2024's Top Digital Audio Workstations for Filmmakers

2024's Top Digital Audio Workstations for Filmmakers

In 2024, these are the best digital audio workstations for filmmakers.

While there are hundreds of articles online regarding the finest DAWs for music production, there are very few resources geared to assist indie filmmakers in selecting the correct DAW. 
So, in this complete roundup, you'll find a list of the top digital audio workstations (DAWs) for filmmakers on the market today, with specific applications chosen to suit every workflow, budget, and degree of experience.

What exactly is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)?

A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a single application that is dedicated to the recording, editing, converting, mixing, and delivering of audio. DAWs are widely utilized in the music production, podcasting, film score, and cinema sound design industries.

Most DAWs include vast internal feature sets as well as the ability to integrate third-party plugins, effects, and filters.

The following characteristics are shared by all DAWS:

Multitrack recording is the simultaneous recording and editing of multiple audio recordings.
Audio editing software allows you to alter audio files down to the individual sample level.
Users can record and modify MIDI data from devices like as keyboards, drum pads, and other touch interfaces with MIDI capabilities.
Virtual instruments: Many DAWs include built-in virtual instruments, allowing users to produce music without the need for additional gear.
Effects processing includes EQ, reverb, compression, and many more options.
Mixing tools include EQ, compression, and limiting for mixing and mastering.
Time stretching and pitch shifting allow you to change the tempo and pitch of audio tracks.
Collaboration tools: Some DAWs allow remote collaboration with other musicians and producers.

What Is the Importance of Digital Audio Workstations in Video Post Production?

Because a DAW will provide you control and refinement over your sound editing, sound design, and sound mixing that you just won't be able to do if you only utilize your video editing program of choice.

This is why professional sound designers, film composers, sound editors, and music editors all operate in specialized digital audio workstations. Given the level of ability, originality, and talent necessary to perform this type of work professionally, an editor should not presume they can fill these duties on their own.

However, if you are not working on a large enough production to hire for these responsibilities, learning how to handle a few fundamental chores in a DAW will benefit the entire project.

You'll have access to professional plugins designed to precisely shape your sonic architecture, as well as the ability to work in professional delivery formats like Dolby ATMOS, Auro 3D, and other multi-channel spatial audio formats.

From spotting sessions to audio editing and mixing, this course delves into the audio post-production workflow for cinema and television.

The Best Filmmaking DAWs in 2024

We used a simple process to choose the DAWs in our list, taking these four factors into account:

-Video editing software compatibility
-Capabilities for audio processing
-User interface and usability
So, without further ado, here are 2024's top digital audio workstations for filmmakers.

Avid Pro Tools is the best DAW for getting a job in film sound.

When it comes to film post-production sound, Avid Pro Tools is the industry standard. That doesn't imply it's the finest DAW, but it's the one that all of the major Hollywood post companies use for a variety of reasons.
So, if you want to work in that specific field, learning Pro Tools would be a terrific place to start.

Pro Tools by Avid
Price: $99-$599/year for Mac and PC

Pros ✅
Workflow collaboration with several users.
Integrates seamlessly with industry-leading Avid Media Composer.
On large productions, it is dependable and scalable (up to 2,048 tracks in Pro Tools Ultimate).
The best initial app to learn how to get a job in the sector.
Trial period of 30 days.

Cons ❌
A subscription license is not inexpensive, costing between $99 and $599 each year.
Pricing and feature tiers are more convoluted than in other apps.
3. Logic Pro is the best DAW for Apple Mac users.

Apple's Logic Pro

Another sophisticated DAW that is popular among Apple-based filmmakers is Logic Pro. While Apple's Garageband tool is free with Mac OS, Logic Pro is a significant step up and a professional solution in comparison, but its user-friendly interface makes the transition simple.

Logic Pro Software
Only for Mac | $199

Pros ✅
Extensive spatial audio capabilities, including a 3D object panner and Dolby Atmos outputs.
Native integration with Apple's M-series hardware provides a significant performance gain.
Easily switch from Apple's Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro.
For multi-touch motions and 'physical' control faders and dials, use the iPad and iPhone as Logic Remote.
Excellent native plugins, such as Flex Time, for correcting timing mistakes and creating intriguing tempo effects.

Cons ❌
Because of Apple's slower development cycle, you may have to wait longer for improvements.
Only available to Mac users.

Audio Design Desk - Best DAW for Film Sound Design

The Audio Design Desk (ADD) is one of the most recent and intriguing digital audio workstations on the market, and it was created exclusively for film sound post production.
As a result, ADD fully utilizes AI technology while also providing a distinct and compelling user experience that differs from that of many other DAWs with established workflows.

Users can assign groups of sound effects to keyboard shortcuts and simply 'play' the keyboard to drop sound effects on the timeline, each of which contains a sync point and metadata that allows the ADD app to instantly replace all of these sounds with a single keystroke to generate endlessly different options.

ADD is one of the most forward-thinking and fun DAWs on our list, and it's definitely worth a look if you're really interested in sound design for film.

Audio Design Workstation
Only for Mac | $89-$299/year

Pros ✅
AI learns your preferences, so the more you use it, the more accurate its recommendations get.
Pricing is flexible, with monthly, yearly, and perpetual licenses available.
The mid and upper tiers also offer a collection of over 70,000 sound effects and music cues.
DAWSync makes ADD available as a 'big plugin' within other DAWs.
The 'Basic' license includes broadcast media as well as online content.

