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Best Recording Studio Software

by Matt D'AngeloLast Modified: June 29, 2018

Intro
State of the Industry
Best Picks
Our Methodology
Reviews
Pricing
Negotiation Tips
Common Recording Studio Questions & Answers
Map
Services

Intro

Recording studio software includes powerful tools for creating, recording, editing and exporting audio for professional use. Sound engineers, amateur DJs, musicians and business owners all use this software for audio projects, whether editing existing audio or creating new beats.

There are several different types of software, and the best one for your business depends largely on what your business needs are. At their core, each digital audio workstation (DAW) can be used for the same thing – they can record, create and edit audio. DAWs can be used to do everything from recording and producing a podcast to creating a chart-topping single.

State of the Industry

The recording studio software industry is one that has endless business applications, particularly with podcasts and sound editing. If you're looking to start a podcast, edit audio, or create a new song or sound for your business, DAWs are a great place to get started. There are various levels and types of software, but all require a certain level of baseline knowledge to use. Luckily, almost all the major players include video tutorials, user forums and extensive knowledge bases so you can learn more about how to use the product or how to get the most out of it.

Before getting started, there are a few pieces of additional equipment that your business may need. DAWs are essentially recording and mixing software that need to be paired with other equipment. If you plan on doing a lot of live audio recording, you'll need an audio interface and an external microphone. The audio interface transfers sound into data that can be read by the DAW. It's also important to get an external microphone. While your computer likely comes with an internal microphone, the sound quality won't be nearly as good as an external one.

In addition to these tools, you also may need a MIDI controller to create MIDI files. MIDI files are recordings or audio files associated with virtual instruments, and many DAWs come with a lot of MIDI files built into the sound library.

MIDI controllers serve as a way for musicians and sound producers to create sounds without playing the actual instrument needed. A pipe organ, for example, can be played using a MIDI controller and then can be edited or adjusted to sound like a synthesizer. MIDI files and controllers are dynamic and present an opportunity to create, record and edit an endless number of sounds.

Best Picks

Budget
Traditional Recording
Live Recording
Best Value
Magix Music Maker

Music Maker – Best for Budget

Magix Music Maker

Music Maker is a base-level program in a long line of successful Magix sound-editing products. Music Maker is completely free, but it includes an intuitive design, a good sound library and extensive technical and customer support. As a free digital audio workstation, Music Maker is ideal for business owners and musicians looking to learn more about recording studio software, how to edit music or how to produce new audio projects.

While Music Maker is free, users can upgrade to the premium version, which includes more sounds and features, for a reasonable price. The Music Maker model is one where users can pay as they go – a built-in store makes it easy to add new sounds, plug-ins or other features as you learn more and complete more projects. Music Maker is our best pick for Best Recording Studio Software for Budget.

Pro Tools 12

Pro Tools – Best for Traditional Recording

Pro Tools 12

Pro Tools is a major name in the recording studio industry. As one of the first digital audio workstations, Avid's Pro Tools has had a major influence on the development and design of recording studio software. The industry giant still offers a product that's great for small businesses. Pro Tools is a software that's ideal for editing audio after it's been recorded as opposed to creating new sounds and beats directly in the software. Pro Tools further separated itself from competitors when it introduced the Avid Marketplace and Cloud Collaboration. Pro Tools users can get support, find other musicians and post their work to the Avid Marketplace. The marketplace acts as a separate communication channel just for Pro Tools users.

This couples nicely with Cloud Collaboration technology, which allows musicians and business owners to work simultaneously on a project from multiple different locations. Every edit or addition to the project automatically updates in real time. Pro Tools earns our best pick for Best Recording Studio Software for Traditional Recording because of its extensive editing tools and sound library and its new cloud collaboration technology.

Ableton Live

Ableton Live – Best for Live Recording

Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation geared to support musicians during a live performance. It is a stable, reliable program with a sessions view for easy experimentation and organization. The sessions view also includes a feature that allows you to save music you play even when you forgot to press record.

In addition to some marquee features that bolster a live performance, Ableton Live comes with an extensive sound library, a long list of plug-ins and high-quality support. Users also can link up with other musicians and collaborate on the same project from multiple different devices with Ableton Link. This feature makes Ableton Live among the first DAWs to integrate real-time collaboration into their software. For these reasons, Ableton Live earns our best pick for Best Studio Recording Software for Live Performance.

Apple Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X – Best Value

Apple Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X comes with a large sound library and multiple plug-ins and effect tools for an affordable price. It comes with 21 software instruments, nine MIDI plug-ins, 2,767 instrument patches, 5,649 loops and 66 effect plug-ins. This sound library, combined with powerful editing and recording tools, makes Logic Pro a competitive DAW at a low price.

