Best & most popular (DAW) Digital Audio Workstation Software of 2011

JANUARY 29, 2012 updates: There were some feedback from the commenter G. berg and Phil so consider the following changes in the analysis. For example:

1.) Sound forge is not a DAW software. It is only an audio editor. Audio editors cannot be used to perform a multitrack recording session.

2.) Cockos Reaper and Reaper Cockos are just the same. Personally I’m a Reaper user, you can read some of my Reaper DAW tutorials.

3.) These changes might be redo at the end of year 2013 (re-doing the analysis covering 2012 to 2013)

There is a lot of software in this category but most of them have very little user base and they are not included in this study.

Trend popularity

Trend popularity

Based on the data it clearly reveals that in the year 2004 to 2009, Cubase holds the DAW overall popularity and is the choice for most users. FL Studio at the time (in 2004) is still in the bottom of top 5. Protools and Cubase did hold a significant share in the popularity in year 2004 to 2009. But things happen really slowly, FL Studio continuously becoming popular starting in the year 2005 until now (as shown by the increasing popularity trend.).

Adobe Audition and Ableton Live has similar share in the user’s popularity. Sad to take note that Cubase popularity went down significantly in the last 7 years and it was overtaken by FL Studio and Protools sometime in the year 2010.

Conclusion and Recommendations: Does being popular also means it’s the best? It’s not true at all times. But another question is why FL Studio became so very popular? Why did Cubase popularity went down significantly in the last 7 years only to be overtaken by FL Studio? Some might answer because the price is lower which means it is very affordable.

Some might answer because it is relatively easy to use and some will say they have great documentation and manuals as well as community support. Some will also testify that the features are complete for the very low price they paid (best bang for your buck). Or some users might also answer that FL Studio is a very light program and take very little amount of system resources to operate. Does this imply that FL Studio is now the best DAW software? You decide. Wait; let’s see what will happen in the next couple of years.

Selecting a DAW should not be based on popularity alone. There are still a lot of great things you need to know when selecting DAW:

1.) Advantages of 64-bit DAW over 32-bit float Digital audio workstation– Importance of having a high mixing engine resolution in DAW software.

2.) How to Build a Recording Studio using DAW method Method – pairing your hardware with your DAW software for maximum compatibility.

3.) Secrets to Audio Mixing Success: Stick to one DAW and set of plugins -find out why sticking to a single DAW and a set of plugins increases your success in audio mixing.

Content last updated on June 14, 2012

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the feedback. About your first inquiry, I think you would need a mac machine to load a mac software. I am not sure about that because I’m not a Mac user :). For your second inquiry about mixing, you can only tell if its right if it sounds good. Well, all I look are just the settings; I cannot tell if sounds good. Since you are the one in front of your studio monitors checking your mix, you will know if those settings are right. It is why audio mixing is all about careful listening. The settings and everything else is just secondary.


  • Brian Konson

    (am using a Nokia 5310 xpressmusic , my appreciations &most of my questions don’t get to you, I’ll be lucky if this one does, & i cant see most of the screenshots you put, well its not anyone’s fault). . .Thanks for tip on which DAW and about rendering after all mixing &recording. . .FL is holding most of my connections to add to your research results. Today my question is:

    1. Most people say producers of my favourite genre; deep house, use Logic. Is it possible to do something to a PC & load mac software so that i then load Logic?

    2. Mixing: For an instrument in FL i set these: pan=75% Lt, high pass @ 450Hz, cut -3dB @ 1000Hz, then take my track to AA, can i do this to that instrument; reduce Lt pan to say 30%, hi pass cut off to 300Hz, boost +3dB @ 1000Hz?

  • Emerson Maningo

    Yeah it was a mistake. Thanks for pointing out.

  • G. berg

    Not to be a nitpicking pain-in-the-butt, but Sound Forge isn’t a DAW. It’s an audio editor. The DAW from Sony Media Software is called Acid.

  • Emerson Maningo

    It is actually an error. Thanks for reporting, I have edited the post. Cheers.

  • phil

    why does reaper appear twice in the list?.. ‘cockos reaper’ and ‘reaper cockos’???…

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Dave,
    The list is based on popularity. Definitely Presonus Studio One is great. Lets see what will happen in the future to see if its gains some market vs currently popular DAW.

  • Dave

    Presonus Studio One is missing from this list and it is INCREDIBLE, best DAW for beginners and a GREAT DAW for experts.