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PatrickJ

Which DAW?

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The only DAW I've ever really used is Cubase, the free version got bundled with some hardware and I've stuck with it ever since.  At some point I got elements and since then paying just £20 to upgrade to the latest version has kept me going with it.

Since lock down I've been recording more, not just my own projects but also some bits and pieces for friends and family and I wondering whether to stick with Cubase and possibly upgrade to 11 and Artist edition or look to move to something else.   I did play with Pro Tools first for a little while and I found it very intuitive but the limitations of First were so frustrating I gave up after a week or so.  I would happily pay for the software but the monthly subscription for Pro-Tools seems excessively high.

What other options are there?  I see Reaper mentioned a lot on this forum and Ableton pops up in the best DAWs articles on the web.  Any recommendations from the BC community?

My laptop is a Windows based machine and I have little interest in moving to Mac OS or running Ubuntu.  

Thanks

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I'm a big fan of Presonus Studio One. Although I don't have a lot to compare to. I initially tried Reaper and didn't get on with it. Tried Studio One and it was leaps and bounds better. Far more intuitive, better laid out, graphically nicer, and much easier to use, at least for me anyway. 

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As posted elsewhere, I used Adobe Audition for donkey's years...it was fairly easy to use, but I soon found that I needed to formulate workarounds to make it do what I wanted.  I migrated to Cakewalk last year; the package is free and I have little need/desire to pay for anything they offer (Sonor/Rapture/Dimension).  It does everything I'll ever need it to do.

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2 hours ago, PatrickJ said:

...What other options are there?...

A lot depends on the way you approach the music you're making, and, to a lesser extent, which genre(s). Some are very good with manipulating samples, others are more adapted to 'live' takes, and the use of MIDI and/or virtual instruments counts, too. I can't speak for all the other uses, but I've been using Reaper for well over a decade, and it's done everything I've asked of it, whatever the genre. It didn't come easily, the first day, but is possibilities are far in excess of anything I'll be able to come up with. One advantage I've found (for me...) is that Reaper does not distinguish between types of track. Any track can be recorded audio, or samples, or MIDI, so, when mixing, I just have to do the faders, and not think about how the sound was made. It takes all the virtual instruments I need, including orchestral ensembles and suites, several drum simulators and any samples I care to use. I create a very diverse, modest load of nonsense, and Reaper allows me to try all sorts of stuff, for very modest cost.
Hope this helps (but it's unlikely...). :friends:

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I have found Tracktion Waveform pretty intuitive.  The free version does what I need for straightforward 8 & 16 channel recording. As per @Dad3353 the software has capabilities far beyond my requirements. Got some (imo) really good live recordings with very little post processing needed.  Playing with plugins (and impulses) could easily become a rabbit hole. The pro version seems well priced. Runs in Linux, Windows & Mac. https://www.tracktion.com/products/waveform-free.  You could also investigate Ardour https://ardour.org/  

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Posted (edited)

I'm Mac based and have been using logic since the EMagic days (it's great but obvs not for PC) but have migrated to Ableton Live over the last 5 yrs. It's amazing but does demand a bit of a reset in how one approaches composition to get the most out of it. It also leans heavily towards electronic music but I've been using it very happily indeed for more guitar/bass/drums stuff as well. 

Ableton has been absorbing the best things about Logic (take lanes for example) while Logic seemed a bit weird the last time I used it so I can't see myself going back.

So, thumbs up from me for Ableton Live if a) you have the time and b) interest in an absorbing learning curve.

Edited by Cairobill
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7 hours ago, Newfoundfreedom said:

I'm a big fan of Presonus Studio One. Although I don't have a lot to compare to. I initially tried Reaper and didn't get on with it. Tried Studio One and it was leaps and bounds better. Far more intuitive, better laid out, graphically nicer, and much easier to use, at least for me anyway. 

Interesting. I use Studio One and am thinking about moving to Reaper. Like the OP I got Studio One bundled with hardware (Presonus Adiobox) and stuck with it.

Three things pushing  me:

1 - Reaper does Video

2 - Reaper gets a good press on Basschat, but don't hear much love for Studio One (until now).

