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You love recording online. Whether setting up solo projects or collaborating with others, the experience has proven enjoyable.
But now you’re wondering. What online DAWs are out there, and which one is the best? Or, if you’re already using one app, you might be considering alternatives.
Good news, because in this guide, we cover the best online DAWs.
Soundtrap – Best Online DAW
Soundtrap declares itself “your everywhere studio.” And true to form, if you have a browser and internet connection, you can access it from anywhere, on practically any device. Of course, there are mobile apps for iOS and Android too.
Spotify obviously saw something in it because they ended up acquiring Soundtrap in November 2017. And some Spotify services are built into Soundtrap’s value proposition too.
What Does Soundtrap Offer?
Online DAW Soundtrap features an easy-to-use recording interface (more on this later) with a full effects suite, amplifiers (for guitar and bass), loops and instruments, as well as their Patterns Beatmaker for sequencing drum patterns. It handles both audio and MIDI tracks.
Designed with online collaboration in mind, Soundtrap is ideal for those who want to work with other producers, artists, and musicians remotely. Soundtrap has an internal messaging system that allows you to keep your project related communication self-contained too.
If you have other ways of capturing your ideas or can connect with the people you want to work with locally, then you probably won’t be fully leveraging Soundtrap’s technology, but there are artists who use Soundtrap because they love the recording interface and workflow.
Soundtrap is also enjoyed by content creators, especially podcasters, because they can publish their episodes directly to Spotify. This feature is not available to musicians yet, but one would assume it’s got to be part of their plan.
If you don’t know your way around Soundtrap, or are new to recording in general, don’t worry – they also have 30+ videos to help you at every step.
Aside from that, though, Soundtrap seems to pride itself in being an online DAW and online music collaboration tool first and foremost, and all other features are secondary to that.
How Much Does It Cost?
There are a few plans you can choose from based on what you need. First, let’s look at the Personal plans.
- Free. You get access to unlimited projects, 4,650 loops, 430 instruments and sounds, 150,000+ sound effects from freesounds.org, and Soundtrap Originals sound packs every second week.
- Music Makers Premium. $9.99 monthly or $7.99 per month annually for unlimited projects, 16,580+ loops, 860+ instruments and sounds, 150,000+ sound effects, Antares Auto-Tune, time restore, automation, remote interviews, and Soundtrap Originals and Expansion Packs every other week.
- Music Makers Supreme. $14.99 monthly or $11.99 per month annually for unlimited projects, 19,460+ loops, 300+ sounds from Splice, 880+ instruments and sounds, 150,000+ sound effects, Antares Auto-Tune, time restore, automation, remote interviews, priority mixing, high quality downloads, and Soundtrap Originals and Expansion Packs every other week.
- Storytellers. $14.99 monthly or 11.99 per month annually for unlimited projects, 4,650+ loops, 430+ instruments and sounds, 150,000 sound effects, time restore, automation, remote interviews, interactive transcripts (eight hours), high quality downloads, publish podcast to Spotify, and Soundtrap originals and Expansion Packs.
- Complete. $19.99 monthly or $16.99 per month annually for all the above plus a Spotify Premium subscription.
And here’s an overview of the Education plans:
- 30-day free trial. No credit card details required, all features for 30 days, 500 seats to try with your students.
- School or District Plan. Starts at $249 per year (or $4.98 per seat) for a minimum of 50 seats.
Interface & Workflow
Learning to use a DAW proper was really a bit of a chore just 15 to 20 years ago. I like to say that it was on par with complex software like Adobe Photoshop or Final Cut Pro. You basically needed to commit to the process of becoming a pro. GarageBand was about the only thing that was beginner friendly at the time.
We’ve come a long way since then. Soundtrap is the kind of recording software that can come under the control of even an inexperienced musician or artist relatively quickly. Experienced producers might take a minute or two to adjust to the workflow, but in our experience it’s a smooth transition.
