Recommend a Mac-based DAW for a beginner?

Hi everyone, I met a fellow (virtually) a few weeks ago who is looking to get started with home recording and I’ve been giving him some basic pointers (such as sharing Mike Senior’s book with him). He’s a Mac user, and being a PC kinda guy I don’t have a sense for a DAW to recommend. I’d appreciate any input on a fully functional and not too expensive DAW for Macs. Thank you!

Hey Dave, I was going to Cakewalk by Bandlab, but it’s PC only. GarageBand on the Mac is free I believe and might be a good place to begin. As far as “getting started”, of course you know I’m a Studio One fan boy, and that is in part due to what I think is a very intuitive and easy to use workflow. So my recommendation is Studio One Prime.

PS. Happy Thanksgiving!

– edit –
Here’s a comparison of the different versions that will give you a good idea of what features Prime has…


Thanks Mike! One thing I notice on that comparison page is that the free version does not include support for third-party plugins – no dot in that box. Is that right? One must use only the plugs that ship with the DAW? Or am I misreading?

And Happy Thanksgiving!

That looks to be the case Dave. There are many pretty decent plugins that are included, however. Especially if he/she is just starting out. It would be good to keep things simple at first.

Another thought - if he hasn’t bought an audio interface yet, have him consider one that comes with a DAW - most do. A Presonus interface (and probably others) will come with Studio One Artist which now allows for 3rd party plugins.

The style of music this person wants to record could play into that decision too. EDM folks seem to like Ableton Live. My kid uses FLStudio. I’m not sure what the limitations are on those DAWs. And I can tell you, FLStudio is NOT intuitive! At least for me.

But as far as usability, IMHO, Studio One is up there. That’s how I landed on it years ago when I got back into this. And I demoed a few of them. Cakewalk was my number 2. I tried to like Reaper because of the price, but got into the weeds as soon as I tried to do, well, anything in it. It may well be different for me now, but that is my lasting first impression of your DAW. (Much respect though!)

PS. Happy Thanksgiving yourself! stay safe my friend. :slight_smile:

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He’s going to be recording cool-jazz types of stuff if I understand correctly, so I don’t think a performance-pad type deal is what he’s looking for. And I had also thought about something that would come with an interface, I did that when I started out and tried a couple that came with mics & interfaces before settling on Mixcraft (which is also super easy to use, a lot simpler than Reaper IMO, although I’ve spent only a handful of hours in the latter).

But I think not having 3rd party plugs available is a serious drawback. Getting him going with a simple channel strip was what I had in mind (like Scheps that is being talked about in another thread). And right at the moment the Artist version is on sale for $70, which is a good price. He’s ready to invest a few K in his setup, so this won’t be a showstopper at all.

Let’s see if anyone else chimes in, but this is a good start!

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Apple’s own Logic Pro X is widely used and recommended, for a Mac it should surely be considered, there are advantages to using a native app for Apple.

Here’s the SOS review.

@Chordwainer a free trial for Logic Pro X is available, and for other DAW’s as well I’m sure, good way for someone to compare products.

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I’d suggest also suggestion Tracktion, if he can find a free download of T7 or this new one:

Also Reaper should work on Mac now.

Tracktion is super easy to get started. Another option built in Garageband which is quite simple and powerful.

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