Best Music Production Software in 2022

Whether it’s beat-making, EDM production, multi-track recording, or critical audio editing, finding the best music production software for your creative endeavors is all about ensuring that you have the required tools to optimize your workflow without getting bogged down in the details. Some music production software is incredibly simple and best suited for beginners and simple creative tasks, while other software is favored by professionals for its advanced editing tools and flexible workflow. In this article, we’ve selected some of the best music production software based upon usability, sound libraries, and overall flexibility to help you make the right choice before starting your next creative project.

Best Overall: Avid Pro Tools
Best for Macs: Apple Logic Pro X
Best for Hip Hop: Ableton Live
Best for Beginners: Image Line FL Studio
Best Free: Apple GarageBand

How We Picked the Best Music Production Software

Not all music production software is designed equally. Here are a few factors we took into account when selecting the best music production software for this list.

Price: The price of music production software varies widely, and we aimed to select products suitable for a range of budgets. On this list, we’ve included the best free music production software as well as flat-fee paid options and a subscription option.

Sound Libraries: If you’re using music production software primarily for composing and building tracks, a large library of high-quality sounds is an important feature to consider. Each of the digital audio workstations on this list includes a bundled library of sounds and effects, and some of the manufacturers offer additional sounds to purchase.

Compatibility: Not all music production software is compatible with every type of computer, and we did our best to ensure that Mac and Windows users are both represented within this list. Some software, like Pro Tools and Ableton Live, are compatible with both Windows and Mac, making them a good choice for maximizing your flexibility.

User-Friendliness: Music production software can be incredibly user-friendly, incredibly complex, or a mix of both. We took into account the needs of beginners and pros alike when making this list.

Best Music Production Software: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Avid Pro Tools

Professional Quality. Avid

Why It Made The Cut: Avid Pro Tools is one of the most widely-used digital audio workstations in the industry, thanks to its advanced design and nearly limitless capabilities.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements:
Mac: macOS 10.14 or later
Windows: Windows 10 & 11
RAM: 16 GB minimum
Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format: 64-bit AAX

Pros:
— Cutting-edge audio recording and editing features
— Great for moving projects studio-to-studio; widely used
— Works on both Mac and Windows systems

Cons:
— Dense user interface with a moderate learning curve
— Plugins limited to proprietary AAX format
— Pricey subscription-based software

Avid Pro Tools is considered to be the industry-standard digital audio workstation for many reasons, all of which contribute to it being our pick for the best music production software overall. In addition to hosting a powerful suite of audio recording and editing features, Pro Tools stands out from the crowd with its flexible and lightning-fast workflow that make it an ideal choice for producing commercial audio on tight deadlines for music, TV, broadcast, and other media. Because it’s found in commercial studios everywhere, Pro Tools is also the best choice for maximizing compatibility when transferring session files between different studios or between Windows and Mac systems, both of which support the software.

Unlike the relatively intuitive drag-and-drop user interfaces of Apple’s Logic Pro X or GarageBand, Pro Tools leans toward a keyboard- and menu-heavy utilitarian workflow that offers incredibly granular control to users while being somewhat challenging and time-consuming to master. Users are also required to heavily commit to the Avid ecosystem when using Pro Tools, which only accepts plugins of Avid’s proprietary AAX format and now requires a monthly subscription fee in lieu of a flat one-time purchase. While this payment format can quickly add up over time and become expensive for small studios and individual users, Avid does a good job of keeping the software consistently up-to-date for their subscribers.

Best for Macs: Apple Logic Pro X

Crafty Composition. Apple

Why It Made The Cut: Apple’s flagship digital audio workstation (DAW) features an intuitive workflow and a large number of software instruments and effects, making it a great choice for composing, mixing, and mastering on Mac systems.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Mac
System Requirements:
OS Version: macOS 11.5 or later
RAM: 8 GB minimum
Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format: 64-bit AU

Pros:
— Robust audio recording and editing interface with large sound library
— Full version priced competitively compared to other DAWs
— Excellent effects library includes high-quality guitar amps and reverbs

Cons:
— Limited to Mac systems
— Only supports AU plugin format
— Workflow tailored more for composition and mixing than experimentation

Logic Pro X is some of the best music production software for Macs available, and that’s not just because it happens to be Apple’s flagship digital audio workstation. In addition to being competitively priced and offering a huge library of high-quality sounds and effects, Logic has an easy-to-learn user interface and intuitive workflow that make it a fantastic choice for recording, mixing, and mastering music of any kind. While it shares plenty of design DNA with Apple’s free entry-level music production software, GarageBand, Logic Pro X offers a deeper and more flexible variety of editing tools, including a musical score view and a dedicated mixer panel to meet the needs of professional songwriters, engineers, and composers. The amplifier emulations, reverbs, software instruments, and loop samples that come bundled with Logic Pro X are also some of the best available, making it a particularly good DAW for composition and songwriting.

