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WHAT IS THE BEST DAW?

Posted on June 24, 2011 by Joe Stachowiak There have been 0 comments

DAWsINTRODUCTION

With so many DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) on the market, a very commonly asked question is, which is the best? However, whilst most people would just like to receive a straight-forward answer, the cold, hard truth is that there really isn't one that is considered 'the best'! It is much like asking, what is the best song ever written? Or who is the best guitarist ever? Whilst you will hear similar names being thrown around, not everyone will agree because everyone has their own opinion.Deciding which DAW is best for you can often be the most difficult decision you will face when it comes to starting out on your music production journey. However, it’s a difficult decision for a good reason! The DAW that you choose will most likely become the heart of your studio… it will dictate how you work, what you can do and what other software you can incorporate into your set-up. It’s a decision that is worth getting right first time, as swapping your DAW platform will not only cost you money, but it will set you back as you will need to relearn the layout and functions of a brand new program all over again!

In all honesty, most DAWs allow you to do similar things and if you are skilled, you should be able to use any one to achieve professional results. As they say, a good workman never blames their tools... However, each DAW employs a slightly different way of working and most also offer a few unique tools that make certain processes a whole lot easier. For this reason, the best DAW for you will be the one that suits your way of working, as well as the one that provides the most useful tools and features that speed up your individual workflow. For example, if having a load of bundled effects, instruments and loops is important to you (so you don't have to spend more money on third party plug-ins) and you work on a Mac, then Logic Pro will probably be the DAW that best suits you. If you also want to use your DAW for live performance purposes as well as in the studio, then you will probably want to check out Ableton Live. If you need the best audio editing tools on the market, then Pro Tools would be a good choice. If you like a nice, pretty interface then check out Reason/Record. If you need to be able to pitch shift sections of audio within a single recording, then Cubase makes this the easiest. The list goes on and it's the fact that every DAW has it's individual strengths and weaknesses that makes the process of choosing one so difficult.

Therefore, we have designed this handy guide to give you a brief overview of the main DAWs on the market. We have summarised what we feel are the strengths and weaknesses of each, specified what platforms they are supported on, listed what types of plug-ins they can run and also included a brief description about their main features. Granted, some of the descriptions are in much more detail than others, so it is probably best to use the initial summarised information to decide which ones sound most suited to you and then use the more in-depth descriptions to whittle your decision down even further. However, if you fancy going hardcore and reading the whole guide, then by all means go for it! Maybe just put the kettle on first though, so you have a warm, comforting beverage to accompany you along the way!

Although the best efforts have been made to describe each piece of software in this guide, it is also highly advisable to download a demo of the products that interest you so that you can test-drive them for yourself. This way you can get a better feel for how each piece of software works and links to product demos are included in this guide (if available). On a similar note, if you've done all the relevant research and are fully decided on which DAW you want to dedicate your life to, then follow the links in each section to make your purchase and have fun making music!

CONTENTS

1. Introduction and Contents
2. What is a DAW?
3. Why do I Need a DAW?
4. Ableton Live 8
5. Apple Garageband 6
6. Apple Logic Pro 9
7. Ardour 2
8. Audacity
9. Avid Pro Tools 9
10. Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio
11. Cockos Reaper 3
12. Image Line FL Studio 10
13. MOTU Digital Performer 7
14. Presonus Studio One Pro
15. Propellerhead Reason 5/Record 1.5
16. Sony Acid Pro 7
17. Steinberg Cubase 6
18. Steinberg Nuendo 5
19. Steinberg Sequel 2
20. Summary
2. What is a DAW?

WHAT IS A DAW?

So, let’s start at the beginning and explain exactly what a DAW (pronounced ‘door’) is. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation – it is essentially a program or electronic system that is specially designed for recording, editing and playing digital audio.

It is worth noting that although some programs may have the appearance of a typical DAW, they may not actually be a true DAW! Propellerheads Reason is an example of such a program; it has a very similar layout to most professional DAWs, but when used on it’s own, it can only process MIDI data… not digital audio! However, most modern professional DAWs can also be used to record, edit and play MIDI data as well as digital audio, so they are very flexible.

Also note that even though a program/system may use digital audio, it does not necessarily make it a DAW unless it has been specifically designed for recording, editing and playing it.
3. Why do I Need a DAW?

WHY DO I NEED A DAW?

Well, if you are recording, editing and playing digital audio, then you need a DAW! In the modern age, DAWs are most commonly found in software form, so you can perform all your digital audio work on one dedicated system and can even carry it all around with you on a handy, portable laptop!

Typical applications where you will need a DAW include:

• Recording and editing music in a studio.
• Editing sound for film/TV.
• Composing your own tracks using audio samples.
• Mixing tracks.

4. Ableton Live 8

ABLETON LIVE 8

Pros:

• Very flexible – lots of professional features.
• Excellent sounding instruments and effects.
• Fantastic for innovative and creative live use.
• Live Suite available for people craving a larger library.
• Excellent warping features.
• Support for REX loops.
• Rewire support.
• Max for Live also available, which allows you to create your own instruments and effects in an intuitive way.
• Two different screens for different workflows.
• Really easy to configure a MIDI controller with the software.

Cons:

• If you are never planning on using Ableton for live performance purposes, then you may find some of the features a bit pointless.
• Doesn't have some of the convenient multi-track recording features of other big-name DAWs - but this is being very picky!

Available Platforms:

Mac & Windows

Plug-in Support:

VST, AU

Software in the Series:

Ableton Live Intro: Provides you with all the essential features of Ableton Live at a reduced price. If you don't require all the features of the full version of Ableton Live 8, but still want to achieve a professional sound, then Ableton Live Intro is the perfect choice. CLICK HERE to visit the official Ableton website and view a comparison chart to compare the features of Ableton Live 8 against Ableton Live Intro.
Ableton Live 8: The full version of Ableton Live 8 is packed with professional features and a 15GB instrument library.
Ableton Suite 8: In a nutshell, it's Ableton Live 8 with more instruments, effects, loops and samples! Ableton Suite 8 provides you with all the professional features of the standard version, but boosts your creative ammunition with a massive 45GB library of extras!
Max for Live: Create your own instruments and effects using an intuitive visual interface.

Download the Demo from:

Ableton Live Intro: CLICK HERE!
Ableton Live 8: CLICK HERE!
Ableton Suite 8: CLICK HERE!
Max for Live: CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Ableton Live Intro: CLICK HERE!
Ableton Live 8: CLICK HERE!
Ableton Suite 8: CLICK HERE!
Max for Live: Call us on 1202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

(Also check out our range of Ableton Live 8 bundles, academic packages and upgrades: CLICK HERE!)

 

Website:

www.ableton.com/products

More Information:

Ableton Live is perhaps the most flexible DAW currently available on the market, as it equips you with everything you need to produce and edit a professional track (high quality audio, a load of instruments and effects, MIDI features, automation tools, etc), whilst also giving you everything you need to create complicated, creative on-the-fly live performances. So let’s start with it’s live performance features. Unlike most other DJ software, which works with ‘decks’, Ableton Live is based around the ‘Session View’, which allows you to load samples, loops and songs into dedicated slots and then trigger them in time with other music whenever you want! This basically means that you can get more creative than ever when you are in the mix and you can create completely spontaneous and unique remixes. For example, you can chop up your favourite song into sections and create an extended build-up by looping a breakdown, before adding a percussion loop from the included library and finally triggering the drop just at the perfect moment to drive the crowd crazy! Or you can load in a number of one-shot samples to play out a drum-beat in real-time over the top of your performance. In fact, there is LOADS you can do with Ableton Live! Plus, there are a number of dedicated hardware controllers that exist to make live performance purposes easier than ever before (for example, CLICK HERE to check out the Novation Launchpad)! In fact, any MIDI controller can be really easily mapped to control your chosen parameters in Ableton Live 8 without any other dedicated software. It’s an extremely simple process, comprising of activating one button in Ableton, clicking the parameter you want to control and then moving your chosen parameter on an attached MIDI controller. That’s it! It’s about as straightforward as you can get! There is also usually no need to beat-match any of the songs you load in, as Ableton Live 8 does this all automatically (and usually very reliably). However, just in case the software makes a mistake, Ableton Live 8 allows you to easily fix things by dragging ‘beat markers’ to line up with specific musical points in the audio. This is also excellent for creating cool effects such as time-stretching (increasing the length of a piece of audio without changing the pitch), which may be useful for production work as well as live performance. That’s covered the live performance features of Ableton Live, but what about the production features? Well, you will be pleased to know that it comes with everything you would expect from a professional DAW and more! If you prefer working with a more traditional layout, then it is a simple process to change to the ‘Arrange View’, which presents you with a familiar stack of tracks and a timeline and allows you to position audio and MIDI information in convenient blocks. As we mentioned in the ‘Pros’ section, you can also purchase a product called Max for Live. This program adds to the flexibility of Ableton Live, allowing you to create your own completely custom and unique instruments and effects! Although the interface for Max for Live is very simple (it’s simply a case of connecting different objects together using the mouse), the process does require a little bit of technical knowledge. However, if you throw yourself in at the deep end, then you will find you begin to learn very quickly. If you’re feeling generous then you can also share your creations online for other people to download and of course download other peoples' creations for yourself. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, but the key word associated with Ableton Live 8 is definitely ‘flexibility'. 5. Apple Garageband 6

APPLE GARAGEBAND 6

 

Pros:

• Very easy to use and understand. • It’s free with most Mac computers! • Available as part of iLife '11 for an awesome price! • Includes some advanced features, including Flex Editing. • Includes some excellent guitar and piano tutorials. • Rewire support.

