What should be my first DAW with Rack Pro?

So, what should be my first DAW to go with VCV Rack Pro?

I’m aware that you’ll now list every DAW known to man, but it seems to me like the major contenders are Reaper or Bitwig. People say very nice things about these around these parts. Or should I try the free and Open Source Ardour, or is that hopelessly behind in necessary features? Ableton is out because of the silly MIDI shortcomings that people mention here.

I’ve never been a DAW user, outside of the occasional, casual use of Audacity, but I feel fairly proficient with Rack, MIDI and audio.

I value stability, reliability, good UX and a UI that’s not more cluttered than it needs to be. I’m on macOS Sierra although I anticipate upgrading to Catalina by necessity in the near future.

My needs of a DAW is to record multitrack pieces combined from Rack-VST, my eurorack through the ES-9 and my Roland Juno-Di keyboard through my Focusrite 2i2. Needs to have some automation to orchestrate those pieces. Also using the odd VST for mixing and mastering, and checking out a couple of nice VST synths and effects. Also that Bitwig grid looks interesting 🙂

So dear wizzards and gentle Rack folks, what would be your suggestion? Appreciate your time!

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Ardour will do all that you ask above.

If money is no object just get Bitwig.


An MPC One :stuck_out_tongue:

I am still a little bit shocked after reading about the limitations of Ableton here, since I bought the 11 Suite this year… Thinking about selling the license (is that even possible?) and switching to another DAW, so I will be monitoring this thread closely.

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TLDR: I would recommend trying some for yourself - Bitwig has a non-expiring save-disabled trial with all functionality. Reaper’s trial is even more permissive, IIRC

Bitwig is the clear winner, by miles, all day every day, for me. But that’s just me :wink:

It has a certain paradigm that may not be to some people’s taste or needs, and it is not perfect in every facet - it’s not spectacularly well-equipped for traditional old-school recording studio duties, though it will do most of those jobs, at least the basics. Piano roll editing is not the slickest out there (but it does have a fabulous implementation of MPE editing which works very well in Rack)

Where it comes into its own is interconnectivity and control - the way that you can tap into the signal/datastream at any point in any chain, and make that available anywhere else, as a signal, as a modulator, just redefines what it means to work in a DAW for me - absolute freedom! Working in Bitwig is less like arranging blocks in a timeline, rather it is more like wiring up a giant machine any way you want, that spits out production-ready pieces of music, and in which you can choose how much you want to interact with and control what happens… Of course you can still arrange your blocks on a timeline and do all that stuff, but it’s much less fun and I would say it is becoming a very old fashioned way to do music these days.

Sounds somewhat like VCV Rack, no? Infact I would say that VCV and Bitwig go together like hand and glove…

I do retain an installation of Reaper for pure audio recording and editing, which it excels at, though it doesn’t get used much these days, and certainly not for music making.

Ableton I sold a long time ago :grin:


What are the issues with Ableton mentioned here?


Not sure if things have changed recently but I just trialled it and got a 30 day trial where you could save. I bought it on day 3 :slight_smile:

Edit: Just looked on site and it does indeed say without time limitations and save disabled. But that’s not what i got for some reason

Here’s a crop from a grab I took while trialling - you can see it says 29 days left and i could save. Weird.

bitwig trial


Oh, well that’s pretty cool! I went to the website, which is still saying:

Try Bitwig Studio for free in demo mode, without time limitations. Save and export are disabled.


I use Reaper since V1 and Live too, and sometimes FLStudio,
I like Reaper, because it is the most flexible DAW and can be whatever you want it to be when you invest some time to understand it, and it is has a low price.
Live is just Live and has some shortcomings, but does what it does pretty good.
FLStudio could be pretty powerfull too when you invest some time to learn it, you get lifetime updates.
Bitwig is another strong contender in this competition, but I only used it a bit. I have never tried Ardour.

The best would be you dl the demos of all these and see what suits your needs the best. And maybe you find after some month/years that you would like to use more then just one DAW.

