This article will discuss the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstations) for recording hardware synthesizers in 2023.
Unlike software synthesizers, which run on a computer, hardware synthesizers are standalone devices that can be played and controlled in real-time. Many hardware synthesizers are designed to mimic the sounds of classic analog synthesizers, but some are capable of producing a wide range of sounds, including digital and hybrid sounds.
You cannot get the same analog sound in soft synths, although some soft synths like Diva by u-he have come very close to emulating analog textures. Some hardware synthesizers have built-in keyboards for playing and performing, while others are designed to be controlled by external MIDI devices.
Hardware synthesizers are popular among electronic musicians and producers because of their portability and ability to create unique, expressive sounds.
You may require them for many reasons, like live performances, electronic music production, sound design, film scoring, etc. For these purposes, you may need to record them in your system. For hardware synth enthusiasts, we have curated a list of the best DAWs for recording audio and MIDI data from hardware synthesizers. So let’s dive right into it.
Top 6 DAWs For Recording Your Hardware Synth 2023
Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation (DAW) that is widely used by electronic musicians, producers, and DJs for creating, recording, and performing music.
You can use it to record audio from external hardware synthesizers by connecting them to your computer via an audio interface and using the software to record the audio. To do this, you will need to set up your audio interface and hardware synthesizer and configure it to record audio from the external device.
You can record audio by creating a new audio track and selecting your audio interface as the input source. Then, you can play your hardware synthesizer and record the audio in Ableton Live. Once you have recorded your hardware synthesizer in Ableton Live, you can edit and manipulate the audio using various tools and effects and arrange the audio clips in your project to create your final song.
You can also use Ableton Live to record and edit MIDI data from your hardware synthesizer if it has a MIDI output.
- Non-linear arrangement
Ableton has a unique non-linear interface, allowing you to flexibly arrange and rearrange your audio and MIDI clips. Plus, it allows you to record and edit audio clips, sequence MIDI, use virtual instruments and external hardware synths, and apply various effects and processing to your audio.
- Audio and MIDI effects
Ableton Live includes many audio and MIDI effects that can shape and enhance your sounds. These include delays, reverbs, filters, and more. It also has great arpeggiator patterns and mixing workflow. It also includes a range of software instruments, including virtual synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers, which can be used to create sounds and build up your tracks.
- Cross-platform support
The DAW is available for Windows and Mac and allows you to transfer your projects between the two platforms. This makes it a convenient choice for musicians who use both platforms. In addition, many hardware synths, instruments, and drum machines are directly compatible.
- Live performance features
The software has features specifically designed for live performances, such as real-time triggering audio and MIDI clips and using hardware controllers to control the software. This makes it a popular choice for electronic musicians and DJs.
It has powerful sampling capabilities, which allow you to import audio samples and manipulate them in various ways. You can slice, stretch, and pitch your samples and use them as the basis for new sounds.
- Max for Live
The DAW comes with Max for Live, a visual programming environment allowing you to create custom devices for Ableton Live. This can create unique, impossible sounds and effects with built-in tools.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
Ableton Live is a powerful and versatile software well-suited for recording synthesizers because of its flexible recording and editing options, elaborate MIDI sequencing, live performance features, etc. Whether you are recording a hardware synthesizer or a virtual instrument, it has the tools to capture your sounds and create professional-quality recordings.
Plus, it has a range of built-in software instruments, including virtual synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers, which can be used to create and manipulate sounds. You can also use third-party plugins to expand the software’s capabilities and create even more complex sounds.
On Windows, the software requires Windows 10 (64-bit) and at least 8 GB of RAM (16 GB recommended). On Mac, it requires macOS 10.15 (64-bit) and at least 8 GB of RAM (16 GB recommended). Regarding compatibility with other hardware, Ableton Live can be used with a wide range of audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, and other music production equipment.
Ableton Live has the tools you need to get the job done, whether you are a professional sound designer or an electronic musician looking to create unique sounds. It’s also easy to learn and use and has a friendly interface that lets you do all audio editing, design, and mixing work smoothly.
Bitwig Studio is a digital audio workstation (DAW) for music production, editing, and live performance.
