I have used a few different programs and I will try and get some thoughts down on each of them. You can write tracks in all of them. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the weaknesses are not due to functionality not existing, but existing in an unintuitive or weird way. There is great strength in using what you know. I think if you are starting out and trying to choose a DAW you should just try any and a few of them and see which suits your style. I started off working with ModPlug Tracker and moved onto using what was then Fruity Loops (which changed its name to sound more professional I suppose). I compare all DAWs back to FL because it is what I am used to. It may be of use to you to read review of different DAWs. The Sound on Sound articles I recommend. FL Studio I have used FLStudio in the past. I started using it when it was Fruity Loops version 3.
I found it lacking when dealing with tracking external sounds and also mixing. I think there may be fuctionality hidden away to do the things I want it is far from intuitive for me. It seems common to put a reverb plugin on each channel rather than have an aux send setup for verb for example. I have found mixing in other software much more like mixing with a hardware analogue mixing console (like for example Pro Tools and Reaper). Working entirely in the box can work well with FL. After integrating more hardware into my setup and learning more about mixing and audio engineering I have sought and tried out other software.
Working with automation can be tricky. FL has grown out of being a simple step sequencer with different pieces being stuck on as the program has grown. The blocks I was used to using are apparently being fased out and are now in the new versions only availabe after turning them on as a legasy piece of functionality. I think because it has grown like this it is not as elegant as other DAWs like Live, Renoise and Reaper. Pro Tools suffers the same fate I think. FL has worked well for me in acting only as a MIDI sequencer for external hardware and sampler being mixed OTB with an analogue mixer. Pro Tools
The industry standard audio engineering DAW. In my opinion its strengths lie in mixing but functionality for MIDI sequencing is not as straight forward as other software that have sequencing at its core, like for example FL and Live.
Great if you want to record a live band and mix it.
It feels like a beast of a piece of software to me. The fact that you are required to use an iLok (a usb dongle that needs to be inserted at all times) to run the program really puts me of. There are stories of the iLok failing and people being unable to use the software. It annoys me further to know that pirate versions exist (so I have heard) that circumvent all the copy protection. Perhaps I am getting slightly off topic but copy protection annoys legitimate customers more than it helps IMO.
I have had troubles getting Pro Tools to work with my interface (a Presonus FireBox). In the past you were required to own a specific interface to be able to run 'Tools. I know of no one in the psytrance community using ProTools. Its quirky sequencing and high price would put allot of people off.
First off, I don't understand why people call it Ableton. Well I understand why but Ableton is the name of the company and Live is the name of the software. I have limited experience using Live. It seems rather intutive and easy to work with after you spend some time working with it. The interface was a bit intimidating to me at first having used a number of other DAWs but after a day of working with it things began to make more sense. I think it would be easier and have a shorter learning curve to get up and running if you had never used a DAW before compared to other DAWs. It has its own way of doing things. As a friend said, the benefit of Live is in the area of creativity. For example it is very quick to try different layers in combination. You can quickly switch between lots of different bass lines for example. Another benefit I see of Live is the External Instrument plugin that combines both the MIDI and audio track of an external synth / module making a hardware synth seem allot like a VST plugin. It is easy to freeze tracks in Live I have heard.
As far as I can tell you can not use 32 bit plugins in the 64bit version without buying a 3rd party bridging plugin thingo. Renoise
Somewhat of an underdog in the DAW world but equally powerful with a totally different interface / way of working. It has a tracker interface and plays from top to bottom as apposed to left to right like other DAWs. I found it tricky to learn to write melodies with the tracker interface after using a piano roll in FL for so long.
If you were starting off from scratch this is one of the DAWs to have look at I think.
It seems lacking in integrating external hardware. I think part of this reason is its heritage as a tracker (something that just plays back samples) rather than something that has its roots in tracking (eg records, ironically enough).
Its cheap also. Reaper
Reaper it seems is geared especially when it was younger to being something like a Pro Tools killer. It is very good for tracking and mixing and it seems like more MIDI functionality was added as the software matured.
Reaper I really like for a number of reasons. Its extrememly unbloated. The install file is small, yet still has the same funtionality as Pro Tools. It loads fast. The interface is logical and simple.
Routing is flexible. Another point it has over Pro Tools for example is the flexibility in what a track can be. In Pro Tools for example there are multiple types of tracks, for aux sends, instrument tracks etc. A track in Reaper can be anything you want it to be. It can contain MIDI data or be routed to work as a reverb aux send. I see the mixer as a real strong point for Reaper.
I am still learning Reaper and may find more appropriate ways of working, especially with recording hardware synths. I currently use multiple tracks per synth line. At least one for the MIDI data to be sent to the hardware synth, and at least one to record the output of the synth.
MIDI sequencing is often cited as being a negative point with Reaper. I am still learning how to use it effectivly after using FL for so long. A personal license is cheap and there is an uncrippled demo version available. Other DAWs worth mentioning
These I only ever used for quite a short amount of time or I have heard of other producers using.
Logic, Reason, Sonar, Cubase, Presonus Studio One.