The digital audio workstation is the central nervous system of the recording studio, so as such it needs to be perfect. Choosing the best DAW for your needs can be a big challenge because of the variety available on the market today.
Normally you would have a computer, the DAW software, a soundcard, and an input device such as a controller in order to control what’s happening on the screen in front of you.
It sounds pretty easy, but it can be difficult.
The DAWn of the DAW
Integrated DAWs were the best choice years ago, where it consisted of a fully integrated system that had the mixer, controller, storage, and interface all rolled up into one package. Just the console automation alone was a big selling point because you could set the track sliders to move on their own! Isn’t that cool?
But now with powerful computers in everyone’s home, all you really need is a software-based DAW. And there are plenty of them.
Reason has got to be one of the best DAWs out there today, period. At first it started off as more or less like a rack-based system, making you feel like you were in a real studio. You could add units to your rack and have an entire studio setup right in front of you. Plus, the fact that you could switch to the back of the units and rearrange the cables – that was awesome.
Now Reason is more than just that. Version 8 was just released and it’s a complete DAW, no question about it. You can do everything in it, and even if it has a few shortfalls that don’t make it as powerful as something like Pro Tools, it’s still great.
I recently saw a video of DJ Babu that had done a demonstration of how he makes his beats using Recycle and Reason, and he seemed to know the ins and outs of that thing like it was nobody’s business. In a more recent video, he’s using Live. Why is that? If you take a look at the video, he also has a Pro Tools rig right there as well, but that’s not being used.
It’s funny if you think about it though because as producers, we tend to stick with what we know and what’s comfortable, but when a new product comes along we always have to try it out. And can anyone blame us? If it can help improve our workflow then why not? That’s the great thing about audio production because you can use whatever you want and bounce around between different software. However, it could also backfire.
Before I got my hands on Maschine, this is how I would make a beat:
- Chop drum samples in Adobe Audition.
- Import drum sounds in Reason.
- Create drum loop.
- Export drum loop on separate tracks.
- Import tracks into Sonar.
- Then do the same with other sounds, minus step #2.
I had it down to a science, but it was very time-consuming. So when I finally sat down to learn Maschine, I was so glad that I could finally do pretty much everything in that one piece of software.
I started with Cakewalk Pro Audio back in the day and moved up to Sonar, and to this day it’s still the DAW I use, but I have also tried other DAWs just to see what they do. But for me, Sonar is still it. It’s like someone that prefers to wear Nike shoes – they could try Adidas and they’re fine, but they just prefer Nike. The same goes for a DAW.
What Are Your Needs?
This is the only question you should really ask yourself when choosing a DAW. The reason why I mention this is because when the Bitwig DAW came out not too long ago, everyone seemed to want to try it, including myself.
But the fact that everyone went crazy over Bitwig’s release, that tells me that people want more from their DAW, or at the very least they just want to try something new because they’re bored. And that’s where Bitwig does stand out from the rest because of the way it takes a traditional DAW and makes it into something more interactive. My first impression was that it looks and acts like a cross between an app and a browser because it’s very user friendly.
If you prefer a traditional DAW, choose one of these:
If you prefer a DAW with something different, choose one of these:
You may not need the latest DAW on the market, because there’s nothing wrong with using Cakewalk Pro Audio today (as long as you don’t upgrade your system). There is really no need to change your DAW unless you just feel like having a drastic change, otherwise stick with what you know.