What’s The Best Desktop DAW? (2015 Poll)

fl-studio-laptopAbleton Live, FL Studio and Logic Pro have long been favorite Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) of Synthtopia readers.

But new apps can still shake things up. Last year, when over 14,000 readers took part in our 2014 Best DAW Poll, Bitwig jumped into the top 5.

And DAWs continue to evolve. In the last year, there have been big updates for Live, Pro Tools, Sonar, Mixcraft, Logic Pro, Reaper, Reason, Nuendo, DP, Studio One, FL Studio, Ardour and more.

So – what’s the best desktop DAW in the world in 2015? Here’s your chance to weigh in!

Leave a comment below, too, and share the reasoning behind your DAW choice!

Note: This poll will be open through the end of day, Dec 31, 2015.

126 thoughts on “What’s The Best Desktop DAW? (2015 Poll)

      1. why? believe it or not people still use it to actually make music. It might not be full of apple loops, whizz bang features like virtual drummers called Chad or step sequencers but it’s the most usable DAW I’ve found.

      2. As a former Protools user (that moved to LPX now), I can only say that Protools is not a bad DAW… Avid is a bad company, but Protools isn’t a bad DAW at all. It actually has a lot of great features, very useful for people to work… and also a lot of bad features and stupid design/programming choices too.

        Like any DAW, there’s PROs and CONs… Protools doesn’t only have CONs, there’s still some PROs which could make it a solution for some of us.

        Unfortunately, due to the stupid Avid decisions, there’s less and less interest for Protools because a lot of other DAW now have as good (if not better) features as Protools and are way more elegant, cheaper, and sometimes more efficient.

  1. Still Logic Pro for me. Best use of visual space, quick to put together arrangements, apply automation, there’s a ton of really great FX and sound sources bundled, Alchemy is really cool, much nicer since the overhaul. I’ve tried other DAW’s when a joint project has required it but I don’t get on with them as well. Logic behaves like a studio does so coming from a purely hardware background of the ones I’ve tried it works the best for me, been using it since version 8 and can’t foresee a change. Only bits I’m less happy with is the multicore usage could be better, I find soft-synths can spread out better when used as a VST rather than as an AU under Logic.

    1. What’s really troubling me, though, is the fact that you can only use Audio Units with Logic. Even if we’re to believe that you could somehow pull this off, it’s still far fetched to insinuate that there’s any perceivable difference between these two formats in any perceivable manner, let alone contributing to a wider sound – if that’s what you mean with spread, anyways. Besides, it just feels weird to read someone who shows a preference for the Audio Unit temple – if you will – express a preference for the format used by their rivals, specially, again, when such a thing is, has always been, and presumably will continue to be an impossibility.

      1. I believe he was referring to CPU spread, not sound spread. I constantly use heavy CPU synths such as U-he and Spectrasonics, these always seem to use only one thread on the CPU meter (Logic/plugin developers should be able to spread this across more threads), so I’m constantly getting nasty audio artifacts when the CPU maxes out, no matter what CPU setting I choose – I’m using 2.3ghz quad core i7 with 16gb RAM, so not exactly a weak system…..

  2. So much depends on how you use it. For remixes I use ableton because of the elastic audio and clip based automation, but for sound design and scoring to picture l use Digital Performer has the strongest set of tools. But for the money, Logic is hard to beat. still going strong making a living without protools. I appreciate the current version and how you can finally use your own hardware, but the amount you used to have to spend just to get simple features like omf file support and a tc ruler soured me forever.

  3. Any of them are fine. I love f FL STUDIO. I can do so much detailing. Slicex was ahead of its time. And maximus. Gross beat. I use ableton mostly now. I had bought a launch key for FL. Ableton live is just fun to jump into. Make a live set on the fly and go. I’m sure I’ll learn how to dig in deaper. I still make and chop my samples in FL. Build in ableton= happy. Wish I could use my 32 bit vst collection without all the pain.

  4. Ableton live for me! The ease of use and way things are laid out make it very quick to get ideas down and the tools available are very good for making sure those ideas become quality finished products. Obviously a lot depends on the user and how they use it but for me I’ve yet to find fault with ableton. For composing it really is amazing, inspiring and everything you need. Max for live is a very cool bonus feature both for third party content and allowing users to create their own ableton live devices with a ui that fits well.
    Ableton is for composers, remixers, sound designers and performers.

