Digital Audio Workstations – How to Choose
What to Look For in Your Best Digital Audio Workstation
A Digital Audio Workstation is you used to record, edit, and mix your music. Often times these will be used to master your work as well. From a technical perspective this terminology will include the software, audio interface and all of the other related gear that connects to it.
The key components to consider in the design of your DAW are the computer, audio interface and studio monitors. Then there are the other parts that will vary depending on whether or not you’ll be recording live instruments and vocals, or using your system as a composer, or doing production related work. The live work will require mics, processors, preamps and other related gear while the mixer and producer in you may be interested in looking at control surfaces and midi controllers .
As we previously discussed in our home page there are many supporting arguments for both Windows and Mac environments, and nowadays you can run just about any type of DAW on a Mac or in Windows. No reason to change your OS to accommodate a perceived difference. Stick with what you’re happy with.
Your audio interface will take some planning to identify what your needs will be:
- Your number of channels required – for recording individual tracks
- Mic preamps – this determines how many mics you can use
- Audio resolution – typically you’ll want to record in 24-bit/48kHz or 24-bit/96kHz
- Headphone amplifier outputs – minimum of two outputs
- Is your interface connected to your computer via USB 3 or thunderbolt or possibly a different type of connection
Now let’s look at the various recording software applications in the marketplace. There is a handful that reign very well these days. Keep in mind that the manner in which you will be creating your work will determine which software will be the best fit for your goals.
Avid Pro Tools
If you intend to record live sessions, large or small and will be working with professional studios, Avid Pro Tools is a great solution. Avid Pro Tools has been the ‘Go To’ DAW for close to thirty years. While it is designed to record many tracks simultaneously, it has its own plug-in format, handles latency issues very well. Great for composing as it easily integrates controllers and other peripheral writing tools. Still the cleanest audio editing workflow today. Avid Pro Tools continues to set the industry standard today.
Steinberg Cubase is another great software and caters more to the electronic music writer, songwriters and composers. It started out around two decades ago as a Midi only sequencer. As a result of their development Steinberg Cubase works well with hardware and software synthesizers. VST plugins are a huge strength for Steinberg Cubase as well.
PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio One was one of the most popular DAW’s ever produced when it was released in 2009 and was used by prominent professional users largely because of its integrated mastering capabilities and ease of use and versatility.
MOTU Digital Performer
Another great software for midi environments is MOTU Digital Performer. They were one of the first Mac applications available in 1984 and quickly evolved into one of the first sequencers designed to work with new midi protocols. A half decade later they rebranded themselves as the Digital Performer as it included digital audio support. In both PC and Mac environments it is widely popular. So if you’re a composer looking for a solid depth of midi in an application, this is a good one to look into.
We’ve discussed only four of a much larger list here, primarily because these DAW’s deal directly with live performance and composition capabilities. Most of these are available in different versions and they range from lite releases to the full blown pro versions. So the lite releases will generally provide a little content with some limitations, the middle release typically will be a full version, and the pro version will have the full content and a lot of bonus content. If you’re at all uncertain, it would be good decision to go with the standard version but don’t overlook the value of the bonuses in the pro versions.
When it is all said and done, the best digital audio workstation software for you, is the one you are most comfortable with, and ‘hands down’ gets you to that Brilliant Sound you set out to achieve!