeable between the two different editions.
One of my favorite things about Image-Line is that the company extends a generous offer of lifetime free upgrades to its users, ensuring that all existing software owners can access new versions on both operating systems without having to pay any additional fees.
When FL Studio 21 hit the market in late 2022, it was clear that the company’s commitment to improvement had not faded, as they introduced new plugins, themes, and features, such as audio clip envelopes.
While some may argue that FL Studio isn't as "serious" as certain other DAWs, the reality speaks otherwise.
- User-friendly interface
- Solid sampling and slicing tools
- Extensive sound library of built-in instruments and samples
- Lifetime free updates
- Some people feel the arrangement view isn’t as intuitive as other DAWs
- Can be resource-intensive
Famous Users: Cid Rim, DJ Mustard, David Banner
Best Beat-Making Features
- Virtual Studio Rack: One of the main reasons that Reason became such a popular DAW is its virtual studio rack, which emulates a hardware studio setup. This allows you to route, mix, and combine various devices and instruments to make your beats more complex.
- Sample-Based Tools: Reason has a wide range of powerful sampling tools, including the NN-XT Advanced Sampler and the Kong Drum Designer, making it the perfect DAW for sample-based beat production.
- Range of Virtual Instruments : Reason also comes with a diverse collection of virtual instruments, from samplers to synthesizers. If you plan on arranging your beats without samples, you’ll have a wide palette of sounds to incorporate into your beats.
Reason has experienced significant transformations over the past couple of years, slowly becoming one of the best DAWs for making beats on the market. In fact, in 2019, the developer, formerly known as Propellerhead Software, rebranded as Reason Studios and launched version 11 of its rack-based DAW, introducing the Reason Rack Plugin.
This also allows the core tools of the DAW to function as an AU or VST3 plugin within other DAWs.
While you can still certainly use Reason as your primary DAW, the availability of stock instruments and effects for use in any DAW, along with the addition of a new MIDI Out device for controlling external equipment, has made the software more appealing than ever.
Reason 12 takes things to the next level, enhancing the overall experience with high-resolution graphics, a more flexible and robust Combinator, and a brand-new sampler.
With the new Reason+ service, you can even access Reason with a subscription model, making it less of a commitment.
- Unique virtual studio rack interface
- Pattern-based sequencing features
- Massive sound library
- User-friendly interface
- Hardware-style design is not for everybody
- Workflow isn’t as smooth as some other DAWs
Logic Pro X
Famous Users: Rick Rubin, Kenny Luck, illmind, The Roots
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Impressive Sound Library: You’ll find a massive collection of virtual instruments, samples, loops, and presets in Logic Pro, giving you access to a wide range of sounds and textures to experiment with, all without having to buy any third-party plugins.
- Flex Time and Flex Pitch : With the relatively new Flex Time and Flex Pitch features, you can stretch, mangle, and manipulate the timing and pitch of your samples and loops with ease. I’ll often use this feature to fine-tune vocal samples, and it works great.
- Drum Machine Designer: Logic Pro also includes the Drum Machine Designer, which allows you to edit drum sounds, layer samples, and experiment with an array of effects.
Logic Pro X is Apple's premier digital audio software, which, unlike Garageband, caters more to the professional crowd.
Even so, this DAW shares a user-friendly design philosophy with GarageBand, making it particularly appealing to those who have experience with the latter. If you're like me and started your digital music journey with GarageBand, transitioning into Logic Pro X will feel seamless and enjoyable.
Apple has done an excellent job in optimizing Logic Pro's capabilities. The developers have incorporated an impressive suite of bundled plugins and introduced some of our favorite flexible features like Flex Pitch and Flex Time. As a result, Logic Pro has evolved into a comprehensive solution for audio production, consolidating multiple essential functions into a single platform.
A few years back, Apple delivered the software’s most substantial update, further enhancing Logic Pro's offerings. This update introduced an improved step sequencer, a wide range of newly developed plugins, live looping capabilities, and an AI-powered drummer tool capable of composing drum parts for your tracks on the fly. The creative potential here is almost unmatched.
In one of the latest iterations of Logic Pro, the developers also enhanced Smart Tempo analysis, introduced the ability to record MIDI plugins, and added an array of new presets tailored for hip-hop and electronic music producers.
