• Kate Brunotts

Mobile App DAW Comparison: Which Phone DAW Is the Best?

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Making mobile music has never been easier. Thanks to today's technology, you can make a full studio song using a DAW on your phone. These pocket DAWs or mobile DAWs can be just as powerful as desktop DAWs at a fraction of the price. While there are certainly some limitations to mobile app DAWs, any creative producer should be able to craft a complete beat using these convenient tools.


Below, we'll compare some of the best features of the most popular mobile DAW options on the market today. We'll also share why you might want to become a pocket producer if you haven't already.





Why Would You Use A Mobile DAW?

So, why would you want to use a DAW on your phone anyway? Here are a few reasons why it’s worth considering one or several of these Android and iOS DAWs:

  • To Make Music: Obviously, you would use any digital audio workstation to make music. That being said, a mobile DAW can replace a traditional desktop DAW entirely. Mobile DAWs are also a lot cheaper than a full production suite, so it's great for producers who can't commit to the chunk of change required to obtain a desktop DAW.

  • To Create Demos: All musicians know that inspiration can strike just about anywhere. Having a DAW on your phone enables you to jot down ideas or full demos in a flash for you to revisit later.

  • To Make Your Own Samples: Mobile DAWs make it easy for you to record, process, and edit samples recorded directly into your phone. You can use your phone and DAW as a fully functional sampler to incorporate original sounds into your beats.

  • To Practice Production On The Go: Phone DAWs take production portability to a new level, allowing producers to practice their craft or finish fully formed beats while on the go.

While a lot of mobile DAWs cost money, they're still incredibly affordable relative to the cost of a desktop production suite or renting time at a studio. There's also a couple of free options, two of which we'll discuss below, so it's certainly worth giving these powerful tools a try.



5 Best Mobile DAW Apps: Which Mobile DAW Is The Best?

We'll compare some of the most common mobile DAWs below so that you can select the perfect pocket production suite for your needs. I also went ahead and tested out each DAW to give some insight through my personal first impressions of each mobile app.


To make it as fair of a comparison as possible, I spent about 1/2 hour in each DAW to create a couple of bars complete with a vocal sample recorded and processed in the DAW, MIDI bass line, and programmed drums. Note that I haven't used any of these mobile DAWs previously though I have ample experience in desktop Ableton Live, so our initial experiences may vary-- Don't take my word for it, give these apps a try!


Best Mobile DAW For Producers:

  • GarageBand: Best For iOS Users

  • Bandlab: Best For Beginners

  • FL Studio Mobile: Best For Effects and Plugins

  • Audio Evolution: Best For Demos

  • Cubasis: Best Mobile DAW Overall


GarageBand: Best For iOS Users

GarageBand has been well-loved by iOS users for a while now, but it still stands as one of the best audio workstations that translates well to phones and tablets. While this application lacks some of the sophistication of a full production suite, it has enough tools to create a full song-- Plus, it's free. GarageBand also has plenty of ways to play different instruments, even if you have no knowledge of scales whatsoever, so it's an amazing tool that can be leveraged by just about any musician, regardless of prior skill level.


Cost: Free


First Impressions:

It was fairly easy to navigate throughout Garageband's interface, especially since they had ultra-familiar timeline and piano roll views at my fingertips. There aren't a whole lot of mixing functions or effects in the app, but it's great for getting out ideas without too much hassle.


PROS:

  • Super user-friendly, even if you don't have any knowledge of music theory

  • Most instrument views available

  • Exclusive sample libraries from artists like Mark Ronson

CONS:

  • App is iOS only

  • There are limitations in terms of effects you have to process your sound relative to other mobile DAWs


Final Thoughts:

GarageBand makes any excellent, cost-effective introduction to DAWs for iOS users. While you won't be able to perform a lot of complex effects, automation, or mixing processes within the DAW it's a great tool for producing and beatmaking. This is especially a strong choice for users who plan on migrating to Logic since the similar interfaces go hand in hand.



Bandlab: Best For Beginners

If you're new to the world of music production, Bandlab is your best friend. This 10-track DAW and social network allows you to create, edit and share your recordings all within the phone-friendly interface. It also integrates with the desktop app so that you can make music anywhere and everywhere.