It is a professional music software application that allows you to record, edit, and arrange music; known for its flexible modular design. It includes various virtual instruments, audio effects, and other tools for creating and shaping sound, a flexible modulation system, and a customizable user interface. You can use it to create music in various styles, including electronic music, hip-hop, rock, pop, and more.
One of the key features of Bitwig Studio is its focus on real-time performance. It includes various tools for live performance, including a Clip Launcher for triggering loops and samples and a Note Editor for on-the-fly editing melodies and chord progressions.
- Elaborate workflow
The arranger in Bitwig Studio is a powerful and flexible tool for arranging and editing your music. It includes many features, such as audio and MIDI editing, tempo and time signature changes, and automation lanes. It also includes a range of virtual instruments, including synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and more.
In addition, there are audio effects for shaping and processing your sounds, including delays, reverb, EQ, compressor, and many others.
- Modulation System
The DAW has a flexible modulation system that allows you to easily create complex and dynamic sounds. You can use this system to modulate any parameter in the software using various sources such as LFOs, envelopes, and more.
- Customizable User Interface
The software has a customizable user interface that allows you to tailor the software to your specific workflow needs. You can customize the interface’s layout and organization to suit your working style.
- Extensive File Support
Bitwig Studio supports many file formats, including audio, MIDI, and video files. It also supports VST and VST3 plug-ins, allowing you to use your favorite third-party software instruments and effects.
- Live Performance Tools
The DAW includes various tools for live performance, including a Clip Launcher for triggering loops and samples and a Note Editor for on-the-fly editing melodies and chord progressions.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
Bitwig Studio is a good choice for recording hardware synths because it includes a range of features and tools that are well-suited for capturing and editing synth sounds, including support for MIDI, audio recording and editing tools, a flexible modulation system, and expansive audio effects.
The minimum system requirements for Bitwig for Windows are Windows 7 or later, 2 GHz processors, 4 GB RAM, and 1 GB hard disk space. The same for Mac is macOS 10.13, or later, 2 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, and 1 GB hard disk space, and Linux is 2 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, and 1 GB hard disk space.
It is compatible with VST and VST3 plug-ins, allowing you to use your favorite third-party software instruments and effects within the software.
Overall, Bitwig Studio is a highly respected and widely used DAW that is well-suited for a wide range of music production tasks, from composing and arranging for editing and live performances. However, I recommend a multi-touch display for optimal user experience.
FL Studio is a digital audio workstation to create, record, edit, and produce music.
It is available in several versions, including a free “Fruity Edition” and paid versions with more features and capabilities. It uses a pattern-based music sequencer, allowing users to create and edit music by arranging pre-set audio and MIDI data patterns. The software includes a wide range of virtual instrument plugins and effects, and tools for editing and arranging audio.
One of the notable features of the DAW is its piano roll editor, which allows users to create and edit melodies and patterns using a visual interface. The software also includes a mixer, which allows users to adjust the levels and apply effects to individual tracks. It can import and export audio file formats, including WAV, MP3, and OGG. It can also import and export MIDI files.
- Pattern-based music sequencer
FL Studio uses a pattern-based music sequencer, allowing users to create and edit music by arranging pre-set audio and MIDI data patterns. Patterns can be arranged in a playlist to create a complete song arrangement. The pattern-based approach can be useful for quickly trying out different ideas and creating complex, multi-layered arrangements.
- User-friendly interface
The DAW has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and understand, making it accessible to users of all skill levels. The interface is divided into different windows, like Playlist, Mixer, Sampler, etc., each of which serves a specific purpose.
It has the best workflow for sampling, with its drag-and-drop options and audio manipulation and editing tools. The shortcuts and editing tools like Draw, Paint, Slice, etc., make it easy to use. In addition, its MIDI programming, recording, and editing are simple and considered one of the superior ones among DAWs.
- Virtual instrument plugins
FL Studio includes various virtual instrument plugins designed to mimic real-world instruments’ sounds or create new, unique sounds. These instruments are implemented using digital signal processing techniques, such as wavetable synthesis, subtractive synthesis, and FM synthesis.
