A Mac is a great computer for making music on, simply because there are so many digital audio workstations (DAWs) available to use with it. The best DAWs for Mac let you record instruments, capture MIDI performances, edit audio files, and export quality mixes.
Although some professional DAWs cost hundreds of dollars to buy, there are plenty of free DAWs for Mac. And these are the best free DAWs for Mac. Each of which offers all of the features you need to make professional-quality tracks. All without spending a penny.
GarageBand is free to download on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad and it lets you work on the same musical projects across all of your Apple devices. If you ever leave the Apple ecosystem, you might want to look at these GarageBand alternatives for Windows. But none of them offer the same streamlined experience across multiple devices.
Don’t let GarageBand’s simple interface put you off. It’s a powerful tool for composing, arranging, and recording music. You can access an enormous library of Apple Loops to get started or write something new using the impressive virtual instruments. The Drummer feature is particularly great, letting you choose between 28 different styles.
GarageBand has all the bells and whistles you need to make music on your Mac. Work with audio and MIDI in the editor view. Tweak your instrumentation in the arrange window. And use a powerful set of plugins from the smart controls view.
But there are limitations as well.
The biggest downside to GarageBand is that there’s no mixer view. You’re also capped at a total of 256 tracks, although you’re unlikely to reach that limit. To bypass these restrictions you need to upgrade to Logic Pro.
In short: GarageBand is one of the best free DAWs for beginners to use on a Mac. This is thanks to its user-friendly interface and rich library of loops.
Download: GarageBand for macOS (Free)
2. Waveform Free
Tracktion makes software instruments, effects, plugins, and DAWs, including Waveform Free. This is a fully-featured DAW with unlimited audio or MIDI tracks, built-in synthesizers, samplers, and compatibility for third-party plugins.
Although you can pay for Waveform Pro to unlock extra features, Waveform Free has everything you need from a DAW to produce professional-quality music on your Mac. It’s also available on Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. So you can collaborate on your music across any computer platform.
Don’t let the name fool you, Waveform Free isn’t a half-baked version of the Pro alternative. Instead, you get everything you might have paid for from a professional DAW except the very latest advancements.
If you do find yourself itching for extra features, you can upgrade to Waveform Pro for $69. Doing so unlocks quick actions, customizable layouts, plug-in macros, and other high-end features.
In short: A powerful DAW with zero track restrictions that includes a full set of editing and recording features. If you like it, level up your DAW with an affordable Pro upgrade.
Download: Waveform Free for macOS (Free)
LMMS used to stand for Linux MultiMedia Studio, but that moniker dropped out of use when LMMS went cross-platform. It’s now available on Windows and macOS, too. And since it’s an open-source DAW, you can get LMMS on your Mac for free.
Open-source software is built by the community, for the community. That means LMMS doesn’t have the same resources behind it that GarageBand gets from Apple. As a result, it feels a little awkward to use and isn’t as packed with features as other DAWs.
The biggest downside to LMMS is that it isn’t a recording-friendly DAW. You can import pre-recorded samples, but you can’t record audio directly into LMMS. Instead, LMMS is best for people working with MIDI instruments to make electronic music.
Create melodies and beats using the piano roll and step sequencer. Then tweak the sound using built-in virtual instruments. These include emulators of the Commodore 64 SID microchip, Roland TB-303, and the Nintendo Entertainment System.
In short: LMMS is a free DAW aimed at sequencing electronic music on your Mac. It’s best for working with samples and virtual instruments.
Download: LMMS for macOS (Free)
4. Studio One Prime
Presonus offers Studio One in a variety of versions: Professional, Artist, and Prime. Each version comes with a different set of features, but we’re most interested in Prime because it’s free. And it still comes with everything you need to make music.
Studio One Prime includes support for unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, nine Native Effects plug-ins, and almost one gigabyte of samples and loops. Unfortunately, you can’t use virtual instruments without upgrading. But Studio One Prime is great for working with audio.
Take advantage of Studio One’s single-window interface to record, arrange, and mix your music with ease. Presonus also boasts broad drag-and-drop functionality that lets you add effects, edit audio files, and work with sequencers.
To unlock more features, activate a 30-day free trial of Studio One Professional at any time. This offers the same clean interface as Studio One Prime, but with better virtual instrument support. You also get a larger library of effects and plugins.
In short: Studio One Prime is a capable DAW available for free on your Mac, with plenty of features to get you started. But it lacks support for third-party virtual instruments.
Download: Studio One Prime for macOS (Free)
Although Audacity doesn’t look as attractive as the other free DAWs for Mac, it’s a powerful audio editor with a dedicated fanbase. Audacity is perfect for recording and editing audio, whether you want to find the perfect sample or create a brand new multitrack recording.
