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Garageband is music-making software made by Apple. It is extremely popular with amateur musicians, and distributed free with all Macintosh computers as part of the iLife suite of applications. Aside from Garageband, iLife also includes iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb and iDVD - all these programs are integrated and work exceptionally well as a creative suite. The only downside is that the entire iLife suite is made only for Macintosh computers, and therefore does not accommodate those of us who prefer to work on a PC.

This means that unfortunately, there is no such thing as an Apple version of Garageband for Windows. The good news is that a number of software developers have stepped in to create excellent, viable alternatives to Garageband for Windows users.

The top five Garageband for Windows contenders are:

  1. Mixcraft by Acoustica
  2. Sony ACID Music Studio
  3. FL Studio (Fruity Edition)
  4. Ableton Live Intro
  5. Audacity by Sourceforge

I spend my working life dividing my time between both PCs and Macs, and have extensive experience in the use of Garageband. I have tested out all of the above software packages, and strongly believe that Mixcraft 5 by Acoustica is by far the closest PC software to Garageband for recording, editing and producing music. Music Studio and FL Studio are good, but both are definitely more complex to navigate and involve a much sharper learning curve; Ableton live Intro is usually over the US$100 mark without being notably better and is therefore less affordable than all the other Garageband alternatives; and finally Audacity, while being open source and free, is essentially baseline recording software that's good for podcasting but just not built for the rigours of full music production.

Mixcraft, on the other hand, ticks all the necessary Garageband for Windows criteria, namely:

  • most importantly, like Garageband it is simple to use so you'll be up and running much faster
  • it is inexpensive (retails for around $80)
  • it has a visually intuitive and professional-looking interface
  • it comes with a custom library holding over 3000 built-in beats and loops
  • it allows you to record multiple MIDI and audio tracks simultaneously
  • it produces excellent results

One of the best things about Mixcraft is that you can download a free trial of the software to test it out thoroughly until you're satisfied that it meets your music recording needs. I think it's the sign of a quality product that Acoustica allows you to test-drive Mixcraft before you buy. It's a safe and smart way to confirm for yourself whether or not Mixcraft really is the Garageband for Windows alternative you've been looking for.

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