Tracktion Waveform Free gets updates for 2022 – and it’s a solid starter DAW at no cost

Free Questions – for beginners, for cash-strapped musicians, to teach, to network with others, and as a way to test out a new way of working. So it’s great news that Tracktion’s free entry-level DAW just keeps getting better.

The big problem about Free Tracktion Waveform is that it is a really complete and free (proprietary) software for Mac, Windows and Linux. There aren’t many really usable tools in their free versions, which for education is a particular limitation. (The other I’d recommend, one with industrial strength features – and which is also completely free and open source – is Ardor.) Nothing against Audacity, which is a useful if not terribly modern wave editor, but I find it horrifying how many students must suffer using Audacity for DAW workflows. It is not designed for this purpose.

Tracktion’s patchable rack is included even in the free version – which means it’s also a handy plug-in host, as it fully supports plug-ins in the free version.

Additionally, Tracktion’s free DAW also works natively on Linux and is tested on 64-bit Ubuntu, making it a serious tool for lab installs on that OS. Pay this bill.

But aside from education and community building, the free edition also means the ability to play around with a different DAW and how it works. And unlike effects and instruments, which everyone tends to change regularly, DAWs have notoriously ingrained user bases. That’s fine up to a point – you definitely don’t want to learn a new DAW when you’re trying to finish music or, worse, on a deadline. But it also stifles innovation and drives us away from tools that might work well for us.

And while beginners may be happy with a number of free DAW flavors, Tracktion Waveform Free is really one of the only real DAWs I can think of that feels usable in its free edition. (Ardor is the other, more combine account to offer a full trial version.)

I had just played with Waveform Free, but the 2022 update (version 12) puts it really above it with some improvements:

New utility tools.
New audio effects.
  • Updated UI (this alone could do it for me)
  • New browser with tags, favorites and smart lists (from Pro 12 edition)
  • 15 updated audio effects
  • 6 utility plugins
  • New Mono Conversion Tool
  • Spectrum analyzer
  • Dedicated actions panel (although this animates more in upgraded editions)

Beyond that, you get more from this free edition than you think:

  • No limit on the number of tracks
  • No export/rendering restrictions
  • No third-party plugin restrictions

It’s just a smaller feature set; that’s all. Not a bad way to get into a new DAW, anyway, as supporting all the features at once can be overwhelming.

Just missing some recording features? It’s available as a separate add-on.

You can access certain levels if you wish. The full Pro version is only $99.

It seems like a good time for the “outsider” DAWs here to warm up again – Tracktion, Bitwig Studio, Studio One, Reaper, Ardor and Renoise come to mind.

But it’s compelling enough to try using it on a project where you have a creative block or need to swap files. I will learn it for the potential of having an additional teaching tool alone.

And hey, if nothing else, whatever DAW you use, it can always benefit from the warmth of another DAW to keep it on its toes.

Anyone working with this? Tips and tricks? Let us know.

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