There are plenty of different ways to use Audacity, and it’s such a simple DAW that you don’t need to spend long learning how it works. Audacity includes a range of plugins and effects, including equalizers, reverb, echo, distortion, chorus, and more.
Unfortunately, you can only have up to 16 tracks of audio at a time. Audacity also doesn’t support MIDI recording, although you can import MIDI tracks from elsewhere.
Audacity is one of the best DAWs for beginners because there aren’t too many features to get in the way. It’s particularly good for recording and editing podcasts or spoken word recordings.
That said, you might want to use another DAW alongside Audacity so you can access advanced features if you ever need them.
In short: Audacity is perfect for simple audio-editing tasks or multitrack recording up to 16 tracks. However, it doesn’t offer many advanced features outside of those tasks.
Download: Audacity for macOS (Free)
Ardour is a comprehensive open-source digital audio workstation. It includes unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, non-destructive editing, plugin automation, video playback, and a mixing interface. Ardour might appear intimidating at first, but you can learn to use it by reading guides in the Ardour Community.
If you’re willing to put the time in, Ardour is a very powerful DAW that comes with all the features you’d expect from premium software. It’s available for Windows, macOS, and Linux so you won’t feel tied to a certain platform if you do learn to use it.
Unfortunately, there’s a minor catch.
Ardour is only available for free if you download the DAW source code and compile the Mac app yourself. This is a complicated and time-consuming process, and Ardour doesn’t offer any help with it.
That said, for $1/month you can download a ready-to-run version of Ardour that’s much easier to install. We kept Ardour in this list of free apps because it’s so powerful that you should seriously consider learning how to build it from the source code.
In short: The full package, but more intimidating to get started with. The learning curve is steep, but Ardour’s potential for producing, composing, and mastering is huge.
Download: Ardour for macOS (Free)
7. Pro Tools First
Pro Tools is an industry-standard DAW and is used in professional studios across the globe. Many consider it to be difficult to learn, limited in its compatibility, and too expensive. But it is also unquestionably powerful.
Fortunately, you can download Pro Tools First, a stripped-down version of the premium DAW, to use on your Mac for free. This allows you to get a feel for Pro Tools, learning how it works without needing to pay for an expensive software license.
With Pro Tools First, you can only have 16 audio or MIDI tracks at a time, using a maximum of four inputs. But you get access to 23 included plugins, and over three gigabytes of included sounds. You can also create an unlimited number of busses, allowing you to group effects together and reduce the drain on your CPU.
A paid Pro Tools upgrade unlocks over 100 plugins, alongside more editing tools such as a score editor and clip gain bars.
In short: Although Pro Tools First limits your track count and effects, it’s a powerful DAW that lets you learn to use an industry-standard piece of software.
Download: Pro Tools First for macOS (Free)
Use a Premium DAW for the Best Sound Quality
For most people, the free DAWs for Mac listed above offer everything you need to create great music. Record with audio or MIDI, import samples, work with sequencers, and use free plugins and effects to perfect your mix. There’s plenty to get your teeth stuck into.
However, for better audio quality you may need to pay for a professional DAW to unlock higher sample rates and bit-depths. If that’s something you might be interested in, take a look at the best music production software for audiophiles. None come cheap, but they are the best of the best in terms of DAWs.
Read the full article: The 7 Best Free DAWs for Mac
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are more popular than ever. They’re an important weapon in the ongoing fight against cyber-snooping and can even unlock some geo-blocked apps and websites.
Different VPN providers specialize in different areas; it can be difficult to choose the right supplier for your needs. But once you’ve selected your provider, you still have decisions to make. Specifically, how do you know which VPN client to use? Should you use your VPN provider’s proprietary app, or a flexible solution that can connect to several different services?
If you’re not sure where to turn, keep reading for the best free Mac VPN clients you can use right now, plus a few other options you might not have considered.
Let’s start with some open source VPN software for Mac. TunnelBlick is a free VPN client that works on macOS and iOS with any VPN provider that offers OpenVPN support. There is no Windows or Linux version.
Because the app is open source, you can be confident it’s not secretly tracking your internet usage in other ways and thus negating the benefit of using a VPN. It’s thus more transparent than proprietary apps.
Interestingly, TunnelBlick logs all your session data by default. This is not out of the ordinary—all OpenVPN clients do the same. If you want to turn off session data logging, all you need to do is add verb 0 to the app’s config file. Remember, this is not linked to whether the VPN provider itself is logging your data.