    1. man, i fired up my old OS9 machine for the first time in years a few weeks back… i was amazed at how quick i picked back up on SVP. its been what, 16 years now since they kicked the bucket and there are still some things that thing does better than modern DAWs….

  5. Logic is totally the best bang for your buck, with all its capabilities, its surprising how inexpensive it is. I bought it for the hell of it and now use it just for adding audio to trailer videos and to export my podcast. Oh, Brain Damage Podcast!!! Itunes (Had to plug it). But FL Studio will stay on top for me. LOGIC is so dense that I always get lost and have never stuck with it long enough to really learn it. I still get pissed when I forget how to normalize an audio clip since almost all the other top DAW’s only require you to right click the clip or alter the clips properties.
    But with FL studio 12, taking it even further with its interface and routing capabilities, its just a beast for those who dont play instruments and just want to sequence and arrange. And their piano roll is still on top after so many years, you would think everyone else would get it an add a chord feature and a simple way to adjust the velocity and length of notes with ease. Logic and all those dam tools to do everything. Ya, I’m ranting and I know logic is great but the moment I stop and something is less intuitive than it should at least try to be, I bail out. Only so many youtube videos and manual digging you want to do before you give up.

    1. Best part is that it’s available for all viable platforms. You aren’t stuck on one OS or another.

      FL Studio is just getting there, and Apple can’t figure out how to make Logic work on anything other than their own antiquated OS. I wouldn’t care if it were the best DAW in the universe if I were forced to use a Mac.

      1. It’s not that “they can’t figure it out”, it’s just that they’re sitting on the biggest and most lucrative digital empire and arguably the biggest and most successful music store as well and they can’t be bothered to open their gates to the competition. Quite simply, because they don’t want to, there’s no real incentive. You see, Logic was first developed by Emagic, which latter got acquired by Apple, whom then made it a mac exclusive product. Similar to what they did with Camel Audio, more recently, in a way.

        1. Oh, I’m aware of all of that. I used to be a Logic user, as far back as 1998. It was the first DAW I bought, back when I was working mostly with hardware synths, my K2000 and my Korg X3.

          Then Apple bought it and tried to force me to downgrade to their overpriced, substandard ecosystem. Nothing like having someone flush your investment (not just money, but the time spent learning it) down the drain in an attempt to force you to buy their other crap.

  6. REASON 8.3.2d7 (build 6323)

    reasons is the solution to logics complexity same same but better.

    Here a list of reasons…

    1 Emulated SSL9000 mixing sound right out of the outputs.

    2 Simple version of logics envoirments no learning curve, more visual (nice cables and cv controlvoltage)

    3 Visually as a real console and the plugins organised in racks not windows like VST AU etc.

    4 The company that makes the programming. Look at those GUYS.

    5 SUPPORT is main reason for success even if it isn’t needed call and take a try.

    6 If you compare sound out of the box NUENDO CUBASE PROTOOLS ABLETON LIVE to name a few. I look att ready mixes before mastering. REASON SOUNDS A LOT BETTER!!! SSL9000.

    7 Easy to customize to fitt you hardware. Think sound IN has emulated PREAMPS from SSL9000. A top of the line soundcard with possibilities to become a mixer with the outputs of a SSL9000.

    8 Suported CC controllers make everything hands on and a lot easier.

    9 Rack Extesions that makes it more and more usefull day by day. ABL3 System9 Jackbox for no money at all. (With a soundcards 8xMono out and ABL3 = 8 Roland TB303 + SLL9000) sounding : )

    10th Reason is the totally new kind of midi support use EXTERNAL HARDWARE and customize your CC Record all MIDI, CC, SOUND, MIX AND MASTEROUT at once and you get a multitrack mix and a 2 track at once. and can make changes after in midi tracks.

  7. When you look at the results, realize that you are actually viewing the results of the question “Which DAW do you use?”, not “Which is the best DAW?”