Cons:

• Not as feature-rich as more expensive DAWs. • Can only use it on the Mac platform.

Available Platforms:

Mac

Plug-in Support:

AU

Software in the Series:

Just Garageband 6 (although a number of Jam Pack expansion packs are also available to expand your loop library).

Download the Demo from:

No demo available :(

Purchase the Full Version:

Call us on 1202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.


A number of JamPack expansion bundles are also available:
JamPack 1: CLICK HERE!
JamPack 2 (Remix Tools): CLICK HERE!
JamPack 3 (Rhythm Section): CLICK HERE!
JamPack 4 (Symphony): CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.apple.com/uk/ilife/garageband

More Information:

Garageband 6 (also sometimes confusingly referred to as Garageband '11) comes free with most modern Apple Mac computers and is basically a cut-down version of their famous Logic DAW. Because of this, Garageband 6 is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the DAW world and even has enough tools to act as your main DAW program provided your project is not too complex.

Basically, if you aren’t too bothered about having a massive library of included effects, you like prominent visual aids (such as pictures of instruments), you don’t need to perform any complex edits and you don’t need to work with huge amounts of tracks, then Garageband 6 should suit you just fine. Plus, if you then find that your projects begin to grow in complexity, the basic controls and layout transfer pretty well to Logic Pro, so you should find that you can get up and running with Logic straight away whilst you are learning the ins and outs of all the extra tools and features.

Apple Garageband 6 DAWApple Garageband 6 comes with a whole host of software instruments and a selection of effects and processor plug-ins, including compression, reverb, EQ, chorus, auto wah and distortion. It even features 12 guitar amp models! It’s by no means an extensive list compared with more professional DAWs, but it does provide you with everything you need to create a professional project. Garageband 6 even comes with Logic’s highly useful Flex Time feature. This is similar to the Warp tool of Ableton and it allows you to stretch and compress specific portions of a sound to either help it fit the tempo of your project or simply to create some strange effect-type sounds.If you are learning to play the guitar or piano, then Garageband is also an excellent product to own. It includes a number of lessons for a variety of different genres and also includes a chord trainer. Plus, perhaps the coolest tutorial feature is that Garageband 6 can analyse how you are playing the piano in real-time and let you know how you are doing! It uses visual aides such as coloured notes, a progress bar and a performance meter whilst you play and then lets you check how well you performed for ‘rhythm’ and ‘note accuracy’. This makes learning the piano even more fun and adds a competitive element… can you beat your top score?
6. Apple Logic Pro 9

APPLE LOGIC PRO 9

Pros:

• Optimised integration with Mac computers.
• Comes with a huge amount of quality instrument and effect plug-ins and a massive library of sounds and loops.
• Available very cheaply for students and teachers.
• Packed with advanced features.
• Very user-friendly interface – pretty much a single-window program.
• Uses Apple Loops - and comes with a load of them!
• Easy to incorporate external hardware instruments and effects within the software environment.
• 'Bounce In Place' feature.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Can only use it on the Mac platform.
• To fully get to grips with all aspects of the program and it’s included instruments, you may need to read the user manual, which is fairly hefty!
• The Amp Designer is not quite as flexible as those included with some other DAWs.

Available Platforms:

Mac

Plug-in Support:

AU

Software in the Series:

Apple Logic Express 9: Logic Express 9 is similar to Logic Pro 9, although it doesn't include some of the very useful instruments and effects that the full version does, it comes with a reduced, but still impressive 8GB content library (compared to the hefty 50 GB of the full version) and it doesn't support surround sound mixing.
Apple Logic Studio 9: Apple Logic Studio 9 is the real deal! It comes with the full Apple Logic Pro 9 software, a huge library of loops and a number of other programs for purposes such as post-production, including Mainstage 2 (for live performance), Soundtrack Pro 3 (for working with audio and video), Compressor 3.5, Waveburner 1.6, Impulse Response Utility and Apple Loops Utility.

Download the Demo from:

Not available :(

Purchase the Full Version:

Apple Logic Express 9: CLICK HERE!
Apple Logic Studio 9: CLICK HERE!

(Also check out our range of Logic upgrades: CLICK HERE!)

Website:

www.apple.com/uk/logicstudio/logicpro

More Information:

Logic Pro 9 is the perfect companion for any Apple Mac computer, although bare in mind that if you own a Mac, Logic Pro is not your only option… some people still prefer the layout and features of other Mac compatible DAWs such as Cubase, Ableton or Pro Tools. However, as Logic Pro 9 has been designed as a single platform application, it has been highly optimised to work as seamlessly and as efficiently as possible with the Mac operating system and so you can be sure that you are going to get excellent performance from the software (provided you own a computer that is powerful enough to run Logic and respond to your requests).

Logic Pro 9 is a highly professional piece of software that is used by professionals all over the world and so you can be sure that it is packed with quality and flexible features. One of the top features of Logic Pro 9 is the amount of plug-ins that it comes with – a lot more than most other DAWs! In fact, Logic Pro 9 really does give you everything you need to start producing hits, which is a very comforting thought if you don’t own many other plug-ins.

The plug-ins that Logic Pro 9 contains are designed to give you maximum flexibility and appeal to novices and professionals alike. In terms of synthesisers, Logic offers a huge variety, ranging from the simple ES E (with minimum controls), to the monster ES2, with 3 oscillators, 2 filters and a complex modulation matrix (and a load more in-between as well!)… and of course, it also comes with a great sounding drum synthesiser (the Ultrabeat) to get your percussive elements laid down. Plus, Logic Pro 9 even comes with a professional, highly intuitive software sampler (the EXS24), which comes packed with a huge library of built-in samples and of course the capability to load in your own sounds.

In terms of plug-in effects, Logic Pro 9 is also not lacking, as it offers you all the basics (e.g. compressors, limiters, delays, reverbs, filters, EQs), plus handy extras such as distortion plug-ins and even guitar amps and pedals! Some effects even come in different forms, with varying levels of complexity. For example, you get six different reverb plug-ins, from the simplistic AVerb (which only contains basic reverb parameters), to the complex space designer, which lets you place your sound in a completely custom environment and fine tune every aspect of the reverberations. On top of this, Logic also comes with a number of more specialised plug-ins, such as a multimeter, level meter, pitch-shifter, speech enhancer, test oscillator and a plug-in that can be linked to an external hardware synthesiser to make set-up a breeze! There's loads more as well, it really does give you such an extensive list of professional tools!

If all those plug-ins still aren’t enough for you, then Logic Pro 9 also comes with a huge library of royalty free loops, which are useful for gaining inspiration, sampling, or just simply taking and using straight in your project – if you go through and give some of them a listen then you may be quite surprised at how many commercial artists have done just that! All the loops are contained within an easy-to-use browser and come in either audio or MIDI/audio (depending on what sort of track you load them on) form. Plus, the architecture of the browser means that you can audition and use loops in different keys and because they are Apple Loops, they will always fit to the tempo of the current project without any manual processing!

Logic Pro 9 employs a simple and easy-to-understand layout and includes a number of DAW sections/windows such as a mixer, sample editor (for editing audio), piano roll (for editing MIDI), a score editor (for composing music using notation) and a Hyper Editor (for editing MIDI data in more detail). It features all the standard professional DAW tools (e.g automation, take recording, etc.), as well as a number of really advanced features (e.g. audio quantisation and flex editing for easily warping audio to fit in time with your song or for creating some cool effects). It even features something called ‘drum replacement’, which lets you improve your recordings by substituting or layering the original drum sounds with pre-recorded, pristine quality samples, which is an amazing tool if you get to the mixing stage and discover that your drum recordings weren’t what you originally thought they were and it saves a lot of time compared to having to record the whole thing again!

