Good DAWs/recording software for PC?

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I'm relatively new to the recording game, and I've been using Audacity, and it does the job for me. But if I wanted to be a little trickier with production values and such, what are some good and relatively affordable DAWs for PC (I have Windows 7 and 10 on the two computers I might conceivably use for recording)?

I can only recommend Reaper. It's super cheap and I've got zero complains about it. Everything just works perfectly and it's fast and easy to work with. I'm a fanboy. Biggrin

I agree with @Ianuarius 101%!!

Reaper has an unlimited trial so you can try all of its features as long as you want. When you do decide to purchase it it only costs around $60 and they give you tons of upgrades into the future. It has a huge very well supported with bugs being reported and fixed is already in its 5th version so very mature while still being innovative...I just cannot say enough great stuff about this great software!

Yep, another vote for Reaper here. The basics are easy to use, and whatever advanced features you may need, you'll probably find they're available... I've used it for everything I've recorded for years now, absolutely love it.

Well, personally I would suggest...Reaper! Smile

I'm sensing a theme emerging here.

I use Logic, but only because (i) I'm on a Mac, and so (ii) I defaulted to that before I'd ever heard of Reaper, and now I'm pretty happy with the workflow and so have no pressing need to change at the moment. But if I'd started out with Reaper way back when, I bet I would be very happy with it, given how much positive, and how little negative, commenting I've seen about it through the years.

I have used Logic, Pro Tools and Cubase but now I use Ableton Live, love the easy workflow and how easy it is to manipulate audio in that program.
But it can't compete with Reaper when it comes to price, and even if it haven't been won over, I admit that it seems like a quite decent program the few times I have tested it, it's just not as intuitive as Abelton, Cubase and the others in my experience.

"affordable DAWs" is the key here. Therefore, I have to agree with the others on Reaper. If price isn't a major issue then there is much better DAW's for PC than reaper.

As a complete NOOB to all the Tao of Daw ... don't have to know anythingto use it...but you'll never outgrow it. Does what it says on the tin.

I learned the hard way to make sure the DAW software is compatible with the USB mixer hardware.

Assuming I'm doing it all on the compy and not outmixing on hardware, Andy... Wink I'm CHEAP. Or poor. One of the above, LOL

Hey @metalfoot. I used Audacity for quick multitrack recording of audio ( 50/90 2013 & 2014 ). It's freeware and it is still the fastest and easiest way to do some basic acoustic demos and overdubbing of vocals. For a freebie it's still a very good digital multi-track recorder.

The EQ in Audacity is not real-time and reverb effect is really odd to use and it doesn't have any midi or VSTs. But the demos I did with it still sound OK to me, like this one. It's pretty tricky:

If you don't need midi, then use Audacity. Just buy a better microphone and hardware reverb unit or compressor, so that you get a good sound going in. Modern full DAWs can be hard to learn at first.

I still use Audacity for sound collages and stuff. Many of the effects are really good for that kind of thing.

I recommend giving Presonus Studio One Prime a try. This is a free version of their Studio One software. I just switch over to Studio One Artist after spending years with Cakewalk Sonar. I think it is incredibly intuitive and logical. Everything is pretty much drag and drop--files, effects, instruments. And, Studio One Prime, even though it is limited, is very feature packed for something that is free. You have your basic effects like reverb, delay, etc. You get a virtual instrument, the Presence XT sampler. Unlimited tracks. Give it a try.

Reaper is the obvious choice, Much like Protools but better and cheaper. Good
The only problem with Reaper is that it is so advanced that it takes too much of a learning curve to start out.
It is not simple to learn. Bad
Russ Dance 4

Reaper doesn't take that much of an effort to learn to do whatever you can do with Audacity. Of course, it's not paint. You're doing digital recordings here. There are things you have to learn, but once you do, it's a far better choice compared to something like Audacity because of its scalability. If you one day decide that you need to do something a bit out of the box, you can.

And there's no guarantee that Audacity will be that easy, either. I've had so many random problems with Audacity that I can't really recommend it. If it happens to work for you, then yeah, just getting noise on your harddrive with it is simple. With Reaper you gotta do... what? Select audio device, select input channel, arm the track, and hit record. If you don't know your devices, you're going to be in trouble no matter what software you use. Unless you're on a mac. Then you just rock the garageband. Smile

EDIT: Here's me doing a skirmish live during some FAWM (I even had some device problems there myself):

As you can see, it's very straight forward. I had a preset file that generates all the tracks and plugins for me because it really saves time, but that's not a big deal.

There does seem to be a reaper consensus here, and I've used it before a number of years ago with some success but for some reason I stopped using it. I don't remember why. My go to DAW lately has been Acoustica MixCraft. You can download it for free trial and if u decide to keep it after it expires, I don't think it's that expensive. I think u can even download and keep some of the older versions for free but not 100% sure about that.


Another vote for Ableton Live. It's a different beast from most other DAWs, and it's become a key part of the way I write songs, as opposed to just being a program I use to record. It even great for live performances in an integrated way that's not just "guy with a laptop on stage".

With that said, it's $$$$. Awesome, but not cheap.

Reaper, but with another consideration to add. The Reaper support forums are great, whether it's because you have a problem, or need to figure out a feature, or would like plug-in recommendations, or....

If the Reaper forums are anything like FAWM or 50/90, count me in

Ok, so I actually just noticed a problem with Reaper and ASIO4ALL on Windows 10. I haven't been doing much recording in a while, phew.

So, that combination made Reaper crash quite a bit. But the solution was to uninstall ASIO4ALL and install it again in administrator mode. What a weird problem.