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I think there’s an option in the startup screen where you can choose to demo or trial

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Hi Lars! I stayed away from DAWs for a long long time because I just don’t feel inspired working in one. I used Reaper just for recording and mixing, but not for composing or arranging of any kind. The other week I decided to check out Bitwig, and I have to be honest, I’m totally in love… Yes, it’s a DAW, but it doesn’t feel like one. It feels very much like a modular environment, even if you don’t use the Grid. There are modulators everywhere, all sorts of routing capabilities, interesting devices for adding movement, great sequencing options that allow you to compose live, and it sounds just amazing. It’s very much an instrument rather than a DAW, a modular instrument even. I’m not so sure how it will work with 2 interfaces though. I guess that you’re on Mac? So maybe it will work without any issues. I also tested it with hardware, but the way, and it works pretty well. There are built-in calibration tools and latency compensation tools, and again, routing is made very easy. I recommend testing it a bit, you can get the full version to try with all the devices, instruments, Grid, and so on, and see if it’s for you. As I said, I totally fell in love with it.


Just because the question has made me think of it again:

What I actually think is the coolest “DAW” is Minihost Modular, it’s from Image Line and free, but unfortunately it has been abandoned for some time and is buggy.

So for now Bitwig is probably the most powerful :slight_smile: I don’t have it but it seems pretty hardcore.

What I have is FL Studio… came for the Patcher, stayed for the modular mixer… and it has lifetime free updates and IL keep 'em coming, so I’d say it’s the best value for the money. It’s great for pattern-based electronic music production and probably has the best piano roll ever, but it’s not very good for recording.


Hi Lars,
a lot of great advice here in the thread!

And ofcourse there is no one definitive answer, as it is really relative to what will suit your workflow best. Trying out demo’s is really a good way to at least check whether you have a click with the application.

I been using music software ever since the Atari / Commodore, next to the hardware. We didn’t call it a daw then, but the concepts started there!
So by now i have tried a lot and worked with a lot.

I own several licenses: Cubase, Bitwig, Reason, Ableton, Reaper. Each have their own strong and weakpoints.

Uptil VCV came a long, Reason was my daily driver for creativity and playfulness.
Ableton a real workhorse to get productions finished.
And Bitwig a great tool for sound-design and extremely flexible.

However Bitwig wins hands down for its internal modularity between the devices and device chains. So if that is something that is valuable for you, then it might be good to invest some time in Bitwig.


Bespoke was recently updated to 1.1.0

Only scratched the surface, but so far, It seems to play nicely with Rack 2 Pro - and I love the fact that I can use Ableton Push2 with it.

Not sure it can challenge a “classic” timeline DAW, but it’s so much fun.

Bespoke changes since 1.0.0
  • all new VST scanner/manager, and better support for large VST collections
  • python is now packaged in with bespoke: no need to install a specific version
  • bespoke is now MUCH easier to build from source. many thanks to @baconpaul and @mvf for this massive effort!
  • added tooltips for spanish, german, and russian. many thanks to the translators!
  • new modules: notetable, notetoggle, noteexpression
  • added highlight when holding a patch cable over a target that can receive it
  • added “throb” effect to patch cable bubbles when shift-dragging a module, to hint at autopatching functionality
  • made effectchain modules more visible by adding them to the title bar dropdown
  • improved settings menu: now most setting changes don’t require a restart
  • visual options: ability to disable background lissajous visualizer, set its color, set the canvas background color, and disable motion blur
  • better sequencing options for controlsequencer and radiosequencer
  • add ability to lock drumsequencer rows from being affected by randomizer
  • fixed pop in drumsynth, and added oversampling option
  • made it possible to launch bespoke by double-clicking a .BSK file
  • updated large dropdown lists to stay on-screen, and get paging buttons if they’re too large to fully display
  • made it possible to spawn LFOs directly, rather than just via right-click on a slider
  • fixed presets module, it didn’t work at all in 1.0.0
  • fixed bug where pulser didn’t work in “free” mode
  • fixed a bunch of little UI snags that I observed new users hitting
  • microtonal support: the scale module can load SCL/KBM files, or follow oddsound
  • VSTs now follow the transport correctly
  • VST midi out support
  • updated notefilter to not allow out-of-range pitches
  • added hard limiter to output module, to prevent loud sounds from hitting your speaker
  • added “always on top” setting for VST windows
  • show module names in their title bar, for increased clarity
  • added fix to improve linux performance and allow 60fps
  • allow for more than 16 input/output channels
  • fixed issue where presets didn’t name modules correctly, which caused routing issues
  • fixed issue where created modules would appear in the wrong location if you clicked quickly enough
  • fixed issue where script modules with multiple note outputs wouldn’t restore their savestate correctly
  • fix VSTs with complex bussing being handled poorly by bespoke
  • fixed windows hang caused by dynamic desktop wallpaper or unplugging/plugging in a display
  • fixed various crashes
  • added various optimizations
  • other minor things

