A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is a self-contained, integrated development environment aimed at music production (or any work with sound). It’s generally meant to be a complete digital studio; it has built-in functionality for recording, editing, mixing (including effects processing via inserts or effect busses) and mastering.
There are a number of DAW’s on the market to choose from: Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Reason, Sonar, Reaper, just to name a few. How do I know which one is best suited to my needs?
If you’re on Mac OS X and your main aim is to write some music, and you really want it to sound as good as possible, then Apple’s Logic Pro X is probably a good choice. It comes with a broad range of instruments and effects plus a large collection of loops.
If you have done some DJ’ing, or if you want to explore the art of writing music from a less linear perspective, then you really should check out Ableton Live. It doesn’t suit everyone, but if you try it out, and if you’re able to connect with the intuitive and improvisational nature of the program, then you may find yourself writing some great and perhaps unexpected music, that could make you proud. Ableton Live is equally suited for a more linear workflow, so the choice is entirely up to you. As it should be.
If you have worked a lot in a more conventional studio, then Pro Tools could be worth considering. It has always been a favorite among recording and mixing engineers, especially people with several decades of experience.
Reaper is interesting, not least because of it’s humble pricing model.