Finally, the app has a vibrant support community. If you encounter difficulties, head to its Google Group discussion forum, and someone will quickly step in to assist.
Download: TunnelBlick (Free)
The OpenVPN project began back in 2002 and is probably the most well-known of all free Mac VPN clients. In addition to the Mac version, the app is also available on iOS, Windows, and Android.
The app supports lots of different VPN configurations, including remote access, site-to-site VPNs, and enterprise-scale deployments.
OpenVPN isn’t as easy to use as proprietary apps—or even some other OpenVPN clients—but it’s established a name for itself thanks to its feature-rich menus and unflinching reliability.
The main criticism of OpenVPN is its VPN configurations limit. By default, you cannot have more than 50 saved. It’s possible to recompile the app to remove the limit, but that’s a complicated process beyond the scope of this list. It’s also important to be aware that the OpenVPN app only supports the OpenVPN protocol.
Download: OpenVPN (Free)
3. SoftEther VPN
SoftEther VPN is one of the leading multi-protocol VPN apps. It runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux. The open source offering is entirely free, regardless of whether you use it in a personal or commercial environment.
The app supports almost all VPN protocols, meaning not only is it one of the best OpenVPN clients on Mac, but you can also hook it up to L2TP/IPsec, MS-SSTP, L2TPv3, EtherIP, and most impressively, VPN-over-HTTPS connections.
If you use the developer’s own SoftEther VPN protocol, you can expect faster surfing speeds than OpenVPN. In testing, the SoftEther server was 103 percent faster than Microsoft’s Windows implementation of L2TP/IPsec, and up to 117 percent faster than OpenVPN.
Additional features include support for packet filtering, dynamic DNS, and UDP hole punching.
Download: SoftEther VPN (Free)
WireGuard is a fast VPN tunnel that can outperform OpenVPN and IPSec. Connections via WireGuard rely on the exchange of public keys. As such, the VPN can roam between IPs and removes the need for managing connections and daemons.
The technology uses cutting-edge cryptography to keep you safe and deploys a tiny codebase in order to reduce the potential attack surface.
The VPN client app for Mac lets you connect to a VPN (assuming your provider supports WireGuard), import new tunnels from archives, and create new tunnels.
WireGuard is also available for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Download: WireGuard (Free)
5. OpenConnect GUI
OpenConnect GUI is a free Mac VPN client. It uses TLS and DTLS to establish sessions and is compatible with the Cisco AnyConnect SSL VPN protocol. For those who don’t know, OpenConnect was originally developed as an open source replacement for Cisco’s proprietary product, and it quickly grew in popularity.
However, OpenConnect is its raw form requires command line knowledge. This VPN client removes the need for that by providing a clean and easy-to-understand interface that beginners will quickly be able to wrap their heads around.
OpenConnect GUI is also available on Windows.
Download: OpenConnect GUI (Free)
Unfortunately, the selection of free VPN clients for Mac is fairly thin. Thus, we’ve included two paid options in case the above didn’t fit your needs.
Shimo supports OpenVPN, IPSec, PPTP, SSL, AnyConnect, and SSH connections (note that it does not support PPTP/L2TP on macOS Catalina, however). It allows for concurrent connections, automated connections, and 2FA. And there’s even a dark mode!
Security-wise, you can enjoy AES-256 encryption, SHA-2 hash functions, and secure key exchange using the D-H method. Connections that need certificates or one-time passcode tokens are also supported through the Extended Authentication (XAUTH) toolset.
The app costs a one-time fee of €49 (about $53 at the time of writing), but you can try before you buy.
Download: Shimo ($53, free trial available)
Like the free solutions we discussed, Viscosity is open source. It’s available for $14 and is cross-platform—you can run it on Windows as well as macOS.
Viscosity definitely has the best design here. Its user interface is more polished than the free alternatives, and it’s incredibly easy to use and navigate. If you’re new to the world of third-party VPN clients and aren’t familiar with VPN terminology, the app represents money well spent.
From a technical standpoint, the app gives you a complete traffic breakdown of your connections, integrates with Keychain to keep your details safe, and works with macOS’s advanced DNS system.
You can use a 30-day free trial before you commit to the single purchase.
Download: Viscosity ($14, free trial available)
Which Mac VPN Client Do You Prefer?
Each VPN client has different advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose will depend on the protocols your VPN provider offers and your familiarity with setting up and using VPNs on third-party apps.
To learn more about VPNs, check our guide on how to set up a VPN on your Mac.
Read the full article: The 5 Best Free Mac VPN Clients (And 2 Bonus Alternatives)