Cost: Free


First Impressions:



This app isn't just a DAW, it's a social network making it a powerful tool in many ways. It's the only DAW on this list that supports a vertical orientation that makes it more appealing to users who are limited to their phone alone rather than a tablet. The sampler view is also super intuitive for beatmakers, so while you're not making a radio-ready song with this app alone, it's a great place to start and build your network.


PROS:

  • Use over 200 MIDI instruments and a looper

  • Collaborate with others using the app's embedded social network

  • Edit recorded samples within the app

  • Unique vertical orientation

CONS:

  • You can only use up to 10 tracks at once.

  • Not the most friendly recording interface


Final Thoughts:

This collaboration app is perfect for pocket producers who want to build beats and network with other musicians. You're limited to 10 tracks and only a handful of effects, but this app's social features and cost-free barrier makes it worth trying out.



Audio Evolution: Best For Demos

This Android and iOS compatible DAW is perfect for any producer who needs to jot down their ideas in a flash. Notably, it's compatible with USB microphones, so you're able to use this app as a mobile audio interface.


Cost: $10


First Impressions:

While Audio Evolution may not have the nicest-looking interface, that doesn't make it any less functional. Admittedly, this pocket DAW doesn't offer a whole lot of ways to adjust your recordings, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to move my vocal samples into the correct place. That being said, if you're just looking to jot down ideas or demos, this affordable mobile DAW will certainly do the trick.


PROS:

  • You can bring in sounds from other DAWs on your device

  • There are plenty of in-app sounds that are easy to preview before arming them as a track

  • Easy to use drum sequencer

CONS:

  • Not as user-friendly as other options

  • It can be tricky to manipulate samples within the interface


Final Thoughts:

Out of all of the DAWs I used, I found this one the most difficult to navigate without any prior knowledge of the interface. That being said, it's still super functional and worth checking out if you just want a tool to record your demos while on the go.



FL Studio Mobile: Best For Effects and Plugins

Fruity Suite lovers rejoice! FL studio mobile is a full-service DAW featuring impressive effects, plugins, and built-in virtual instruments. Notably, this can be integrated with the desktop suite, making it a game-change for FL studio lovers. Regardless, this app serves as a powerful pocket production suite.


Cost: $13.99


First Impressions:

The set up of FL studio mobile was super intuitive and impressive in terms of flexibility. One thing to note is that I felt like this app was most accessible to users who have prior knowledge of DAWs. For example, just like FL studio and Pro Tools, you're unable to place audio effects directly onto audio tracks, which could be confusing to new users. That being said, this powerful production tool has plenty of potential once you take the time to understand the interface.


PROS:

  • Well-designed user interface

  • Compatible with desktop FL studio

  • Includes different templates to use as starting points for beginners

  • Excellent piano roll and MIDI editor

CONS:

  • May be a bit clunky for those without prior DAW experience


Final Thoughts:

This is a must-have if you're a FL studio desktop user. It's also a great option for any producer seeking out a DAW with all of the bells and whistles for mobile use.



Cubasis: Best Overall

Cubasis is often regarded as the best mobile DAW, and it's easy to see why. This app makes it easy for those with or without prior DAW experience to jump in and start making music. With unlimited tracks, easy sample manipulation, and an intuitive design, Cubasis is hard to beat, especially if you're planning on producing on your phone or tablet alone.


Cost: $24.99


First Impressions:

This was the easiest DAW for me to use on phone due to the system's easy to understand layout and helpful "oopsie" undo and redo buttons. One thing particularly impressive about this mobile DAW is how easy it is to copy and paste certain sections which is huge when building out a full track. Before recording, Cubasis helps you calibrate your phone or external microphone so that you can make the most out of your tracking.


PROS:

  • Powerful built-in plugins

  • Easy to navigate

  • Unlimited track options

  • Impressive recording capability with embedded vocal calibration

  • Built-in CPU meter

CONS:

  • Additional effects and plugins cost extra

  • This is the most expensive mobile DAW on our list


Final Thoughts:

In a lot of ways, you get what you pay for and more with Cubasis. This DAW may be pricier to other mobile DAWs, but I also found that it was super easy to get up and running, even though I haven't used Cubasis in the past. If you're a producer looking for a standalone mobile DAW, Cubasis is hard to beat.



Regardless of which mobile DAW you use, pocket production is here to stay. Enjoy using these tools to start building beats on the go!



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