Best Audio Mixing and Mastering Software of 2021: Complete Reviews With Comparisons

best audio mixing and mastering software

Anyone who has a talent for music creation or is interested in music has encountered the term DAW.

It is an abbreviation for Digital Audio Workstation, and it is usually capable of recording, editing, mixing, and mastering digital audio.

With its importance, many are looking for the best audio mixing and mastering software to enhance their music production quality.

With the abundance of programs that promise outstanding results, picking which one is for you could be challenging.

As such, we listed five DAW software to help you decide.

Best Audio Mixing and Mastering Software Reviews

1. Image-Line FL Studio 20 Producer Edition

FL Studio is one of the most dominant DAWs we have today, owned and developed by Image-Line.

Many have rated this program as one of the best-in-class digital audio workstations (DAW), featuring full-featured, professional-grade integrated plugins.

Image-Line has decided to name the latest version 20 from its last update of 12 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its inception.

The combination of capability, affordability, and user interface culminates in a genuinely excellent DAW for amateurs and professionals.

Product Highlights

Being one of the most high-profiled DAWs on the market, FL Studio 20 Producer Edition has plenty of capabilities to offer.

Here are the most notable qualities to look out for:

  • Mac Full Compatibility

On the previous iterations of FL Studios, you have to download some software before using this DAW on a Mac computer.

That will not be necessary with the FL Studio 20 PE because it is fully capable of running on Mac OS.

Users with a Mac OS version of 10.11 or higher can operate the DAW as a 64-bit program.

Interchanging FL Studio files created in both Mac and PC versions is now possible, which is convenient if you’re working on multiple machines.

  • Professional-Grade Plugins

The base edition of the FL Studio 20 comes with an array of staple DAW plugins such as Harmor, Sawer, Sakura, and PoiZone.

These plugins make synthesizing and other audio processes more hassle-free than it needs to be.

While many are satisfied with this collection of plugins, the Producer Edition comes with eight additional FL-only plugins.

Overall, this DAW offers over 80 plugin effects. Some of these are Sytrus, Edison, Maximus, Slicex, Vocodex, and Bassdrum.

  • Plugin Updates

The series of built-in plugins for FL Studio 20 Producer Edition is astounding, but updates to the existing ones are also worth mentioning.

Slicex is a boon for FL users because it makes the chopping and beat arrangement much simpler.

With the latest update, you have more slicing options and send choices.

Fruity Reverb is one of the most-used plugins because it allows you to simulate different kinds of acoustic environments.

Its newest iteration has a modulation section that adds a classic metallic ring effect to your audio file.

  • Audio-Visual Interface

Just in case you’re not familiar, the Step Sequencer is one of the signature features in FL Studio.

As the name implies, it is a grid sequencer that uses patterns to visualize audio data.

It is optimal for creating or placing familiar sounds such as drum loops.

The Step Sequencer may be challenging to use the first time, but thanks to the complex visual nature of the FL Studio 20 PE, it could be easier.

So, if you’re not particular about the sound of a sequence, you might be able to detect the necessary audio alteration via visual adjustment.

The Good

Recording instruments into FL Studio 20 Producer Edition is more manageable than other DAWs.

If you have a grasp of controlling your audio interface, it’s relatively simple to sync up and make new channels that record directly to the playlist.

The Bad

If you order online, there’s a chance that you will not receive an installer flash drive, only a manual and a serial key.

You can still download the installer files online, but it would be a lot simpler if it is readily available.

Pros:

  • Lifetime Free Updates
  • A plethora of virtual instruments
  • VST2 and 3, AU instrument support
  • Revamped Graph Editor

Cons:

  • Possible instrument incompatibility for older OS
  • Automation could be sluggish

2. Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home Studio

The Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home is labeled as an excellent DAW for novice home studio users but has more than sufficient functionality for veterans.

As the name implies, the program is tailored for users mixing and mastering audio as a hobby.

The interface is largely similar to the previous Mixcraft versions, with subtle tweaks that are beneficial for those with prior experience.

Product Highlights

The Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home Studio is an entry-level DAW packed with features that beginners and pros may appreciate.

  • Arrangements

This DAW allows you to make arrangements for up to 16 virtual instruments and audio tracks, with multitrack mixing functionality.

At a glance, the total number of arrangements you can make may not be impressive, but it is a good starting point if you’re a beginner.

  • Performance Sets

Compared to a linear arrangement timeline with other DAWs, this program provides a unique approach to interacting with audio and MIDI clips.

You can generate fresh ideas, present live performances, or freestyle with your track on the spot.

The Performance Panel of the Mixcraft 8 Home Studio allows you to string a maximum of eight performance sets.

  • Waves Plugins 

Waves is one of the household names of music producers as it is one of the go-to websites for plugins.

Many plugins from Waves are compatible with Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Home Studios.

This compatibility is advantageous if the integrated plugins aren’t sufficient for your project.