3 - I seem to get worse mixes on Studio One that I did from my old Zoom four-track Memory card box.

 

I guess I'll adopt Reaper to at least add video to my tracks, and maybe record them in Reaper too.

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Posted (edited)

Huge, huge fan of Cubase. I started with AI last June and now have Pro 11. Cant state now impressed i am with it. Its not cheap (£250), but as I spend so much time playing with it, it worked out a lot cheaper than a new instrument. Plus it comes with tons of synths sounds. 

Edited by dave_bass5
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Are you looking to do just audio, or video too? 

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Posted (edited)

Just Audio.

I have Premeire Elements for Video.

Edited by PatrickJ

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6 minutes ago, PatrickJ said:

Just Audio.

I have Premeire Elements for Video.

Personally I’d stick with CB Elements if you already have it. What do you find lacking?

Everyone will have their favourite and will recommend it, but IME the best is the one you can work the fastest in, doesn’t get in the way, and does what you need it to do. If you are comfortable with Elements then I’d stick with it until you reach a limitation, then maybe upgrade to Artist if you don’t want to go all the way to Pro. 

I only upgraded from Elements to Pro because I wanted more Synths and some of the clever stuff sounded interesting. I didnt feel Elements lacking for getting the job done though. I now have both Elements and Pro, and although i cant see me needing to ever use Elements, i can see I’m really only touching the surface in Pro at the moment. 

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I did struggle to find a DAW I got on with since migrating from hardware multitrackers 4 or 5 years ago. Reaper was my first choice, but I found it impenetrable & unintuitive, and the manuals garbled. Then tried Studio One - mine too, came as a free bung with some hardware. Seemed more accessible but my supposedly fully functional free copy started regularly deciding my evaluation period had expired. And so did my interest in the software.

Tried Tracktion (forerunner of Waveform) after that - liked it a lot at first, very accessible, easy to get up & running - but the more involved I got, the less sense the workflow made. I found the lack of a distinct mixer view incredibly fiddly, with everything crammed into the end of the track window, and when rendering a stereo file, for reasons I couldn't fathom all MIDI instruments went fractionally out-of-time. Particularly obvious & frustrating with drums.

So - I've gone full circle & come back to Reaper - and I love it. This time I decided to largely ignore the impenetrable documentation and avail myself of the many YouTube tutorials available, just to grasp the basic principles and get up & running. I'm still only scratching the surface but so far I think it's a great piece of software, very flexible and definitely fits my way of working. It's stupidly inexpensive considering how powerful it is - and comes with what's effectively a permanent evaluation period, if you begrudge the developers their measly $60.

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7 hours ago, dave_bass5 said:

Personally I’d stick with CB Elements if you already have it. What do you find lacking?

Everyone will have their favourite and will recommend it, but IME the best is the one you can work the fastest in, doesn’t get in the way, and does what you need it to do. If you are comfortable with Elements then I’d stick with it until you reach a limitation, then maybe upgrade to Artist if you don’t want to go all the way to Pro. 

I only upgraded from Elements to Pro because I wanted more Synths and some of the clever stuff sounded interesting. I didnt feel Elements lacking for getting the job done though. I now have both Elements and Pro, and although i cant see me needing to ever use Elements, i can see I’m really only touching the surface in Pro at the moment. 

Cubase doesn't lack anything per se, or at least nothing that an upgrade to Artist Edition wouldn't solve.   

But it's a £190 for me to do that so I thought I'd look at alternative options - since I've only ever used Cubase and technology has moved on I was wondering if there was something more innovative available.  Maybe Alberton falls into that category - although I've not tried Reaper I've watched a number of videos and it feels like a step backwards, Studio One is cut very much from the same cloth as Cubase, Pro Tools is prohibitively expensive so for me it seems like sticking with Cubase is probably the right decision.

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I've not yet found the limits of Elements, even the bundled VSTs and effects are enough for me for now. I love how simple it is to use.

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2 hours ago, PatrickJ said:

Cubase doesn't lack anything per se, or at least nothing that an upgrade to Artist Edition wouldn't solve.   