The DAW includes a range of audio effects that can be applied to individual tracks or the overall mix. These effects can be used to shape the sound of the audio, such as by adding reverb to simulate the sound of a particular space or by applying EQ to boost or cut specific frequency ranges.
- Piano Roll Editor
The piano roll editor is a visual interface that allows users to create and edit melodies and patterns using a grid of notes. A block represents each note, and the block’s position and length correspond to the note’s pitch and duration. The piano roll editor also allows users to specify each note’s velocity and other MIDI controller data.
The mixer in FL Studio allows users to adjust the levels and apply effects to individual tracks. It includes several controls, such as faders and pan knobs, that can shape the mix’s sound. The mixer also includes a routing matrix, which allows users to specify how the audio from each track is routed to the final output.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
FL Studio is well-suited for recording hardware synthesizers. It has a user-friendly interface and a wide range of features that make it easy to record, edit, and mix music. One of the benefits of using FL Studio for recording hardware synthesizers is that it allows you to take advantage of its virtual instrument plugins and effects, which can add a lot of versatility and creativity to your recordings.
Additionally, it has a range of tools for editing and arranging audio, such as the piano roll editor, which can be useful for creating complex patterns and sequences with your synthesizer. It is a great choice for recording hardware synthesizers, and many musicians and producers use it.
FL Studio is a digital audio workstation that requires a computer with at least a 2.0 GHz CPU with SSE2 support, 4 GB of RAM, 4 GB of free disk space, and a screen resolution of 1024×768 or higher. It is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, or later and macOS 10.13 or later.
In addition to these minimum system requirements, it is recommended to use a computer with more powerful hardware for the best performance. Some features and plugins in FL Studio may have additional system requirements, such as specific graphics card capabilities or compatibility with certain versions of Windows or macOS.
FL Studio has seen constant developments and changes, from Fruity Loops to FL Studio, with the latest version, FL Studio 21. In 2023, we witnessed a new software update as occasionally as every month. Image Line listens to feedback and makes changes. It keeps getting better, and the updates are free. The DAW is also affordable and is great for beginners and professionals alike.
Logic Pro is a digital audio workstation (DAW) and MIDI sequencer software application for the macOS platform.
It is used by music producers, sound engineers, and other audio professionals to create, edit, and produce music and audio files. Logic Pro includes a wide range of professional virtual instruments, effects, and other tools for creating, editing, and mixing audio, as well as a powerful MIDI editor for creating and editing MIDI tracks.
It also includes various audio recording features, such as the ability to import and edit multiple audio tracks, support for various audio file formats, and built-in support for external hardware instruments and devices.
Logic allows you to create and manage multiple audio tracks, including tools for organizing and arranging your tracks within the DAW. It includes various tools for editing audio tracks, including cut, copy, paste, trim, and split. It also includes support for undoing and redoing, allowing you to change your audio tracks and experiment with different edits easily.
- Great for Recording, Mixing, and mastering
Logic Pro includes various tools for mixing and mastering your audio tracks, including support for surround sound, automation, and tempo and time signature changes. Plus, it includes a range of effects for processing and shaping the sound of your audio tracks, including EQ, compression, reverb, and delay.
- External hardware support
The DAW has built-in support for external hardware instruments and devices, such as synthesizers and drum machines, allowing you to easily connect and record audio from these devices.
- Music notation
The software includes a music notation editor for creating and editing sheet music. It allows you to enter and edit notes using various input methods and supports musical symbols and notation styles. That makes it great for scoring and film sound design.
- User-friendly DAW
The interface of the DAW is designed to be intuitive, with a range of tools and controls organized logically and straightforwardly. It includes a comprehensive manual, a range of tutorial videos, and other resources to help users learn how to use the software. Overall, it’s easy to use and is divided into areas such as the main window, toolbar, transport, track headers, mixer, etc.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
Logic Pro allows you to set up and record multiple audio tracks, so you can easily record and edit multiple parts or layers of your synthesizer performances. Plus, it supports various audio file formats, including WAV, AIFF, and MP3, so that you can choose the best format for your synthesizer recordings.