Not only does Logic Pro X excel in recording and production but it also shines as a creative beat-making and songwriting tool. Plus, with a relatively low price point compared to some of the premium offerings by other major DAW developers, it comes at an exceptional value.
- Ultra user-friendly interface
- Vast sound and instrument library
- Advanced MIDI editing tools
- Included drum machine designer
- Exclusive to Mac
Native Instruments Maschine
Famous Users: Ski Beatz, Bryan Michael Cox, Lex Luger, F Major
Best Beat-Making Features:
- 16 Responsive Pads: Taking it back to the classic MPC days, the MASCHINE hardware controller features 16 highly responsive pads, which are great for triggering samples, drum programming, and writing melodies.
- Intuitive Workflow: MASCHINE offers a user-friendly workflow designed specifically for beatmaking. The interface is well-organized, too, making it easy for both beginners and experienced producers to dive in and start creating beats quickly.
- Integrated Sampler: The integrated sampler is top-notch, perfect for chopping, editing, and transforming samples.
While it isn’t necessarily a “DAW” in the traditional sense of the word, as it lacks many features that your standard DAW would include, there are many producers that swear by using Native Instruments MASCHINE as their main workhorse.
This is because MASCHINE offers a seamless and intuitive platform for crafting rhythms, melodies, and harmonies. Plus, unlike other DAWs, it combines cutting-edge software with user-friendly hardware (MASCHINE MK3) to streamline the beat-making process.
Dip into MASCHINE, and you’ll find premium sound libraries, a potent drum synthesizer, and integrated sampling technology. In terms of the hardware, the 16 highly responsive pads make the creative experience all the more exciting, bringing a tactile feel into the mix.
When you’re in Pad mode, you can fine-tune your beats with precision. However, when you switch to keyboard mode, you get more of a piano-like playability, perfect for laying down chord progressions and melodies. Finally, we have Step mode, which provides precise control over several different parameters like volume, pitch, and LFO.
The developers at Native Instruments did an excellent job integrating the hardware and software of MASCHINE to ensure a cohesive workflow. It’s one of my favorite interfaces for taking an initial idea and transforming it into a piece of finished music.
With that said, I wouldn’t necessarily use it for mixing, thanks to its limitations, though if you're arranging or banging out a few new ideas, MASCHINE gives you the ability to progress through the different stages of music production without interrupting your creative flow.
- Tactile hardware interface
- User-friendly design
- Powerful drum synthesizer
- Integrated sampler
- Not the best for use as a full-fledged DAW
- Exclusive ecosystem
Famous Users - David Guetta, Diplo, Skrillex, the Chainsmokers, Marshmello
Best Beat-Making Features
- Drum Rack: The Ableton Live Drum Rack instrument is one of my favorite features in the DAW, allowing users to create and organize drum and percussion sounds. They make it super easy to load, edit, and sequence drum samples, making it a powerful tool for beat production.
- MPE Support : Live 11 introduces support for MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE), giving users greater control over MIDI hardware and virtual instruments for and MIDI hardware for a more expressive playing experience.
- Warping and Time-Stretching: Live's warping and time-stretching algorithms are some of the best around, perfect for syncing loops and audio samples to your project's tempo.
As I said before, the significance of Live's impact on the music landscape is pretty difficult to overstate. When it first came on the scene in 2001, it sent a shock wave through the software industry by defying traditional design conventions and positioning itself not only as a recording tool for composers but also as a performance instrument in its own right.
Since its inception, Live has witnessed an explosion in popularity and played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of numerous desktop and mobile applications.
Live 11 offered plenty of significant advancements from the last iteration of the software, including highly requested features like comprehensive support for MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) and the sophisticated comping system.
They also brought a fresh array of audio and MIDI devices, as well as enhancements to existing ones. With all of the new updates, the team at Ableton has now incorporated native compatibility with the Apple M1 and M2 Mac computers, as well as AUv3 plugin support, allowing users to take advantage of iOS synthesizers and effects in Live.
While seasoned users may need some time to acclimate to certain changes in Live 11, Ableton has once again managed to enrich the software's capabilities without compromising its hallmark streamlined workflow.