The Good

Despite its relatively low price, the Mixcraft 8 Home has several functionalities available in other DAWs at premium prices.

For example, you can record audio and play your instruments that are usually locked in the basic version of other similar programs.

The Bad

If you prefer working on a 64-bit system, you might want another DAW as it appears that the Mixcraft Home Studio 8 is made for 32-bit PCs.

In general, 64-bit systems are faster and generally better than 32-bit.

As such, you may experience less than stellar speed when you use this application on your 64-bit OS.

Pros:

  • No subscription fee
  • Compatible with multiple file types
  • No internet connection required during installation
  • Low system requirements

Cons:

  • Drum creation could be better
  • Only for Windows OS
  • Possible delays when using USB Mic

3. Steinberg Cubase 11

If you’re an experienced music producer, Cubase is one of the DAWs you probably have used or at least heard about.

Steinberg Cubase is one of the top DAWs for music and MIDI, recording audio, arranging sets, editing, and mastering.

The 11th version comes with notable updates and improvements that are well-received by beginners and long-time users.

Product Highlights

As one of the top DAWs in the market, the Steinberg Cubase 11 does not disappoint when it comes to features.

  • Scale Assistant

The 11th version of the Scale Assistant allows you to convert MIDI notes, whether you’re recording or editing, to a specific scale.

You’ll have a plethora of modes and scales to choose from, which will give you the freedom to customize the notes the way you please.

One of the most outstanding features of the Scale Assistant is the Snap Live Input.

This mode makes it possible to confirm any notes or chords that come from the keyboard to match the selected Chord Track.

  • Key Editor

The MIDI editor of the Steinberg Cubase is the Key Editor.

It visually displays notes via a piano roll-style grid format, which lets you customize notes and non-note events like MIDI controllers with detailed editing.

This version allows you to have additional functionality, such as building ramps and curves in the Continuous Controller and Pitch Bend lanes.

  • Squasher

Squasher is a tool that enables you to integrate upward and downward compression, which results in “squashing” the audio signal.

In simpler terms, Squasher is making it easier for you to set up lead sounds, lower or aggressive bass lines, and many other enhancements.

The Good

The Steinberg Cubase 11 has pre-installed sound and loop sets that enable you to start producing your musical masterpiece.

You can expect high-quality sample sets because notable figures such as Grammy-winner Beat Bucha produce some of them.

Other sets, like the Noir pack, came from Robert Dudzic, a famous Hollywood sound designer.

Overall, you’ll have an easier time making fantastic music with Cubase 11 because it offers a set of premium tunes ready at any time.

The Bad

It might take some time to be efficient if you do not have prior experience using Cubase.

The keyboard shortcuts are not easy to remember, making it a tad challenging for newbies to work on their projects.

Pros:

  • Stable program
  • Easy VSTs installation
  • More scaling options
  • Improved audio export
  • Customizable metering

Cons:

  • Not inexpensive
  • Audio library might be confusing
  • No free trial

4. Adobe Audition

Adobe is one of the most celebrated software developers, with decades of continued success.

While the company is known primarily for its picture editing program Photoshop, other apps such as Audition also have a sizable user base.

Product Highlights

Multiple capabilities of Adobe Audition are vital in music production.

With that in mind, let’s explore the most notable aspects of this DAW.

  • Playback and Recording Performance

Audition can handle over 128 audio tracks of playback, which is nothing short of outstanding.

Considering this feature, you’ll be able to edit and mix a vast number of tracks simultaneously.

It can also process the recording of over 32 tracks with low latencies.

  • Background Noise Removal

If your studio collects a lot of unwanted noise at recordings, DeReverb and DeNoise effects can minimize or remove background sound without noise prints.

You can also use the Essential Sound panel to improve the clarity of your audio further.

  • Automatic Fit

Cutting or expanding songs to fit a custom duration is a cumbersome task for some music producers.

By using the Remix tool in Adobe Audition, you’re able to rearrange any soundtrack to fit in any duration easily.

The Good

Project files from Adobe Premiere Pro, the popular video editing software, are compatible to be open on Audition.

This feature is highly convenient if you are working on video and audio files, as it will save you the effort of exporting files manually.

The Bad

The subscription-based availability of the Adobe Audition is a deterrent that could easily disinterest those who will use the program regularly.

This setup is also not beneficial for those unfamiliar with it because it might take a long time to learn the necessary features.

Pros:

  • Easy track addition and deletion
  • On-clip gain control
  • Efficient workflow
  • Hassle-free migration of effects and presets

Cons:

  • Will not install on older OS
  • Learning curve might be challenging

5. PreSonus Studio One 5

https://www.presonus.com/products/studio-one/

If you have experience using DAWs, getting acquainted with Studio One 5 is an easy transition, but it’s likely to be a tad confusing for beginners.