In addition, it includes a variety of virtual instruments and effects that you can use to process and shape the sound of your synthesizer recordings. Also, its MIDI editor is powerful and easy to use, making it a good choice for creating and editing MIDI tracks and sequences, and it has built-in support for the use of external hardware instruments and devices, so you can easily connect and record audio from your hardware synthesizer.
It runs on the macOS operating system. It requires a Mac computer with an Intel processor and at least 4GB of RAM. The specific version of macOS required depends on the version of Logic Pro you are using. Logic Pro X, the latest software version, requires macOS Big Sur 11.0 or later.
For optimal performance, you should have at least 8GB of RAM and a fast, solid-state drive (SSD). Logic Pro also requires a minimum of 6GB of free disk space to install the software.
Logic Pro is considered one of the best DAWs and is an industry-standard software. Many film and recording studios exclusively use it because of its feature richness, versatility, updates, ease of use, and various other reasons. If you’re a synthesist into film scoring, Logic is a great DAW for you, as it has a real-time video tracking option by which you can directly play your instrument to the film.
Reaper is a DAW designed to be a flexible and lightweight application that can run on many platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Reaper is known for its advanced features and user-friendly interface, which make it a popular choice among music professionals and home studios. It has many features and tools for audio production, including support for non-destructive editing, automation, and real-time effects processing. It also has a customizable interface and support for third-party plug-ins.
- Unlimited track and channel count
Reaper allows you to add as many tracks and channels as you need to your projects, limited only by the power of your computer. In addition, it is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, allowing you to use it on a wide range of platforms.
- Customizable interface
Reaper has a fully customizable interface, allowing you to customize the layout and appearance to suit your personal workflow. It also includes a wide range of customization options, including support for custom skins and color schemes.
- Editing features
Reaper has many editing features, including time stretching, pitch shifting, and more. It also has tools for trimming, splitting, and joining audio files and support for fades, crossfades, and volume envelopes. Its non-destructive editing allows you to edit your audio files without altering the original recording. This means you can make as many changes as possible without worrying about losing the original data.
The DAW has a powerful routing system that allows you to route audio between tracks and channels in various ways, making it easy to create complex audio setups. Plus, it includes many built-in effects that can shape and enhance your audio.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
It’s great for recording synths because of its unlimited track and channel count, real-time fx processing, non-destructive editing features, and more. In addition, it allows you to connect external hardware, such as synthesizers and other musical instruments, to your computer via a MIDI interface. This makes it easy to record and produce with hardware synths in Reaper.
Reaper is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and it requires a 64-bit operating system. On Windows, it is compatible with Windows 7 and later. On macOS, it is compatible with macOS 10.11 and later. On Linux, it is compatible with most distributions. It can run with as little as 2 GB of RAM and requires a minimum of 50 MB of free hard drive space.
Overall, Reaper is a beast in customization and highly flexible in terms of interface and workflow. It’s great, especially for sound design for films, games, and other mediums. In addition, it also offers a free, fully-functional 60-day trial period, during which you can use all of the software’s features without any restrictions.
Cubase is a digital audio workstation (DAW) developed by Steinberg for music and MIDI recording, arranging, and editing.
It is popular among professional and amateur musicians for its wide range of features and intuitive user interface. Cubase offers a range of tools for recording, editing, and producing music, including a virtual piano roll for editing MIDI data, a score editor for transcribing and editing music notation, and a range of audio effects and virtual instruments. It is available for Windows and macOS.
- Wide range of audio effects and processors
Cubase includes a range of audio effects and processors, including EQs, compressors, and reverb, which can be used to shape and enhance your audio. These effects are high-quality and easy to use, making it easy to get professional-sounding results with the DAW.
- Range of virtual instruments
Cubase includes a wide range of virtual instruments, including pianos, synthesizers, and drum machines, which can be used to create and edit MIDI data. These instruments are high-quality and easy to use, making it easy to produce professional-sounding tracks with the DAW.
- Score editor
Cubase’s score editor is a powerful tool for transcribing and editing music notation. It allows you to create and edit traditional music notation and is a useful tool for composers and musicians working with notation.