    Unless you have actually extensively used ALL the DAWs on the list, how could you even judge?

  8. Ableton Live absolutely. So easy to use. So frickin’ versatile. Excellent to use both in live performance or for studio use. And such an intuitive and quick to use sequencer. Just amazing and nothing on the market can be compared to its simplicity!!!

  9. Reason. Have worked with PT, Cubase, Presonus, Reaper and FL. By far, the nicest looking gui, and a breeze to create/compose with. Not to mention its stability (for live use also). Bought 7 and haven’t looked back since. Looking forward to what 9 will offer.

  10. The DAW to keep an eye on over the next couple of years is Bitwig. Apparently Bitwig is being designed to take full advantage of the Win 10 touch interface on the new Surface laptop. I’m a Mac/Logic Pro X man, but this new alliance intrigues me.

  11. I use Mixcraft Pro 7. I had been using Ardour for a while, used FL before that. Decided to switch back over to Windows and started looking for a DAW. After trying a few, I settled in Mixcraft because it was cheap and easy, like my favorite kind of date. Its missing some features from the better known programs, but it works for me and the included effects and instruments felt like a decent value. Beyond that, the developer is very accessible and there’s a very active user base on their forums. So that’s why I’ll take the time to throw em a “I use it therefore it is the best” vote 🙂

  12. MIXCRAFT 7 PRO. Fantastic product. Loads of effects and instruments, loads of loops too. Support is second to none, and there’s more help with the forum and mixcraft university tuition videos. Great value DAW.

  13. I’ve used cakewalk on into Sonar X1 and now X3. I’m also “learning” Presonus Studio one V3 and Mixcraft 7. All three have a reasonable work flow. I find that when I’m needing to get an Idea down, Sonar works the best, because i’ve spent the most time with it and know it the best. I like that I’m able to use all my 3rd party plugins in Sonar and Presonus and all Daws seem to function well in a 64bit environment.
    I actually think once I’ve learned the flow that Presonus will be even quicker to track with than sonar. It’s all subjective and good in my view.

  14. Ableton. It just got a great workflow, it’s super easy to lay down any idea whether it’s a groove or something more complex. I think in other DAW’s you might get lost in the process sometimes

  15. No iOS DAWs? Auria, NanoStudio, MTD, MTS… Can all hold their own with many of the DAWs on this list.

    Also, nano loop for life and all but it’s an odd inclusion.

  16. Acid Pro is the best for me because it is super user friendly and every plugin I’ve ever wanted to use with it is 100% compatible with it. No DAW is easier to edit on and the workflow is natural and inviting to use.

  17. Bitwig has a very beautiful new concept & the fact that you can just drop a wav-file in a session and it automatically creates a playable sampler is just great (its the small stuff…:)
    Reason, of course, will always be “in my heart” – used it for like 15 years now..
    But Cockos Reaper is still the best investment i made so far – there is nothing that doesn’t work with it – its rock solid, customizable & very open. and for the people who invest their money in Sex, Drugs & Rock’n Roll – its cheap 😉

  18. I own Digital Performer, Cubase, Logic, Reason, Bitwig and GarageBand.

    If I’m doing work for someone Digital Performer gets my vote. It’s stable, has excellent audio and MIDI editing and frankly I just know my way around it. It seamlessly integrates with my MOTU audio interface too.

    If I’m mucking about with musical ideas I always end up using Reason. The virtual patching between devices allows me to interact with it in a very creative way. I find my ideas can wander along quite freely, and not get distracted by anything too technical. The audio and MIDI editing is poor however, compared with DP, Cubase and Logic.

  19. As if it makes any difference what daw you use. every daw can do more than you should ever need. and if the daw is not enough to produce what you want to say you might wanna rethink your message

  20. Pro Tools. Why?

    Because it *just works.* Because I have clients, money, and am an adult: I would rather do the sessions and get the job done and move on with life, than debate pc vs mac or complain about prices, or other utterly childish garbage.

