It’s a wonderful time to be alive if you’re an aspiring musician or DJ (or a professional one).
One of the reasons for that is access – access to technology and tools that were only found in the million-dollar mansions of music producers or tech-savvy recording studios.
Yes, folks. We live in a time when anybody with a lick of talent and the right home studio software can create, record, and release their music, all from the comfort of their home.
In fact, there are many examples of people who are creating high-quality records or selling rhythmic beats that are the backbone of a song that songwriters compose and rappers rap over.
If you’re a budding creative who wants to break into the industry, then the best time to start is now.
One major reason for this is that thanks to home studio software, now you have access to professional-level studio software and equipment.
Furthermore, you do not have to break the bank to get home studio software and other recording equipment to create a personal recording space in your home.
But, as with any profession, you are going to need a bit of talent and, of course, you’ll need to make a small investment.
If you have the former, then you’re in luck, because the latter is now within reach.
What is DAW?
A home studio software, also known as a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW, is a software program that you are going to use to create, record, edit, and arrange your music, along with doing just about anything as a musician or beatmaker.
Everything that you can imagine while making music is going to be done on this home studio software, so whether you are a novice or professional musician, the only real limitation is going to be your creativity.
Why Do You Need Quality Studio Software?
For those who have a passion for creating music, there is also a strong desire to be independent in the music industry.
That is exactly what home studio software gives artists a chance to do: build a workspace in the comfort of their home where they can create and look for ways to monetize their music.
Keeping this in mind, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the accessibility to efficient and affordable home studio software has completely revolutionized the music industry, with many music creators earning six-figures while creating beats, song and melodies in their bedroom.
Thanks to quality home studio software, creatives now have the opportunity to become overnight sensations without having to make a dent in their savings.
No longer do they have to hire equipment from independent recording studios or sign up with a record label.
But, you can’t just slap a few beats on a melody and call it a day; you’re going to need to find the right home studio software, stick with it, and learn everything you can about it to grow as a musician or beatmaker.
So, how do you know what the right home studio software is for you?
Choosing the right software for the job is going to be a big part of creating a home studio.
Whether you want to dabble in creating music just to fuel your curiosity, scratch an itch, or whether you want to turn it into a career, you will need to invest in the best home studio software out there, and the good news is, it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.
MAC vs. Windows vs. Linux
When looking to invest in a home studio software, you have a few options at your disposal.
In fact, choosing the Operating System you want to go with is going to be the first major decision you are going to have to make when setting up your home studio.
For many, the difference between Windows, Linux, and MAC OS is pretty straightforward.
Windows is still considered to be the dominant option over the two since it’s well established (it’s only been around forever) and affordable.
Coming in at a close second is Apple’s MAC Operating System for obvious reasons: it’s a hip and trendier option (with the only downside being limited to using Apple’s MacBook or iMac).
While Linux is a free open-source operating system, which means anybody can download and use it, for many music creators, it’s an operating system that doesn’t quite cut it.
So, which operating system is better for a budding musician or beatmaker who is looking for the right software for their home studio?
Looking at the options, your best bet is going with Windows or Apple’s OS, with the former being significantly cheaper than the latter.
The operating system you choose will also depend on your geographical location. For instance, Apple products are more expensive in the UK as compared to the US.
But, if you can get over the glossy price tag, then Apple’s OS does provide a solid, more well-rounded interface and performance, which is what music producers look for in an operating system.
With the rate at which hardware and operating systems are going obsolete, it pays to invest in one that will be easy to scale when it is time for an upgrade.
It is important to note that Windows and Apple’s macOS are widely considered to be more user-friendly.
They are also easy to use and come with plenty of support.
What About Mobile Operating Systems?
While iOS and Android are great choices for editing music or recording voice-overs, you don’t want to use a mobile operating system as a daily driver.
That’s because both iOS and Android devices aren’t as good as a laptop or PC running Windows or Apple’s operating system.
Also, Android and iOS both have limitations when it comes to sound mixing features, inputs, and falls short of being a full-featured digital audio workstation that you can depend on.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to take a closer look at the type of software you should use to run your home studio, mainly paid versus free options.
Free vs. Paid
Whether you go with a free or paid option, the first factor to consider is going to be the software’s compatibility with your operating system.
Needless to say, the home studio software you choose is not necessarily going to be compatible with your current operating system.
This means that if you’re thinking of working on a particular home studio software, you should make sure that it’s compatible with your operating system.
While there are free options when it comes to home studio software, these options usually lack in the user interface area or advanced editing features.
In other words, free home studio software programs do not offer the same level of functionality as their paid counterparts.
Also, paid software can be further divided into two categories – midrange and high-end.
As the names imply, midrange home studio software will be sleeker and come with more editing options, but again, it is not going to offer the advanced functionality of high-end home audio software.
When choosing between free or paid versions of an audio recording and editing software program or how much money you’re ready to part with, it is all going to depend on what you are looking for in a home studio software.
For instance, do you want your software to have time stretching or pitch shifting, or can you do without it?
