That is a great question. It is also very important to address. Let me refer to my last few posts. I have shared several thoughts in a general overview, regarding the creation of the home music studio.
We've talked about the studio space and how to create stations for the sources we intend to record. Now let's take a deeper look at the primary tool for the recording process itself. As previously mentioned there are essentially two types of recording options for the home studio. The first is recording directly to a computer, and the second is to record with a stand-alone unit such as a hard disk recorder.
My personal choice is to use a combination of software and hardware to record directly to a computer. This type of studio setup is called a digital audio workstation or DAW for short. In future posts I will share my suggestions for the hardware side of things, but for now let's talk about the best recording software for the home studio.
Now I know some of you may be ready to instantly disagree here, giving 20 reasons why my software picks are wrong. So before I give you my reasons why, let me give you the simple answer to our original question.
The best software for home recording is the software that meets your budget, can produce your project goals, and one you're able to learn how to use.
I know you might be thinking, "what a cop-out." Now that you know my answer, let me explain why I believe it to be true. The home music studio is about creating a place to capture musical expression for the purpose of sharing it with others. There are many different options to do exactly that.
Some of the best recording software is completely free. Other software can cost you hundreds of dollars. In either case, your budget is the first thing that matters. Secondly, can the software produce and meet your project goals? If free recording software meets your budget and is sufficient for meeting your project goals, then you have the best recording software for your specific situation.
In the same token, just because you've paid hundreds of dollars for software does not mean you will have a professional sounding project. The rule of thumb here is relative to your budget and goals as well as your understanding of the software you're recording with. If you don't know how to use the software you have, costly or not, it's of little value to you.
Now to be fair let me say that there still is an industry standard option when it comes to the best recording software in the studio.
The one that comes to mind is Avid Pro Tools. Pro Tools has certainly been one of, if not the most, popular DAW recording solution around. Is Pro Tools the best option for your home music studio needs? That is a question only you can answer. I will say that if your budget allows, Avid does have some great options that are certainly worth looking into.
If I am going to recommend any software out right Pro Tools would certainly be on the list. An entry-level Pro Tools bundle with a limited edition software version starts around $120.00. Though I'm personally not a big fan of software limitations at this price range. However if you want to spend the money too see what Pro Tools is like, this is one way to do so.
In many ways Pro Tools has created the look, functionality, and feel of the DAW that many other software manufactures emulate in their own products. That said, Pro Tools is not the only Recording Software that can get the job done well. Now days, that are many other options that can produce the same quality recordings with many of the same features as Pro Tools, yet for a fraction of the price.
Here is a list of other recording software options that are worth investigating as well.
Adobe Audition (Free, Fully Functional 30 Day Trial)
Ardour (100% free, but only runs on Linux and Mac and is best for the tech savvy person)
Cakewalk's Sonar X3 Producer (Free Trial available)
Steinberg's Cubase Elements (Free Trial available)
Sony's Sound Forge (Free Trial available)
Reaper (Download Free)
Let me summarize the answer to our question. What is the best software for home recording? Know that one of the most popular industry standard option today "might be" Pro Tools. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a better option for you personally. If you don't have the budget for Pro Tools (or just want to use something else) then try looking into one of the free or more affordable options above. Personally...
I currently use and would highly recommend Reaper for the most affordable, full featured software for home recording.
If you do have a reasonable budget to work with (around $300), you might consider Cakewalk's Sonar X3 Producer. X3 Producer comes with many virtual instruments and is packed with tons of features for this budget range. Either way, find a program that fits your budget and needs that you're able to learn at whatever your level of experience with home music recording.
Have you tried any of the software I've listed? Do you have another option I didn't list? What do you consider to be the best recording software. I'd love to hear your thoughts so please add them to the comments section below.