Top 5 Digital Audio Workstations for Recording, Mixing and Mastering (On a Budget)

These days it seems like everyone has a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of some kind. And with so many options out there, you may find yourself wondering what’s the best option for your needs?

The answer is that there isn’t one simple answer to this question. Different people have different needs and budgets when it comes to their music making software.

That being said, here are five of the most popular DAWs on the market today. Keep in mind that these are not ranked in any particular order; instead they’re listed randomly: REAPER, PreSonus Studio One, Cubase, Nuendo and Protools. If you’re looking for an affordable yet powerful DAW then REAPER could be the way to go.

What is a DAW?

A DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation. The program allows you to record, edit and mix audio. The price of the software ranges from free to hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Find out what really works for you when it comes to your DAW.

What do you need your DAW for? Do you want to record and mix bands? Or are you looking to record and mix vocals only in a home studio setting?

These questions will help determine which workstation is the best fit for your needs. Here’s a list of some popular DAWs on the market today so that you can get a better idea of what is out there.


REAPER has been around for quite some time now, and many musicians have come to love the program’s efficient workflow and relatively low price tag (especially when you compare it to other options).

The software itself boasts 64-bit support, VSTi support, MIDI, and other powerful features. There are REAPER tutorials that can help you learn how to use it properly and efficiently.  

With this being said, if you have external hard drives or another program for backing up data, then you may want to consider using them when recording so as to avoid losing your recordings through any issues that might occur with REAPER’s internal recording methods.  

PreSonus Studio One

PreSonus’s Studio 24 DAW is another great choice for musicians who want to get the most bang for their buck. The studio boasts a clean user interface with plenty of features. These include the following:

• Multi-track recording, editing and mixing

• Automation of parameters and plug-ins

• Audio synthesis capabilities

• MIDI sequencing abilities  and more!

The software is easy to use and can be a great choice for beginners who are just starting out with music production. Converting your recordings from one DAW to another can be incredibly difficult, but Studio One makes it easy by giving you the tools you need to transfer your projects and data efficiently.


The Steinberg software is yet another popular DAW worth considering. It’s not as cheap as REAPER or Studio One, but if you’re willing to spend the money then you’ll get a professional grade program with plenty of features.

Cubase comes with over 500 audio plug-ins and boasts an easy to navigate UI that is suitable for high end projects even at home. You can easily find any filter, effects, equalizer or parameter within seconds. The software also has MIDI sequencing capabilities as well as thousands of virtual instruments to choose from.


A popular choice among professional studios, Nuendo by Steinberg is an advanced DAW with plenty to offer. The software boasts a powerful set of features that include the following:

• Multi track recording and mixing capabilities

• Plug-in support

• VSTi support

• Advanced MIDI sequencing capabilities and more.

If you’re looking for a solution that can be used in the professional environment or at home then Nuendo may be the right choice for your needs. It’s flexible enough to work with both high-end studios and smaller projects, making it ideal if you need a DAW for business or just personal use.


Another industry standard, Pro Tools is used by thousands of professional musicians and engineers around the world. Designed to handle complex audio projects, this DAW boasts a variety of advanced feature that make it suitable for high end studios and home projects alike. Some of these features include:

• Multi-track recording and mixing • Automation of parameters and plug-ins • Audio synthesis capabilities

• MIDI sequencing abilities  and more!

Sequencing can be difficult if you’re a newbie, but the program has an easy to understand UI that makes it possible to create projects without any prior experience. It’s one of the most powerful DAWs out there and is used by a countless number of working musicians and engineers.

The Best DAW for You

Deciding which DAW is right for you comes down to what you’re wanting to do and how much money you want to spend on your project.

As you can see from the information above, there are plenty of options out there so don’t feel like you have to stick with a certain choice simply because it’s the only one that you know.

The more familiar that you become with various recording workstations the easier it will be to find the perfect solution for your needs.

Other factors to consider include the following: o How many tracks do you need? o What features are most important? o How much time are you willing to spend learning your software of choice?

The better that you understand what’s out there the easier it will be for you to find a program that can meet your needs in every way. Think about what you’re wanting to do and how much time and money is available for your project before deciding which DAW is right for you.

Once you’ve made a few choices then decide whether or not you need any additional plugins, virtual instruments or other features. The more that you know about the software from the get go, the easier it will be to make sure everything works out exactly as you want it too.

Don’t just jump into things blindly even if this is simply a hobby project! Take your time and try out each one.