    I spend my time working for my clients. I’m not billing them for the hours I’d spend converting their PT to get it all to work again. In every other DAW with the exception of Reaper, there is always some bug or another, that annoys me or causes crashes w/o saving my work. Or I spend hours configuring to get it to do simple operations (Ableton!) for my work flow that I get right out of the box w/ PT. I have a ton of outboard, no need to play the plug in format wars. 80% of my clients use some form of PT. The other 20% complain that I don’t have their obscure DAW and end up using PT or Ableton anyway.

    It is very fashionable for the fabulous mustache crowd of amateurs to diss Pro Tools, in favor of whatever flavor of the month will let them keep making the same 4/4 grid boring music, or whatever they pirated last week is their new thing to brag about. Then you grow up, get a record deal, and work at legitimate studios that aren’t sponsored by someone’s job at Arby’s. $700 for a stable system suddenly isn’t a big deal. When you start to realize you’re spending all your time configuring and modding your computer to be able to get 16 tracks recording at once and you’re spending more time playing with settings than writing songs, you move on. I’m on my 3rd PT system since 1999. It works for me and thousands of others. Do the flavor of the month thing if you want (Nuendo anyone? Its the Ableton of 1999) or buy into advertising. FInd a system that works, be it Ableton, PT, DP, whatever, and get back to creating good work, instead of wasting your time.

  21. Ableton Live for me, the most flexible and fast to use, and I have to say I like most of it’s defaults effect a lot
    Pro Tools is great for recording, but sequencing and editing with it is a pain in the a$$

    1. Have to agree Bitwig, touch implementation, modulation scheme, only thing that comes close (21st century touch, modularity) is Usine Hollyhock

      1. It depends … through phone is definitely digital … but overall – loads of built-in effects, the best implementation of randomizer so far! Downside are the bugs in automation and some unexpected behaviour when you try to trick the engine (so called workaround)…

  22. None of the mentioned are the “Best” Daw. If there would be “the best daw” out there, than everyone on the world would use it. But since there are many daws with many different features and competing the crap out of each other (hence we are doing yet again another poll… which also beats the crap out me).

    Also another problem with “general” polls like these is that this site focuses a lot on “vsts” and hardware synths. Thus it gets obvious that FL Studio / Ableton and Logic will probably be hip.

    I’ll use Fisher Price toys instead since no one else uses this

  23. We can make music, good and professional music with any DAW today. Most of them (the top major 15 ones) are perfectly fine. It just matter to your system, your preferences, your habits, or style of music, etc…

    Having said that, if I had to vote one, as a Mac user that moved from PT to LPX, I have to say that my vote now goes for: Logic Pro X.

    Best bang for the buck if you’re on Mac (and one of the easier to learn because of its easy transition from GarageBand). Even if I also do like Protools (for all Audio stuff), Maschine (for beat making, mainly with Maschine Studio), Ableton (for Loops/Live work.. mainly with Push 2), Cubase (because I did start on Pro-24 and Cubase 1.0 on Atari and it was the best I could remember)… and I do recognise the great features of Studio One, FL Studio, Reason, DP, Reaper, Bitwig, or even Ohm Studio (I like their collaboration stuff).

    But if I’d have to vote for one and only one DAW, my vote would go to : Logic Pro X.

    1. I’m with you on this – I’m actually in the process of writing an article on why Logic is worth the money, and was going to bring up that exact point about the ease of transitioning to Garageband. I also think in terms of built-in instruments, effects, and features it’s an incredible value for just $200. Especially with the addition of Alchemy – that alone is worth the price!

  24. Reaper, if you’re experienced. Mixcraft if you’re new. Reason, for stability and cpu efficient plus the included sounds/racks. I use all 3.

  25. ABLETON LIVE !
    It s the best DAW because it is the most creative of all DAWs and has no limits!
    If you wnat to create something crazy, ableton makes it possible.
    With the Ableton Suite you get Max4live – with Max4live you can create your own Effects, Instruments and Midi Devices.
    Great for VJing, Djing, Liveact, Producing, Mixing and Mastering.
    No other DAW is so creative!

    Some people say that Ableton has a bad Sound Engine. Thats not true. There are creative ways in Ableton to get the sound you hear 1:1 out of the DAW.

    The stock effects and Instruments are great – reduced to the things you really need – also the GUI of Ableton – its reduces to the things you really need. This is a beast. I use Cubase and some other DAWs too but Ableton is my favourite one.