On a final note, the 'Bounce In Place' tool within Logic Pro 9 is a fantastic time-saving device. It's a very self-explanatory tool; it basically just allows you to bounce an audio or MIDI part onto a separate track! Whilst this may not sound like a very exciting feature, it will probably save you a lot of time. In the past, if you had a MIDI part and you wanted to turn it into an audio recording, you had to bounce it to an external audio file and then manually import the file into your project. Not any more! Just select 'Bounce In Place' and it all happens automatically!

If you work on a Mac, then you should definitely give Logic Pro 9 some serious thought!
7. Ardour 2

ARDOUR 2

Pros:

• It’s free... although you do get more features if you choose to make a donation.
• It’s open source, so if you are a programmer, then you can personally contribute and improve it!

Cons:

• Not available for Windows.
• Doesn’t come with any plug-ins.
• Does not currently contain a MIDI sequencer… however version 3 (which is in the pipeline) will contain this functionality.

Available Platforms:

Mac & Linux

Plug-in Support:

VST (Linux only), AU, LADSPA, LV2

Software in the Series:

Just the one version!

Download the Demo from:

No demo as it's free anyway!

Purchase the Full Version:

CLICK HERE!

Website:

http://ardour.org

More Information:

If you would rather spend your money on a load of professional plug-ins rather than an expensive DAW, then Ardour may be for you! In fact, you can get it for nothing, but it is worth making a little donation to the developers, as you will not get some handy tools if you decide to pay nothing at all.

Essentially, Ardour gives you a basic professional platform from which to start creating and mixing professional projects, with features such as unlimited tracks and buses, highly advanced signal routing and sample accurate automation, plus a load more… and although Ardour doesn’t come with any plug-ins, it’s website does give you links to a number of freely available effects (CLICK HERE) that you can download and use with Ardour! However, as all the plug-ins are free, you may not find that they give the quality you can expect from more renowned DAWs. In fact, Ardour even state on their website that whilst some are fantastic, others are ‘really horrible’! Because of this, they give you a small list of recommended tools to get you going. It is by no means an extensive list compared to other DAWs out there, but it should be enough to set you on your way to producing professional projects.

Ardour DAWOne thing to be aware of is that the current version of Ardour does not contain a MIDI sequencer, so Ardour is only really useful if you are working with audio. However, Ardour 3 has been announced and is set to resolve this, although only time will tell how advanced this feature will be…
8. Audacity

AUDACITY

Pros:

• It’s free!
• It’s open source, so if you are also a programmer, then you can personally contribute and improve it!

Cons:

• No MIDI sequencer.
• Not as flexible as other DAWs.

Available Platforms:

Mac, Windows & Linux

Plug-in Support:

VST (effects only), LADSPA

Software in the Series:

Just one - Audacity!

Download the Demo from:

No demo as the full version is already free!

Purchase the Full Version:

CLICK HERE!

Website:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net

More Information:

Audacity is a completely free audio editor and recorder, so it is perfect if you want to create recordings on a budget. It allows you to dub over existing tracks to create multi-take recordings, you can record up to 16 channels at once (which should be enough for most projects) and you can create a basic mix with the built-in mixer. Audacity even includes a number of useful built-in effects such as a pitch shifter, noise remover, EQ, compressor, echo, phaser, wahwah, reverse and more!

Audacity DAWAudacity can be a lot of fun for the beginner and professional alike and can certainly produce excellent results. However, it does not offer some of the more flexible features and time-saving tools that other (more expensive) DAWs possess.
9. Avid Pro Tools 9

AVID PRO TOOLS 9

Pros:

• Excellent features for working with audio.
• Excellent plug-in effects.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• MIDI environment not quite up to the standard of certain other DAWs.

Available Platforms:

Mac, Windows & Linux

Plug-in Support:

RTAS

Software in the Series:

Avid Pro Tools LE 9: The least feature-rich version of Pro Tools 9 still provides you with a host of professional tools, although if you are serious about music production, you will probably find that it is not flexible enough to suit your needs. For example, it doesn't let you run as many audio and MIDI tracks as the other versions of Pro Tools 9, the standard version doesn't let you bounce tracks as MP3s and it doesn't offer advanced audio editing tools.
Avid Pro Tools MP 9: Pro Tools MP (M-Powered) is similar to Pro Tools LE, although it can only be used with certain M-Audio interfaces (which we also stock, so feel free to contact us on 01202 597180, or use our Live Chat service for more information!)
Avid Pro Tools 9: This is the standard Pro Tools 9 package. It includes a host of instruments and effects, plus a load of advanced audio and MIDI editing tools.
Avid Pro Tools|HD: The most powerful and flexible Pro Tools package comes with a special piece of hardware to optimise performance. There are a number of Pro Tools|HD packages available, so it is advisable to contact us on 01202 597180, or use our Live Chat service if you want advice on the best option for your studio.
Avid Complete Production Toolkit 2: An add on for Avid Pro Tools 9, which gives you many of the features of Pro Tools|HD without the dedicated hardware.

If you would like to compare all the different versions of Pro Tools 9, CLICK HERE to view the official Pro Tools comparison chart.

Download the Demo from:

No demo available.

Purchase the Full Version:

Avid Pro Tools LE 9: Mainly available free with certain M-Audio and Avid products (e.g. audio interfaces).
Avid Pro Tools MP 9: CLICK HERE!
Avid Pro Tools 9: CLICK HERE!
Avid Pro Tools|HD: CLICK HERE, contact us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service to get expert advice on the best option for your studio.
Avid Complete Production Toolkit 2: CLICK HERE!

Also check out our range of Pro Tools 9 Crossgrades (CLICK HERE) and Academic prices (call us on 01202 597180, or use our Live Chat service for more information).

 

Website:

www.avid.com/US/products/family/pro-tools

More Information:

Pro Tools has long been the DAW of choice for industry professionals working with audio. However, it used to only work with special dedicated hardware and so once you owned the DAW, you were limited with what else you could integrate into your system. The latest edition of Pro Tools, Avid Pro Tools 9 has eliminated this feature though and so now you can use Pro Tools no matter what other equipment you are using! Hurray!

Avid Pro Tools 9 gives you all the essential components of a professional DAW and loads more, plus it is still probably the industry leading DAW for working with audio… although that doesn’t mean that other DAWs aren’t good in this area. It’s just that Pro Tools' features and tools make audio editing as easy as possible.

Avid Pro Tools 9 DAWAvid Pro Tools 9 offers some very cool features to help you record. For example, if you are having trouble recording a very technically challenging part of a performance, you can slow down the session tempo, record the part at a slower tempo and then play it back at normal speed! Cheating? Some may say this... but it’s a great tool if your ideas are more advanced than your skill with your instrument! Avid Pro Tools 9 also offers something called Beat Detective, which can analyse and adjust the timing of a performance across multiple tracks and can even be used to change the groove of a beat, so again, this is a very handy creative tool.Avid Pro Tools 9 also comes with a number of excellent plug-insto get you up and running. Whilst it doesn’t include quite as many instruments as DAWs such as Logic, you can be sure that its included instruments are pure quality and the number of effect and utility plug-ins that it includes is excellent; from a selection of EQs, compressors, reverbs, delays, distortion units and loads more! Pro Tools 9 comes with everything you need to produce professional projects.The only slight disadvantage to Avid Pro Tools 9 is that because it is so well set-up for audio processing, it is slightly more fiddly to use for MIDI editing – DAWs such as Logic and Cubase are a bit more friendly in this area. Again, that is not to say that you can’t use and edit MIDI data in Pro Tools 9… it’s just a little more fiddly than some other DAWs.If you like composing music using notation, then Avid Pro Tools 9 also comes with an excellent Sibelius Score Editor, giving you an awesome range of notation tools. Plus, Pro Tools 9 also makes it very easy to work with video and surround sound mixes (although surround sound mixing is only available in Pro Tools|HD or with the Complete Production Toolkit 2).
10. Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio

CAKEWALK SONAR X1 STUDIO

Pros:

• Excellent price.
• Excellent professional creative features.
• Deep customisation options.
• User-friendly editing tools.
• Synth-rack.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Doesn’t work on Mac OS X.
• Can't chain instruments or MIDI effects.

Available Platforms:

Windows

Plug-in Support:

VST, DX

Software in the Series:

Cakewalk Sonar X1 Essential: The least feature-rich of all the Sonar X1 packages. Cakewalk Sonar X1 Essential is perfect for simple projects, but if you are really serious about music production, you will probably want to look at the more advanced packages. Cakewalk Sonar X1 Essential provides you with all the basic project tools, but limits you to 64 audio tracks, is not 64-bit compatible and omits a whole range of useful tools that the more advanced packages include.
Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio: Provides you with a host of powerful and professional features. This package provides you with more than enough to start producing professional projects.
Cakewalk Sonar X1 Producer: Expands on Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio by offering additional handy tools such as mastering effects, TruePianos and Session Drummer 3.