But it's a £190 for me to do that so I thought I'd look at alternative options - since I've only ever used Cubase and technology has moved on I was wondering if there was something more innovative available.  Maybe Alberton falls into that category - although I've not tried Reaper I've watched a number of videos and it feels like a step backwards, Studio One is cut very much from the same cloth as Cubase, Pro Tools is prohibitively expensive so for me it seems like sticking with Cubase is probably the right decision.

Yes, stick with Elements for now, its very good and if its 11 its bang up to date. When i got my synth last year i got AI with it and wasnt too bothered. I was using Cakewalk by Bandlab at the time. This is actually more specified than Elements, and free, but i struggled with it. It didn’t seem too user friendly to me. I tried AI and took to it straight away. I had used Cubase VST decades ago but this is nothing like it. I did the upgrade to Elements and all was good, but a rouge midi file gave me issues that Pro or Artist could sort out so i tried the demo. I also found the ability to speed tracks up that had midi and audio in them has been handy, as well as tempo matching and quantising audio tracks, so i have no regrets about going to Pro. I just won’t ever use all the features.

Here’s the thing. To go from AI to Artist is £120. To go from AI to Pro is £245. Once you upgrade to Elements you cant take these routes, and like you say, it starts getting even more expensive. What i did was ask around on FB to see if anyone had a licence for AI I could have. I was luckily that i was given one, so the cost to Pro wasn't as high as it could have been. Ive just given away a licence to AI that it got recently, otherwise I’d let you have it. They’re are loads of unused  ones around if you do want to go that route. Look in the Yamaha Montage/MODX groups, or recording groups as it comes with Steinberg interfaces as well, and most people already have CB of come sort.  Artist is quire a big jump up IMO, no need to go Pro. 

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Maybe I should just download the trial versions of some of these DAWs, just to see, as, for the moment, I just don't understand exactly what the difference is. I've looked at the spec for Elements, and its cost, and can't see anything in there that makes it more attractive, to me. It says, for instance, that Elements allows  three Vst instruments at a time in a project. I couldn't do a fifth of what I do with such a limitation; sometimes I have more than three drum kits, let alone the orchestral parts..! I've looked at the screen screenshots, for the layout, and see only similitude with Reaper (or maybe it's the other way around..?). I see tracks, plug-in windows, mixing faders, transport buttons... Nothing radically different involving organic lifeforms or spreadsheet columns. I don't doubt that everyone picks up a certain familiarity with keyboard short-cuts, or has a more or less need for sophistication in the rendering quality, or even the need to share projects, real-time, over t'web, but without something radical of the sort, I really can't see the fuss. My ignorance, certainly, but I'll try to educate myself and give some of these others a chance to shine. I've tried Harrison, for instance, but, for reasons I've not yet understood, it crashes when trying to direct it to a Vst folder, so I haven't been able to 'give it a whirl' (yet...). Maybe I'd be better at guidance if, from experience, I had wider vision of these things. We'll see... :)

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Posted (edited)

When i was looking at the chart for the various versions of CB, i had to think long and hard if I really wanted to go higher. Wasn’t bothered by a lot of what the top tier offered on paper. I spent ages comparing them and Artist seemed to be the one to go for, especially  you for £120.. When i tried the demo for Pro (i needed its features to change a track) i found a lot of small things that made working with it much  faster and it could do things I hadn’t thought of/was possible. I’m glad i didnt base my purchase decision on what i was doing at the time. The ability to not only automatically quantise any audio track, but too be able to manually move any section of it around so it fits is pretty cool, as is the ability to correct vocals lines on a per note basis. You can even change the Formant of a voice. Things I didn’t think I’d need, but use them a lot (maybe I should have got the signers to chip in). Ive recently discovered the Quaradfuzz 2 plugin and now putting that over everything lol.

Also Frequency 2 EQ is just amazing. Sounds boring, nothing could be further from the truth. This is what ive found with a lot of the VST’s that I had no initial interest in. I think if you have a load of plugins already then its not quite as clear cut, but other than Ozone i didnt, so for me CB was an all in one package. Those plugins can soon add up.

