Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) softwares are often used for recording, editing and producing audio files such as music, spoken words or even movies. These applications are ubiquitous in the market and in today's world, having the competency in operating a DAW is essential in any project.
As compared to the analog counterpart, such as the tape recorder, DAW softwares have better functionalities and efficiency in software operations. The overall cost of owning a DAW software has been affordable (e.g. Reaper at $60 USD), hence many have adopted the use of DAW over analog media.
It puzzled me when I received some queries on which DAW you should use to produce the best quality for your music project. To be honest, technology advancement has reached a point where it is common for DAW softwares to have the same type of operational features, for instance, being able to add memory locations or third-party plug-in support.
That being said, different DAWs have notable differences such as software navigation, editing tools or codec support. Unless you are really desperate for a particular feature, which is unlikely if you are trying out this craft, alternative workarounds are usually easy to find with the help of a search engine. Essentially, your DAW is a tool for you to record and produce; your knowledge on the software is the limitation to its capabilities.
There were a few considerations that I have to contemplate with before making my very first purchase of Pro Tools from Avid. Back when I was schooling in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, I was introduced to Pro Tools for my music production-related modules. The concept of producing music tracks on your laptop was definitely intriguing, as that allows an individual to have the ability to produce music at a very affordable price. Having a number of friends who were already Pro Tools users was a factor for me to consider as that will smoothen out the learning curve as I can simply ask them for help regarding any operations in the software.
Additionally, the Pro Tools workspaces are very dominant in the Pro Production market, hence exchanging, transferring or collaborating session files from different stations are relatively easy. It is not impossible to transfer your recorded files among different DAWs (e.g. from Pro Tools to Studio One). Nonetheless, transferring all of your session data (e.g. insert presets, memory locations or route settings) is usually a chore.
Many engineers use third party plug-ins to help enhance their craft in their respective DAW. Therefore, the software support for the plug-ins you owned has some definite importance as it will affect your system reliability. The last thing you want is to have an unstable system crashing, which results in the loss of all your hard work.
Last but not least, if you are pursuing this field, you would definitely require an audio interface for your recording and mixing applications. In such a competitive market, many manufacturers have often bundled DAW softwares together with the audio interface, for instance, Steinberg with Nuendo or Avid with Pro Tools. This might be the most influential element when you are considering buying any DAW. In my case, I was comfortable and competent in using Pro Tools and therefore, deciding on the Mbox series audio interface was quite straightforward to me as it met my I/O and processing requirements; a full version of Pro Tools was included in the package.
To recap, your knowledge limits the capabilities of your DAW and upgrading or migrating from one to another without serious consideration will just obstruct the fun in producing music. My best advice is to pick the DAW that people around you are using as it will smoothen the learning curve drastically. Most likely, you can even try using the software even before purchasing it. If you are really uncomfortable with one particular DAW, you will at least have some prior knowledge in the functionalities of editing tools, and exploring other DAWs might be easier.
The purpose of DAW is to produce music. Do not be bothered by all the unnecessary bells and whistles. Any DAW has the ability to produce good music.