Complete DAWs, free? Yes, there are some available – here are the best…
MuLab – Cross-platform music production studio
Believe it or not, some DAWs are free. MuLab works on Mac or PC and has a remarkable feature set. As good, in fact, as some entry-level paid DAWs.
You get audio and MIDI multitracking, automation support, modular architecture and multicore CPU support. There’s support for REX files, slicing sampled drum loops, a streamlined mixer and a selection of synths, samplers and effects and various sample players.
Native MUX modules can be mixed with VST plug-ins and there’s ReWire, a browser, drag and drop and multi-monitor support.
W: www.mutools.com – Platform: Mac, PC
SAVIHost – Standalone VST host for Windows
This isn’t strictly a DAW, but will be of interest to many Windows users. It’s always been slightly annoying that if you wanted to load and play a single VST instrument you had to boot up a DAW. Apart from anything else, this could introduce another source of crashing. With SAVIHost, you can load one VST instrument at a time without using a DAW.
It has a virtual keyboard, as well, and is of particular use for anyone perorming, for example, with their favourite piano VSTi, but where that instrument hasn’t come supplied with a standalone version.
W: http://www.hermannseib.com/english/savihost.htm – Platform: PC
Studio One Prime – Free version of popular DAW
Presonus’s Studio One is an increasingly popular DAW for Mac and PC and though there’s a demo version, there’s also a free version in the form of Studio One Prime.
This has some of the core features of the full version. It features an elegant single-window environment with drag and drop and multitouch support, unlimited audio tracks, as well as MIDI tracks, buss tracks and effects channels.
You get the free Presence XT expandable sampler with a sound library, as well as nine audio effects including Ampire, Beat Delay, chorus, reverb and more. Check it out for a flavour of what it can do.
W: www.presonus.com – Platform: Mac, PC MT
ARDOUR – Recording and mixing environment
As it offers the user unlimited channels, Ardour allows overlapping layered regions, non-overlapping regions or true destructive (single-file)
regions. Tracks may be mono, stereo or multichannel.
Flexible plug-in panner architecture allows sensible panning of multichannel tracks into buses. There’s much more, including extensive video support that is better than in many paid DAWs and supports extracting audio from video and modular support for using multiple machines. There’s full plug-in support, plus batch track export, non-destructive editing and comprehensive mixing and routing available.
It’s particularly elegant for a free DAW, and can even give a fair few paid alternatives a run for their money.
W: www.ardour.org – Platform: Mac
OHM STUDIO – Online collaborative DAW
Ohm Studio is a very clever system that mixes a freely downloadable app for your Mac or PC with a cloud system that enables online real-time, multi-user collaboration on projects.
It comes complete with a collection of plug-ins from Ohm Force, and also supports your local VST collection. When you share a project to the cloud, the software freezes the tracks, making the audio available to your collaborators.
The company makes some free instruments and effects that can be downloaded, and also produces some commercial ones that you can purchase for a fairly modest price if you wish. The DAW itself is beautifully designed and slick, complete with the core tools that you need to record and mix
W: www.ohmforce.com – Platform: Mac, PC