If its was just for me redoing at home on keys I wouldn’t have bothered, but doing the band stuff i wanted  all the comps, amp sims etc, and the ability  to line audio up to different tempos etc. Its all come in very handy and it makes doing all this a real pleasure. I don’t intend to buy 3rd party plugins, CB has it all, plus it has loads more synths and synths sound. Its just more complete to me. 

Edited by dave_bass5
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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, dave_bass5 said:

Yes, stick with Elements for now, its very good and if its 11 its bang up to date. When i got my synth last year i got AI with it and wasnt too bothered. I was using Cakewalk by Bandlab at the time. This is actually more specified than Elements, and free, but i struggled with it. It didn’t seem too user friendly to me. I tried AI and took to it straight away. I had used Cubase VST decades ago but this is nothing like it. I did the upgrade to Elements and all was good, but a rouge midi file gave me issues that Pro or Artist could sort out so i tried the demo. I also found the ability to speed tracks up that had midi and audio in them has been handy, as well as tempo matching and quantising audio tracks, so i have no regrets about going to Pro. I just won’t ever use all the features.

Here’s the thing. To go from AI to Artist is £120. To go from AI to Pro is £245. Once you upgrade to Elements you cant take these routes, and like you say, it starts getting even more expensive. What i did was ask around on FB to see if anyone had a licence for AI I could have. I was luckily that i was given one, so the cost to Pro wasn't as high as it could have been. Ive just given away a licence to AI that it got recently, otherwise I’d let you have it. They’re are loads of unused  ones around if you do want to go that route. Look in the Yamaha Montage/MODX groups, or recording groups as it comes with Steinberg interfaces as well, and most people already have CB of come sort.  Artist is quire a big jump up IMO, no need to go Pro. 

I currently have 10.5 elements.

- To move to 11 Elements is £25

- To move to 11 Artist is £190

- to move to 11 Pro is £405 (about the price as a year's subscription to ProTools)

My main reasons for considering artist is better handling of the Tempo and Signature tracks, advanced metronome features and for additional VST instrument support like @Dad3353 calls out, although my laptop my start becoming a limitation at the point too. The only feature in Pro that's interesting is the Advanced score editor.  I've not checked if they updated it in 10 but in 9 I find out a bit too limited to transcribe bass parts. 

Edited by PatrickJ

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Yeah, those  are good reasons to go to Artist. For a while I was using Cakewalk for one or two features the Elements doesn’t have, mainly a list editor. This is really crucial to me for stripping out CC data. I don’t think there is a way in elements. Also the Music mode for audio tracks is great. I wasn’t bothered about the Logical editor, but now use it a lot and it’s fantastic. 
 

Like I said, see if you can get a licence for AI and then save a lot of money. £120 for Artist is worth the extra hassle of getting the free licence IMO. These prices are not on Steinberg’s website. 

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I'll put in another vote for Reaper.

One thing that separates Reaper from the rest, at least in my opinion, is the collection of top quality video tutorials on YouTube. I've watched them and come away with tricks that I didn't even know I wanted. At the same time I've never encountered something I couldn't do with Reaper, although my needs are modest.

I'd at least give it a spin. It's free to try so it's only time you'd be wasting. Even when the trial expires you are free to continue using it. All that happens is that a pop-up appears when you start the program asking you to puchase. You can close this pop-up after 5 seconds. To boot there's a free-to-use licence valid until 1st April 2021.This has been extended multiple times already so 1st April may not even be the end date.

 

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1 minute ago, dave_bass5 said:

Yeah, those  are good reasons to go to Artist. For a while I was using Cakewalk for one or two features the Elements doesn’t have, mainly a list editor. This is really crucial to me for stripping out CC data. I don’t think there is a way in elements. Also the Music mode for audio tracks is great. I wasn’t bothered about the Logical editor, but now use it a lot and it’s fantastic. 
 

Like I said, see if you can get a licence for AI and then save a lot of money. £120 for Artist is worth the extra hassle of getting the free licence IMO. These prices are not on Steinberg’s website. 