You can’t go wrong with either really but they are very different. Reaper is so good because you can customise it to your workflow and create multistage shortcuts/actions so it can become very fast and very powerful. It has everything you would expect and more.

However, I don’t find it very inspiring to write in Reaper from scratch, for me it’s more for mixing or to record ideas from Rack and flesh them out.

I received a license for Bitwig 16 track recently and it’s mind blowing what you can do with the modulation, it really fits well with the modular way of thinking. I don’t have the grid which is truly modular but it’s still very powerful and I always liked the ableton session view to get a track going and create variations. It’s a much more creative way to work.

They are both very stable. Reaper’s UI might take some getting used to, it’s not beautiful at all but perhaps that’s what makes it so fast and powerful. Bitwig is slick and smooth.

I’d say there is a case for having both, particularly because reaper is essentially free - you can keep using it for as long as you want - so buy bitwig for creation and export to reaper for mixing and mastering.


Oh wow, VCV inside Bespoke…this might be my new way to make music. I love bespoke so much and it works extremely well with midi controllers - my launchpad has never really lived up to its potential seeing as I don’t use ableton but in bespoke it works perfectly. The live streams recently were very inspiring. There are a few areas I find it lacking in though so Rack inside it might be a game changer.

It does have a timeline module though, and you can have as many as you want so it should really qualify as a daw.

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Thanks for the great input so far guys! And there’s more over here. Bitwig definately seems to have the hearts and minds of Rack folks.

Interesting. I guess I will have to check it out then.

That seems to be the popular opinion in here :slight_smile:

Interesting. Because they are similar in ideas or complement each other? Because I think that if Rack had a full timeline for both orchestration, composing and recording I wouldn’t be looking at a DAW. I do have Entrian but that’s only half the puzzle.

Neither do I, but I’m coming to the understanding that if I’m to realize some of that music in my head I need to be able to compose, build and record things layer by layer, and Rack is not enough of a DAW to do that. At the very least I need the equivalent of a multi-track tape recorder and a good timeline.

Interesting, but I already have Rack for an instrument so I wonder if it will let me down as a DAW, for composing, arranging and recording, mixing and mastering. I’m not intending to start a recording studio :slight_smile: just enough to make some polished, complex tracks.

Yes, I’m on Mac and a DAW for me definately needs to support 2 audio interfaces at the same time here. Will have to investigate that. But all the stuff you’re saying sounds really great Omri, and I must admit your little demo on YT was quite interesting.

It sure sounds like it. But is it up to the task of simple composing, recording many tracks, mixing and mastering? Because that’s what I think I need to take my music and recording to the next level.

Looks interesting! I’m sure if I hadn’t discovered Rack I’d be all over it. But I have Rack and now I need something for the things it doesn’t really have.

Is Bitwig wholly inadequate for that? I don’t think I’m demanding, I just need to capture some tracks of composition, record them and mix/master to taste. I’m not going pro but maybe have the ambition to try and make an album around a theme :slight_smile:

I’ve never used Bitwig yet, but I think we all trust Omri! :slight_smile:

From personal experience: I have tried all the other daws for quite some time: FL Studio, Ableton Live, Cubase, Reason, Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Reaper … REAPER! It is an unintuitive and very technical daw, it takes time to study the software, but its “open” nature allows the community to create plugins, scripts, whatever may be useful. As soon as you think you have found an action that Reaper cannot do, the community signals you a script to be able to do that action.


Could be mistaken but I’m not aware of any Mac DAW that supports 2 interfaces at the same time. You can have different interfaces for input and output, but you can’t have different interfaces for just output (or input) without making an aggregated device.

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