The 4 Best Free DAWs for Windows in 2024

You don’t have to spend any money to make quality music on your PC. We’ve picked out the best free DAWs for Windows, so you can write, record, and mix music and get outstanding results from them.

At a Glance: The Best Free DAWs for Windows

Our Top Pick
 
 
 
100% Free!
Free
Free
60-day Free Trial
Features:
  • Professional-level DAW with advanced features
  • Integration with Bandlab’s online platform
  • Includes a suite of FX plugins and tools
  • Compatible with third-party plugins and instruments
Features:
  • Full set of audio and MIDI tools
  • No major restrictions in place
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
Features:
  • Built with simplicity in mind
  • Includes essential tracking and sequencing tools
  • Touchscreen support
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
Features:
  • Generous 60-day free trial and low price
  • Fully-featured DAW with professional features
  • Includes suite of plugins and effects
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
Our Top Pick
100% Free!
Features:
  • Professional-level DAW with advanced features
  • Integration with Bandlab’s online platform
  • Includes a suite of FX plugins and tools
  • Compatible with third-party plugins and instruments
Free
Features:
  • Full set of audio and MIDI tools
  • No major restrictions in place
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
Free
Features:
  • Built with simplicity in mind
  • Includes essential tracking and sequencing tools
  • Touchscreen support
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
60-day Free Trial
Features:
  • Generous 60-day free trial and low price
  • Fully-featured DAW with professional features
  • Includes suite of plugins and effects
  • Compatible with third-party plugins

1. Cakewalk by Bandlab

best free daw for windows

Features:

  • Professional-level DAW with advanced features
  • Integration with Bandlab’s online platform
  • Includes a suite of FX plugins and tools
  • Compatible with third-party plugins and instruments
  • Unlimited tracks

Cakewalk is one of the most powerful music production apps ever made for Windows, and my personal DAW of choice for nearly a decade.

Originally, it cost up to $500 to use Cakewalk (back when it was known as Sonar). But since being acquired by BandLab, it’s been made completely free.

What does this mean for you? It means you’re getting a full-fledged professional DAW for free. There’s no “free trial” or stripped-down “lite” version with severe limitations.

With Cakewalk, you’ll find a full suite of audio and MIDI tools to help you record and make music right away. This includes a set of basic reverb, delay, EQ, compression, and other effects plugins. 

Cakewalk also comes with a handful of virtual instruments VSTs. You’ll also have access to a host of free loops and samples from Bandlab Sounds and the Bandlab Assistant.

All that being said, Cakewalk recently announced a new version of Sonar set to launch later this year. The new Sonar will eventually replace Cakewalk by BandLab and likely won’t be free anymore. So grab this incredible DAW for free now while you can!

Best Free DAW for Windows
Cakewalk by Bandlab

Cakewalk is a professional-level DAW with features that stand up against other premium applications. It comes with a robust set of tools for recording, editing, and mixing audio. The DAW also features light integration with Bandlab's online platform.

Pros:
  • Based on Cakewalk's legacy Sonar DAWs
  • Professional-level features for audio editing, mixing, and mastering
  • Integrates with Bandlab's online DAW
  • Dozens of FX plugins and ProChannel modules
  • Free to download
Cons:
  • MIDI editing is a bit clunky
  • Only available for Windows
Free Download 10 Reasons To Use Cakewalk

2. Waveform Free

best free daw for windows

Features:

  • Full set of audio and MIDI tools
  • No major restrictions in place
  • Unlimited tracks
  • Compatible with third-party plugins

Waveform is an award-winning DAW with all the capabilities you’d expect from any professional-level software. 

Traktion offers three versions of Waveform:

  • Waveform Free, which is a fully-functioning DAW with all the basic features you need to make music.
  • Waveform OEM, which only comes bundled with select Behringer, Mackie, and Roli products.
  • And Waveform PRO, the complete version of this DAW with added features, instruments, and plugins.

The free version of Waveform has all the major features you need to start making music right away. When you first turn it on, you’ll find a powerful set of audio editing and MIDI sequencing tools.

Unlike free versions of other popular DAWs, Waveform Free doesn’t impose any major restrictions on you. So you can work with unlimited tracks and add VST plugins to your heart’s content.

And while the PRO version comes with a few more instruments and quality-of-life features, there’s no need to get it if you’re starting out.

Get Waveform FREE (or one of the other DAWs on this list) and supplement it with your own virtual instruments and effects plugins. Then if you decide you like Waveform, get the 90-day free trial for one of the PRO bundles and see how it works out.

Waveform Free - Tracktion

The free version of Waveform has all the essentials for recording and producing music without any major restraints.

Download for Free
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

3. SoundBridge

Features:

  • Built with simplicity in mind
  • Includes essential tracking and sequencing tools
  • Touchscreen support
  • Compatible with third-party plugins

SoundBridge was built with simplicity in mind. Its interface is clean, and should feel familiar to anyone who’s worked with a DAW before.