CLICK HERE to visit the official Cakewalk site to view a comparison chart between all 3 products.

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

 

Website:

www.cakewalk.com/products/sonar

More Information:

For the price, Cakewalk Sonar X1 really is an exceptional product. If you work on the Windows platform then this DAW is certainly worth some consideration.

Cakewalk Sonar X1 is especially famed for its user-friendly editing tools, which can really help speed up your workflow. Cakewalk Sonar X1 does the simple things very well and it also includes a host of more advanced features, including Audiosnap 2.0 (which lets you adjust the timing of audio) and V-Vocal 1.5 (an awesome tool that lets you adjust the pitch of audio parts to correct pitch problems or create modern effects).

Cakewalk Sonar X1’s smart tools are some of the best in the business. Whilst most DAWs offer some smart tool features (i.e. tools that automatically change depending on exactly what you are doing), Sonar’s tools are a step ahead and their highly intelligent nature really helps speed up your workflow.

Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio DAWCakewalk Sonar X1 provides an excellent customisable user interface, which lays everything out logically and simply (similar to Logic Pro). Plus, with Sonar, you can even enter the ‘Matrix view’, which lets you perform non-linear editing, allowing you to trigger tracks, loops and samples to create an on-the-fly live performance! This feature is very similar to Ableton Live, although Ableton is much more geared towards this purpose and so is a little more flexible in this area, but it is still an excellent feature to have. Cakewalk Sonar X1 is also fully equipped to record, edit and mix audio and MIDI data, so you can be sure that you can achieve professional results.Cakewalk Sonar X1 comes with a number of instrument and effect plug-ins and even gives you access to a number of guitar amps, effects, mic models, cabinets and a tuner with the included X Gear from AmpliTube. Plus, the handy synth-rack feature gives you easy access to all the instruments in your project from one simple view – similar to the view you get with Propellerhead Reason (although not quite as visually stimulating). This feature allows you to view all the synths in your project at once, allowing you to make tweaks across multiple tracks, without having to click on different tracks. Although it does not have the extensive library of Logic, for example, it does contain some useful instruments (including a REX player for playing and mashing up loops) and effects (e.g. EQ, transient shaper, compressor, chorus, etc.), plus a host of mastering plug-ins, including the TL-64 Tube Limiter, which uses advanced algorithms to model the colour and warmth of traditional hardware limiters.
11. Cockos Reaper 3

COCKOS REAPER 3

Pros:

• Excellent price.
• Lots of drag-and-drop functionality.
• Very customisable.
• Rewire support.
• Flexible track architecture.
• Includes an environment to script your own plug-ins.
• Can add plug-in controls to each track for quick access.
• Can save default controller assignments for each plug-in.
• Gives you amazing creative freedom.

Cons:

• No score editor.
• A little fiddly to create MIDI data ramps.
• Things can get very complicated, so some beginners may find it daunting.
• No dedicated audio editor – all audio editing needs to be done within the main window.
• No included loop library.
• Included synths and sampler are fairly basic compared with other big name DAWs.

Available Platforms:

Mac & Windows

Plug-in Support:

VST, AU, DX

Software in the Series:

Just the one and only Reaper!

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.reaper.fm

More Information:

For the price, Reaper really is an excellent product, giving you all the tools you need to create a professional project. However, what really makes Reaper different from its competitors is its highly flexible architecture. For real beginners this may not be ideal, as it is often more straightforward to work within set limits, but if you are after a challenge, or want more flexibility with the way you work, then Reaper may well be the answer!

The main flexible feature of Reaper is the fact that it doesn’t have dedicated track types for specific purposes. For example, in most DAWs (Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, Ableton, etc.), if you want to work with audio, you simply create an ‘Audio’ track. If you want to work with a MIDI instrument, then you create an ‘Instrument’ track. If you want to work with external MIDI, then you create a MIDI track. With Reaper, there aren’t such distinctions, as a track is just a track and can be used with MIDI data, with audio data, as an Instrument track, as an effects return, as a Group track, etc... basically, however you want! Whilst this may initially seem simpler as there is no need to make distinctions between track types, this actually means that Reaper is a little more complex, as it is up to you to route the track in a way that suits how you want to use it. You can decide where tracks are sent and even send one track to another to create complex routings, which would require multiple tracks in most other DAWs. It’s extremely useful if this suits your way of working, but probably over-complicates things if you prefer things to be as simple as possible!

It’s not just channel routings that you can configure in Reaper either. In terms of customisation, Reaper is one of the most adept DAWs on the market, allowing you to alter everything from track colours to object graphics!

Reaper comes with a host of useful plug-ins to ensure that your projects reach their full potential and all come with sophisticated automatic delay compensation to easily combat any annoying latency issues. However, whilst the effects included in Reaper are very good, the instruments and samplers are lacking a little compared to other DAWs on the market. Whilst they are still useful, they just don’t have some of the useful tools or complex layers of other DAWs.

However, having said that, Reaper takes customisation a step further, as if you feel that the included plug-ins are not up to scratch, then you can script your own plug-ins using the built-in development environment and you can debug and compile as you wish whilst Reaper is still running! Again, this is definitely not a feature for the beginner, but it’s very handy to have and worth learning.

Reaper DAWStaying on the subject of plug-ins, Reaper also contains an extremely useful feature that allows you to load plug-in parameters onto track headers in the main sequencing window. This is a brilliant time saving device! For example, if you have a filter loaded on a track and you want to experiment with the Cutoff parameter without jumping between the Reaper and plug-in windows, then you can load the Cutoff control into the track header, underneath the track name and make it immediately available from within Reapers main window. It’s simple to add individual controls, or even add all the controls from one plug-in at once, plus you can even rename the parameters in the track header, which is handy if you have similar controls from multiple plug-ins. All plug-ins in the track header load up with dials and display a control name and value setting.Reaper also features a number of advanced grouping features. For example, you can create master/slave groups for specific controls such as volume, pan, mute, solo, record, automation mode, etc. You can even reverse grouping polarity, so for example, when you pan the master control the right, the slaves all move to the left! With such flexibility, it is extremely easy to get lost by over-complicating everything and the Reaper team realise this, which is probably why they incorporated a function whereby you can hold Shift to temporarily bypass the grouped functions.One minor annoyance with Reaper is that it still seems to be slightly behind other DAWs when it comes to editing MIDI. For example, there isn’t a way to create a smooth ramp with MIDI controller data without opening one of the built-in plug-ins. It’s by no means a huge problem, but it is slightly more long-winded than other DAWs. However, one very cool feature of Reaper if you are using a MIDI controller is that you can save default controller assignments for each plug-in within the DAW. If you have ever used Novation’s Automap software before, then it is much like this and it’s extremely handy to help speed up your work, although it does require a bit of patience and planning to set-up all your mappings.To sum up, Reaper really is an excellent DAW at an amazing price. It can be quite complicated and you will definitely find that you get more out of it the more time you dedicate to learning it, but then again, this is the same with any DAW. If you are looking for something to get extra creative with, then the flexible nature of Reaper makes it an excellent choice, plus it employs a lot of drag-and-drop functionality to really help speed up your workflow. However, if you are more the type of person that prefers limits and learning set ways of achieving things, then you may find that you are suited to a different DAW.
12. Image Line FL Studio 10

IMAGE LINE FL STUDIO 10

Pros:

• Good MIDI editor.
• Beginner-friendly – very fun to use!
• Free life-time updates.
• Inexpensive.
• Can be used as a VST plug-in in another DAW!
• CPU efficient.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Still more geared to the workflow of Dance music producers, so not as versatile as other DAWs.
• Some people may view its appearance and architecture as a little gimmicky.
• Very reliant on right-clicks and drop-down menus.
• Not as advanced as other DAWs for working with audio.
• Not available on the Mac OS.

Available Platforms:

Windows

Plug-in Support:

VST, DX

Software in the Series:

Only one version.

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

 

Website:

flstudio.image-line.com

More Information:

FL Studio 10 (formerly Fruity Loops) is often seen as a piece of software for beginners due to its price and easy-to-use nature, but the truth is that this reputation is a bit misleading, having been embraced by a number of professional electronic music producers, including Deadmau5. The fact that it is easy to get up and running with shouldn’t fool you into thinking that this isn’t a highly complex DAW, brimming with professional features, because it most certainly is! In fact, it’s ease of use just makes music making even more fun, which is most certainly a good thing!