Cons ❌
Licensing is determined by the type of project; for example, a Pro license is necessary for TV, advertisements, and streaming media.
The new technique of working with ADD may not be suitable for everyone's workflow.
Only available to Mac users.

DaVinci Resolve Fairlight is the best free DAW to download.

Fairlight was a standalone, industry-leading DAW before being acquired by Blackmagic Design in 2016 and included into DaVinci Resolve.

While alternative workflows require you to transition between distinct apps, DaVinci Resolve allows you to complete a complete Post workflow within one application, seamlessly navigating between the four main pages: Editing, Effects (Fusion), Sound (Fairlight), and Grading.

At $295 for a license to DaVinci Resolve Studio, which includes a lifetime of updates, it is also one of the most affordable applications on our list. DaVinci Resolve is a fully functional, extensively featured piece of software even if you merely get the free edition.
As such, it is our list's most powerful free digital audio workstation.

Fairlight DaVinci Resolve
Mac, PC, and Linux | Cost: Free / $295 (once)

Pros ✅
Free is always a wonderful thing.
Powered by the AI Neural Engine from Blackmagic Design.
On a laptop, this is ideal for novices.
It's also great for seasoned pros who wish to use dedicated devices like Blackmagic Design's Fairlight Audio Editor.
The user interface is clean and basic.
Editing tools are included (no roundtrip workflow between apps is necessary).

Cons ❌
When compared to learning Avid Pro Tools, Fairlight does not have the same amount of industry adoption to help you find a job as a junior or assistant in post production sound.

Ableton Live is the best DAW for film scoring.

Ableton Live appears on nearly every list of 'the greatest DAWs' because to its lengthy history in the industry and widespread usage by composers and musicians. It includes synthetic instruments, musical sound packs, and midi-controlled effects as a result.
While its sound editing and design capabilities may easily be used to create a soundtrack for a film or video project, Ableton's musical heritage suggest that it won't be as straightforward to closely integrate into a film post production workflow.

Ableton Live
Mac and PC | Prices range from $99 to $749

Pros ✅
A fantastic 90-day completely functional free trial.
Established a legacy in the area of cinematic composition.

Cons ❌
Not appropriate for post-production operations in cinema and television.
Importing XML/AAF or OMF files is not possible.
Multi-channel audio files, such as multi-track dialogue recordings, are not supported.

Adobe Audition is the best DAW for beginners.

Adobe Audition is Adobe's take on a digital audio workstation for filmmakers, and it's currently available if you have a Creative Cloud membership ($54.99/month), though you can also subscribe to it as a standalone software ($20.99/month).

Audition is the most beginner-friendly DAW on this list, thanks to features like its comprehensive set of audio restoration tools and the simple user interface that allows you to focus on one clip at a time or your entire mix.

Given the enormous popularity of Adobe's AI-powered online 'enhance' tool, which makes bad audio sound like it was recorded in a professional studio, and the likelihood of these tools becoming a native part of apps like Audition, having a DAW like Audition at your disposal is a compelling reason.

Audition by Adobe
Price: $21-$55 | Available for Mac and PC

Pros ✅
Adobe Premiere Pro native round-trip process.
A good option for video editors who want to improve their sound editing and design skills.
Also appropriate for podcasters and musicians.
It is perfect for novices due to its simple tools.
AI-powered tools are on their way to the app.

Cons ❌
It is not a generally used DAW for finding work in the sector.
As a standalone app, the monthly subscription is expensive.

Reaper is the best DAW for customization.

Reaper is one of the most customizable digital audio workstations on this list, which is why it has such a large user base. Because you can change the layout, keyboard shortcuts, tools, menu lists, color schemes, languages, and even apply themed skins to the UI, you can truly personalize it.
I was also blown away by teacher Kenny Gioia's comprehensive (read: hundreds!) video lectures on the Reaper website. He will be your guide if you are new to Reaper.

Mac, PC, and Linux | $60-$225

Pros ✅
Individual user demands can be greatly customized.
A devoted user base is on hand to offer advice.
Download thousands of third-party scripts, macros, and plugins.
Run LUA or Python scripts from within Reaper.
It has a small installation footprint and takes up no hard disk space.
Perpetual licenses are quite reasonable - $60 for personal use or $225 for commercial use.

Cons ❌
Beginners may be confused by Reaper's 'blank canvas' interface and approach.
In the film and television post-production industries, this term is not commonly used.

This guide to the best digital audio workstations for filmmakers in 2024 should have provided you with some good options to think about when approaching your next sound edit, design, and mix.

If you want to work professionally in sound design, studying Avid's Pro Tools is a good place to start.
Use Pro Tools if you're already editing with Avid Media Composer.
Stick with Fairlight if you're currently editing with DaVinci Resolve.
Logic Pro makes sense if you're already editing in Final Cut Pro.
If you're already editing with Adobe Premiere Pro, try out Audition.
Audio creation Desk, with its 70,000+ file sound collection and machine learning code base, potentially represents the agile and entertaining future of AI powered cinema sound creation and editing.

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