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The best live DAWs - find your ideal performing partner

Best live DAW
(Image credit: Apple / Ableton / Presonus)

BACK TO LIVE: A good performance workstation can form the bedrock of your live show. The best live DAWs combine speed and processing heft, with great sounds and simple interfaces for adjustments on the fly. Here are three of our favourites...

Apple Mainstage

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple MainStage 

Price: $30/£29/€33 | System requirements: macOS 10.15.7 or later 6GB of available storage space for minimum installation or 72GB of storage space for full Sound Library installation

Great integration with Logic
Simple GUI
Limited to Apple OS

A piece of software that often flies under the radar, MainStage is able to morph your computer into a live-ready multi-instrument and effect processor, storing sounds in ‘concerts’ rather than projects. A straightforward visual interface allows you to edit keyboards, faders, knobs, buttons and pads, all controllable via your MIDI keyboard.

Best live DAWs: Presonus Studio One 5 Artist

(Image credit: Presonus)

PreSonus Studio One 5 Artist

Price: $99/£85/€95 | System requirements: Windows 10 or macOS® 10.13. Intel Core i3/AMD A10 processor or better. Minimum 4GB RAM / Recommended 8GB or more. 20 GB free hard drive space

On the fly patch creation
Works well for both live and studio production
Slightly pricier than its closest rivals

The most recent point update of PreSonus’s feature-packed hub introduced the Show Page, designed to allow users to fluidly navigate their live performance elements, as well as manage their gig overall. 

Studio One 5 allows you to have total control of the most important elements of your tracks and effects, while also allowing for spontaneity via some on-the-fly patch creation. 

Best live DAWs: Ableton Live 11

(Image credit: Ableton)

Ableton Live

Price: From $99/£69/€79 | System requirements: Windows 10 or macOS 10.13. Intel Core i5 or AMD multi-core. 8 GB RAM.

Easy to import sets from other DAWs
The standard for electronic music
Slick interface
Higher min. system requirements than the others here

The daddy of them all. Live does exactly what it says on the tin, with its Session Page allowing for the slick and enjoyable live performance of electronic music, and is pretty much standard for the live electronic scene. 

It’s available in three levels, and if you’re looking to move your sets from another DAW into this live-oriented one, then the Intro package should serve as a fine way in. 

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