Pro Tools Alternatives for Every Type of Musician

Pro Tools is widely considered the “industry standard” in professional circles. But it’s prohibitively expensive, and the cost of renewing your license isn’t worth it for average musicians and podcasters.

And with the recent Avid recent takeover, you might be looking into some Pro Tools alternatives.

Thankfully, there are dozens of other DAWs out there to replace it. While they all do most of the same things, each one caters to a specific type of musician or engineer.

Logos for five Pro Tools alternatives

The Best Alternatives to Pro Tools

These are some alternatives we recommend. We’ve tried to pick one that caters to a specific type of musician.

Just to be clear, no DAW is “better” than others. That’s like asking which shirt looks best on you — it depends on your tastes.

Well-Rounded DAW for Music Production

Studio One 6

Starting at $99.95 or $14.95/month

PreSonus has packed Studio One with plenty of features that’ll please professional engineers and producers, while still being accessible for new users. It’s a well-rounded product with tools for everything from making beats, scoring a film, or recording a podcast.

  • Well-rounded DAW that works for any type of production
  • Easy-to-use interface lets you drag and drop practically any element
  • Customizable interface lets you create a tailored work environment
  • Includes hundreds of loops and samples, plus 5 virtual instruments
  • Some features locked behind Professional version
  • Interface can easily get cluttered
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Best DAW for Mac Users

Logic Pro


For Apple users, this is the natural step up from Garage Band. Logic is a well-rounded DAW that's accommodating for any style of music and workflow preferences. On top of all that, it comes loaded with thousands of loops, samples, and virtual instruments. And with a simple to use UI, you can hit the ground running and start creating right away!

  • Well-rounded DAW that works well for any type of production
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Rich toolset for audio mixing & editing
  • Powerful tools for MIDI automation
  • Comes with thousands of loops, samples, and virtual instruments
  • Only available for Mac
  • Doesn’t support VST plugins — works with AU plugins only
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Best DAW for Composers

Cubase 12

Starting from $99.99

Cubase is the DAW of choice for many composers who work in film and TV, including folks like Hans Zimmer and Ludwig Göransson. It streamlines the workflow for complex MIDI sequencing and editing, and can quickly load virtual instruments in bulk. On top of that, Cubase makes it easy to keep your tracks organized.

  • Tools like Chord Track, Arranger Track, and Score Editor make arranging and composing a breeze
  • Robust tools for MIDI sequencing and editing
  • Comes with several virtual instruments, loops, and presets
  • Includes wide array of powerful tools for mixing and effects
  • Can use lots of RAM
  • Some features locked behind Pro version
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Best DAW for Post Production

Nuendo 12


Nuendo is a post production powerhouse made for multimedia creatives. It comes with a robust set of tools specifically designed for working with film, video games, and VR. It even offers native support for Dolby Atmos production. Plus, it can automate many of those processes, speeding up your workflow and productivity

  • Robust tools for dialogue editing
  • Integrated features for film, game, and VR audio production
  • Comes with huge sound effects library
  • Includes all features from Cubase
  • Dolby Atmos support
  • Excessive for users only interested in music production
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Best DAW for Electronic Musicians

FL Studio

Starting at $99

An all-time favorite DAW beloved by producers around the world. FL Studio is a robust package that includes the DAW itself, plus hundreds of instruments, loops, samples, and effects. On top of that, you get free lifetime updates — so there's no need to pay for the newest version every few years!

  • Includes hundreds of virtual instruments, samples, loops, and presets
  • Wide range of tools for EDM and beat production
  • Robust MIDI sequencing features
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Workflow is very different from traditional DAWs
  • Steep learning curve
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Best DAW for EDM and Live Performance

Ableton Live

Starting at $99

Ableton Live was originally built for DJs with live performances in mind (hence the name). But since then, it’s become a go-to DAW for electronic musicians everywhere. Live uses a unique vertical workflow unlike any other DAW. Stack elements on top of each other, then mix-and-match sounds side-by-side. It’s instantly satisfying, and makes it easy to create full loop-based tracks in one sitting. And if you’re coming from another DAW, Live also includes a horizontal sequencer that’s comfortable for traditionalists.

  • Unique vertical workflow is great for looping and sound design
  • Works great in live performance settings
  • Integrates with popular synths and controllers
  • Includes thousands of instruments, sounds, and effects
  • Supports VST and AU plugins
  • Fantastic at looping, but audio editing features are a bit clunky
  • Vertical workflow can be difficult for traditional DAW users
  • Many features locked behind Suite version
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Best DAW for Podcasters & Content Creators

Adobe Audition

Starting at $20.99/month

Audition is an audio workstation built from the ground up for podcasters and content creators. It comes with plenty of tools to help clean up audio, reduce background noise, and create a superb-sounding podcast. You can also use the Spectral Frequency Display, which gives you visual feedback to help identify audio issues. And it integrates with Premiere Pro, making it a handy companion app for video editors.

  • Tools to help clean up and restore bad-sounding audio
  • Spectral Frequency Display for visually identifying unwanted noise
  • Offers VST plugin support for enhanced audio production
  • Integrates with Adobe Premiere and other Creative Cloud products
  • Audio-only DAW — Doesn’t support MIDI
  • Subscription-only pricing model
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Most Cost-Effective DAW


$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.

  • 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
  • Clunky MIDI sequencing tools
  • Doesn't come with any virtual instruments
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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.

  • 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
  • MIDI editing is a bit clunky
  • Only available for Windows
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Best Free DAW for Apple Users


If you’re an Apple user looking for a beginner-friendly DAW, look no further than GarageBand. Even though it’s free, it comes fully-featured for recording, editing, and mixing audio for music and podcasts. Plus, it includes hundreds of loops and sounds for creating music right away, and offers support for AU plugins.

Note: GarageBand already comes preloaded with any Mac computer, iPhone, and iPad. But just in case, we'll provide some download links below.
  • Free on macOS and iOS devices
  • Easy for beginners to use
  • Includes hundreds of loops and sounds right out of the box
  • Lacks professional tools found in other DAWs
  • Only available for Apple devices
  • Doesn’t support VST plugins — works with AU plugins only
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Things to Consider Before Choosing a DAW

For the most part, every major DAW can do the same things: recording audio, editing audio, and MIDI sequencing. It depends on how you work and what you like to make. But there are a few things to be aware of before choosing a new DAW.


Each DAW includes instruments and tools that make them ideal for different tasks. Some cater to electronic music production, while others are great for orchestral composers or post-production engineers. It all depends on what you need it for.

Working Solo vs Collaboration

You might choose a DAW depending on who your professional colleagues are and how ingrained you are with a specific community. 

If you mostly do light recording and production by yourself, pretty much any DAW will work out just fine.

But if you frequently work with others and share session files, you might pick whatever they’re using.

Give Yourself Time to Learn the New DAW

You’ll have to learn a new interface with different quirks and hotkeys. Be patient and give yourself time to get used to the new DAW. 

If you’re working for clients, don’t immediately make the change. Switching DAWs in the middle of a time-sensitive project is risky, and can be wildly stressful.

Want to Save Money On a DAW? Try These Free Pro Tools Alternatives

We already mentioned a few free products here. But if all you need is a functional DAW without many bells and whistles, you can try one of these free DAWs for Windows.