  26. For me it’s Bitwig. I loved it already when it was 1.0 and after what all happened during the last year I think it will develop into one incredible DAW.

  27. Live. I like to write my own stuff (both audio and video) in Max, and Max for Live makes that a lot easier.
    And there are so many interesting Max for Live devices available (usually free or inexpensive) which expand Live in great ways.

  28. CUBASE PRO 8

    feels like a big map. I can direct zoom to the point where I want to work ..
    No matter what I do .. producing own productions or recording bands ..
    its my central point of making music …

  29. Propellerhead Reason 8.

    For me it’s the most inspiring and enjoyable DAW for sound design, music production and composition.

    Why?

    – Convenient and clear “three layer” GUI structure: rack for sound creation, sequencer for composition, SSL console for mixing.
    – Rack paradigm which provides unlimited routing capabilities of any audio and CV signal.
    – Presence of CV signals and related CV tools/utilities.
    – Consistent workflow and interoperability between native devices and rack extensions.
    – Automation lane events organized as sequencer clips: very handy and straightforward to draw and (re)use.
    – Combinator: for grouping together chains of instruments and effects and using them as a single rack device
    – Refill format for sound library packages: audio samples are lossless-compressed (takes less space on disk) and all content is indexed (faster search). You can create your own refill (Refill packer utility)
    – Live (quick) sampling button on all sampler device!

    – Amazing Propellerhead youtube channel’s video tutorials 🙂
    – Nice reasontalk online community, with lots of knowledgeable helpful and funny guys 🙂

    Obviously there are also things that I don’t like/would love to see improved:
    – lack of advanced midi editing capabilities / midi file preview
    – lack of note-to-track for “sequencer/pattern” Rack Extension devices
    – lack of (Automatic or Programmed) Dealy Compensation
    – lack of “folder” for grouping/organizing sequencer tracks
    – no access to samples inside IDT devices
    – no way to put audio track content inside a refill in order to have a smaller .reason project file

    Cheers,
    Alex

  30. Reason 8… Logic…
    Design Interface! Common guys, Live is just so… ugly techy… nerdy…
    We need a more human-machine interaction that’s achieve with Reason.
    And what about a product ready to work out of the box… Reason!
    I bought Logic but, with Logic comes the pain of buying many expensive VST plug-ins, and Logic is half way on interface design… We can see how synths in Logic are just transitioning from the old ugly interface design they used for many years (spaceship kind of synths…) to more real user friendly – user oriented design synths.
    Is all about good design guys!
    The SSL mixer on Reason is great!, Thor is a great starting point Synth, the effects, everything you need is there. Even a standard good quality Orchestra sound.
    Yes I really dream with Quicktime implementation for video production and VST on Reason so I can say Sayonara to Logic 100%.

  31. I’ve been a PC to Mac..back to PC user. I’ve used Cakewalk 3 up to latest Sonar. On Mac, I was a GarageBand fan and moved into Logic. Big headache as it is too much for this home artist.

    When the dust settled, I stumbled upon Acoustica Mixcraft Pro 7….and found the sweet spot. While pricing is very affordable, it wasn’t my deciding point. I want to “Get the same result with the least amount of effort” and find that Mixcraft hits it for me. Easy to get started, no overwhelming interface like a space shuttle, and I was able to get up and running in 10 minutes.

    Point to note…it’s important to find the right DAW for your needs and skill set. For me, Logic would be a professional’s dream with all it has to offer. For me, I’m a home artist and just want some easy to start tools. It has my vote!

  32. Seems like now-a-days you can pretty much do the same thing in every DAW, its just how you go about doing it. I have used Live, Logic, and Sonar A LOT at a few of my friends bedroom studios. Glad I demo and purched Bitwig though, it fits me like a glove when it comes to workflow…

  33. If I was the lone survivor of a shipwreck in the south pacific, beached with a lifetime supply of fresh seafood, canned goods, and plenty of coconut producing trees for shade, and I was able to salvage the ship’s solar-powered generator, and hack the touchscreen navigation system (which runs on Linux, of course.) to run music software…

    I would choose Bitwig Studio.