It has pretty much everything you need from a fully-functioning DAW, including basic mixing plugins, effects, and MIDI sequencing tools.

It also supports third-party VST plugins, which is always a welcome feature.

Another plus in SoundBridge’s favor is touchscreen support. The developers have brought it into the modern age to support devices like Microsoft Surface.

SoundBridge

SoundBridge is a free DAW built with simplicity in mind. It has a full suite of features you need to start making music right away.

Download for Free

4: Reaper

Features:

  • Generous 60-day free trial and low price
  • Fully-featured DAW with professional features
  • Includes suite of plugins and effects
  • Compatible with third-party plugins
  • Unlimited tracks

Reaper makes this list on a technicality. But plenty of composers and producers we know are faithful Reaper users, so we’re giving it a shoutout.

It has a very generous 60-day free trial, giving you plenty of time to get used to the software.

And even when your trial ends, you’ll find that Reaper is dirt-cheap. An individual license starts at $60, which is a screaming bargain compared to other DAWs on the market.

As for features, Reaper is a fully-realized DAW that lets you record, edit, automate, and process audio and MIDI data. It also supports third-party VST plugins and instruments, giving you endless possibilities.

Most Cost-Effective DAW
Reaper
$60 with 60-day Free Trial

Reaper is a cross-platform DAW that offers premium features at an incredible price. It gives you all the tools you need to produce compelling music from scratch. Plus, it's fully customizable — modify the interface and create custom shortcuts to shave off your work time.

Pros:
  • Customizable interface and shortcuts
  • Hundreds of audio effects and editing tools
  • Supports nearly every 3rd-party plugin type, including VST and AU
  • Extremely cost-effective pricing with a generous 60-day free trial
Cons:
  • Clunky MIDI sequencing tools
  • Doesn't come with any virtual instruments
Try Reaper For Free

How We Picked These DAWs

There are loads of DAWs that claim to be free. To narrow down our list, we needed the software to meet our standards in these areas:

  • Is it actually free?
  • Does it have a full set of features?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Do people actually use them?

Free vs. “Free”

Some popular DAWs are free, but only on a trial basis. After the trial, you have to pay for the full version.

Cakewalk and SoundBridge are 100% free with no strings attached. And while Waveform Free lacks some features the paid versions have, it’s completely free to use.

The one exception is Reaper, which has a 60-day trial. But that’s a very long time to try it out. Plus, it’s incredibly cheap anyway. So it’s hard not to recommend it.

Full Set of Features

When picking DAWs for this list, they needed to include the following features:

  • Basic mixing & editing tools
  • MIDI sequencing
  • Unlimited tracks
  • Third-party VST support

Some popular free DAWs lack some of these features. For example, Audacity doesn’t include any MIDI sequencing tools or VST support.

Others lock key features behind a paywall. Case in point, Cubase LE limits you to 16 audio tracks and 24 MIDI tracks.

Without a full set of features, it’s hard to recommend some of the other free DAWs on the market.

Ease of Use

While every DAW has a learning curve, we wanted to make sure they were reasonably easy to use. From our experience, each of these DAWs is accessible to beginners while powerful enough to satisfy advanced users.

Community and Support

Each of the DAWs on this list has a loyal following of users who can provide community support. On top of that, their developers also actively update and maintain them. So you can trust that you’re getting a solid product regardless of your choice.

What is the Best Free DAW for Windows?

For us, the answer is easily Cakewalk by Bandlab. There’s a rich set of tools and features in one complete package. And the included plugins and instruments are really capable too.

There’s no catch either. Bandlab doesn’t sell any “Premium” versions of Cakewalk, so you won’t be bombarded by pop-ups prompting you to upgrade.  You also won’t have to deal with any serious restrictions, like track limits or blocking third-party VSTs.

What’s amazing is this is essentially the same professional DAW that was being sold for $500 just a few years ago. Only now it’s been made completely free after the acquisition by Bandlab. 

Cakewalk still gets regular updates and support from many of the original developers. They’re also pretty active in the official Cakewalk forums. So if you come across any glitches or tech issues, you can report them there.

Best Free DAW for Windows
Cakewalk by Bandlab

Cakewalk is a professional-level DAW with features that stand up against other premium applications. It comes with a robust set of tools for recording, editing, and mixing audio. The DAW also features light integration with Bandlab's online platform.

Pros:
  • Based on Cakewalk's legacy Sonar DAWs
  • Professional-level features for audio editing, mixing, and mastering
  • Integrates with Bandlab's online DAW
  • Dozens of FX plugins and ProChannel modules
  • Free to download
Cons:
  • MIDI editing is a bit clunky
  • Only available for Windows
Free Download 10 Reasons To Use Cakewalk

Get the Most Out of Your DAW With These Resources

Now that you have your free DAW, you’ll want to pimp it out with additional plugins and gear. For that, we’ve put together these guides for building your budget studio:

And be sure to check out our Toolbox for Composers, Producers, and Musicians, which includes our top recommendations for software, recording gear, books, and more.