If you are mainly working with MIDI, then FL Studio 10 should fit your needs perfectly. This is because it has mainly been developed as a MIDI sequencer and so most of its tools and its workflow are specifically designed with MIDI in mind. This makes it very well suited to most forms of dance music and it comes with a number of quality instruments and effects to give you those killer electronic sounds; it does contain instruments that create acoustic sounds as well, but it is far more geared to the electronic genres. FL Studio 10 even features 64-bit plug-in support!

FL Studio 10 features a number of tools to make your MIDI recordings as exciting and creative as possible. For example, it includes a ‘Riff Machine’ in the Piano Roll, which helps you to quickly create complex MIDI parts from a basic input. The Riff Machine can transform single notes that you are playing on your keyboard into full chords or arpeggios and even add humanisation elements. Or you can do things like instantly draw in advanced chords by selecting a chord type from a dedicated menu rather than having to program in each individual note, like you have to do in most other DAWs.

FL Studio 10 DAWFL Studio 10 can also be used to record and sequence audio, although it is lacking a little in this area compared to many other DAWs. If you are used to working with audio in other DAWs then you may find the way that FL Studio 10 does this especially off-putting at first. If you have never worked with audio in a standard DAW before, then you may find that you like the way FL Studio handles audio (if this is what you become used to), although most other DAWs (e.g. Cubase, Logic, Ableton), have a much more quick and efficient way of recording audio.FL Studio 10 is also a very flexible piece of software to be incorporated with other DAWs. As well as being a fully-featured DAW in its own right, it can also be used as a plug-in in another DAW! This means that you can make use of its included instruments in other DAW projects! On top of this it is also fully Rewire compatible. Although most professional DAWs are, it is perhaps especially useful with FL Studio, as it allows you to, for example, use FL Studios highly advanced and intuitive MIDI editing tools with the more advanced audio recording tools from another DAW.
13. MOTU Digital Performer 7

MOTU DIGITAL PERFORMER 7

Pros:

• Good audio and MIDI editing tools.
• Excellent for film scoring and sound design.
• Allows you to work with ‘chunks’, which is an excellent tool for experimenting with different ideas.
• Mixer automation punch-in and punch-out.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Not available on Windows.
• Can be confusing for beginners – has quite a complex set-up.
• Some advanced features are very CPU heavy.

Available Platforms:

Mac

Plug-in Support:

AU

Software in the Series:

Just the one version of the MOTU Digital Performer DAW.

Download the Demo from:

Not available :(

Purchase the Full Version:

Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

 

Website:

www.motu.com/products/software/dp

More Information:

Digital Performer isn’t a particularly well known DAW in the UK, despite coming from a highly reputable company in MOTU. However, in the United States, Digital Performer is very popular and is widely used in the film, TV and sound design industries. Simply put, it is an excellent program for working with both MIDI and audio… in fact, it even rivals Pro Tools when it comes to working with audio!

MOTU Digital Performer 7 is packed full of highly professional features, which really do put it up there with all the other top DAWs on the market. It includes features such as audio quantisation, real-time pitch automation on monophonic audio tracks (this is a very impressive feature), excellent EQ and dynamic plug-ins (along with a whole host of other effect and instrument plug-ins), an excellent guitar suite and a handy ‘Chunks’ feature. In basic terms, this allows you to select elements of your track and group them together and then play them back in any order you like. For example, you may store the chorus as one ‘Chunk’, the bridge as another and the main solo as another, etc. You can then play about with triggering different parts of the track at different times, to see how your song sounds with different structures. This is extremely handy and means you don’t necessarily need to create different versions of a song to try out different structures.

MOTU Digital Performer 7 DAWAnother very useful function within MOTU Digital Performer 7 is its ability to punch-in and punch-out with automation changes. Again, this is very handy if you make lots of manual automation alterations. It allows you to record automation within a given timeframe and leave all automation untouched either side of the set limits, which means that you can be sure that you won’t make any mistakes by accidentally changing any ‘correct’ automation data.The downsides of Digital Performer is that if you are a beginner, you may find it fairly daunting to get up and running with (although you will soon find that you learn your way around) and that some of the complex features such as real-time pitch automation can be extremely CPU heavy. For this reason you will need a fairly powerful Mac to ensure that everything runs smoothly… although this is similar with most DAWs; the more powerful your computer, the better your DAW will run when performing complex operations.
14. Presonus Studio One Pro

PRESONUS STUDIO ONE PRO

Pros:

• Clean and compact single-window user interface.
• Lots of drag and drop functionality.
• Quick and easy to learn.
• Easy to link a MIDI controller to Studio One’s mixer and plug-ins.
• Rewire support.
• Project Page for mastering and publishing your work.

Cons:

• No support for multi-channel or surround sound formats.
• No simple way to produce a comp out of multiple recorded takes.
• No notation.
• No audio quantisation or detailed Flex/Warp editing.
• Not good at handling multi-timbral instruments.

Available Platforms:

Mac & Windows

Plug-in Support:

(Presonus Studio One Pro only) VST, AU

Software in the Series:

Presonus Studio One Artist: The Studio One Artist DAW is the scaled down version of the full Pro version, although it still offers a host of professional features. Studio One Artist is more suited to the hobbyist song-writer or producer, whereas those serious about their trade will almost certainly find the extended functions of Studio One Pro useful. Studio One Artist allows you to run unlimited tracks, which is unusual for a cut down version of DAW software and it includes some great plug-ins, but it does not allow you to incorporate third-party plug-ins, which is a good reason to upgrade to the Pro version.
Presonus Studio One Pro: Full professional DAW with more instruments, effects, features and loops than the Artist version. On top of that it also betters Studio One Artist by including mastering tools, third party VST and AU support, Rewire support and video support. It's even easy to do things like extract audio from a video clip, which is great for sampling purposes amongst other things. Oh yes, and it also includes a 64-bit engine (Studio One Artist is 32-bit only).

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Presonus Studio One Artist: CLICK HERE!
Presonus Studio One Pro: CLICK HERE!

Also check out our Studio One Artist to Studio One Pro upgrade package: CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.presonus.com/studioone

More Information:

Studio One Pro is Presonus’ flagship DAW, offering a number of professional features and plenty of tools to allow you to create professional polished tracks. With its single-window design, it is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a smooth and logical workflow, as it means that you can achieve pretty much anything you want from one screen, with no need to clutter up your workspace with countless new windows. What’s more, it also uses a lot of drag-and-drop functionality, making it extremely easy to pick up and get running with. In terms of ease of use, Presonus Studio One definitely gets the thumbs up!

For users wanting to incorporate an external MIDI controller, Presonus Studio One makes things as simple as possible. It includes an in-built feature called ‘Control Link’, which learns your MIDI controllers' knobs and sliders and then allows you to quickly and simply link them to parameters on your software (either on the on-screen mixer or on the plug-ins). You can configure each plug-in differently and the great thing is that these mappings will stay learned unless you decide to change them! That means that your settings don’t change even if you turn off your computer, or begin working on a new project. That’s not the end of the story either… Control Link also comes with an extremely handy Device Control Map window, which gives you visual onscreen feedback as to what each of your controls are mapped to. If you have ever used Novation’s Automap software before then it is similar to this and very useful indeed.

The Presonus Studio One mixer is very customisable. For example, if you are working within a limited space (e.g. on a small computer screen) then you can set the mixer to its ‘small’ setting, which just displays the bare minimum controls for mixing (e.g. volume fader, pan slider, etc.) If you need some more visual information such as ‘send’ and ‘insert’ effects then you can choose to ‘Expand’ the mixer view, which displays extra information to the right of each channel. This is also excellent if you are working from a single small screen as it means that the mixer does not need to extend upwards and obscure the main Arrange area. Of course, if you have the space then you can set the mixer to ‘Large’ view, which displays all the sends and insert slots above the channel strip as is common in most other DAWs.

Another really handy feature of Presonus Studio One Pro is what they call the ‘Project Page’. This is a page that displays everything you need to finish a project, with a number of mastering tools (e.g. spectrum analyser, metres, etc.), as well as editors for adding meta data and tools to publish your finished tracks to a number of different formats including CDs and online formats. On the Project Page you can even perform more specific edits such as controlling how big the gaps are between songs on a CD or altering the track order. The Project Page is especially handy as it allows you to work with songs that you haven’t even bounced down to a single track yet! The Project Page just renders each track as you add them and then re-renders them when you make any changes.

In terms of included plug-in content, Presonus Studio One comes with a number of instruments and effects to aid you in your quest to produce professional sounding tracks. The plug-ins are all of a good quality, although it does not come with quite as many as other ‘big-name’ professional DAWs on the market.