While Logic Pro X’s overall strength lies in its creativity-oriented design, its sound stretching and chopping tools aren’t quite as easy to access and use as those found in Ableton Live, making it less ideal for sampling and experimentation. Its audio editing capabilities also aren’t quite as snappy as those found in Pro Tools, though they are easier to grasp and master. Finally, Logic Pro X is a Mac-only program, leaving out users who can’t commit to the more expensive Apple ecosystem. If you fall into that category, Avid Pro Tools is your best bet for commercial audio recording and editing while Ableton Live is the best choice for making beats and electronic music.

Best for Hip Hop: Ableton Live

Hip-Hop Hub. Ableton

Why It Made The Cut: Ableton Live’s intuitive sound manipulation tools and extensive library of instruments and effects make it an ideal digital audio workstation for producing electronic music and experimental audio content.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements:
Mac: macOS 10.13 to 12
Windows: Windows 10
RAM: 8 GB minimum
Processor: Intel, AMD, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format:
Mac: 64-bit VST2, VST3, AU
Windows: 64-bit VST2, VST3

Pros:
— Intuitive workflow ideal for electronic music and experimental sound tweaking
— Latest version adds more traditional production features like take comping
— Large library of synth sounds and effects

Cons:
— User interface could use a refresh; appears drab and utilitarian
— Full-featured Suite version costs significantly more than other DAWs
— No free upgrades as the software develops

Ableton Live is a widely popular DAW with a reputation for being some of the best music production software for hip hop and beatmaking, thanks to its robust creativity-centric workflow, extensive sound manipulation capabilities, and live performance integration. In addition to featuring plenty of sample-chopping and resampling tools, Ableton Live includes a vast library of over 1,500 sounds in its lowest-priced tier and over 5,000 in its full Suite edition, making it an ideal choice for experimenting and creating unique projects. The software’s intuitive session overview is also perfectly designed for looping and stacking phrases when building beats or songs, and when paired with a MIDI controller like the Ableton Push 2, users can harness Ableton’s live set capabilities to trigger clips and samples for live performance.

Historically, Ableton Live hasn’t offered the most robust or in-depth audio recording features when compared to other professional DAWs, but the most recent version aims to step up its game by introducing recording tools, like take comping and a new effect stacking system. The software’s interface is still blocky and predominantly gray, making it look slightly drab and outdated when compared to other DAWs. While the Intro edition of Ableton is fairly affordable, it only permits a maximum of 16 audio tracks, while the unlimited Standard and Suite editions cost significantly more than a competitor like Logic Pro X. Despite these limitations, Ableton Live’s enormous sound library and flexible sound manipulation tools might make it the perfect tool for you if you produce hip hop, beats, or other electronic music.

Best for Beginners: Image Line FL Studio

Easy to Use. Image Line

Why It Made The Cut: FL Studio’s beat-focused workflow and EDM-centric production tools are some of the easiest to learn and master, making it a great choice for budding music producers.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements:
Mac: macOS 10.13.6 or later
Windows: Windows 8.1, 10, 11, or later
RAM: 4 GB minimum
Processor: Intel, AMD, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format:
Mac: 64-bit VST & VST2, VST3, 64-bit AU, FL Studio proprietary
Windows: 32-bit and 64-bit VST & VST2, VST3, FL Studio proprietary

Pros:
— Affordable software with free lifetime upgrades
— Step sequencer and piano roll are among the best available
— Robust automation tools ideal for EDM production

Cons:
— Lacks some advanced audio editing tools like comping
— Difficult to keep larger or more complex sessions organized
— Unique workflow doesn’t translate well to other DAWs

FL Studio stands apart on this list with an incredibly simple step-based interface and automation tools that make some of the best music production software for beginners overall. While it’s not as capable at recording multi-track audio as some of its competitors, FL Studio’s simple grid-based point-and-click workflow includes one of the best piano roll and step sequencer systems available in any DAW as well as extensive automation options. These tools make FL Studio very easy to learn, and thanks to its large library of samples, instruments, and effects, it’s a fantastic choice for making beats and producing electronic music at any skill level.

