The market for audio based computer programs is competitive, and there has been one standard; Pro Tools. This program has been around for a while, and has grown up with the film and music industries during the last 20 years. Over the last ten years or so other programs have become major competitors.
For anyone in to audio production the choice can be daunting; do you go with Pro Tools, or (after reading about the ridiculous install process in PT 10-11) choose something like Logic (only on Mac computers,) or go with Ableton (different design altogether) or Reaper, Studio One, Cubase, Nuendo, Sony Vegas, MixCraft, Garage Band, Samplitude, Digital Performer, Cakewalk Sonar, FL Studio Pro, or even something like ReNoise or Reason.
Each of these are different, and have their own points that may or may not be better than others. But really no ones has the time to try them all. A place that actually has some work behind their opinions and would allow the consumer to make a somewhat informed decision would be Sound On Sound magazine, which also has an online publication. They do reviews of many different DAWs each month, with some pretty good depth and detailed analysis.
The arguments often come down to what someone has used, or what someone else has said about the lack of features in a program that they’ve never used. Having taught for six years it seems that anyone who has become somewhat proficient at one DAW seems to feel they have a highly respected opinion on all the options out there.
In reality asking a lot of questions, reading a lot of material, and watching tutorials about which fits ones needs of production is the best way to find a result. There are a couple keep points that might make sense to take into account.
For example are you going to be mainly recording live instruments? Is it going to be an ITB production studio? Are you looking to do audio restoration? What about foley work and sound for movies or TV shows? Or doing ADR, or voice over work for commercials. Scoring? Arranging? Figure out exactly what you’re main output will be. It’s at least a place to start!
ADR – Automated Dialog Replacement
DAW – Digital Audio Workstation
ITB – In the Box