When it comes to making beats, Live 11 maintains its position at the forefront of DAW technology, continuing to push boundaries and redefine industry standards.
- Intuitive workflow capabilities
- Real-time performance features
- Top-notch warping and time-stretching capabilities
- Introduction of comping to Live 11
- Can be complex for beginners
- Not the best for advanced scoring
Presonus Studio One
Famous Users: Armin Van Buuren, Headhunterz, R3hab, Nicky Romero
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Intuitive Design: Studio One has a very user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy to throw beats together in an instant.
- Powerful MIDI Capabilities: The MIDI programming capabilities are off the charts. You can create complex drum patterns, melodies, and chord progressions with ease.
- Dedicated Hardware Integration : If you like the tactile beat-making experience, you’ll be happy to know that Studio One offers a dedicated DAW controller.
Studio One 6 is the latest iteration of PreSonus' DAW software, which offers a beautiful culmination of its ongoing development since its inception in 2009.
Though it’s a relatively new contender in the DAW market, Studio One 6 encompasses the full spectrum of PreSonus innovation.
This DAW excels in just about every way, though when it comes to arrangement and composition, this is where it truly shines. One notable strength lies in its ability to effortlessly translate MIDI data into sheet notation, which is an invaluable tool for musicians seeking precise musical notation. It might not be the best “beat-making” feature, though if you’re looking for a DAW that progresses outside the bounds, the feature is there if you need it.
You get deep hardware integration as well, simplifying the incorporation of external equipment into your production process. The developers even put together a dedicated DAW controller.
For making beats, the core of Studio One's appeal is its creative and inspirational workflow. The DAW is very well-suited for music production newcomers, much thanks to its intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows you to seamlessly import audio tracks, MIDI files, and videos.
The latest Studio One update gave us access to Smart Templates, which streamlines the recording, mixing, and mastering pro.
With its "songwriting first" philosophy, Studio One is all about working efficiently, and although it may appear as an underdog in the greater DAW landscape, its position grants it the freedom to innovate.
The results of that innovation are nothing short of impressive.
- Creative workflow design
- Powerful MIDI capabilities
- Innovative composition tools
- Smart Template integration
- Very heavy on CPU
- Less established user community
Famous Users: Fred again…, Metro Boomin, Moderat
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Legendary MPC Workflow: MPC2 retains the legendary workflow of the iconic MPC hardware, which has been favored by renowned beatmakers for decades.
- Sample Chopping and Manipulation Capabilities: As you might expect, MPC2 offers precise tools for slicing and editing samples, perfect for beatmakers looking to create intricate drum patterns and melodies with ease.
- Seamless Hardware Integration: If you’re already a fan of Akai's MPC hardware controllers, you’ll be happy to know that MPC2 seamlessly integrates with hands-on control and performance capabilities.
Akai has long been the top dog in terms of beat production, especially with the release of their first iteration of MPC hardware back in 1988.
Now, the company offers dedicated MPC2 music production software, which is engineered to serve as the ultimate platform for beat-makers. You’ll find near-limitless creative offerings and essential tools that provide precise control over the beat-making process.
When it comes to beat-making, the beauty of MPC2 lies in its simplification of the process. It’s easier than ever to creatively manipulate the timing and pitch of various source materials, just as you would with the hardware.
Whether you're working with clip program drum loops, sliced vocals in an audio track, or orchestral phrases in a stereo file, MPC2 has a powerful built-in algorithm that gives you the power and flexibility to mangle and manipulate your chosen sounds to fit your compositions.
It’s very similar to Native Instruments Maschine in many ways, especially if your objective is to integrate hardware optimized for beat production with a comprehensive DAW.
- Iconic MPC workflow
- In-depth sample manipulation tools
- Seamless hardware integration
- Real-time performance capabilities
- Lacks a few advanced DAW features
Avid Pro Tools
Famous Users: Harry Fraud, Bangladesh, Dave Pensado, Kanye West
Best Beat-Making Features:
- High-Quality Audio Recording: Pro Tools is known for its exceptional audio quality, making it a solid choice for producers who want to record their own audio for their beats.
- Precision Editing: Pro Tools offers an array of powerful and precise editing tools, providing a high level of control when crafting complex beat patterns.
