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Digital
Producer
Mix &
Master
Digital
Arranger
Cakewalk
Sonar
Steinberg
Cubase
Ableton
Live
FL
Studio
Digital
Performer
Logic
Pro
Pro
Tools
Music for
Media
 

Digital Audio Workstation Shootout

  • The table below rates 7 of the most popular Digital Audio Workstation software products. Two metrics are used to measure value: an overall Functional Rating and a Value Ratio.
  • For the Functional Rating this table is a summary of 130 factors that were considered in the analysis. Each factor was rated on a scale of 0 to 5 — 5 being best. You can click on the 4 summary categories of the functional rating categories to see the details of the analysis.
  • The Value Ratio is ratio of the Functional Rating divided by the Representative Dealer Price. It measures the relative value that each product provides for the money.
  • Please see the notes below for some general comments about how the analysis was performed as well as the changes from the previous version of this analysis.
  • We also address some of the more common questions about these shootouts in some of our music blogs: DAW Shootout 20, DAW Shootout 10 and DAW Shootout 8

Digital Audio Workstation Software Shootout

Version 28 Copyright © 2008-14 Digital Music Doctor LLC

 

Sonar X3 PE

Cubase 7

Pro Tools 11

Live 9 Std

Digital Performer 8

FL Studio 11 PE

Logic Pro X

Representative Dealer Price

$499

$499

$699

$449

$499

$199

$199

Value Ratio (Rating/Price)

0.90

0.92

0.52

0.71

0.74

1.51

2.16

 

Functional Rating

Overall Rating

4.5

4.6

3.6

3.2

3.7

3.0

4.3

 

Audio

4.8

4.7

3.3

3.0

4.5

2.9

4.6

 

Audio Environment

5.0

4.4

4.1

3.8

3.9

4.1

4.3

 

Mixing & Mastering

5.0

4.9

4.0

4.5

4.7

4.3

4.9

 

Audio File Management

3.8

4.8

3.4

2.4

4.5

1.9

4.1

 

Recording & Editing

5.0

5.0

5.0

4.1

4.7

4.3

5.0

 

Surround

5.0

4.5

0.0

0.0

4.5

0.0

4.7

 

MIDI

4.4

4.9

3.2

2.5

3.6

2.5

4.4

 

Setup & Record

4.8

4.9

3.5

2.5

3.8

1.4

4.0

 

Processing

3.8

4.6

2.7

3.1

3.7

3.4

4.8

 

Editors

4.5

5.0

2.8

0.8

3.7

0.8

4.4

 

Virtual Instruments

4.4

4.9

3.9

3.4

3.1

4.4

4.4

 

Overall Functions

4.2

4.2

4.1

3.4

3.5

2.6

3.7

 

Video

3.3

3.2

3.9

2.8

2.8

0.2

2.7

 

Loops & Remix

4.3

4.3

4.1

3.5

3.4

3.4

4.4

 

User Interface

4.9

4.9

4.7

3.3

4.6

2.8

3.4

 

Environment

4.3

4.5

3.8

3.8

3.3

3.9

4.3

Updates

Version 28 of this analysis updates Cakewalk Sonar from Version SX2 to Version SX3.

The updates for Sonar SX3 resulted in credit for the following features:
- Delay & Echo - Audio FX (Audio > Mixing & Mastering > Audio FX)
- Spatial - Audio FX (Audio > Mixing & Mastering > Audio FX)
- Modulation - Audio FX (Audio > Mixing & Mastering > Audio FX)
- Batch Pitch Shifting - Overall (Loops & Remix > Pitch Shifting)
- Pitch Identification & Processing - Overall (Loops & Remix > Pitch Shifting)

A new category Export to Third Party Websites (Environment > Track Management > Export to Third Party Websites) was also added to reflect functions which facilitates exporting audio and/or video files to popular third party websites such as SoundCloud, YouTube and Gobbler.

In previous versions of the Shootout, Rewire was mistakenly classified as a subcategory of Virtual Instruments (MIDI > Virtual Instrument > Rewire). Rewire has now been classified as a subcategory of Environment (Overall > Environment > Rewire).

The other new features in Sonar X3 were also considered, namely:

XLN Audio Addictive Drums
AAS Lounge Lizard AAS
AAS Strum Acoustic
Melodyne Essential
Nomad Factory Blue Tubes
QuadCurve EQ Zoom
Tone2 BiFilter 2
VST3 Support
Gobbler Cloud Access
Custom Track Colors
New Comping Workflow

However, none of these features resulted in additional credit since Sonar was already receiving maximum credit in the categories that include these features.

Ratings for all of the other products were included in the prior version of the analysis. However, they may have changed due to the addition, correction and redefinition of categories.

Organization

The detail factors consist of three sections:

  • The ratings themselves
  • An explanation of the ratings
  • An explanation of what the factor is and why it is important.

You can navigate to these sections by clicking on the navigation bar in each section heading:

Go to Ratings

Explain the Rating

What is this?

Summary

Color Coding

Ratings
4-5
2-3
0-1
Value Ratio - Quartile
1st
2nd & 3rd
4th

Products Included

Our goal is to include the most popular general music production software products in a similar price range.

  • The Pro Tools ratings are based on Pro Tools. Pro Tools TDM software is not included because it is only available with Pro Tools HD Systems which have an entry-level price significantly higher than other products in this comparison.
  • Sonar Producer and Cubase represent the top-of-the-line products in this price range from both manufacturers. "Studio/Artist" editions of both of these products are also available at lower cost and with less functionality.
  • Steinberg Nuendo is not included because the price is significantly higher than other products in this comparison.

Prices

“Representative Dealer Prices” for most products are prices from Sweetwater Sound and Musicians Friend available at the time of the study and generally represent the Minimum Advertised Price specified by the manufacturer. There are some exceptions:

  • The price for FL Studio is based on the Producer Edition rather than the XXL edition since the XXL edition primarily consists of additional virtual instruments.

Rating Methodology

Each separately identified factor has an equal weight. So we are implicitly making a judgment about the importance of a function simply by creating a separate factor for it. Each factor is averaged into the subcategories that you see on the summary. These subcategories are averaged, again with equal weight, into the final four categories.

A particular function or category may or may not be important to you depending on how you intend to use the product. For example, one big hole in several products is the lack of support for surround sound mixing, but you may not care about that function at all. Unless there is an obvious difference we have not made any judgments about the quality of a function. We do not, for example, try to judge who has the best reverb. Also many products add value to their offering by bundling third-party synthesizers, FX or sample libraries. We give a product credit for having these extra functions but do not attempt to evaluate them.

Terminology

Products use different terminology for the same thing. When describing a product we use the product terminology. However, in our explanations of categories, we simply pick one name. For example, segments of audio or MIDI are called clips in Sonar, events or parts in Cubase, and regions in Logic. We use clips.

Accuracy

While are opinions are our own, we want to make sure this analysis is factually accurate. The content of either current or previous versions of this analysis has been reviewed by representatives from Avid, Cakewalk, Steinberg, Ableton, Image Line, and MOTU for accuracy. All manufacturers represented are invited to review the content each time an update is published.

 

Digital
Producer
Cubase
7
Sonar
X3
Digital
Arranger
Digital
Performer 8
Music for
Media
Pro
Tools 11
Sound
Forge 10
Mix &
Master
Ableton
Live 9
Logic
Pro X
FL Studio
11
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