We can probably make the safe assumption, by now, that we’re not going to see GarageBand on Windows operating systems anytime soon. Even though alternatives have been available for many years, that hasn’t kept torrents of frustrated Windows users from heading online to continue searching for some feasible way to get GarageBand on their computers. As of now, Apple has shown no signs of intent to port their proprietary music mixing software onto any other platforms. It’s not exactly a surprise, but it’s not necessarily good news, either.
If you’re a Mac owner, you can be pleased as punch. One of the best music mixing suites that you can find online comes already installed on your devices. iPhone? iPad? Macbook? Check, check, check. They’ve all got it, it’s included with the purchase of your device, and it’s not going anywhere.
However, that’s no reason to leave Windows users hanging. Those aforementioned alternative applications are still within reach, and in the following guide, we’re going to break down their various features, so that you’ll know which one is going to work best for you. You might even find software that’s more ideal than GarageBand would have been.
It should also be stated that Windows has not delivered an equivalent media software kit that competes with GarageBand. As the only operating system that’s actually competing with Apple’s OS X in regard to market share, it’s somewhat surprising that the niche hasn’t been filled. Even though there are plenty of audio mixing and recording programs out there, Windows would have a shoe-in if they made a program (or bought one) that could compete with GarageBand.
Alas, they have not, and so we’re forced to depend upon alternatives. The remainder of this guide will be dedicated to that roundup of alternative software. If you’re a Mac user, count yourself lucky, for this one! GarageBand is already ready to rock and roll on your computer, smartphone, or tablet; it simply comes bundled with your operating system.
One final caveat before we get started. While some of the software applications we’ll be previewing are free to download and free to use, others will require a payment plan. One of the most common misconceptions is that, since GarageBand ships with Macs and iOS devices at no visible extra charge, only free alternatives should be worth your time. Before you leap on that assumption, consider how much more your average Mac costs, compared to a Windows computer with the same hardware.
It’s a notable difference, and though a great deal of that can be attributed to the warranty coverage and excellent customer service that Apple is known for, another part of it is justified by the quality of software that the systems ship with. GarageBand is among them, and you can bet that if GarageBand is ever available for other operating systems, it’s going to have a price tag attached.
These alternative software suites aren’t going to be ranked in any particular order. Instead, they’re a collection of some of the best options that you can find if you need a solid mixing program for Windows. Each of them will have different features intended for different types of users. Some will be free, some will come with free trials, and others will have sizable price tags attached. Instead of ranking them in some sort of arbitrary order, we’ll instead try to present each program alongside its most noteworthy features.
Let’s get started!
Here’s the kingpin of GarageBand replacements, and certainly the first program that I’d recommend if you’re looking for a piece-for-piece replacement to the popular mixing program. While many professionals might look at LMMS as some kind of “off brand” studio software, it’s instead something made for the type of community that would use it.
As an open-source, multi-platform application, countless numbers of people have had a hand in the development of LMMS. It doesn’t have the flash or the “clean” interface of software like GarageBand, or several of the other applications on this list, but what it lacks in appealing luster, it makes up for in sheer power. As it stands, LMMS is actually more powerful than the Apple software, and though it might not have the same amount of press or popularity, someone that knows their way around its many features is going to be able to accomplish quite a lot.
Is there a learning curve? Sure! It might take you a little while to get the hang of it, but once you have, this is a surprisingly potent piece of software. I promised not to rank this list, but if there’s one program I’d have to recommend as a pitch-perfect “GarageBand alternative,” it’d be LMMS.
Remember Fruity Loops? Wonder what ever happened to Fruity Loops? You’re looking at its official successor right here, and if the high marks that Fruity Loops received are any baseline to go by, you’ll know that you’re in good hands with this software.
It’s the choice of many professionals across a host of different media industries, and compared to several of your options out there, it’s not terribly expensive. It’s also multi-platform, and can work on your computer or tablet with similar ease to GarageBand’s functionality. While many applications–even the highly recommended LMMS, above–are somewhat messy in terms of interface, FL Studio is just as clean as a physical sound station might be. In fact, many of the software’s graphics are made to mimic just that.
The only caveat, as mentioned above, is the attached price tag. You can get a 30-day free trial for FL Studio, but after that, it’s going to cost you $99. Version with more features than the average person needs are available for even greater cost, but for your money, the $99 version will allow you to do absolutely anything that could be accomplished with GarageBand. If you’re going to be working in a professional environment, or are producing audio that will be monetized, you should give FL Studio a try.
One of the great things about GarageBand is the fact that it’s so damned multipurpose. It works great for recording, mixing, finishing, and even when you’re working with live music.
If live instrumentation is the primary reason that you’d be using Apple’s software, then Reaper might be the program for you. It doesn’t come with a particularly hefty price tag, and while it can be used in a great many audio environments, it truly shines when you’re pairing it with live instrumentation. In this regard, Reaper is also designed for people who already have some familiarity with this type of music-mixing software. It assumes that you’re going to know your way around the application as soon as you boot it up.
In short, Reaper is software for audio professionals or people who are adventurous enough to brave a rather steep learning curve.
You’ll be getting a lot of bang for your buck. A discounted license for Reaper costs only $60, which is a hell of a lot less than you’ll be paying for comparable professional-grade audio software. I would recommend starting out with a lighter weight program with less cost attached (like LMMS) and upgrading to Reaper if you find that the features offered with it are necessary for your own recording and mixing needs.
If you’re looking to get into professional music production, you’re eventually going to need the software and hardware expected of someone with an investment in their career. We can’t speak much about the hardware in this guide, but Mixcraft 7 is a superb music production suite that’s both affordable and muscular enough to handle just about everything you throw at it.
In the same way that Reaper isn’t particularly intended for people new to music mixing, Mixcraft is intended for people with a serious, invested interest in music production. The attached price tag should tell you that you’re buying into professional-grade software.
There’s quite a host of plugins and add-ons that you can use with Mixcraft, too, meaning that its functionality–especially when applying loops–is nearly limitless. The base version of Mixcraft 7 will cost you $89.95, while the upgrade “Pro” version will cost significantly more.
Hopefully, this has provided you with a bevy of great GarageBand alternatives, each worthy of your examination depending on how well they apply to your specific circumstances. Need a free program? Hit up LMMS without any hesitation. Looking for a good, well-rounded step up? FL Studio is your girl Friday, while the others on this list might be suitable for more unique situations.
All in all, there are plenty of great GarageBand alternatives, and none of them are copycat software. They’re great in their own right, without the need to try emulating what works so well for Apple’s software. Try perusing our several links, so that you can find some of the best GarageBand alternatives for Windows online, today. Have any recommendations of your own, or questions about the software we’ve listed? Speak up in the comments, below!