A battle that has now spanned over decades, a debate that divides friends and producers, a matter that all music technologists can give their opinion to – it’s the War of the DAW. Which will be crowned as the victor? Scroll down to cast your vote!
1Reason Studios Reason 11
With an iconic legacy of software effects and instruments, Reason 11 is the contender with the most recent major update. Probably the most noteworthy aspect of Reason 11 is the inclusion of the Reason Rack plug-in, allowing the best bits of the software to sit in a rack instrument or effect within any other DAW. Along with this came Quartet Chorus Ensemble, Sweeper Modulation, Master Bus Compressor, Channel Dynamics, Channel EQ now available as rack units within the DAW.
2Ableton Live 10.1
Not long after Ableton released Live 10.1, its free modular integration expansion, CV Tools became available, which was a gamechanger for many of its users. Other new features included user wavetables, allowing expansion of the factory library of the Wavetable synth sources with your own waveforms, enhanced automation: automation improvements include the ability to type specific values, reorganised effects and VST3 support. For those eligible for the free update it was a no-brainer, but can Live take the spot for Best DAW for the fourth year running?
3Logic Pro X
Although Logic Pro’s update to 10.4.5 wasn’t a major milestone, it did bring forth performance enhancements that brought the DAW up to speed with the power that the new Mac Pro offered. Instead of 256 stereo audio and aux tracks, 10.4.5 would now allow for 1,000 channel strips, plus 12 seconds per channel strip, up from eight. Also introduced was De-Esser 2, which was a well needed refresh to provide more options for sibilance reductions. Logic Pro has become a go-to DAW for many professionals in the music industry, and Apple will no doubt want to keep it that way in the future.
4Steinberg Cubase Pro 10
Cubase is usually Live’s arch-nemesis in the Gear of the Year vote, and for good reason – it has been around for 30 years now, after all. This update gave the classic DAW a makeover with buttons and icons given the ‘flat’ look that’s currently in vogue with graphic designers. However, Cubase 10 contains much more than cosmetic changes, with a raft of new tools, productivity enhancements, updates to plug-ins, and even an updated audio engine. Cubase Pro 10 is yet another triumphant update to this most long-lived and venerable DAW.
5Bitwig Studio 3
Bitwig’s increasing stature in the DAW world has enabled the now well-established company to push the envelope further into new frontiers of experimentation. The Grid brings modular synthesis onto your screen in a way that’s appealing to beginners but will stretch the imagination of even the most ardent CV fan. We gave Bitwig 3 a 10/10, but will you crown it 2019’s Best DAW?
6Avid Pro Tools
Avid’s Pro Tools is the industry-standard DAW, with incomparable audio editing utilities, not to mention its flexible video editing tools. This year, Avid gave a minor update to Pro Tools, with performance improvements, although certainly not as many improvements as last year; but it still stands as the staple DAW for many studios and engineers. Previously, Pro Tools was limited to 256 audio channels – more than enough for many users, but problematic for some film and TV dubbing editors, as well as some more adventurous musicians.
Pro Tools 2019.5 expanded this to 384 audio channels by default, with a further 768 voices available using HDX cards, or by purchasing Native Voice Packs, which expand Pro Tools by 128 voices per pack. Similarly, Avid expanded the number of available MIDI channels to 1024, vastly expanding the number of virtual instruments you can have in a single Pro Tools session.
7Korg Gadget for Mac 2.5
Korg has taken the most important parts of music-making, streamlined them and made them dead easy to implement, so you can create tunes fast. The three additions in Gadget 2.5 are the Otorii and Ebina, ‘future-retro sound modules’ created with SEGA and Taito, so obviously with a gaming edge. Then there’s Warszawa, a surprisingly capable and easy-to-use wavetable synth.
While Korg Gadget was previously only an iOS DAW, the company did a great job of bringing the concept to Mac, and it is not like learning a DAW from the ground up – we had a lot of fun getting hands-on with Gadget and creating sounds just like one would in the iOS version. You can swap between iOS and Mac Gadgets using the iCloud sync feature, too. Korg Gadget 2.5 was another DAW that we awarded a 10/10, but this poll is all about what you think.
8Steinberg Nuendo 10
Steinberg enters the race with another entry with Nuendo 10, which we felt deserved a fitting 10/10. As aforementioned, Pro Tools is often a go-to for audio post-production engineers, but Steinberg have their own weapon, Nuendo, which shares many commonalities with Cubase, not just in the look and feel, but also in its music creation abilities, MIDI editors, sample tracks, scoring and such. Nuendo is graced with Steinberg’s latest highly regarded audio engine and supports ultra-high sample rates of up to 384kHz and high precision 32-bit, 32-bit float and 64-bit float bit depths.
In recent years Nuendo has extended its reach into the world of game development thanks to its Game Audio Connect system, introduced in Nuendo 7. Nuendo was also one of the first DAWs to feature in-built support for VR and Ambisonics audio. But is this enough to make it your Best DAW of 2019?
Cast your vote here:
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.