I'm still using Zynewave Podium, which is perfect for me. I've tried other DAWs, but nothing comes close to Podium's user interface. It's a bit of a shame that development on it has slowed down these past couple of years.

I used to use a whole bunch of different plugins too, but I've cut back to a more minimal setup of stuff that just works.

@john_a Ableton Live is an old friend of mine. I used it today.

@Ianuarius Real time audio is very CPU hungry and so the underlying processes need high prioritization in order for Reaper to work flawlessly.
And you need admin rights to push your audio processes so far up the ranks that they get served fast, you don't have these privileges as a bog standard user.

I'm not sure if I understand that correctly. I said I installed ASIO4ALL in administrator mode and now it is working correctly. I'm not running ASIO4ALL in admin mode. At least as far as I know. Reaper I've always ran in admin mode, but that didn't help before.

Also, how does having admin rights push processes up in ranks? I'm really asking, because I'm not that familiar with the Windows process management. We had a course about it at the university, but it was utter shit. In my mind, if a process isn't prioritized properly, it absolutely will slow the workflow down, but crashing the host process is a bit much.

Again, it's ASIO4ALL that caused the problem... and I'm not even sure how. I'm thinking that Win10 is a lot stricter when it comes to installing random crap to secure locations in your HDD and it simply didn't install something as a result when running the installation wizard normally. Spotify was like on cyanide when I switched to Win10 because it installs the program files to %appdata% which... is insanely stupid anyway.

@Ianuarius, the last few versions of Windows have all been pretty picky about administrator access for small things. I've been in the habit of using "Run as Adminstrator" for a lot of my music (and some other) programs since Windows 7. (That includes for installation.) Half of the time, my programs "forget" that they're registered if I run them without elevated access.

I'm making the conscious decision to avoid the Windows 10 upgrade, but adding more restrictions like you're discussing seems in keeping with their approach.

I'm no expert on windows process handling, but I ran into this on my old macbook. The daily routine of hashtagging (read: building a catalogue) for the search engine was deemed more important than real time recording in Logic, so I sometimes had dropouts, spinning balls and crashes while running nothing but logic and the internal processes.

Processing power in a computer is limited, and when it comes to bottle necks in CPU power or RAM amount, you really want your system to be stable anyway.
Thus, important processes and programs get preferential access to infrastructure.
So, all processes and programs have a rank that shows their importance and their "place in the queue".
Now, I guess it is assumed that admin-installed drivers and programs are more crucial to the system than user installed stuff, so those are ranked higher than your average user installation.
You can read into "sandboxing" if you want to know more about that.

On the other hand, as long as it works it works.
My comments were more on the additional info side of things...

@metalfoot, I use Ardour. It's open-source and cross-platform: Mac, Windows and Linux. It handles my DAW needs much better than my earlier Audacity experiments. I have a Mac, so I pay for the prepackaged version -- but I'm quite poor right now, so I only pay $1.

I use LMMS for most of my virtual instrument needs. It's also cross-platform, supporting Mac, Windows and Linux. It's open-source and free. I either export as stems or complete tracks and then record the vocals and do additional processing in Ardour.

One quirk of some of the tools I use is a general dislike of the MP3 format, (due to patent issues). In Ardour, I export to FLAC. FLAC is a supported upload format by Bandcamp, but for FAWM/50-90 copies, I use Audacity to convert it to MP3. (Audacity is fully cross-platform, supporting Mac, Windows and Linux and is free.) I also use Audacity at times to prepare individual samples.

Could it be easier if I could do everything with a single application? Probably. It would cost me more than $1, and it probably wouldn't be fully cross-platform.

I purchased a single piece of hardware for my random music fun. It's a Zoom H1 "handy microphone." It functions as a stereo USB microphone, plus it has internal storage so I can take it to quiet rooms to record. (I have a FAWM song about singing in my bathroom.) On my list of "things to do", I list "use the Zoom H1 with an acoustic guitar and a lapel mic and record in random places" -- because a stereo mic jack is just two mono channels. The H1 is affordable and super handy.

Why is cross-platform important to me? I have kids, and they like to make music, too. Since I'm poor, while my kids each have computers, I bought them from the local university surplus store during a half-off sale. It was under $100 for the two computer systems. Since it is older hardware, I wanted to give the kids a good experience while being on-budget, so I installed Linux on it. (Lubuntu, in particular.) Because I'm using cross-platform tools, my kids can use the same tools they see me using on my own computer. Because I'm using free tools, I don't need to buy separate licenses for each of them.

My daughter (7) has taken to using LMMS and MIDI files of Christmas music to make her own songs. Before I know it, she'll be releasing her first holiday album.

I believe there's a free version of PreSonus StudioOne. It's tempting to upgrade to artist or pro though (I got artist with new hardware, and I went from artist to pro when I could), for the extra features. I never got into reaper, so I can't comment, but that many supporters can't be wrong. The only other Daw I ever spent time on was propeller head record before it was bundled into reason, and enjoyed the workflow, but never got past the demo level.

I have been using Ableton Live 9 now for a few years. I absolutely love it. In the past I've use Cubase sonar, you name it and this is the one that's really worked for me. If I had to learn all over again I'm a go with a Reaper but for now I'm sticking with Ableton.

To offer an alternative opinion (not that I don't like Reaper Wink ) - Tracktion - I've used Tracktion for years and it just keeps getting better. Amazing features for the $$$. Tracktion is very easy to learn.

To add on, they now give away the older (but still updated) T4 version of Tracktion for free. (The idea is that you'll like it so much you'll want to spend the money on the upgrade... and it's a pretty compelling argument. Still I ran T4 for years without issue and it's hard to be $0.)