Like most sound engineers and musicians, you might find yourself favoring high-end operating systems like macOS and Windows and high-end music tools like Cubase, FL Studio, and Ableton Live. However, the open-source world promises extremely underrated and resourceful DAW and sound engineering tools.
Each of the tools mentioned below integrates native features of these premium alternatives. Nonetheless, they allow you to create pro-quality sounds on Linux without spending a dime.
Read on to discover the best DAWs for Linux users.
Ardor is an open-source, cross-platform DAW you can use to record, edit, and mix digital audio. You can use an audio interface to record the sounds of analog instruments such as guitars, keyboards, and microphones with excellent playback quality.
Alternatively, you can write or import MIDI files into this DAW platform and create sounds for cinematic notation and album/single tracks. Additionally, you can record multiple tracks, as well as trim, move, time stretch, transpose, quantize, drag and drop audio clips, and more.
Ardor’s very user-friendly user interface will allow you to quickly edit your music tracks with unlimited undo/redo functions to make workflows smoother. With Ardor’s dynamic EQ, pre and post fader and automation method, mixing and mastering your composite tracks is less hassle and more efficient.
You can compress a day’s processes into a few hours to achieve the desired sound engineering effect.
To download: Ardor
LMMS is a free, cross-platform DAW application you can install for sound editing and engineering on Linux. LMMS lets you compose melodies and beats, as it lets you synthesize sounds with plugins, organize samples for playback, and much more.
You can easily integrate your musical instruments with LMMS for recording. Alternatively, you can record or write/edit using MIDI piano-roll.
The LMMS interface has a shallow learning curve, allowing you to easily integrate your VST instruments and plugins. On top of that, you can easily sync your effect plug-in libraries and their respective presets and soundbanks with LMMS.
This community project is very interested in how end users use this music app, so rest assured your feedback is always helpful.
To download: LMMS
Waveform is for the live sound engineer, audio score maker and studio producer in you. It has unparalleled live tracking support that supports a full list of audio interface hardware.
You can use it for both studio and live mixing/recording. Waveform simplifies multitrack drumming tasks, as its audio and MIDI effects tools let you write perfect chord progressions and melodies.
The DAW is available in two versions: free and premium. Some quick actions and features like plugin sandbox, action panel customization and add-ons are available in the free version.
Alternatively, the premium versions give you an essential DSP collection and MIDI pattern generators, and bundle premium tools like Antares’ Auto-Tune.
The fully functional Pro or OEM version (available with affiliate audio hardware) lets you experiment with unlimited tracks. It lets you use VST plug-ins in some widely accepted formats, edit groups, and use plug-in faceplate modifiers.
Tracktion publishes great VST plug-ins like the BioTek/BioTek2 synthesizers, the classic RetroMod series of synths, the wavetable synthesis engine plug-in Waverazor, and the AVA granular synthesizer, among others.
To download: Waveform
If you’re new to digital sound engineering, you can get the free demo of Bitwig Studio on Linux. The cross-platform draw offers a complete sound engineering, mixing, and mastering setup with over 90 in-stock instruments, effects, and utilities.
You can rely on Bitwig’s simple UI/UX to quickly help you master macro plug-in controls, LFO envelopes, and other relevant parameters. The platform is convenient for recording live instruments. It guarantees low latency which improves your MIDI handling and note timing factors.
Bitwig’s premium features like multiple playback modes, multi-sampling editors, and free sound libraries are sure to speed up your workflows. With Ableton Link, you can easily edit and update projects between Ableton Live and Bitwig.
To download: Bitwig Studio
Renoise 3 is for some of the most versatile cross-platform sound engineering setups on Linux. It thus offers a unique top-down approach and stable multi-core use.
This Linux DAW platform records high-quality sound from live instruments with flexible routing and multi-channel I/O. An efficient workflow and tracking-based approach lets you compose a MIDI piano roll, edit, and render the final master. The sampler helps you easily edit audio samples on the fly.
The top-down grid helps break down the engineering process into easily identifiable grids. The pattern matrix allows you to efficiently locate what needs immediate modification. You can easily use MIDI instruments and controllers to manipulate macro controls for effective live automation.
Renoise 3’s ReWire support lets you integrate other ReWire-enabled audio applications so you can use a diverse combination of trackers and sequencers. You’ll have access to bundled native effects for spectral analysis of EQ, reverb, delay, compression, phasing, and flanger during your mastering sessions.
The highlight of Renoise is its grabber plugin that helps you create processor-compatible multi-sample instruments from plugin-based instruments. You can download the demo version from the website; there are other options, in case you want to buy a premium version.
To download: Renoise 3
Cecilia is a lightweight, free downloadable DAW that you can install on Linux systems for sound design, audio editing, live recording and mastering.
Cecilia is less a sound design application than a signal processing environment. The platform is not hardware-intensive in terms of performance and allows you to integrate plugins and sample libraries for synthesis with just a few clicks.
The app contains a stock module for granular processing, velocity recording accumulation, distortion with oversampling, and a resonant lowpass filter. It also lets you enable envelope automation on the go for dynamic mastering, effect, and EQ.
To download: Cecile
If you want to listen to the DJ tracks you’ve compiled on your Linux box, there’s nothing more convenient than Mixxx. This open-source platform is a virtual DJ console, offering excellent BPM control, key and scale adjustment, and synchronization features.
You can easily experiment with samples to match other samples and beats to different tempos. Mixxx will allow you to connect your MIDI controller to improvise on your DJ mixes.
To download: Mixxx
Rosegarden, as an open-source music platform, offers composition-based and editing options for MIDI sequencing. With its staff notation-based GUI composer, it caters to the classically trained music expert in you.
The DAW platform allows you to write, edit and print your MIDI scores. It offers recording, mixing and multi-sampling possibilities with multiple effects. You can even integrate it with MIDI host controllers and your library of VST plug-ins to add a professional touch to your MIDI compositions.
Rosegarden is highly recommended, especially if you want to learn sheet music and not just digital sound synthesis. It is ideal for music students, classical composers and musicians who want to own an orchestral setup in a home-studio environment.
To download: rose garden
Learn Music Production on Linux Desktop Computers
What’s better than a DAW platform for Linux users when it comes to mixing, recording and performing music? After all, why should everything be limited to big premium operating systems, which offer expensive music recording options?
The DAW apps listed above are a perfect mix of open source and premium versions, proving suitable for all types of music enthusiasts.
The best free music production software for beginners
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