Cakewalk by Bandlab (windows)
Cakewalk is a professional DAW and it is completely free to download for all Windows users. You’re getting all the core functionality of the software, including its fantastic native effects (limiters, equalizers, compressors, etc.), analog console-style virtual mixer, multi-touch support, Bluetooth MIDI, and more. On the negative side, you will need to install the BandLab Assistant software first and also sign up for a free BandLab user account. The software is clean, reliable, and ready to use on your Windows machine.
Pro Tools | First (windows - mac)
Pro Tools | First shares a large number of features with the full version of Avid’s flagship audio recording and mixing software. The free version of Pro Tools includes AAX plugin support, Elastic Time and Elastic Pitch functionality, powerful recording, editing and mixing tools, a line-up of over 20 native effects and even the full version of the excellent Xpand!2 virtual instrument. Sounds too good to be true? The catch is that the projects can only be saved to cloud storage that is connected to your Avid user account and only up to three projects can be stored at the same time. It is an interesting implementation of the freemium pricing model to a digital audio workstation, where you get a relatively small amount of free storage space that can be expanded through additional purchases.
Presonus Studio One 4 Prime (windows - mac)
Studio One Prime is a free version of Presonus. This version is fully functional, but based on a limited set of audio processing tools and factory sounds. Prime is the stripped down, free little brother to the professional DAWs but what it loses in features isn’t lost in overall design and functionality. Studio One Prime is intended as a trial for experienced users but also as a fully working DAW for beginners. The program does have its fair share of limitations when compared to commercial versions of Studio One (Artist and Pro). On the contrary, Studio One Prime provides a basic but solid sequencing platform for recording and mixing music, podcasts and other audio projects. So, what are the limitations of Studio One Prime? There’s no third party VST/AU plugin support, which means that you’re stuck with the set of nine built-in effects and the Presence sampler, at least when it comes to software instruments and effects. Of course, you can record any number of hardware instruments and effects through the audio input. There are several versions of Studio One that you can buy also, Check out the versions link.
Tracktion T7 (windows - mac - linux)
Tracktion is probably the most feature-packed freeware DAW you can get right now. Available across all major platforms, offering unlimited VST plugin support and ReWire compatibility, Tracktion is a very powerful free music making application. It comes with an in-depth user manual that explains everything you need to know about this great music-making application. And if you don’t care much for reading manuals, you’ll probably love the awesome series of free training videos that are available on Tracktion’s official website.
Magix Music Maker (windows)
Magix offers the Music Maker edition, Magix's free option, which is a great software application for starters, needing to learn more about digital audio workstations, what they are capable of and how to use them. Music Maker comes with a sound library, but the biggest advantage to this software is that you can easily add new sounds from Magix's online store. They also have the option to upgrade to the other editiona, which is not that expensive. Magix is a very budget-friendly recording studio software, check out which versions are available and what new sounds you can find in the store.
LMMS (windows - mac - linux)
LMMS is an open source pattern-based music making application that was built by a team of volunteers. Unlike any other application on this list, LMMS is not a free version of a commercial product. It is, however, inspired by a commercial product – the well known FL Studio. The pattern-based workflow is well implemented. The problem is, the interface is still somewhat lacking in polish, making the overall user experience a little bit underwhelming at first. The graphical elements are not very intuitive, meaning that new users will probably need some time to get familiar with the application and its features. The interface keeps getting better with every new version of LMMS, though, therefore it definitely makes sense to keep the program updated to the latest version at all times.
MuLab (windows - mac)
MuLab is a modular digital audio workstation and plugin host for PC and Mac. The software is available in two versions, Free and UL. MuLab 7 comes with a large number of great features, the most important of which are the simplified audio recording workflow and the fantastic step sequencer. It combines simplicity and efficiency to create a great free package. MuLab provides an easy interface to record, create and edit multi-track music with excellent efficiency and many hidden features in it’s ‘right click menus’. MuLab may seem bare of features, owing to its simple, user-friendly design but what it hides under the hood should be enough to satisfy those looking for more than a recording program. MuLab supports MIDI and audio recording and features its own reverb, EQ, sample player, drum set, synth and more. It is also an incredibly powerful sound design tool that will allow you to chain up to eight VST plugins in almost and routing setup imaginable. Once you’re ready to upgrade to MuLab UL, you can purchase key in the MuTools Shop and enter it in MuTools 7 Free in order to unlock all of the program’s features.
Ardour (windows - mac - linux)
Ardour is a free DAW that runs also on Linux and has a clean user interface and is easy to pick up and pleasant to work with. In fact, it is quite similar to other DAWs, but it is free. It is very versatile: it can be used for recording, mixing, soundtrack editing, even live performance. It has a very comprehensive feature set, including everything an artist is likely to need. Ardour was designed to be an all-in-one program for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio and MIDI projects. Ardour aims to give you complete control and flexibility with recording allowing you to produce CDs, mix video soundtracks and more packed into a free package of multi-track recording software. Ardour is packed with features for editing is compatible with a wide range of equipment and plugins. Ardour is highly versatile and in-depth for a free DAW.