While the visual simplicity of FL Studio’s workflow is one of the major reasons that it’s so great for beginning producers, it’s different enough from other pro DAW software that much of the knowledge and workflow won’t be transferable. It lacks comping and other audio editing features that some users might consider essential, making it less than ideal for producing non-electronic styles of music, and session files can often become visually disorganized and unwieldy when the music becomes complex. Still, FL Studio is significantly more affordable than many of its competitors, and because all users get free lifetime updates, it’s an all-around solid value for beginners and pros alike.

Best Free: Apple GarageBand

Rock On. Apple

Why It Made The Cut: GarageBand offers a streamlined library of musical loops, software instruments, and recording tools to every Mac user at no cost.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Mac
System Requirements:
RAM: 4 GB minimum
Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format: AU

Pros:
— Simple and intuitive user interface with some advanced features
— Includes high-quality library of instruments and effects
— Comes free on every Mac; iPad and iPhone version available

Cons:
— Requires a Mac computer or iOS device; no Windows version
— Limited flexibility; no mixer view, rudimentary track inspector
— Fixed sample rate of 44.1 kHz

If you’ve ever produced music, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard of GarageBand, Apple’s free-to-use digital audio workstation for macOS and iOS. As far as free music production software goes, GarageBand stands head-and-shoulders above the rest thanks to its simple and intuitive design, combined with a large library of high-quality sounds that include drum samples, synths, and guitar amp emulations. While GarageBand inexplicably lacks useful features found in other pro DAWs like a mixing console view and individual channel inspectors, its clean and blocky user interface makes it incredibly easy to start making music from scratch in no time at all. It also includes basic automation features for automatic adjustment of panning, volume, and other parameters, and all of its project files are fully compatible with Logic Pro X if and when users decide to upgrade their DAW.

While GarageBand is a great option for fast songwriting and musical sketching that can even be used to make commercial recordings, its design is fairly inflexible, requiring users to operate within the software’s beginner-friendly parameters with few exceptions. It also doesn’t support audio recording at sample rates above 44.1 kHz, preventing users from creating high-resolution projects that meet the industry standard. Still, GarageBand is entirely free to Mac, iPad, and iPhone users, making it a useful tool that’s worth checking out whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. If you’re a Windows user looking for a free DAW, Cakewalk by Bandlab is a good option that’s been kept consistently up-to-date for years.

Things to Consider Before Buying Music Production Software

Style of Music: While the best music production software is generally flexible enough to use for a variety of genres and styles, some are much better suited to certain types of music than others. For example, sampling-oriented digital audio workstations like FL Studio or Ableton Live are more tailored for producing novel sounds and electronic music than Logic Pro X or Pro Tools, which offer smoother and more intuitive workflows for multi-track audio recording and editing.

Computer Age: One of the largest drawbacks to digital audio recording is waning compatibility and support in older computers, all of which will eventually stop working with the newest versions of music production software. If you’re looking for the most cutting-edge music production experience, make sure to double check your computer’s specs against the software’s requirements before committing.

Operating System: Unfortunately, not all music production software works with all operating systems. Apple GarageBand and Logic Pro X are two of the most widely used digital audio workstations, but they only run on Mac systems, leaving out Windows users. If you’re looking to maximize the accessibility of your session files across multiple systems, choosing DAWs like Pro Tools or Ableton Live that are compatible with Windows and Mac is the safest option.

Audio Project Scale: Some music production software is great for sketching out musical ideas or creating small-scale projects while others are better for tackling larger and more complex compositions. FL Studio is a good example of a DAW that makes it very easy to begin composing while requiring a lot of user intervention to keep projects organized as they grow. While all of the DAWs on this list can handle projects of different sizes, GarageBand or FL Studio are generally some of the best for jumpstarting creativity while Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Ableton Live are better suited for larger-scale production.

FAQs

Q: How much does music production software typically cost?

Music production software typically costs anywhere between completely free to near $1,000, and this is for the digital audio workstation alone. Additional plugins, which include software effects and instruments, can sometimes cost multiple hundreds of dollars each and be a significant contributing factor in the overall cost of a music production software collection.

Final Thoughts on the Best Music Production Software

If you’re primarily editing audio for commercial purposes and work with industry standard software, Pro Tools is the best music production software overall for handling complicated tasks with relative ease. If you’re a Mac user looking to complete some of the same tasks with a bit more access to creativity-oriented tools, Logic Pro X might be more your thing. Ableton Live is still some of the best music production software for hip hop and beat making, thanks to its quick and intuitive sample editing tools, while FL Studio is the best option for beginners due to its simple workflow. Finally, if you’re looking to save some money, GarageBand is still the best free music production software currently out there, but you’ll need a Mac to use it.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.