- Advanced Mixing: In terms of mixing, Pro Tools has one of the best interfaces around. Beatmakers can leverage its high-end mixing features to give their beats a more polished, professional sound.
Since its inception, Pro Tools has been the industry-standard digital audio workstation. Head out to just about any professional recording studio on Earth and you’ll find it.
The software is somewhat tailored to the traditional studio recording environment, and it excels in all aspects of the recording process, making it the preferred choice for many professional recording engineers.
Many professional engineers love it for its high-quality mixing interface, which resembles console-style movement, and its swift editing capabilities. It might be one of the most precise DAWs on the market.
While it may present a slightly steeper learning curve compared to other DAWs, investing time in mastering it is often considered essential for those who are looking to work as professionals in the field.
It’s worth noting that Avid offers several Pro Tools configurations, including the free introductory version, Pro Tools Intro. This entry-level version includes eight instrument tracks, eight audio tracks, eight MIDI tracks, 35 plugins, and a range of other features.
However, I find Pro Tools Intro incredibly limiting, which is why I’d recommend Pro Tools Ultimate for advanced users.
In line with many paid software offerings, Pro Tools has adopted a hybrid license/subscription model, with each successive edition labeled by the release year.
To use Pro Tools, you must have the iLok hardware digital rights management platform, which does come at an extra cost.
- Industry-standard DAW
- High-quality audio recording capabilities
- Professional mixing platform
- Massive network of users
- Steep learning curve
- Not the best electronic music workflow
Famous Users: Tim Hennson, Deadmau5, Hans Zimmer, TYCHO
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Versatile Track Handling: REAPER's track system is versatile and flexible, allowing you to create tracks and move between audio, MIDI, and bussing, making the beat-making workflow insanely fast.
- Highly Customizable Interface: While it isn’t necessarily great for making beats, the ability to customize the interface to your liking can make the music creation process much more exciting.
- MIDI Capabilities: Though you won’t find any smart drummer features, REAPER provides robust MIDI capabilities to help you put together complex MIDI patterns and sequences in a pinch
REAPER is one of the most cost-effective cross-platform DAWs on the market today, and it originates from the same developers behind the Gnutella peer-to-peer network and the WinAmp audio player.
Though it may be lesser-known than some of the other DAWs on this list, it offers a powerful, all-encompassing, and flexible audio production experience without compromising on legitimate engineering capabilities.
I love the fact that the developers give you a generous 60-day trial period to warm up to the software. Plus, as of right now, an individual license fee is only $60, making it one of the most affordable options on the market.
REAPER accommodates both beginners and seasoned users equally well.
As a beginner, you can simply hit the record button to start making your track, while as an advanced user, you can employ ReaScript to program a wide range of functions or leverage the advanced routing matrix.
One of the features that sets REAPER apart is its absence of predefined track types. Every track that you create has the ability to serve various purposes, whether for audio, MIDI, bussing, or even video. With such versatility, this design greatly simplifies the arrangement process.
When you get ahold of the current REAPER 6 license, the latest version, you get free and unlimited access to updates through version 7.99, so you can stay up-to-date with the software's advancements and improvements.
- Incredible value for the cost
- Easy on slower computers
- Top-notch audio and MIDI routing capabilities
- Flexible track handling
- Does not come with many plugins
- Not specialized for beat-making
Steinberg Cubase Pro
Famous Users: Zedd, Tiesto, Jake Gosling, Hector Delgado
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Solid Creative Tools : Cubase provides a wide range of creative tools, including Chord Pads, which assists in creating chord progressions and melodies, and Beat Designer, which is a dedicated tool for programming rhythmic sequences.
- Comping: Cubase has what might just be the best comping functionality around, allowing users to easily piece together the best sections of multiple takes for flawlessly constructed beats.
- Extensive Sound Library: Even if you already have access to a wide range of third-party VSTs and plugins, you’ll no doubt find yourself exploring the comprehensive sound library in Cubase. In it, you’ll find a wide variety of virtual instruments and samples.
Steinberg has been a pioneer in music software development for over three decades. Though Cubase was originally conceived as a MIDI sequencer, introducing the innovative block-based MIDI arrangement screen that has become the standard in the majority of contemporary DAWs.