We like that they’ve kept the GUI simple while adding some basic touches to make it attractive. There’s a Light and Dark mode depending on your preferences, and recorded tracks are automatically color coded (standard feature in most DAWs these days).
When creating a new track inside Soundtrap, it comes near mix-ready with effects and presets. Adjust to taste and you’ll be off to the races.
Like Soundtrap, BandLab is an online music collaboration app. But part of their value proposition includes the ability to release your tracks, engage your fans, and even keep your earnings, all directly from their self-contained platform.
BandLab has mobile apps for iOS and Android, and it works on all devices.
What Does BandLab Offer?
There’s a little more to BandLab than initially meets the eye. If I were to bottom line it, it’s like Facebook, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and Soundtrap all rolled into one.
Upon logging into BandLab, you’ll be brought to the Feed, which is basically a Facebook style newsfeed where you can create your own posts and interact on other people’s. When you post audio files, they come out looking like SoundCloud players. They’ve also included the functionality to go live on their site.
Then you have the Explore section. This is the part of the site that’s been set up like Bandcamp. You can scan music of various genres by a variety of creators and listen to, download, or buy their music.
The Library section is where all your own projects are stored, including collaborations. Simply click on “+ Create” in the upper right-hand corner if you want to start a new project from scratch.
Something that’s somewhat unique to BandLab is their built-in BandLab Mastering tool, which lets you choose from a few presets based on what sounds best for your track. Soundtrap also offers mastering, but it’s completely automatic upon saving your project and is not controllable.
How Much Does It Cost?
Amazingly, BandLab is free! We do wonder whether it’s always going to be that way though.
Interface & Workflow
Like Soundtrap, BandLab has a smooth looking interface that’s near identical in most regards. Starting a new track is easy and recording audio tracks or sequencing MIDI tracks using the built-in MIDI Editor is a cinch.
Now, this might be a subjective thing, but we prefer working with Soundtrap’s piano roll versus BandLabs MIDI Editor – it offers more control.
Further, when you create a new track inside BandLab, it isn’t as close to mix ready as it would be in Soundtrap. You’d need to figure out your levels, panning, effects chain, and so forth, all on your own. And mixing is a science and artform that can take a long time to master. This makes BandLab a little less user friendly compared to Soundtrap, especially for an artist with no mixing experience.
Besides these few considerations, though, we found BandLab to be quite competitive with Soundtrap.
Amped Studio positions itself as “an online music sequencer and sound editor.” They claim this makes their platform ideally suited to beatmakers, keyboardists, vocalists and rappers, as well as guitarists. Amped Studio has been around for 12+ years and has more than 205,000 users. They also have their own marketplace and Bandcamp like functionality.
What Does Amped Studio Offer?
Upon registering with – and logging into – Amped Studio, you will be greeted with a relatively sparse and sterile dashboard. You can navigate the site using the upper menu, but this is a little unclear upon entry.
Basically, you can enter the online DAW by clicking on Studio, check out the creation of others inside Tracks, and buy various instruments, loops and sample packs, and other kits inside the Shop.
The Learn section is home to 27 video tutorials and an in-depth, written manual as well. Naturally, you can upgrade at any time through Pricing, or read the latest updates on the Blog.
As for the recording environment, Amped Studio offers:
- The ability for you to connect microphones, MIDI keyboards, guitars, and so on, and record your performances.
- Collaboration. You can share your projects with friends and work on them together.
- Samples and loops, including one-shots, construction kits, loops, and MIDI files.
- VST technology.
How Much Does It Cost?
Amped Studio keeps it simple with three plans (and two of them are just monthly or annualized versions of the same thing):
- Free. You get unlimited projects, 400+ audio and MIDI files, Chord Creator, five virtual instruments, 10 virtual effects, XYBeatZ, demo all devices, and demo recording and desktop imported audio.