Now, onto the things that Studio One does not do quite so well. For starters, it has no support for working with more than two channels (stereo) and so if you work in, or are planning to work in surround sound, then Studio One will not be the DAW for you.

Studio One also does not have a means of creating a single ‘comp’ from a number of different takes. What does this mean? You will find that most of the leading DAWs have a way to record multiple takes of audio and then mix and match bits and pieces of different takes to create the ‘perfect’ recording. For example, in a very simple scenario, you may record the same vocal take twice. However, when you listen back to the recordings, you notice that the first recording has a brilliant start and end, but the middle portion went out of tune a bit. In contrast, in the second take, the start and end of the vocal sounded too weak, but the middle section sounded perfect! Lots of other DAWs have a really simple way to select the beginning and end of the first take and the middle portion of the second take and combine them into one recording. You can still do this in Studio One, but it involves a little more work as you will have to manually slice each of the takes into their relevant parts and then mute the parts that you don’t want to use – this process is a lot more automatic and easy to edit on other DAWs.

On a similar topic, there are a number of other features that seem to be missing from Presonus Studio One, which are present in many other big name DAWs, mainly the fact that Presonus Studio One doesn’t have any notation features and it doesn’t have an audio quantisation function or advanced flex/warp editing.

Studio One also doesn’t handle multi-timbral instruments too well and so if you are using one (either hardware or software), then you will have to resort to the controls on the instrument itself to mix the voices, which can be a little fiddly.

All-in-all, although Presonus Studio One doesn’t offer all the functionality of some other top-DAWs, it does give you above and beyond the basics and is highly capable of producing professional results. What’s more is that its easy to grasp interface and workflow make being creative extremely easy and fun, so it’s an excellent choice DAW for the beginner and professional alike.
15. Propellerhead Reason 5/Record 1.5

PROPELLERHEAD REASON 5/RECORD 1.5

Pros:

• Excellent visual interfaces.
• Brilliant for learning about how hardware units connect together.
• Fantastic price considering what you get.
• Line 6 speaker cab and amp simulations and compatibility with Line 6 hardware.
• Very stable programs.
• Programs work seamlessly together.
• Awesome main mixer included in Record 1.5 - it looks amazing and it's highly flexible!
• Rewire support (obviously!)

Cons:

• Can’t incorporate external plug-ins.
• No score editing.
• Some advanced audio editing features are missing.

Available Platforms:

Mac & Windows (but not Power PC Macs)

Plug-in Support:

No third party plug-in support, except for those bundled with the software.

Software in the Series:

Propellerhead Reason 5: Handles all MIDI instruments.
Propellerhead Record 1.5: Handles all the audio recording, editing and sequencing.

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Propellerhead Reason 5/Record 1.5 Duo Bundle: CLICK HERE!
Propellerhead Reason 5: CLICK HERE!
Propellerhead Record 1.5: CLICK HERE!

Also check out our range of other Propellerhead products (including upgrades) that can be incorporated with Reason/Record: CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.propellerheads.se/products

More Information:

Propellerhead’s answer to the modern DAW actually comes in the form of two different programs with similar interfaces – Reason handles the main MIDI functionality, whereas Record deals with all audio processing and recording. This actually means that if you are only ever going to work with one format, then you only need to buy one program. However, you do get an excellent deal if you purchase them both together, so if there is a possibility that you will need to work with both formats, then it is definitely worth buying both together.

Propellerhead Reason and Record are brilliant programs for the beginner because they employ a very visual way of working. Every instrument and effect that you load up has a stunning interface that makes them really nice to work with. The included instruments and effects all have the appearance of hardware units and can be installed in a virtual rack, where you can scroll up and down to view everything that you are using in your project. Instruments and effects have some really nice little touches such as graphics of screws, dials, LED meters, switches and even holes to dissipate internal heat from the unit! What’s even more impressive is that you can flip the whole rack with a single button press (Tab). This allows you to view the rears of each unit, which are again modelled in excellent detail. The backs of the units may also reveal some hidden controls, which are not essential to the units' main function and so would clutter up the front panel of the instrument/effect.

If you flip the rack then you can also see how everything is wired together (the units all feature virtual input and output connections, which are modelled to look just like the real thing) and you are free to create and remove connections as you wish. For example, you can take the output of an oscillator on a Reason plug-in and feed it into a modulation input on another, allowing you to use the oscillator from the first instrument as an LFO for another instrument! Working in this way is excellent for educational purposes and up to a point it allows you to learn how hardware units can and should be connected together if you don’t have the opportunity to work with the real things. Plus, working in this way perhaps makes Reason 5/Record 1.5 the most fun software to use!

But what exactly do both these programs do? Let’s start with Reason 5, which provides you with a wealth of really excellent sounding software instruments and effects. It gives you the Thor, Subtractor and Maleström, which between them can produce almost any synth sound you can imagine, 2 different samplers (the NN-XT and the NN-19), a selection of drum machines and loop players; the easy-to-use Redrum, which is brilliant for building up your basic patterns, the Dr.Octo Rex, which handles Rex loops and the awesome Kong, which provides you with a familiar 16 pad layout and includes 4 analogue synthesis drum generators, 3 physical modelling drum generators, a sampler and a Rex loop player! Plus of course there are a load of other devices, such as the MClass Mastering Suite (with EQ, Stereo Imager, Compressor and Maximiser), mergers and splitters, ‘The Combinator’ to build up huge layered sounds, a selection of reverbs and delays, a vocoder and the Scream 4 (an amazing sounding distortion unit), plus loads more!

All of these devices can be combined within the Reason sequencer, which offers a familiar view, comprising of a stack of vertical tracks. From here you can draw, edit and record MIDI events in a familiar piano roll, add automation and do pretty much anything else that is possible within a standard sequencer. However, one thing to note is that there are no score editing features in Reason 5/Record 1.5, so if this is important to you, then you will probably want to look elsewhere.

Moving on to Record 1.5, which handles everything to do with audio. Record 1.5 is structured much like Reason, so if you are familiar with one program, then you should find it fairly quick to pick up the other. It has the standard rack (for placing included software plug-ins) above the conventional sequencer window (with a stack of vertical tracks). Recording audio in Propellerhead Record 1.5 is much like recording audio in any other DAW, i.e. you set the inputs you want to record from, record enable the tracks you want to record to and away you go! You can even route audio out of Record 1.5 and then back in, so you can use external hardware processors on your audio. Just be aware that latency issues can rear their head if you produce a complex chain.

Once you have captured your takes then you can perform real-time time-stretching on the audio using one of 2 algorithms (which sound amazing and can be pushed very far before any unwanted artefacts are introduced), or add some of the included plug-ins to improve your sound.

Record takes a number of the plug-ins from Reason 5, including compressors, reverbs, etc, although of course, it does not include any of the software instruments. Perhaps most exciting of all is the inclusion of the Scream 4 distortion unit in Record 1.5, which now allows you to process real audio signals and sounds amazing on guitars!

Record 1.5 also comes with five vintage speaker cabinet and amp simulations from Line 6, which also sound brilliant on guitars, since they were designed by guitar effect specialists. Even better, if you own a Line 6 device with USB connectivity, then you can let Record 1.5 access any of the amp and cabinet models from that device to use in your project!

Perhaps the most exciting feature of Record 1.5 is the amazing main mixer, which was based on the SSL XLogic 9000K SuperAnalogue mixer. This beast gives you a host of professional features, including the option to patch low and high EQs into the dynamics for frequency sensitive compression, high and low filters plus 4 band eq, 8 switchable (pre-post fader) aux sends and much more!

Record 1.5 gives you the tools to perform a lot of handy audio edits. For example, you can easily create comps and it is even an easy task to crossfade between parts in a comp. The Record 1.5 interface can also extend to show the input and output levels for up to 64 audio channels, which is amazingly useful for monitoring!

Of course, one of the main disadvantages of using Reason 5/Record 1.5 is that you cannot incorporate third-party plug-ins into your work without using Rewire. Rewire is basically a feature that allows you to route Reason 5/Record 1.5 through another DAW, as long as the other DAW is also Rewire compatible. This is an excellent way of working if you desperately need to use a third party plug-in, although it does inevitably mean that you need to own another DAW as well, which may not be practical.

However, not being able to use third-party plug-ins is not the end of the world. There is no doubt that Reason 5/Record 1.5 comes bundled with enough plug-ins to produce complex professional projects, but it does also mean that you need to become quite skilled if you are to move your work away from that ‘Reason sound’, which can often be apparent if you rely too much on the instrument and effect presets.