If you’re still on the fence on whether you want a free or paid home studio software, the following should help you make a more informed decision.
Best Free Recording Software
We’ll start off with the free variety, which is focused on novice creators who are just entering the industry and are looking for an affordable (read: free) option that gives them enough tools to play around with.
So, let’s take a quick look at the options. Here’s a list of a few of the best free recording software for your home studio.
Audacity (Windows, Linux, Mac)
When it comes to free home studio software, Audacity has got to be the grand-daddy of them all.
With a plethora of features at your fingertips, such as multitracking, and a range of plugins and effects, this software makes creating awesome melodies a breeze.
This is, by far, one of the most popular home audio software programs because of its ease of use and friendly user interface that comes with a low learning curve.
You also get a range of effects to play with, from track balancing or gain staging, or for volume automation, which can be done with the help of the envelope.
While the software offers plenty of features, it also has some drawbacks. It has a user interface that looks like something straight out of the 90s.
This, however, is a first-world problem and is in no way a deal-breaker for those who are looking for a solid and free home studio software that supports Nyquist, LADSPA, VST, and other Audio Unit plugins to enhance the quality of your melody.
Garageband (MAC OS and iOS)
For those who are just starting out recording their own music and are looking to make demos, Garageband is a nice option that provides you with all the necessary tools and features you need to make your presence known while creating demos.
While it is not as efficient as some o the other home studio software programs mentioned here (or its big brother Logic), it does offer beginners a good selection of tools to get started.
The only downside of using Garageband is that it’s only available on the Mac operating system. So, if you already have a MacBook and are looking to get into the music industry, then this is a good place to start.
Also, Garageband is a program that’s compatible with almost every piece of hardware that’s used for creating music, which makes it an easy choice for those who are already using a MacBook.
Another plus point is that its easy-to-use user interface is simple enough to not scare away any beginners while offering up many intuitive tools and plugins to help you create your masterpiece.
Ocenaudio (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Ocenaudio is a user-friendly, cross-platform audio editor that allows you to create and edit audio files with ease.
The software uses the Ocen Framework, which is a library that’s powered by various analysis applications and audio manipulation applications.
You also get plenty of features and tools, such as multi-selection, that allows users to select various portions of an audio file and apply effects to them on the fly.
You also get to work with an easy-to-use dashboard where you can work with multiple audio files and make multiple edits at a time.
Other cool features that make the software stand out include a spectral view that helps you get rid of any white noise and the reverb feature that allows you to get rid of any echoes in the background.
Jokosher (Windows and Linux)
Jokosher is known as the “musician’s DAW” for a reason.
The home studio software offers an easy-to-use interface with a decent amount of features at your disposal. However, you are not going to find any advanced sound or editing features here.
That being said, you will get enough tools that will help you out greatly when it comes to creating music, podcasting, and sound mixing.
In other words, the Jokosher home studio software is a great choice for your do-everything audio tasks.
While this doesn’t make it a heavyweight in the free home studio software sphere, its excellent visual layout and tools (with LADSPA plugin support only) are a good option for those who are just starting out as musicians.
There is also going to be a slight learning curve for non-musicians who wish to use Jokosher, especially when it comes to knowing various musicology phrases.
If you are already familiar with using software such as Audacity, then you will find that Jokosher is pretty similar, but with a better user interface.
Considering that this is a free tool for making and editing music, Jokosher deserves a spot on our list of best free home studio software for musicians and beatmakers.
Ardour (Mac OS, Linux)
If you’re going to be running Mac OS or Linux, then Ardour is also another great option.
What sets Ardour apart from the rest is that while it is limited to the Linux and Mac operating system, the software developers have taken aim at many of the high-end home studio software programs out there.
This means you get access to a plethora of cool features, such as non-destructive editing, VST/LV2/LADSPA plugin support, and synchronization with video support, along with plenty of other features and plugins that you won’t find in other free audio software.
Of course, this also means that while the software is free, it is not something for the novice user.
In fact, there have been some complaints by users that concern the somewhat confusing graphical user interface, which will indeed be confusing for newbies to navigate through while using the software.
But, if you have experience when it comes to working with other home studio software but are on a shoe-string budget, then Ardour is the way to go.
Best Paid Recording Software
If you have a rich daddy and can afford to pay for a home studio software, good for you.
When it comes to a DAW, there are a plethora of options available, which is a good thing but can make it difficult to find the right recording software for your needs.
Lucky for you, we’ve combed the web and have found the best-paid recording software that you can invest in to give that creative itch a scratch. So, here are your options for the best-paid studio software.
Ableton Live 9 Suite DAW Software (Windows)
The Ableton Live 9 Suite offers artists and music creators a complete package to create amazing melodies and beats.
The software comes with plenty of advanced features that make this software a smart choice for live music events – the word “Live” is part of this software’s name, after all.
The recording and editing software offers loads of features and plugins that allow users to arrange, time-stretch, and sequence tracks with ease.
Ableton Live 9 Suite offers two modes that you can use to work on your music production.
