If you produce electronic music, record, or do anything else that involves a digital audio workstation, you'll already know the big names in this industry. But for musicians who might have a tight (or nonexistent) budget, affording one of those big-name DAWs can be a challenge. If you're looking for an inexpensive – or even free – DAW, check out these five awesome free or cheap DAWs.
Acid Pro Xpress
Acid Pro Xpress, produced by Sony, is a fantastically comprehensive digital audio workstation that permits ten tracks per project and basic mixing capability. Free to download, Acid Pro Xpress can be easily upgraded to a fuller version of the award-winning music creation platform – but if you're looking to save cash, upgrade to an earlier edition of Acid Pro to get tons of tracks per project, sound effects, and even more mixing tools.
One of the original freeware DAWs, Audacity is simple but effective if you're doing basic audio editing. However, if you push Audacity to its limit – and you have a decent processor – you can turn Audacity into a decent powerhouse, with the capability of pushing out semi-professional sounding tracks. For musicians who are just starting out, Audacity is a perfect beginning DAW for setting up demo tracks for online distribution.
Giada is a totally free open-sourced DAW that functions wonderfully as a loop and drum sequencer, MIDI trigger, and live sampler. Created especially for live musicians and DJs, Giada is a powerful program whose minimalistic interface might fool the unwary. Well worth the learning curve, Giada is an excellent alternative to high-priced software programs of its type – and if you love it, you can donate to support further development.
Available exclusively to Mac OSX users, Garageband is a highly capable DAW, jam-packed with a ton of recording, editing, and post-production tools. With up to two hundred and fifty tracks per project, this awesome professional-grade DAW is free to OSX users – and rumors of a Linux simulator for the software are floating about, too.
Originally a Linux-only DAW, Rosegarden is now available on Windows machines as well. Open-sourced and free, Rosegarden serves as a highly capable DAW and MIDI sequencer, and is well worth the learning curve that comes along with it. Robust and packed with tools, Rosegarden is among the best free open-source digital audio workstations on the market.
Whether you're on a budget or just love to support independent and open-source projects, each of these digital audio workstations is worth checking out – not to mention utilizing for your next album or live music project!