The technology behind DJing has changed a lot since those early days when DJs used to show up at gigs with a turntable and a giant crate of records. In addition to using a live performance software tool like Traktor or Serato, many DJs and EDM producers these days also use a digital audio workstation (DAW) to make beats and put mixes together. For modern DJs, a DAW has become almost an essential production tool, but the question is, which is the best DAW for DJs? If you’re just getting into the world of digital audio production, or looking to switch up your software, here’s our take on which DAW is the best DAW for DJs.
Ableton is easily the most widely used DAW among electronic musicians, and for good reason. With its clip-based sequencing, Ableton is catered specifically to electronic musicians, and because it works just as well as a live performance tool as it does in the studio, DJs can use Ableton as their go-to software for all of their production needs. Ableton also comes in an “Intro” version for only $99 USD, but the full version will run you about $449 USD. (For more on Ableton, check out our latest lessons on Ableton Live production).
Steinberg’s Cubase was one of the first DAWs to come on the market back in the 1990s, and is still used by some of the biggest names in music today (film composer Hans Zimmer is a notable user). While it’s not considered to be as easy to learn as Ableton, those who master the software have a powerful music production tool at their disposal. Starting at around $549 USD, Cubase is not the most affordable of all DAWs, but shouldn’t be out of reach for those who appreciate a good piece of software.
Developed by Apple, Logic Pro has gained popularity in the electronic music world thanks to the quality of its native plugins and virtual instruments. For those who are interested in adding more production elements to their music, Logic Pro is a great choice. Of course it only runs on macs, but if you’ve used other Apple software applications like Garageband or Final Cut Pro, you’ll have no trouble learning Logic Pro. It’s also one of the most affordable DAWs on the market right now, coming in at $199 USD.
Although FL Studio, or Fruity Loops as it used to be known, was seen as a tool geared towards amateur music makers in its early days, FL Studio has now come to be embraced by many music professionals, especially in the hip-hop world. FL Studio is used by many producers as a beat making tool, and also works as a full-scale music production suite. Mac users, however, are out of luck as FL Studio currently runs only on Windows. This DAW is available at a variety of price points, starting at $99 USD for a basic edition, and ranging up to $299 for the all-access “Signature” edition.
A recent entry into the world of DAWs, Bitwig was actually developed by two former Ableton employees. Like Ableton, Bitwig is geared specifically towards electronic musicians, and offers a solid set of features for any DJ or EDM producer. While the software is still in its early days, it has already been adopted by artists like Deadmau5 and Knife Party. There’s only one version of Bitwig available right now, which costs $299 and runs on both Mac and Windows.
The simple answer to the question of “which is the best DAW for DJs” is that there really is no best DAW for DJs. Depending on how you make music and what sort of user interface you like, one DAW might appeal to you more than others. The best thing to do is simply pick one DAW that looks good to you, and spend some time getting to know it. Then, you can stop worrying about what the best DAW for DJs is, and spend more time developing your DJ skills using your DAW of choice.