What is a DAW ?
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a software which does all the audio/music production/processing routines from recording to arranging, and from mixing to mastering to final rendering into your favourite audio format, for production teaching purpose I use Reaper due to it's fair license policy (60 day trial) plus the low cost ($60 only) and it's also my most fav DAW)
Reaper Digital Audio Workstation
This year I am confident enough to say nothing beats Reaper if your aim is to compose music fast via programming or playing live, (for Loops based composing I will say Bitwig Studio is the best) now let me first tell the only negatives I find in reaper compared to other DAW's with timeline based workflow like Cubase, StudioOne etc.
No Score/SheetMusic editor for MIDI Wow! They implemented it in the latest version ( 5.20 ) :)
2) MIDI editing options are less compared to FL Studio or Studio One
3) Doesn't comes with a decent built-in Synthesizer/Drum Machine
That being said, the negatives of Reaper ends there, now to the positive parts
Super Fast!, yes, it starts fasts, makes your creativity flow fast with it's track templates which can load our fav plugins with the set patches on just two clicks, reaper handles every materials in it's single multi option track, be it video audio or MIDI, with the customizable shortkeys for every functions, reaper increases the workflow speed even more, big work area, versatile docker, popup MIDI editor, customizable multi-toolbars, track freeze, simple but powerful Automation, Reaper extensions addons etc. the list goes on and on..
Reaper license is fairly priced at only $60, though Reaper will run perfectly fine after the trial period, you should always consider supporting the developer team with the low priced license of 60$, btw, there's only one edition of Reaper, be it the trial or the 60$ version or the 225$ (for those who make more than 20,000$/yr) the software is same unlike other DAW's where there will be like 2-3 versions with different limitations on number of tracks possible or VST support.
My second favorite DAW, bitwig is also fast once it's loaded, the best option if you are into loop based production, DJ-ing, etc. Bitwig has most of the features of Ableton plus a clean big MIDI/Media editor, and ya it doesn't screw the brain on the reversed track panel like in ableton, it's always, left to right :) I own Bitwig 8track magware edition, Now for price it's costly at 299$ (much more than Reaper) but ya like I said for those who makes loop based production this is the one
If it's about Quick EDM production F L Studio will do the work, with it's simple pattern based routine, but for a complex project like orchestral/cinematic or for proper mixing purpose, F L Studio won't fit the cards, One feature I like is it's MIDI editor, it's a function rich MIDI editor which remembers our chord length for replication, and one click chord generation, key based chord/note placement etc. yes and a nice collection of Instruments and Effects, Demo version offers full features, with save enabled, but cannot re-open project unless purchased.
Producer Version is for 199$ , and Signature bundle can go upto 750$
All I mentioned about bitwig plus years of industry experience, so there will be always plenty of feature than bitwig under the hood, Audio to MIDI feature is kinda unique feature, and the new hardware controller 'Push' will make it a great experience to use for Live routines
Standard Verion is for 449$ and Suite version is for 749$
If you prefer monogamy, marry this, you will be having all perfect stuffs but limited choices, but every day that relation will only grow, you will be tension free, you don't need to bother what others 'taste' like, because others are not allowed in your world, but you two are allowed into every others life (Rewire), and ya sometimes you can take an expensive trip for that extra 'taste' (Reason Rack Extensions)
Demo version is like FL Studio, you can save and export projects, but re-opening is disabled
Reason Essentials costs only 69$ and full version is for 399$
If you are a Mac user, buy Logic Pro and you are safe, by the way all major DAW's works in Mac, but logic doesnt' work in windows, so ya it's been there for so looong, can be compared to Protools, Cubase etc, I haven't used it, so can't comment more, one thing, its low cost at 200$ compared to other big players, Logic supports only Audio Units plugin format
Pro Tools First (64 bit only)
It's a free version of Pro tools out there just to let us know how difficult it is for a quick composing routine :) Ya one can try what's the fuzz about protools with this version and get to know yourself what all it can do, I will never recommend protools for electronic music production, missing options in 'Protools First' are score editor, no video, Track limitation: 16 MIDI/16 Instrument/16 Audio/16 Busses and only 3 projects can be saved/worked at a time with cloud storage, project will work offline also and syncs to cloud when we connect to internet, comes with free Xpand2 and around 20 effects, only supports AAX plugin formats purchased from Avid Marketplace
Protools First is free, and Protools is 599$
Other FREE DAW's to checkout
Podium Free - Nice interface, VST support
Samplitude PRO X Silver - 8 Track version
Studio One Free - No VST Support, Comes with Presence sampler
LMMS - open source, FL Studio-ish DAW
Have fun making music! :)
Coming up in this article shortly!... Cubase, Sonar etc.
(Currency : US dollars, prices obtained on May 2016, expect changes,
always keep an eye on official/non-official online stores for offers)