It's also backed by Apple's customer service support, and the software features a sleek, intuitive design for easy use. Logic Pro features a flexible interface that can be adjusted and changed to fit your workflow. While it's only available on Mac OS, Logic Pro's breadth and access is unmatched by other DAWs of its price level. For these reasons, it's our best pick for the Best Recording Studio Software Value.

Our Methodology

We started with a list of over 25 different digital audio work stations. We compiled it by analyzing industry trends, researching existing software and comparing the services offered by each company. From that list, we selected 10 that are at the top of the industry. This included analyzing things like ease of use, price, overall value, level of support offered, size of sound library and third-party software integration.

We analyzed each application in depth, comparing listed features on company websites, analyzing YouTube tutorials, calling or emailing customer service, considering online customer reviews and comparing the prices of each program. From the list of 10, we selected four DAWs that excelled in one of the following areas: budget, value, sound effect tools, traditional recording and live performance.

Reviews

Pricing

The price of your DAW depends on what you need it for. There are free DAWs, which have sleek interfaces and a recording and editing engine that can tackle your audio projects. Mid-range DAWs typically range from $100 to $200, and will offer an extensive sound bank, audio editing interfaces, and other editing technology like pitch-shifting or time stretching. High-end DAWs will be over $200 and can exceed costs of $600. This software will include advanced editing technology and an even wider range of sounds and instruments to choose from.

The beauty of using DAWs is the flexibility in price – you can purchase an inexpensive DAW and download third-party plug-ins to expand its capabilities. It's also possible to add in sounds you find online or download extensions through the software's website. Because of this flexibility, price doesn't necessarily denote quality. While there are some inherent advantages to paid DAWs compared to free ones, once you enter the $100 to $300 range, you'll be accessing features that are prevalent across a wide range of software. So, depending on your needs, it may be best to spend less money upfront and add extensions as you begin producing projects.

Negotiation Tips

In terms of software, DAWs are unique in that they are usually one-time purchases. Only a few companies we analyzed offer a subscription-based service. Some allow for free updates, while others require you to pay a fee once you make a substantial jump in service type, say from version 1.0 to 2.0.

  • Support. Depending on what you need recording studio software for, consider the level of support offered by the company. You should be looking at software that offers some type of forum, a knowledge base of frequently asked questions and articles, video tutorials, and email or telephone support. Some DAWs don't offer the last type of support, so keep that in mind while analyzing this aspect. 

  • Added costs and what's included. While DAW pricing is flexible, be wary of added costs. If you pay for your DAW, it should come with a large sound library, a good number of plug-ins and other sound editors and technical support. It should integrate easily with third-party plug-ins and other sound files. Be careful not to jump at an intense, extensive software because of the power it boasts. Likewise, if you sign up for a free service, know how much it's going to cost to add sounds and download extensions.

Common Recording Studio Software Questions & Answers

Have a recording studio software question of your own?

You already got some pretty good answers in terms of making your videos look good, the next thing is making them SOUND good as well... which is something a lot of people overlook. This is important because when we record something without any type of equalization or filtering we wind up with a wall of sound that spans the entire bandwidth of human hearing. Even if there's nothing going on at certain levels but a mere hiss the ear still picks up on it and tells the brain to process it. Then...

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Alright so, I'm going to respond largely to the audio portion of this question. You say due to budget restrictions you're trying to avoid paying to rent a recording studio and that's understandable. If you are looking to capture dialogue such as an interview or even a single monologue voice-over an inexpensive option is the Snowball by Blue Microphones. On Amazon I am able to find them for around $50 and I know they work well. For even less money, your iPhone, when held really close to your...

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If you plan to play music in a public space, then you require performance licence in order to play protect recordings from the relevant copyright owner. The two bodies you need to refer to are the PPCA and APRA. Music played in the home is considered private, but any public function space requires licensing. You can be held legally responsible for obtaining or playing music in a public space. Where there is evidence of copyright infringement or pirated music be held accountable.This...

Read More ▼

Map

Magix Music Maker
1105 Terminal Way
Reno, NV 89502, NV
Magix Music Maker
Motu Digital Performer 9
1280 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA
Motu Digital Performer 9
Bitwig Studio
13 Schwedter St.
Brandenberg, Berlin,
Bitwig Studio
FL Studio
Franklin Rooseveltlaan
FL Studio
Apple Logic Pro X
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA
Apple Logic Pro X
Cubase 9.5
6600 Orangethorpe Ave
Buena Park, CA
Cubase 9.5
Reaper
319 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
Reaper
Pro Tools 12
90 Park Avenue
New York, NY
Pro Tools 12
Ableton Live
36 W. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA
Ableton Live
Reason
PO Box 13819
Milwaukee, WI
Reason

Services

List of 10Best Recording Studio Software

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