- Premium. $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for unlimited projects, 10,000+ audio and MIDI files, Chord Creator, nine virtual instruments, 10 virtual effects, XYBeatZ, VST Remote (Experimental), save and export recording and desktop imported audio, automation of device parameters, and project sharing.
Interface & Workflow
Amped Studio’s interface obviously takes after some of the most popular DAWs out there and will probably strike some as familiar.
In my view, it’s not as user-friendly as Soundtrap or BandLab, though. I took me a minute just to figure out how to bring up the Note Editor (their equivalent of piano roll or MIDI editor) and start using it. Similarly, choosing and setting up virtual instruments was a little more confounding than it should have been. Some basic labeling would make a big difference.
As you probably gathered from the earlier section on pricing, you don’t have access to a lot of virtual effects and instruments inside Amped Studio. It’s not a bad starting point, but the average free DAW will come with just as many, if not more options, out of the box.
One thing that’s cool about Amped Studio, though, is how it has some familiar VST plugins built into its infrastructure. Names like Dexed and OBXD should ring a bell with experienced producers. There still aren’t that many to choose from, mind you.
Additionally, once you get used to the workflow, it’s not too bad. It feels like it could be a little clearer, but it’s still more straightforward than some of the top shelf recording software out there.
Overall, Amped Studio feels like it needs a bit of work. It only works in browsers like Chrome and Edge, features are limited, and the workflow could be better. But it does show promise, and for some basic idea capturing, it will do the trick.
If you’re looking to produce music online, then you should have a look at Audiotool. In addition to their free online digital music workstation with a sample library, beatmakers tool, synthesizers, and effects, Audiotool also claims to help connect musicians with fans.
What Does Audiotool Offer?
In addition to the award-winning Audiotool DAW, you get access to an ever-growing sample library, 200,000+ presets for synths and effects, three drum machines, and 28 effects units.
Once you’ve created your account, Audiotool will ask you what genres or styles of music you like, and take you to the dashboard, where you can watch the beginner’s guide to Audiotool video. You can also scan the single and album charts to see what other creators have been up to.
Entering the Studio would be the next logical thing to do.
How Much Does It Cost?
Audiotool is free!
Interface & Workflow
I will be the first to admit that the Audiotool workflow didn’t make much sense to me. So, I went through the tutorial, at which point I was able to get a synth track set up.
What I got from going through this process is that the Audiotool DAW features a modular interface. You start your project with a mixer, and then you can drop in additional modules (like synths), connect them to the mixer (tracks), and then sequence your MIDI tracks as you would in any other DAW. You can also play with the dials on the synth until you get the sound you like.
So, it’s like hardware recording, except in a software environment.
I’ll be honest. Some people will like this setup a lot. But it’s not for me. It would take me a little while to wrap my head around it, and it’s a very different workflow from what I’m used to. That doesn’t make it bad, but I’m the type that loves to work quickly.
Overall, the interface is nicely designed though. I’ve got to give it that.
What Should I Look For In An Online DAW?
As you can probably tell, your options for online recording apps are a little limited. This is because there are relatively few online DAWs that are still supported and have a stable working environment. In creating this guide, we tried several other so-called online DAWs, and that turned out to be a wild goose chase. If we had issues with them, we didn’t include them here.
So, right off the bat, we can tell you that your best bet is to stick to apps that are still fully supported by the developer and continue to be updated over time. For the time being, that basically means the above four.
But there are a few other things you might consider as you seek out the ideal tool. After all, each of the four DAWs mentioned here are a little different, even if they have some similarities.
Here we’ll be looking at the following criteria:
- Recording interface and workflow
- Features and tools
- Social networking and e-commerce
- Budget and price point
Let’s get into it.
Does The Interface Complement Your Workflow?
This tends to be personal. And the more committed you are to the specific DAW you’re using; the more sunk cost has had an opportunity to settle in. Meaning – the more time and money you’ve invested into something, the less likely you are to switch. Once you get used to something, learning new workflows starts to feel more cumbersome.