    It’s the Swiss Army Knife of DAWs.

    1. So are you saying this is the only situation you would use Bitwig, if not trapped with supplies and a Linux computer what DAW would you choose?

      And if you are salvaging stuff from the ship, navigation consoles and solar power, maybe steal a radio and console, powered by solar and send out a continuous help message – rather than making music for the palm trees for the rest of your life. Or a boat and mod it with a motor and supply yourself up, and use that navigation computer to go homeward bound. I am sure you would be able to get a satellite phone while you are at it. Maybe a more fruitful solution than using that navigation computer for Bitwig for the rest of your life till supplies run dry.

      Just saying you could maybe get back to civilization and use Ableton. As you seem to have invented a twisted concept of abandonment that gives you just enough technology to function and survive on your our terms, which isn’t going to happen unless you purposely move to an island for this setup. It is like someone inventing an imaginary girlfriend that is ugly, dumb, mean and constantly belittles them, if you are going to imagine stuff then knock yourself out, choose an intelligent super-model that is generous and compliments you.

        1. I do like that Bitwig, it is just that each incarnation gets a little bit more cluttered, who knows what will happen to the interface when they bring out that backend patching feature – boom.

  34. For those who say you can do pretty much the same things in every DAW– you’ve been reading too much of the press’ party line.

    In Bitwig, you cannot do Audio to Midi or Pitch Correction with its homegrown tools. You don’t have an eq with a spectragram.

    In Live, just read the commentary regarding the arranger. It’s audio-to-midi, however, is second to none (even can be close to Melodyne,) and it has a great sound library, similar to Logic

    In Logic, Cubase, or DP, you don’t have Session View (or Scenes, to differentiate.) Major plus on the creative side. However, with Logic, Cubendo, Samplitude, and ProTools you have temendous arrangers / VCAs / excellent routing and automation.

    I have to laugh at those who say you need to budget for AUs / VSTs with Logic. Maybe Apple will just buy a top tier effects vendor this year, rather than squander its cash on an outstanding virtual instrument. Maybe I hear Echoes coming from Pacman.

    The ideal DAW–a soup-to-nuts suite with a poweful Arranger, Session View for idea creation, and a powerhouse suite of tools and instruments is close, but we’re not quite there.

    Live / Logic / Cubase are the major front runners. DP is up there too. Bitwig is the up-and-comer.

    Logic used to be at the head of the line with respect to its pricing, excluding ProTools.

    Now the DAW costs less than Cubendo’s upgrades. It costs less than Alchemy sold for on its own, and it’s 14G of content was downloaded via a free point release.

    While Bitwig & Ableton keep upping the anti to outdo one another, Logic and Cubase need to invest in their own versions of a session view. Of all the contenders, Apple sure has the resources at hand.

  35. Bitwig jacked it’s existing users by offering a free plugin to new users buy didn’t bother to make any offers to it’s existing customers…. bad business in my opinion.

  36. Logic is rich… I don’t think there is anything that can’t be done. The learning curve may be somewhat steep but continuing to learn is a blast with it.

  37. Best DAW of 2015 is definitely Bitwig or Ableton.

    Ableton made Push 2
    Bitwig is completely multitouch.

    I would say on merit alone, I vote Bitwig for shaking it up this year.
    Still a bit to go before they can beat Ableton product wise… but then again, I paid less than half the price for bitwig than I did for ableton, and I am using bitwig more these days,

  38. Acoustica Mixcraft 7.5 Pro, Sounds Excellent, and the Inclusion of the “Ferox Tape Simulation” is the Most Essential Feature which Makes your Project, Production, Recorded Work Sound “Proper”

  39. Reason is the legend, excellent for laptop oriented DAWs. Never understood the hype around Ableton’s stuff.

    GarageBand is good hub (with Audiobus) on iPhone and iPad. But my superb DAW environment is: iPad with Korg iM1 app, Korg Gadget app [and microKEY (2|Air)]. As they are do the same, and also different things as desktop variations does.

  40. Bitwig has grown on me this year. I get things done faster than I did with Ableton, and I was using Ableton for like 8 years.
    I don’t get stuck in loops anymore.

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