Like most sound engineers and musicians, you may be biased towards premium operating systems like macOS and Windows and premium music tools like Cubase, FL Studio, and Ableton Live. However, the open source world promises some extremely underrated and resourceful DAW and decent engineering tools.
Each of the tools below includes features native to these premium alternatives. Nevertheless, they let you make professional 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 that you can use to record, edit, and mix digital audio. You can use an audio interface to record sounds from analog instruments such as guitars, keyboards and microphones with excellent playback quality.
Alternatively, you can write or import MIDI files to this DAW platform, and engineer sounds for cinematic scores and album/single tracks. In addition, you can record multiple tracks along with cutting, moving, time stretching, transposing, quantizing, dragging and dropping audio clips, etc.
Ardour’s very easy-to-use user interface allows you to quickly edit your music tracks with unlimited undo/redo features to ease workflows. With Ardour’s dynamic EQ, pre- and post-fader and automation method, mixing and mastering your composite tracks is less complicated and more efficient.
You can compress processes from a day to just a few hours to get the desired sound engineering effect.
To download: Ardor
LMMS is a free, cross-platform DAW application that you can install for sound editing and engineering on Linux. LMMS allows you to compose melodies and beats as you can synthesize sounds with plugins, arrange 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 the MIDI piano roll.
The LMMS interface has a shallow learning curve, making it easy to integrate your VST instruments and plugins. In addition, you can effortlessly sync your effect plug-in libraries and their respective presets and sound banks with LMMS.
This community-driven project is very interested in how the end users use this music application, so rest assured, your feedback is always helpful.
To download: LMMS
Waveform caters to the live sound engineer, audio scorer, and studio producer in you. It has unparalleled live tracking support that supports an extensive list of audio interface hardware.
You can use it for both studio and live mixing/recording. Waveform simplifies multi-track drumming tasks as the audio and MIDI effect tools let you write chord progressions and scale-perfect melodies.
The DAW is available in two versions: free and premium. Some quick actions and features like plugin sandboxing, action panel customization and add-ons are available in the free version.
Alternatively, the premium releases give you an essential DSP collection and MIDI pattern generators, and bundle premium tools like Antares’ Auto-Tune.
The fully featured Pro or OEM version (available with audio hardware connected) lets you experiment with an unlimited number of tracks. It allows you to use VST plugins in a number of widely accepted formats, edit groups, and use plugin faceplate modifiers.
Tracktion releases excellent VST plugins such as the BioTek/BioTek2 synthesizers, the RetroMod classic synth series, the Waverazor wavetable synthesis engine plugin, and the AVA granular synthesizer.
To download: waveform
If you are new to digital sound engineering, you can get the free demo of Bitwig Studio on Linux. The multi-platform draw offers a comprehensive sound engineering, mixing and mastering setup with over 90+ standard instruments, effects and utilities.
You can count on Bitwig’s simple UI/UX to help you quickly master the macro plugin controls, LFO envelopes, and other relevant parameters. The platform is useful for recording live instruments. It guarantees low latency that improves your MIDI handling and note timing factors.
Bitwig’s premium features such as multiple playback modes, multisampling editors, and free sound libraries will undoubtedly speed up your workflows. Ableton Link allows you to easily edit and update projects between Ableton Live and Bitwig.
To download: Bitwig Studio
Renoise 3 accommodates some of the most versatile, cross-platform sound engineering facilities on Linux. It therefore offers a unique top-down approach and stable multicore use.
This Linux DAW platform records high-quality audio from live instruments with flexible routing and multi-channel I/O. An efficient workflow and tracker-based approach allow you to compose, edit and render the final master on a MIDI piano roll. The Sampler makes it easy to edit audio samples on the fly.
The grid from top to bottom helps break down the engineering process into easily recognizable grids. The pattern matrix allows you to efficiently locate what needs to be edited immediately. You can easily use the instruments and MIDI controllers to manipulate the macro controls for effective live automation.
Renoise 3’s ReWire support allows you to integrate other ReWire-enabled audio applications, allowing you to use a diverse combination of trackers and sequencers. During your mastering sessions, you’ll have access to bundled native effects for EQ spectral analysis, reverb, delay, compression, phasing and flanger.
The highlight of Renoise is the plugin grabber that allows you to create CPU-friendly 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: Renois 3
Cecilia is a free to download, lightweight DAW that you can install on Linux systems for sound design, audio editing, live recording, and mastering.
Cecilia is less of a sound design application and more of 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 a few clicks.
The application includes an inventory module for granular processing, velocity capture accumulation, upsampling distortion, and a resonant low-pass filter. It also allows you to do envelope automation on the go for dynamic mastering, effect and EQ.
To download: Cecilia
If you want to listen to the DJ tracks that you have compiled on your Linux machine, there is nothing more convenient than Mixxx. This open source platform is a virtual DJ console with excellent BPM control, key and scale tuning and synchronization functions.
You can easily experiment with samples to match other samples and beats at different tempos. With Mixxx you can connect your MIDI controller to improvise on your DJ mixes.
To download: Mixxx
Rosegarden, as an open-source music platform, offers composition and editing-based options for MIDI sequencing. With its staff notation-based GUI composer, it’s right for 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 capabilities with multiple effects. You can even integrate it with MIDI host controllers and your VST plugin library to add a professional touch to your MIDI compositions.
Rosegarden is highly recommended, especially if you want to learn music notation and not just digital sound synthesis. It is ideal for music students, classical composers and musicians who want an orchestral setup in a home studio environment.
To download: rose garden
Learning music production on Linux desktops
What could be better than a DAW platform for Linux users when it comes to mixing, recording and playing music? After all, why limit everything to the major premium operating systems, which offer expensive music recording options?
The DAW applications mentioned above are a perfect mix of open source and premium versions, which prove to be suitable for all types of music lovers out there.