I thought AI sat below Elements in the Cubase food chain - certainly how it appears on their comparison chat :https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/compare-editions/

Interesting that it offers a cheaper upgrade option.

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49 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

 Elements allows  three Vst instruments at a time in a project. I couldn't do a fifth of what I do with such a limitation; sometimes I have more than three drum kits, let alone the orchestral parts.....

Thats 3 instruments used as rack instruments. In Cubase you can also use them as track instruments, which then gives you 24. Also any midi tracks can use any of these so its not really a limitation.  As you can see, even Pro only has 8.

For example i sometimes set up Halion to use its drum kit(s) on channel 10. This is as an instrument track and has the midi data on this track for the drums.  I  then still have 15 available midi slots in that one instrument that any midi track can access and  can play any instrument inside it. So that one track alone can have 16 drum kits (or one drum kit and 15 bass parts lol)

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8 minutes ago, PatrickJ said:

I thought AI sat below Elements in the Cubase food chain - certainly how it appears on their comparison chat :https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/compare-editions/

Interesting that it offers a cheaper upgrade option.

Yes, Its the one that comes free with certain things, you cant even buy it. Its quite strange as Steinberg don’t sell these cheap upgrades, i got mine from G4M. Even came with a dongle. Not bad for £245. Most of the music retailers sell the upgrades. 

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, dave_bass5 said:

Thats 3 instruments used as rack instruments. In Cubase you can also use them as track instruments, which then gives you 24. Also any midi tracks can use any of these so its not really a limitation.  As you can see, even Pro only has 8.

For example i sometimes set up Halion to use its drum kit(s) on channel 10. This is as an instrument track and has the midi data on this track for the drums.  I  then still have 15 available midi slots in that one instrument that any midi track can access and  can play any instrument inside it. So that one track alone can have 16 drum kits (or one drum kit and 15 bass parts lol)

You see, that, in itself, confuses me. Reaper doesn't have 'x-tracks', they are all 'tracks'. Audio, samples, MIDI, whatever... I've some compositions with fifty or so tracks, half of which are the elements of my drum Vst. I can add Fx to directly to each track, or send one or more tracks to an Fx bus, and dose the amount sent for each. A couple of dozen tracks for woodwinds, a few more tracks with audio, either imported or internally rendered ('frozen'...), some samples tracks... All of these are just tracks, when I'm mixing, I'm not concerned with 'em being such-and-such a 'type', I just mix 'em. Any limitation would be the memory of my PC (rather modest HP8200, i5 proc, 12G memory...); I'm far from saturating the machine, even with IR reverbs in there. I don't know what a 'rack instrument' is. I'll have another look at Cubase, Protools and such, to see. I had another bash with Harrison a few moments ago, and this time could set up the Vst paths, so there's another to try, but it tells me that the plug-ins I selected are 'demo only', so I don't know how far I'll get with that. Fascinating stuff, with so many ways to skin a cat..! :lol:

Edited by Dad3353

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Ive never used rack instruments in CB. I think the idea is you set the module up, and direct you’re midi tracks to it. I think Steinberg are phasing this out as it seems pitiful that you can only use 8 of them. There doesnt seem to be any be real benefit to using them, but I’m probably missing something. 

The track method is a bit confusing at first, but doesnt have to be. Want a Piano on track one, crate the track as an instrument track with a sound module and load a piano. There’s your track. You can even layer it and still play it form one track etc. You can record midi to that track, but you can still use that module for other midi tracks (so liek a rack i guess). Because its going through a softsynth you have two sections on the left. Top one relates to all the note stuff, volume, panning etc. then underneath you’ll have the audio adjustments so you have your sends and inserts for audio FX. 

Not sure if the other DAW’s have this, but when dealing with lot of tracks its very easy to colour code them and /or add them to folders to have under one control. Also the ability to hide and un hide them, and have these views as presets for quick recall can be handy for large projects. Lots of little things that make life easier. 

Ive tried a lot of DAW’s over the years, but never really grasped them as fast as i have CB. 

Like you say, plenty of way to skin a cat (or write a classic hit). The best way is the easiest.

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