One of the ways in which Cubase distinguishes itself is with its impressive array of creative and technical tools. The comping power alone is great for swiftly creating, splicing, and arranging musical ideas or audio recordings within a number of minutes, a task that might consume hours in many other DAWs.
The software also boasts exceptional audio quality, with a 192kHz sample rate, among the highest in the industry. Additionally, it supports up to six channels, meaning you can create modern 5.12 surround sound experiences if you please.
If your primary focus is getting the best-sounding end result, Cubase is tailored to your needs.
Its rich suite of creative tools, potent stock channel strips, and extensive sound library, work beautifully to bring musical ideas to fruition. While Cubase may not be as widely adopted as some other DAWs, especially in the beat-making realm, those who embrace it often talk very highly of it.
- Excellent for production, editing, recording, mixing, and mastering
- Plenty of great MIDI editing capabilities
- Smooth workflow
- The company has a long development history
- Costs quite a bit to get access to advanced features
- The audio library can be a bit confusing to navigate
Famous Users: Tyler, the Creator, The Glitch Mob, JPEGMAFIA, Feed Me
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Flexible MIDI Editing: Bitwig Studio has extremely powerful MIDI editing capabilities, making it easy to program and manipulate drum patterns, melodies, and just about anything else.
- High-Quality Effects: In the stock DAW, you’ll find a wide range of high-quality effects and processors that you can use to get more creative with your beats. These effects include modulation, convolution reverbs, delays, and more.
- Comping: Those using recorded audio in their beats will love the introduction of comping in Bitwig Studio 4, as it allows users to easily piece together the best parts of multiple takes when constructing beats and streamline the editing and arrangement process.
It's almost hard to believe that it’s almost been a decade since the initial launch of Bitwig Studio. And even though it seems like millennia to some, the DAW is relatively youthful when compared to other DAWs on this list.
Over the years, Bitwig Studio has evolved significantly. While it used to receive a lot of comparisons to Ableton Live, which was natural considering that a few of the developers worked on both DAWs and some of the workflow similarities were pretty obvious, Bitwig Studio has finally carved its own path.
Now, you’ll find a wide range of unique features, such as easy audio clip editing, dynamic notes, and simplified audio comping, that have solidified its reputation as perhaps the most innovative DAW available.
The comping, in particular, is distinctively elegant and characteristic of the Bitwig personality, moving freely between the Launcher and Arranger to get your clips in order.
If you’re looking for fresh and creative functionality, the introduction of Operators is worth exploring too. This feature introduces a potent dimension to MIDI and audio event triggering.
Staying true to their style, the developers at Bitwig have put out subsequent point release updates that have brought additional enhancements, including a range of delay, modulation, and convolution effects, as well as new Note FX. The DAW even embraced the emerging CLAP plugin standard, which was co-developed by plugin specialist u-he and the Bitwig team.
- One of the most flexible modulation systems around
- Forward-thinking DAW design
- Creative modular environment
- Fastest and most intuitive interface
- There are some notable bugs in the software
- Can be a bit unpredictable
Best Free DAWs for Making Beats
Best Beat-Making Features:
- Extensive Loop Library: GarageBand has a massive library of pre-recorded audio loops and MIDI patterns that cover various musical genres, perfect to use as jumping-off points. As a beat-maker, you can quickly and easily assemble beats by dragging and dropping loops into the arrangement window.
- Software Instruments: The DAW also includes a variety of software instruments, including drum kits, synths, samplers, and more.
- Virtual Drummer: The Virtual Drummer feature is incredibly useful for generating realistic drum tracks, especially since you can choose from a wide range of different drumming styles and customize each pattern to your liking.
GarageBand has been around for more than 17 years, and though it is certainly labeled a “beginner DAW” by many, it has evolved into a remarkably capable digital audio workstation.
On the surface, yes, it is probably the best choice for beginners. However, I was surprised that after years of putting it to the side to move on to other DAWs, a recent re-exploration revealed a host of advanced features.
For starters, if you don’t have a musical background at all, GarageBand offers the simplicity of sequencing pre-supplied audio loops, which is great for getting ideas down.