You can either use structural tracks under the ‘Arrangement View’ option, which makes it easier for users to work in a linear fashion.
The ‘Session View’ option allows users to work in a loop-oriented mode, allowing users to be more creative with their compositions.
The software is available in three flavors: Intro, Standard, and Suite. The cost of each of these packages will determine the level of freedom it provides you when you’re looking to create music.
The Suite version (with its massive 12GB install) offers you with far more features, including a comprehensive instrument collection and 23 sound libraries (or 50 gigs worth) of original sounds to make your creativity sing.
Apple Logic Pro 9 Studio (Mac OS)
If you’re going to be working on an Apple MacBook, then the Apple Logic Pro 9 Studio should be right up your alley.
This remains a solid home studio software when compared to other options available for the Mac OS. The Apple Logic Pro 9 Studio is choc-full of amazing features that are smart and efficient.
You also get new amp and pedal plugins, which are a nice addition to its already expansive suite of features.
All of the well-thought-of features coupled with a massive content library make this one of the best choices for a macOS-compatible home studio software.
But, you can’t expect Apple to get everything right. While the Logic Pro 9 is an amazing tool for beginners and professional music creators, it also comes with its fair share of cons, if that’s what you wish to call them.
One of the downsides for some professional users is going to be the Amp Designer, which is not as flexible as some would expect it to be, considering it’s for an Apple device that boasts incredible flexibility. Still, that isn’t anything a third-party plugin can’t fix.
But where it lacks in the Amp Designer department, it more than makes up for by offering up to 4000 presets, 255 software instruments, 255 audio tracks, 70 effects plugins, and as if all that wasn’t enough, you also get up to 99 external MIDI tracks that you can use to create your music.
Not to forget, you will also be getting six Jam Packs, with 16GB worth of sound effects and 6GB worth of surround sound music beds.
Studio One 3 Professional
One of the main selling points of the Studio One 3 Professional audio recording software is that it offers just about every feature that one would look for in a home studio software without creating bloat, which can affect its functionality.
Some of the highlights of this software program for creatives are: Arrange Tracks, Extended FX Chains, and Search Pads that are all incredibly useful if you’re looking to make some beautiful music.
Furthermore, the most recent feature updates have made this software more powerful than ever while keeping it flexible at the same time.
Studio One 3 Professional also offers an easy-to-use user interface with efficient drag-and-drop capabilities, making it even easier to use.
The main standout in the features department in Studio One 3 has got to be the addition of tools for music production and sound recording, including the Mai Tai polyphonic and XT Sampler, which is certainly going to something that’s appreciated by both novice and professional musicians alike.
In case that wasn’t enough, you also get to use the software for a 30-day free trial period where you will get access to all of its groundbreaking features, including the entire library.
ACID Pro 7 Digital Audio Workstation (Windows and Mac OS)
The ACID Pro 7 Digital Audio Workstation from Sony has been designed keeping the user in mind. In other words, the software offers the perfect balance of freedom and efficiency, whether you’re a musician or a beatmaker.
ACID has always boasted an epic mixer, a mixer that has made it a familiar name in the world of DJs and beatmakers.
With the latest version of this audio workstation, Sony has checked all the boxes of features that go into a solid mixer and home studio software.
For beginners who are looking for a reliable DAW, the ACID Pro 7 offers a straightforward user interface with plenty of features and loads of interactive tutorials that take the guesswork out of creating amazing tunes.
Steinberg Cubase 7
The Steinberg Cubase 7 DAW is an advanced music production system that means business.
This just might be the best home studio software available in the market today, which justifies the heavy price tag.
This pro-level studio software is a great choice for musicians, producers, and beatmakers who rely heavily on features and loads of audio and Midi tracks for their creations.
The software also comes complete with a whole suite of FX and instrument plugins that makes it a great choice for professionals – though novices might find the plethora of features and plugin options a bit intimidating.
One of the many highlights of this software is its high-tech VariAudio and chord track with chord assistance that makes it easier to create a more polished sound with your recordings.
You also get an array of other plugins and enhancements that make this software a joy to work with.
What Do Beginners Really Need (in a Home Studio Software)?
The importance of making the right choice when it’s time to choose a home audio software cannot be denied and is pretty much established by now
As we have seen with the options mentioned above, a musician, DJ, or beatmaker can only be as good as the mixing and editing software they use, which is why professionals have no qualms when they have to pay an arm and a leg to get themselves the best sound recording software.
That said, it is possible to find the tools and features you’ll need to create your own music without having to make a dent in your 401k plan.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to invest in a high-end home studio software to get a solid sound editor, a large sound library, and plenty of plugins to create your music.
When choosing a software program for recording and editing audio files, make sure that it’s easy to use and comes with a high level of support – tutorials, guides, and a community forum where you can get the support you need.
So, there you have it.
These were our top picks for the best free and paid home studio software available in the market today for all the mix meisters out there who want to drop incredibly catchy beats at a dime.
While there is no dearth of options when it comes to both free and paid home studio software, these will give you a good place to start out on your creative journey.