Where do things stand with the current crop of top DAWs?
PreSonus Studio One 2.5 is the “youngest” DAW on our list, yet even it is considered a mature piece of software.
MOTU’s Digital Performer DAW has long been a Mac-only product, but is now Windows compatible.
Most of us base our studios around digital audio workstations (DAWs) running as software on Macs and PCs. So when a new version of our DAW of choice is released, it’s big news. New versions mean new features, new capabilities, and, potentially, a new learning curve. Fortunately, the major DAWs are all mature pieces of software that have been around for quite awhile. Even the new kid on the block—PreSonus Studio One—is now a few years old and well into its second version. Not only that, it was designed by a programmer with a huge amount of experience from previously working on a successful DAW for another company. So where do things stand with the current crop of top DAWs? Here’s a quick rundown.
Avid Pro Tools 11
The big dog in the DAW world has made a major move with Pro Tools 11. The spotlight change is the move to 64-bit support (64-bit referring to how the software uses computer resources such as memory, not how it handles audio). This is a big deal. In fact, there are many changes under the hood of Pro Tools 11 that promise greatly enhanced performance. This version does mark the end of the line for Avid’s older plug-in formats because Pro Tools 11 only supports AAX format plug-ins. Fortunately, if you still need access to your older plug-ins, Pro Tools 11 includes a “co-install” for Pro Tools 10, which still supports RTAS format.
Propellerhead Reason 7
Among the newest releases in our tour is Reason 7, having just been released as I’m writing this column. Reason offers a very powerful environment for music creation, with racks of effects, synths, drum machines, loop players, and samplers, as well as a mixer modeled on a million-dollar SSL console. Reason 7 brings new features such as audio quantizing (time correction), easier mixer routings, a new Spectrum EQ, the Audiomatic Retro Transformer for adding personality to tracks, and the ability to drive external MIDI hardware devices from within Reason.
Steinberg Cubase 7
Cubase 7 ups the ante with a new, friendlier mix console with integrated equalizers and dynamics processing (compressor, gate, etc.). There are 66 new processors included, along with eight virtual instruments boasting more than 2,800 sounds. The new Chord Track feature helps with composition, songwriting, and arranging. Other powerful new features include VariAudio 2.0, which can be used to instantly create complex harmony parts. There are also tons of workflow improvements, designed to make music creation easier and faster.
MOTU Digital Performer 8
The major news in this version of Digital Performer is Windows support. A Maconly piece of software from birth, Digital Performer now jumps the chasm over to the PC world. Digital Performer is also 64-bit compatible on both platforms, optimizing the use of computer resources. And Digital Performer 8 comes bundled with powerful new virtual instruments and plug-ins. A cool one in particular is a modeled spring reverb called “Springamabob.”
Ableton Live 9
Live has always been popular with the loop-based crowd, but with this new version, it moves even more solidly into the studio DAW camp. Among the powerful new features is audio-to-MIDI conversion, which allows you to play a part on your guitar, convert it to MIDI, and then use it to drive a synthesizer sound—no special pickup required. You can even convert beat-boxing into drum parts. Other new features include a redesigned browser for finding content, automation enhancements, and a new library of content.
PreSonus Studio One 2.5
The latest version of Studio One includes more than 100 enhancements, including all new plug-ins. One example is Ampire XT, an amp/effects/cabinet modeling plug-in. Transient Detection allows you to quantize (time correct) multitrack drum parts. And Celemony’s amazing Melodyne is built-in, so you also have pitch correction available. PreSonus Exchange is an available free service/feature that lets you share and download content—such as effects chains, presets, soundsets, and more—with other users. Automation has been improved, and there are new file export options.
Cakewalk Sonar X2
With Digital Performer’s move to Windows, Sonar remains one of the only DAWs that support just one platform—Windows, in this case. The advantage to that is that Sonar is optimized for Windows, and with Windows 8 it gains some neat new features, such as support for large, multi-gesture touch screens. The Skylight user interface has been revamped, and there are many new enhancements, plugins, and instruments. This is a big update for Sonar, and this latest version no longer supports Windows XP or Vista. You’ll need Windows 7 or Windows 8 to run the software.
This is not a comprehensive list of DAWs, but the good news is there are so many options that can be used to create a professional production, from basic demos to full-on, major-label releases. Should you jump ship from your current DAW to one of these shiny new releases? If your current DAW is doing the job, then you may be happiest (and have the shortest learning curve) by simply updating to a new version. However, if one of the others has features you need or want, then it may be time to make a change. Fortunately, most DAWs offer trial versions, and the affordably priced “competitive upgrade” offers may entice you from one program to another.
Mitch Gallagher's latest book is Guitar Tone: Pursuing the Ultimate Guitar Sound. He is the former Editor in Chief of EQ magazine. In addition to being a writer, he is a freelance recording engineer/producer/mastering engineer, teaches music business and audio recording at Indiana University/Purdue University, and is Sweetwater’s Editorial Director. mitchgallagher.com.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.