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Many people believe Pro Tools to be the standard in high end audio production. Can anyone recommend a free replacement that has as many of the essential features of Pro Tools as possible? I completely understand that something free will not completely (or possibly even remotely) emulate the feature set of such an advanced DAW. What I'm asking for is the next best thing in the freeware world, before I leap off the Pro Tools cliff. Maybe a different direction to ask this question from could be, "If I plan on going the Pro Tools route in the future, which freeware DAW will help me on that migration path by providing the easiest transition to Pro Tools?"

If it helps I'm currently using Audacity. I'm interesting in getting into VST instruments to generate instrumentals.

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Your top choice for truly free (ie nonpropietary, and no license fee) is Ardour. Ardour is not incredibly simple to get setup, especially with VST support. It's not super difficult, but before you try it, I'd recomend reading about how to install it, add VST support and also about JACK, which it uses as its audio engine.

You should also take a look at Reaper. It's not free in either sense, it is propitiatory, though it is super customization, and it requires a paid license. The license is both inexpensive ($60) and if you don't have a license everything works, perpetually, you just get a nag screen. Reaper can do most everything any other DAW does as-is or with an extra download form the site.

  • As of this writing the Reaper price is $60 US for noncommercial use: reaper.fm/purchase.php – Warrior Bob Jan 28 '13 at 17:35

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