Skip to main content

The best live DAWs - find your ideal performing partner

Included in this guide:

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 

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Great integration with Logic+Simple GUI
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+On the fly patch creation+Works well for both live and studio production
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Price: From $99/£69/€79
System requirements: Windows 10 or macOS 10.13. Intel Core i5 or AMD multi-core. 8 GB RAM.
Reasons to buy
+Easy to import sets from other DAWs+The standard for electronic music+Slick interface
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects…
…with the latest issue of Computer Music magazine