This software has the necessary features that aid you from initial mixing and editing to polished production.

Product Highlights

As one of the highly-rated audio mixing and mastering programs, the Presonus Studio One 5 offers many outstanding capabilities.

  • Drag-and-Drop Functionality

The Studio One 5 continues the drag-and-drop workflow from its predecessors, which the company views as a staple in its design philosophy.

From the program’s browser, you’re able to drag various tools such as virtual instruments, audio loops, presets, and many others into your project.

  • Harmonic Editing

Complete chord editing is possible due to incorporating the Chord Track, which allows you to create a superb chord structure.

The Studio One 5’s Chord Track recognizes and presents the chords you’ve rendered, ensuring that newly recorded passages adhere to the established chord sequence.

  • Analog Signal Processing

Mix Engine FX is a processing tool that influences all channels of your project.

It effectively creates retro-inspired effects like console crosstalk, tape saturation, and surface noise.

The Good

The inclusion of Melodyne ARA, the Celemony’s Grammy-winning timing and manipulation tool, and the Studio One 5 Pro’s features give it an edge over other DAWs.

Essentially, Melodyne offers high-quality timing and pitch solutions that result in a more polished melodic and timing structure.

The Bad

The icons aren’t very user-friendly because of their minuscule size.

You have to be always on-point whenever you click on an icon because there’s a good chance you’ll access the wrong command.

Pros:

  • 64-bit support
  • Free 30-day full version
  • Efficient audio and MIDI editing
  • Dynamic mapping API
  • Customizable Macro controls

Cons:

  • Lack of pre-installed plugins
  • Might be prone to crushing

Mixing and Mastering Software Buyer’s Guide

It could be challenging to select the best audio mixing and mastering software.

With the vast number of programs to choose from, it would be easy to get confused.

As such, the three factors we listed below should always be in mind when you’re looking for a DAW.

Purpose

The first factor you should consider while looking for the best DAW is what you intend to do with it.

Are you a musician or songwriter looking to produce demos of your music or a seasoned mixing engineer?

The tasks that come with the roles mentioned have different sets of requirements.

Whatever DAW you pick, understanding your intention with the recording software will help you make a sound decision.

Budget

You’d be surprised that a few audio and mixing software could easily cost you thousands of dollars.

DAWs are not by any means simple to develop.

That’s why their manufacturers put a heavy price tag to match the features and support of their programs.

Some of them are offered via subscription, meaning you have to pay to have full access to the DAW continuously.

On the other hand, there are still available apps that have a one-time payment setup.

As much as possible, try not to overspend on software itself, as you may need to purchase plugins and other support tools.

Skill

Being aware of your experience and capabilities in handling software is an unignorable aspect in choosing your next DAW.

Some programs are easier to learn than others, while other applications are a nightmare to get the hang of, even with the help of online tutorials.

That’s why it’s essential to gauge your skill because you might regret buying a highly-rated DAW that has a steep learning curve.

It would be better to start with a user-friendly DAW, then transition later to a more complicated software once you have the experience.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Mixing and Mastering Software

1. What Software Do Professional Mastering Engineers Use?

Avid Pro Tools, Sequoia, and Wavelab are some of the most go-to DAWs that professionals use.

With their vast qualities, the prices of these applications far exceed the entry-level to mid audio programs.

2. Is Mastering Necessary?

Mastering your project greatly impacts the grade of your music.

You’ll most likely have inconsistencies and imperfections to your final product that could have been avoided if you perform audio mastering beforehand.

3. Is Mastering the Mix Good?

There are selected instances in which mastering is not required for the mix, but it’s still optimal to do it, if possible.

In general, mastering won’t be able to correct the errors in a faulty mix.

However, the process significantly improves a well-rounded mix.

To sum it up, it is not necessary, but if you want to further enhance your music, by all means, go for it.

4. Why Do You Need To Master Your Music?

As mentioned above, mastering your music fixes the unwanted aspects of your music.

Unless you want to present a raw, unfiltered brand of music, it’s always best to have your project mastered.

If you lack the skills or experience, hire the services of a mastering engineer.

5. What Can Mastering Fix?

There are plenty of issues that mastering could take care of.

Here are a few examples of fixes that this process can do to your music.

  • Removal of clicks and other unwanted noises
  • Resolve audio frequency issues, phase concerns, and frequency response inconsistencies
  • Optimize tonal balance by distributing frequencies evenly. A well-balanced frequency spectrum aids in the translation of dynamic recordings on various playback devices.
  • Regulate temporal spikes, maintain dynamic range, and boost volume. 

Conclusion

We picked the Steinberg Cubase 11 as the best audio mixing and mastering software out of the five.

While others are also packed with numerous features, Cubase 11 exhibits superior add-ons, such as the Squasher and the Snap Live Input.

The dynamic sample sets are also a nice touch, which is conducive for beginners and casual users.

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