However, on a highly positive note, not incorporating third party plug-ins means that Reason 5 and Record 1.5 are extremely stable products. Everything within the package is designed to work together and so you should find that Reason 5/Record 1.5 is one of the smoothest running DAWs available.

All in all, Reason 5 and Record 1.5 are both excellent products and if you are worrying about how the two programs interact, then don’t, because it is all very seamless. If you have both programs installed on your computer, then you don’t even have to launch them independently!
16. Sony Acid Pro 7

SONY ACID PRO 7

Pros:

• Very easy to use.
• Excellent bundled library with 3,000+ samples.
• Some excellent quality included plug-ins.
• Brilliant time-stretching algorithm.
• Excellent price.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• No built-in audio editor.
• Similar to Ableton Live, but not as powerful or flexible.
• Doesn't come with an expansive library of plug-ins compared with other DAWs.
• Not available on the Mac OS.

Available Platforms:

Windows

Plug-in Support:

VST, DX

Software in the Series:

Sony Acid Express 7: A free version of the Sony Acid software, although its limited flexibility probably means that it was only designed to lure people into buying the full version. For example, it only allows you to run a maximum of 10 tracks at once and it doesn't feature too many mixing and editing tools.
Sony Acid Music Studio 8: Sony Acid Music Studio gives you a complete home recording studio in one highly affordable package. Sony Acid Music Studio is aimed more at the hobbyist song-writer or producer rather than the professional, as it doesn't quite provide the flexibility of the Pro version (e.g. it can only record up to a quality of 16-bits/48kHz). That said, it does allow you to run an unlimited number of tracks and contains a number of excellent tools for professional track creation.
Sony Acid Pro 7: If you are serious about music creation and like the sound of Sony's Acid software, then Sony Acid Pro 7 is for you. It allows you to record up to a quality of 24-bits/192kHz, features tools for surround sound mixing, plus a number of other useful features such as Record Input monitoring.

CLICK HERE to visit the official Sony Acid site and view a comparison chart for all three pieces of software.

Download the Demo from:

Sony Acid Express 7: No demo available as it's already free!
Sony Acid Music Studio 8: CLICK HERE!
Sony Acid Pro 7: CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Sony Acid Express 7: CLICK HERE!
Sony Acid Music Studio 8: Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.
Sony Acid Pro 7: Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

 

Website:

www.sonycreativesoftware.com/acidsoftware

More Information:

Sony Acid Pro 7 is a fully capable professional DAW for a brilliant price, although compared to other DAWs it is still lagging behind a little. It doesn’t really have any unique selling points, but it does do all the basics well.

Sony Acid Pro 7 DAWSony Acid Pro 7 used to be the program to use if you wanted to easily timestretch loops, but since Ableton Live came along, it seems to have lost its place in the market a little, as Ableton Live is designed with the same basic working method in mind, but it is a much more flexible and complete package. However, Sony Acid Pro 7 is a lot easier to use than Abletonand as such is more beginner friendly, plus it employs a better sounding time-stretching algorithm (although it is more CPU heavy). Its automatic beat-matching functionality is not quite as good as Ableton though.In terms of included plug-ins, Sony Acid Pro 7 is not jam packed with them, but it does offer some excellent quality ones, designed by well respected third-party companies such as the guitar amp simulators from Native Instruments and effects from iZotope.Despite not having many stand-out features, its ease of use has made it a popular product with certain industry professionals. For those Dubstep fans out there, Sony Acid Pro is the DAW of choice for Rusko!
17. Steinberg Cubase 6

STEINBERG CUBASE 6

Pros:

• Excellent video tutorials included on a DVD.
• VST Expression 2 – allows articulations per MIDI note – very cool!
• VariAudio – allows you to change the pitch of notes within a mono-audio recording, much like Melodyne – again, very cool!
• Very good automatic tempo detection feature.
• Can resize and reshape MIDI controller data using handles.
• Excellent time-stretching algorithms.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Some useful features aren’t immediately available and are difficult to find.
• Support has been dropped for Windows XP and Vista.
• The range of bundled plug-ins is not as expansive as its rivals.
• Using 32-bit plug-ins on the 64-bit version of Cubase can cause problems.

Available Platforms:

Windows, Mac

Plug-in Support:

VST

Software in the Series:

Steinberg Cubase Elements 6: Described as the entry version into the world of Cubase, Elements 6 is the least feature-rich of all the Cubase 6 versions. It limits the number of audio, MIDI and instrument tracks (to 48, 64 and 24 respectively), only comes with approximately one quarter of included instrument sounds compared with the full Cubase 6 version and doesn't include a host of useful tools that help speed up your workflow, like a Project Browser, MIDI devices, etc. That said, it is still a very powerful piece of software for the price.
Steinberg Cubase Artist 6: Steps up from Cubase Elements 6 by including a host more useful features and allowing you to run more tracks at once. With Cubase Artist 6 you can perform sidechain processing, advanced comping, etc. However, it is still lacking in some areas. For example, it also doesn't include a Project Browser and it doesn't support VST Expression.
Steinberg Cubase 6: If you want the real deal when it comes to professional features, then Cubase 6 could well be it. It features a load more features than Cubase Artist 6, including VST Expression, audio tempo detection, more plug-ins, surround sound mixing, plus a lot more!

CLICK HERE to visit the official Steinberg site to view a comparison chart for all three pieces of software.

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

Steinberg Cubase Elements 6: CLICK HERE!
Steinberg Cubase Artist 6: CLICK HERE!
Steinberg Cubase 6: CLICK HERE!

Also check out our range of upgrade and educational packages, plus other Steinberg hardware and software: CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/cubase6_start.html

More Information:

Steinberg’s Cubase has been a market-leading DAW for a long time now and for good reason. It is used by a wealth of professional producers across the world and is jam packed full of advanced features, as well as handling all the basics very well – it is excellent for editing MIDI and audio and even contains a score editor.

One of the main unique features of Cubase 6 is the newly developed VST Expression 2. This is a thoroughly awesome feature that allows you to apply articulations to individual MIDI notes! In the past, if you wanted to edit a MIDI chord, you would have had to edit the whole chord together (e.g. if you wanted to apply a pitch bend, you would have to pitch bend all the notes in the chord). With VST Expression 2, this limitation has been overcome and so you could for example, just pitch bend one note in a chord, or you could alter the modulation or volume of each MIDI note independently, etc, etc. It’s a very, very powerful tool to have at your disposal and can either be used creatively or to make a software instrument performance appear much more natural by adding in subtle nuances. Plus, it is all done using a very intuitive editor that pops up over each note.

However, whilst this is no doubt an awesome development by Steinberg, it isn’t quite as exciting as it first appears as there is some bad news; to edit MIDI notes independently, the virtual instrument must be compatible with VST Expression 2 and at present there aren’t many that are. In fact, you either have to use the bundled HALion Sonic SE, or the HALion Symphonic Orchestra expansion pack to make use of it. However, hopefully more third party manufacturers will take up the challenge of implementing VST Expression 2 compatibility, because this is a very powerful tool indeed.

Moving onto the other main unique feature of Cubase 6, which is called VariAudio. If you have ever used Melodyne before, then you will be immediately familiar with how this works. VariAudio detects how the pitch of an audio recording changes over time and then allows you to see how near to being a ‘perfect’ note the audio is and change the pitch of audio sections as you desire. This tool is useful for a whole host of things. For example, you can fix dodgy notes in a vocal performance (to make people sound like they can sing when they really can’t!), you can produce the famous Cher effect by dramatically shifting a vocal recording in pitch, or you can simply alter the melody of an audio recording. This can all be achieved within the Cubase sample editor and the only limitation is that Cubase cannot detect different notes within a chord.

As well as the features already mentioned, Steinberg Cubase 6 also includes excellent tempo detection tools. For example, you can record a performance without a click and then automatically map the project’s tempo to the recording and Cubase 6 can also automatically detect and adjust musical events that are off-time. You can even group tracks in this process, which is useful if for example, you are working with a miked drum kit and want Cubase to process all tracks as one to avoid synchronisation problems.

Despite all the positive points of Cubase, there are of course things that the program does not do so well. The main negative point about Cubase is that it does not come with nearly as many bundled plug-ins compared to its main rivals such as Logic. The instruments and effects that it comes with are still very good though and can still be used to create highly professional and polished tracks, but you will probably be tempted to reach for your wallet and purchase additional plug-ins earlier compared with some of the other big-name DAWs.