Beyond that, it also includes a substantial collection of software instruments, virtual guitar amps and stompboxes, and multitrack recording capabilities. The Drummer feature was a huge surprise to find. When it comes to automatically generating beats on the fly, it’s invaluable. You can then take advantage of the Smart Controls to streamline your sound editing.
If you’re deeply integrated into the iOS world, I’d recommend using the Logic Remote iPad app to control the software remotely. It’s great for recording from another room.
The last significant advantage of using GarageBand is that each of your projects will be compatible with Logic Pro, should you choose to send it out for collaboration or step up to a more professional DAW in the future. The same goes for the iOS version of GarageBand, which is a convenient mobile DAW for beat-makers on the go.
- Comes free with every Mac
- Super easy to get started with
- Plenty of built-in instruments and effects
- Quality Virtual Drummer feature
- Some advanced users might find the feature set limiting
- The software does not support all audio formats
Tracktion Waveform 11 Free
Best Beat-Making Features:
- No Track Limitations: Unlike some free DAWs that impose restrictions on the number of tracks you can use, Waveform Free does not, giving you the freedom to create beats as complex and intricate as you want them to be.
- Quality Audio Effects: Waveform recently refreshed its collection of stock DSP plugins, giving you 15 high-quality, visually appealing plugins to play around with, from plate reverbs to compressors, and distortion to EQ.
- Categorized Search Approach: Finding presets, samples, clips, tracks, and more, is super easy with the entirely new browser.
Considering the fact that it’s completely free, Tracktion Waveform is one of the most impressive fully functional DAWs we’ve seen.
It’s ba bit different than some of the other free DAWs that you’ll seen online, as Waveform Free imposes no restrictions on simultaneous recording track count, offering users a robust platform for their music projects.
This versatile DAW supports both AU and VST plugins, and is compatible with both Mac and PC operating systems.
You can go with the paid upgrade option to get Waveform Pro, which caters more to advanced users looking for additional features, though for basic music creation and beat-making purposes, Waveform Free is pretty solid.
- Unlimited track count
- Super user-friendly interface
- Solid bundle of stock plugins
- Customizable workspace
- Interface is a bit stark
Zynewave Podium Free
Best Beat-Making Features:
- VST Plugin Support: The fact that you can use third-party VSTs in your Podium projects is a great offering.
- Track Freeze/Bounce: To manage CPU performance, Podium Free offers track freeze and bounce capabilities, allowing you to optimize CPU usage by rendering tracks when needed.
- External MIDI Controller Support: Podium Free includes support for external MIDI controllers, so you can enjoy a more tactile music-making experience.
Podium Free has been a longtime recommendation of mine when it comes to robust free digital audio workstations. It marries efficient workflow with a contemporary user interface. Truly, who could want more?
It was purposefully crafted with electronic musicians in mind, which is why virtual instruments are the primary sound source.
However, it's equally important to note that this free DAW is capable of recording and mixing real instruments as well.
With the free iteration of Podium, you’ll get reliable VST plugin support, without imposing limitations on the number of VST plugins per project. It also offers a sturdy object-based project structure complemented by a virtual mixer.
For a free DAW, I’m always quite surprised by the number of tools it comes with for recording and editing, along with features like track bounce/freeze and compatibility with external MIDI controllers.
The free iteration of the DAW shares the same customizable user interface as its full version counterpart, so if you eventually decide to upgrade, you won’t feel lost.
However, one of the notable limitations of Podium Free is its lack of support for multi-core CPUs, meaning that when you’re using a quad-core processor, only one of the four CPU cores will be actively utilized for plugin processing. Despite its CPU utilization limitation, it’s an incredible valuable free choice for music production.
- Intuitive user interface
- Fast workflow design
- VST plugin support
- Single core processing issue for VSTs
- Not cross-platform compatible
Final Thoughts - Best DAW for Making Beats
When all is said and done, finding the right DAW for your music production doesn’t need to be a hard decision.
I’d recommend testing them all out to see which one of them has the best workflow for your style. You’ll also have to consider your computer's capabilities, which is another reason why it's essential to test a demo version of the DAW before you make a commitment.
Note that no software alone is going to make you a great beatmaker. There’s no substitution for having a good ear and knowing how to arrange, produce, mix, and master.