And that’s not a bad thing. But what you want to look at in this case, ultimately, is what works for you. Do you like Soundtrap’s workflow over BandLab’s? Or do you like Amped Studio over Audiotool?
There’s no right or wrong. And to be fair, differences between DAWs do tend to be more subtle than they used to be. The most different DAW on this list is obviously Audiotool, where the other three share quite a bit in common.
But if the workflow drives you crazy, doesn’t let you do what you want to do, or takes too long to figure out, it’s probably the wrong DAW. Either that or you just like being challenged (there is a time and place for that).
Conversely, if you can get your projects set up quickly, collaboration is fun and easy, and you like the results, you’ve obviously chosen well. And if you’re already settled into a specific DAW and you’ve had a good experience with it, there might not be much reason to switch.
How Much Power Do You Need?
Virtual effects. Instruments. Loops and sounds. Realistically, how much power do you need?
Each online DAW varies quite a bit from the other in this regard.
Now, flexibility is always a nice thing. But people who use a lot of virtual effects, instruments, or loops usually fall under one of three categories:
- Hobbyist. They want to mess around with loops and sounds, maybe make their own beats. They don’t want to spend a lot of time programming, sequencing, or recordeing, and would rather just combine, and layer pre-made sounds.
- Composer. A composer may also use many virtual instruments. This isn’t to suggest they don’t also use real instruments or record an orchestra in the studio as they’re able. But in the fast-paced world of television and film, composers are often working with small budgets and are under tight deadlines to create, and sequencing by hand or capturing a performance on a MIDI controller is often the speediest way to get the job done.
- Beatmakers. Beatmakers will obviously find themselves tapping into as many sounds as possible, both for inspiration and for enhancing their tracks.
Now, if you don’t fall under any of these categories, and still want to take advantage of as many features as possible, there’s nothing wrong with that. But a self-contained band, for example, may not use many virtual tracks.
A platform like Amped Studio, though, might be a little too limited in its toolset unless you’re just sketching out ideas.
Do You Need Social Networking & E-Commerce?
The value proposition of a platform like BandLab is that in addition to being a more than competent online recording tool, it’s also a nicely developed social network and e-commerce platform. There’s a built-in community just waiting to interact with others.
Both Amped Studio and Audiotool offer similar functionality, and do a fair job, but they look very much like works in progress compared to BandLab’s more polished ecosystem.
Soundtrap does not have any of this built in, besides the ability for podcasters to publish their content directly to Spotify.
So, if you’re looking for an online DAW platform that acts as your all-in-one hub, BandLab is really the top option, with Amped Studio and Audiotool taking a backseat to it. But they do have a head start on other DAWs that don’t have any of this functionality built out yet.
Though, in the highly siloed world of the music business, we find the idea of “all in one” to be a thing of distant idealism. You can obviously attract a fan base anywhere, but most artist don’t find success by limiting their marketing channels. Maybe a time will come when all tools and platforms talk to each other, but we’re not there yet.
So, whether an online DAW has additional built-in functionality may not be the top criteria to consider. But it might be something to think about if you want to interact with the artistic community at large.
What’s The Cost Of The Online DAW?
These days, we all have various subscriptions, and it should give us some pause to add one more to our rotation. If it’s within your budget, great. But if buying one more subscription would set you back and put you into debt, it’s probably not worth it.
Fortunately, in this context, we are talking tools that are either free or highly affordable. And all platforms give you the option of checking out or even using their app for free. Be cautious of overspending, and you should do fine.
Best Online DAW, Final Thoughts
If you take your music seriously, there are only so many online DAW environments in which you will thrive. In this guide, we’ve only covered the most stable of online recording studios. Each of them has something to offer, though Soundtrap is the clear winner overall followed by BandLab.
At the end of the day, though, you will be the one to decide. If you haven’t checked out any of the apps yet, then take them for a test drive. You will likely find your favorite ecosystem relatively quickly, and once you do; you’ll be able to get into creative mode and ride the flow.