One annoying point for Windows users is that Steinberg have also dropped support for Windows XP and Vista. This doesn’t mean that Cubase 6 doesn’t work on these platforms – it does! It just means that they are no longer testing updates on these platforms, so you may begin to find bugs creeping in, which will obviously be very annoying. If you are using Windows 7 then you will be fine though, although like all DAWs, Cubase still does have it’s fair share of minor bugs. For example, Cubase can sometimes act unpredictably when using 32-bit plug-ins in 64-bit mode.
18. Steinberg Nuendo 5

STEINBERG NUENDO 5

Pros:

Pros:
• Contains a number of excellent tools for integrating audio with video.
• Excellent Marker features.
• Clip Packages.
• Good surround sound editing.
• Rewire support.

Cons:

• Need to purchase an expansion pack if you want all the standard Cubase instruments, VST Expression and a score editor.
• If you are working more with audio (not so much video), then it is probably best to get a different DAW that is geared more towards your needs as opposed to post-production, as you will find that Nuendo has a lot of features that you probably won't use.
• Quicktime is not yet supported with the 64-bit version of Nuendo.

Available Platforms:

Windows & Mac

Plug-in Support:

VST

Software in the Series:

Just the one - the monster that is Nuendo 5!

Download the Demo from:

None available :(

Purchase the Full Version:

Steinberg Nuendo: Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.
Steinberg Nuendo Expression Kit: Call us on 01202 597180 or use our Live Chat service for a quote.

 

Website:

www.steinberg.net/en/products/nuendo.html

More Information:

If you are after a DAW that is geared towards recording and post-production for both audio and video, then Nuendo is probably the DAW for you. Whilst it has a similar look to the popular Cubase DAW, its special features are designed to help speed up your workflow when working in the post-production stage. Nuendo is a perfect partner for post-production editors, film mixers and recording engineers.

Nuendo has been used on a number of high-profile movies such as Sex and the City, Coraline, X-Men Wolverine, The Queen, The Hangover and 2012 and so its pedigree is unquestionable. However, it is also a popular industry product for working with sound for computer games, television shows and adverts.

If you need to capture live audio recordings then Nuendo is fully equipped, as it contains a similar architecture to Cubase. It even includes features from Cubase such as VariAudio, which works in a similar way to Melodyne, by letting you shift the pitch of sections of an audio recording to rectify problems or create strange effects. Nuendo also gives you all the tools you need to refine your recordings, featuring a De-Esser to correct sibilants, a highly detailed convolution reverb and more than 50 other plug-ins such as a surround panner and the Pitch Driver, for altering the pitch of sounds in realtime.

However, whilst audio recording and editing is similar to Cubase, there are of course some differences, due to the fact that Nuendo is designed for a slightly different purpose. For example, the mixer in Nuendo also employs a waveform view on each channel strip. This gives you a view of the current position of the timeline ruler with regard to audio events from within the mixer, preventing you from having to switch between the mixer and arranger windows.

As I have already mentioned, Nuendo has a number of features that make it ideal for linking audio to video and whilst it is impossible to mention them all in such a brief description, we will give you a little description of a couple of useful features.

Steinberg Nuendo DAWThe way you work with markers in Nuendo is very intuitive if you are working with video and audio. You can assign a number of attributes to markers to indicate exactly what they are representing. For example, you can assign a character name, dialogue text, etc, to a marker to indicate exactly who should be speaking and exactly what they should be saying at specific points in time and there is even a ‘Record Done’ tick boxin the marker list to indicate when a recording has been completed. The Marker List also features a handy filter function so that you can only view the markers that are specific to a certain situation (e.g. all the points in time when you need to make recordings for a specific character).Staying on the topic of markers (which are a very handy tool in post production), it is also possible to create multiple marker tracks in Nuendo, which is pretty much essential when you are likely to need to create a whole load of markers! For example, why not create a marker track for each individual character’s cue points and a separate marker track for sound effects?The Clip Package feature is another very handy inclusion in Steinberg Nuendo. If you have a collection of events that you are likely to want to use multiple times and across multiple projects (e.g. a layered sound clip), then you can create a Clip Package, which allows you to keep all the events separate (for further editing if needed), whilst grouping them together in one convenient file. The Clip Package stores all chosen audio events along with their positions relative to each other in terms of time and track location and allows you to load them back again in any project via the Pool or Media Bay. What is extra useful is that Clip Packages also store automation!If you need more MIDI instruments and tools, then the Nuendo Expansion Kit (NEK) is also available, which provides you with a range of additional instruments such as the LoopMash (which as the name suggests is excellent for chopping up loops to create new and interesting sounds), Groove Agent One (for drum sampling), Beat Designer, VST Expression (an awesome tool from Cubase for adding articulations to MIDI on a per-note basis), a notation editor, a drum editor and list editor, plus a number of other instruments such as the HALion ONE sampler and many more.
19. Steinberg Sequel 2

STEINBERG SEQUEL 2

Pros:

• Simple and easy to use.
• Single window interface.
• Comes with 5000 loops and 600 instrument presets.
• Makes use of lots of graphics for quick visual references.
• Audio reversing and warping.
• Very easy to map an external controller to the software’s controls.
• Great price.

Cons:

• No third-party plug-in support.
• Limited mixing capabilities even compared to other budget DAWs.
• Only a few basic controls for each included effect.
• No advanced comping features.
• Can’t produce time signature or tempo changes.

Available Platforms:

Windows, Mac

Plug-in Support:

No third party plug-ins are supported.

Software in the Series:

Just Sequel 2.

Download the Demo from:

CLICK HERE!

Purchase the Full Version:

CLICK HERE!

Website:

www.sequel-music.net/en

More Information:

Steinberg Sequel 2 is essentially a DAW dedicated to beginners and hobbyist song-writers. Whilst it shares a few similarities with its (much) bigger sibling, Cubase, it is certainly not as powerful or flexible and so for someone wanting to get into serious music production, it is highly recommended to go for a Cubase product rather than Sequel. Producers of electronic music would especially be advised to go down this direction, due to the limited flexibility of Sequel 2, although for hobbyist song writers, the simple interface and low cost of Sequel could be an ideal solution. That said, if you do not currently have the budget to purchase Cubase 6, Sequel is a good way to introduce yourself to the world of the DAW.

Steinberg Sequel 2 does all the simple things very well and so for the amateur, it should seem appealing. All the controls of Sequel 2 are housed within a single window interface and there are hardly any right-click menus that need to be learned. If you find it easier to work with graphics then you can easily assign pictures (either the bundled ones, or images of your own) to recorded parts to form quick visual references.

Steinberg Sequel 2 DAWIt is also an extremely simple task to set-up a MIDI controller with Sequel 2. All you have to do is click the ‘Edit Remote Control Assignment’ button (which appears at the top of the main window). All parameters that can be mapped are then displayed within a black frame and you simply click the one you want to control, move the relevant controller on your MIDI device and it’s all done!However, whilst Sequel 2 can do the simple things well, its features don’t extend too much further (although you can perform some more complex audio operations such as reversing and audio warping). Sequel 2 seems to have limited mixing capabilities compared to most other DAWs on the market and this is not helped by the fact that it employs a fixed signal path on each channel (compression, EQ, plus two other effects and 2 global effects). Each effect also only contains a few basic controls (which may be good for the beginner, but not for the more advanced user) and Sequel 2 does not feature any tools for allowing you to create tempo or time signature changes, which does limit how creative you can be with the software.Whilst Sequel 2 does include the impressive HALion One instrument, as well as 5000 loops and 600 instrument presets and it allows you to incorporate additional HALion content sets, the main problem with Steinberg Sequel 2 is that it does not allow you to incorporate additional plug-ins. This means that you will always be limited to the instruments and effects that you get with Sequel and whilst this may not be a problem for the hobbyist, the serious producer will almost certainly require more flexibility.
20. Summary

SUMMARY

So, there you have it! Hopefully you now have a better idea of the differences between each of the main DAWs and have whittled down the extensive list to the two or three that you think will suit you best. The thing to do now is to try a few demos, watch a few Youtube videos and have fun making music!

Hopefully you have also learned that essentially most DAWs do exactly the same things - they just do them in different ways and some make certain things easier than others. Therefore the real key is to just choose one DAW (preferably one that you think best suits your way of working), sit down and use it as much as you can. Once you have been using a DAW and learnt it inside out, then it is unlikely that you will every want to change. After all, the more you use a DAW, the more comfortable you will feel with it and the faster your workflow will become.

That said, if you feel that there is something that we have missed out, or just simply have some more questions, then CLICK HERE to visit our DAW forum where you can start a topic and ask for help. Also note that this article was compiled in June 2011, so take note of the DAW versions, as future updates are likely to feature improvements.

Have fun making music!


This post was posted in Computer Music, How To Guides, Product News and was tagged with avid, cubase, daw, logic, pro tools, propellerhead, reason, record, software, Steinberg

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