- Virtual piano roll
Cubase’s virtual piano roll is a graphical editor for MIDI data that allows you to view and edit MIDI information in a way that is similar to a traditional piano roll. It is a powerful tool for creating and editing MIDI data, and it is one of the features that set it apart from other DAWs.
- Flexible routing options
Cubase has a powerful routing system that allows you to route audio and MIDI data between different tracks and virtual instruments flexibly and intuitively. This can be useful for creating complex arrangements and recording setups.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
One reason it is particularly good for recording hardware synthesizers is that it has several features that make it easy to capture high-quality audio recordings of these instruments. For example, it has a range of tools and effects that can be used to shape and enhance the synthesizer’s sound, as well as many virtual instruments that can complement the hardware synthesizer.
Additionally, Cubase has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to record, edit, and produce music, making it a good choice for musicians and producers working with hardware synthesizers.
To run Cubase, you will need a computer with a 64-bit operating system, such as Windows 10 or macOS 10.15 Catalina. The processor should be an Intel or AMD multi-core processor with at least 2 GHz of speed, and you will need at least 4 GB of RAM (though 8 GB or more is recommended).
The computer should have an onboard graphics card with at least 1 GB of VRAM and 10 GB of free hard drive space.
Cubase is considered the industry standard by many studios and producers. It has had a great reputation for a long time and a loyal customer base. For recording synthesizers, it’s one of the ideal DAWs, whether you’re doing it for a film, a game, a web series, a song, etc. Cubase will give you the ideal environment for all purposes, given its user-friendly and versatile workflow.
Reason is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software developed by Reason Studios.
It is a powerful and easy-to-use music production software that enables users to create, edit, and mix music using various virtual instruments, audio effects, and other features. It is used by musicians, producers, and other music professionals to produce high-quality recordings and compositions.
- Virtual instruments
Reason includes various virtual instruments, synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and more. These instruments are designed to sound and feel like their real-world counterparts and can be easily customized and automated to fit the user’s needs.
- Modular design
Reason’s modular design allows users to connect virtual instruments and effects to create complex and dynamic music production setups. This modular design allows for high flexibility and creativity in music production.
- Automatic routing
Reason’s automatic routing feature simplifies connecting virtual instruments and effects by automatically routing audio and MIDI signals between devices. This eliminates the need for manual routing, saving users time and effort.
- User-friendly interface
Reason’s interface is designed to be easy to use, with a clear and intuitive layout that makes it easy to navigate and find the features and tools you need. This makes it a great choice for both beginners and experienced music producers.
Why it’s good for recording synths?
It includes a comprehensive audio recording feature that allows users to record and edit audio tracks using various tools. This includes the ability to record multiple tracks simultaneously, as well as the ability to edit audio tracks using functions like cut, copy, and paste.
In addition, Reason includes a range of virtual instruments and audio effects that can be used to shape the sound of the recorded hardware synthesizers. It also has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to navigate and find the features and tools you need.
The DAW requires a minimum of 4 GB RAM, 12+ GB hard disk space, and the following operating systems: macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) or later (64-bit) or Windows 7 or later (64-bit).
Reason is a great and easy-to-use music production and sound design tool. It is a great software for recording hardware synthesizers, and it can be used in conjunction with a MIDI or audio interface to connect the synthesizer to a computer. In addition, it is especially good for sound design.
We have discussed in detail the best DAWs for recording synths in 2023, so you can choose for yourself to choose the best software. In the list, Ableton Live is a great DAW for synthesizers, known for its real-time performance capabilities and support for hardware synthesizers, and is a suitable DAW for electronic music production, sound design, sampling, and virtual instruments as well.
However, the recording capabilities of Abelton may be limited compared to DAWs like Logic Pro. Logic Pro is great because it is a professional-grade DAW with a wide range of built-in synthesizers and support for external hardware synthesizers. Logic and Reaper are great for you if you’re into film sound.
Reaper is a suitable option because of its advanced customizations, non-destructive editing abilities, and infinite number of tracks for recording. If sampling is your priority, you can also go for FL Studio, as it has great editing tools, drag-and-drop workflow, and an intuitive MIDI programming interface. In addition, its virtual instruments and synths are also great!
Some other DAWs you can consider are Pro Tools and Studio One. I hope this article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.