What’s The Top DAW? It’s Not An Easy Answer

FL Studio DAWWe live in a golden age of audio software. Just about any digital audio workstation that you buy is easy to use and has more power than almost any analog studio, and the plugins available are nothing short of spectacular. The only problem is that there are so many DAW packages available that it’s difficult to tell which one is on top at any moment. You think you know, but you don’t. So I decided to do a little research and here’s what I found.

First, I conducted an informal poll myself. This is nothing special in terms of hard data, since it was simple – “What DAW do you use?” The results were:

1. Pro Tools

2. Cubase

3. Logic

4. Studio One

5. Sonar

This sort of makes sense since most of my readers are pros or serious hobbyists, and Pro Tools still reigns supreme in most high-end productions (especially postproduction). I was surprised that Cubase came in so high, although I hear nothing but accolades about the latest version.

But this little survey somehow felt incomplete so I went on an Internet search for more information. Wow, what a can of worms. There are literally dozens of surveys and articles regarding the most popular DAWs for 2017, and all of them have way different results. The conclusion, therefore is:

The most popular DAW depends upon your application and the genre of music that you work in.

For instance, postproduction is an Avid Pro Tools world, but songwriters tend to go for Logic Pro X, while serious composers trend towards Digital Performer, mastering engineers for Wavelab, and producers making beats love Ableton Live. Okay, that makes sense, except for the fact that the best selling DAW package on Amazon is FL Studio and nothing else comes close!

My friends over at Pro Tools Expert tell me that Studio One 3 is coming on fast, and while I don’t see that with high-end users, it does seem that many getting into recording are now choosing that as their first DAW package. Logic Pro X seems to be a sturdy seller (you can’t beat the price) but feels like it’s plateaued somewhat. Of course, everyone is waiting for the day that Pro Tools is dethroned, but that day isn’t on the horizon yet.

After all my research, I’ve come up with a list of popular DAWs, although in no particular order, since that’s a variable that changes so much with the application. They are (again, in no order):

Pro Tools                 Samplitude            Garageband

Logic Pro X             Acid Pro                  Ableton Live

Cubase                    Reaper                     Studio One

Nuendo                   Digital Performer   FL Studio

Did I leave some off, you bet. Do people use more than one? Yes, more and more. Did I learn anything? Just that this space is as confusing as ever. I’m still trying to get my hands on some actual sales numbers, and I’ll report back should that happen.

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