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DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATIONS

Also called sequencers, D.A.W.s are the heart of computer-assisted music configurations. A DAW is nothing else than a very sophisticated software version of a tape recorder. It's a multi-track recorder, allowing you to work with audio as well as MIDI data used by virtual instruments.

There are many different DAWs, more or less expensive, more or less complex, some are more audio or MIDI oriented and all users have their favorite DAWs. Ask 10 musicians what DAW they like best, and you may well get 10 different answers. Unless you have the opportunity to try several of them in order to compare and make up your mind, you will need to get information, get some feedback from users on the Internet or anywhere else, and once you start using a DAW, you usually stick with it for quite some time.

So what is the best DAW? The best DAW is the one you are used to using, the one you are confident with, the one that allows you to reach your purpose with the less efforts.

Sonar - Reaper - Cubase - Studio One - Logic Pro - ProTools - Live - Acid - Digital Performer - FL Studio - Reason - Samplitude - Tracktion - EnergyXT - Podium

Two free DAWs: Kristal - Audacity

This list is not exhaustive, there are other DAWs. You will have to find the one that suits you best! Please note that most DAWs come in different versions, with more or less features, included plugins, with prices that should match everyone's needs.

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Cakewalk Sonar

(official website)
Cakewalk Sonar
Cakewalk Sonar

Sonar has been my DAW of choice since version 5 from late 2005. I tried other DAWs, but I remained loyal to Sonar, because I find it simple to use and extremely complete. It comes with a lot of various plugins, so you don't have to buy anything else, unless you have specific needs.

The latest version includes several synths, like Rapture or Dimension Pro, which embarks many different sounds, including a classical orchestra, plus the sounds you can create yourself. Sonar also comes with True Pianos, a very good piano simulator, as well as XNL Audio Addictive Drums, a pretty effective virtual drum plugin, Melodyne Essential, a pitch editor designed for arranging and correcting vocals. There's also a limited version of Overloud TH2, an excellent guitar amp simulator.

Many other plugins are included (EQs, compressors, reverbs, delays, etc.), so you can use Sonar immediately, without having to buy anything else. It's probably the DAW that comes with the most plugins, at least in its Producer version. There are 32 and 64 bits versions so it will adapt to your Windows configuration. If I had to find drawbacks, I would say that it's only available for Windows (no Mac version).

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Cockos Reaper

(official website)
Cockos Reaper
Cockos Reaper

Reaper is a very interesting piece of software: it is very complete and allows you to do what the other major DAWs can do, it has a powerful and efficient in/out routing system, its interface can be fully customized, it is updated on a regular basis and it is much cheaper than its competitors. 60 dollars/45 euros for a full DAW, to be compared to about 400 euros for the other major DAWs in their full version.

Of course, Reaper is not perfect, but you can do everything with it. It's also a question of habit. I'm used to Sonar, and I don't want to change and learn what I already know all over again with a new DAW. But I had the opportunity to use Reaper occasionally, and if I had to start using a DAW from scratch, I would choose Reaper. It's available for Windows, Wine and Mac OS X, and compatible with VST, VSTi, DX, DXi and AU plugins.

Reaper can be downloaded and is fully and freely usable without time limit. Yet, it is a commercial product, and it is your moral duty to pay for it if you use it regularly. Its price/quality ratio is unbeatable, so the expense is justified.

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Steinberg Cubase

(official website)
Steinberg Cubase 7
Steinberg Cubase 7

Cubase is a D.A.W. from Steinberg, designed for recording, editing and arranging music. Cubase 7 is the latest version. It includes among other things: a virtual drum, a vocal editor with real-time tone correction, VST expression tools to easily edit instrument articulations, enhanced data automation and handling, and a convolution reverb plugin. Cubase supports Windows Vista and Windows 7 64-bit technology.

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PreSonus Studio One

(official website)
PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio One

Studio One is a rather recent DAW from PreSonus, which also makes audio interfaces, pre-amplifiers and mixing consoles. Although PreSonus is mostly a brand specialized in hardware, Studio One is a good alternative to other DAWs. Studio One originally comes from the free DAW Kristal, which is now abandoned.
Studio One has very good ergonomics, it includes Melodyne, a plugin that allows you to edit audio very simply (to change pitch, or make a tempo change). On the other hand, it doesn't include a score editor and comes with few virtual instruments.
There are several versions of Studio One, more or less complete, and there is also a free version, not limited in time. The problem is that this free version is not compatible with plugins (VST or others), so the interest is limited. Yet, it's a good opportunity to try a DAW and see if you like it.

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Apple Logic Pro

(official website)
Apple Logic 9

Logic Pro is a 32/64 bit audio and midi D.A.W. for Mac OS X. it is part of Apple's profesional music software range. A light version, Logic Express with the same interface and the same audio engine but less options is also available at a lower price.

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Avid Pro Tools

(official website)
Avid ProTools

Pro Tools is widely used by professionals throughout the audio industries for recording and editing in music production, film scoring, film and television post production. Pro Tools has three types of systems; HD, LE, and M-powered. HD is the high-end package and is an integration of hardware and software. The hardware includes an external A/D converter and internal PCI or PCIe audio cards with onboard DSP. Fundamentally, Pro Tools, like all Digital Audio Workstation software, is similar to a multi-track tape recorder and mixer, with additional features that can only be performed in the digital domain. The high-end version supports sample rates of up to 192 kHz and bit depths of 16 and 24 bit, opens WAV, AIFF, mp3, SDII audio files and QuickTime video files. It features time code, tempo maps, automation and surround sound capabilities.

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Ableton Live

(official website)
Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a loop-based software music sequencer and DAW for Mac OS and Windows by Ableton. Live is a tool made for composing and arrangements, but its design and ergonomics are mostly live-oriented. The user interface was optimized for live performances. It is reduced to a minimum and is easily usable on a one-screen configuration. The absence of pop-up windows, its unique window divided into 5 categories makes it easy to use on laptop computers that may not be as powerful as their desktop counterparts. The different categories may be hidden or displayed with a simple click on the corresponding icon. The layout is then reorganized depending on the active categories. For live performances, you can display the loop points or the starting point of one or more clips, and they will remain in tempo with one another ("warp" feature you can trigger on the fly).

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Sony Acid

(official website)
Sony Acid Pro
Sony Acid Pro

Acid comes in 2 ranges: Pro and Music Studio. The pro range has more features. Acid Music Studio costs about 50 euros, and the pro version about 150 euros.

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MOTU Digital Performer

(official website)
MOTU Digital Performer
MOTU Digital Performer

Available for Mac first and now for Windows, Digital Performer includes many high-quality effects and an excellent score editor. Virtual instruments on the other hand are not numerous. 30-day limited demo versions are available on the official website if you want to give it a try.

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Image-Line FL Studio

(official website)
Image-Line FL Studio
Image-Line FL Studio

This software is the descendant of Fruity Loops, which was perfectly suited for Electro or Hip Hop music. Nowadays, FL Studio makes it possible to record any genre, but the way it works makes it still not really suited for acoustic musics. It is based on a concept of patterns added to a playlist.

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Propellerhead Reason

(official website)
Propellerhead Reason
Propellerhead Reason

It used to be dedicated to MIDI recordings, but Reason now handles audio. Still, for historical reasons, many Propellerhead Reason users still produce electronic music. Reason has a very powerful routing system, through the used of virtual cables, which could discourage some people.

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Magix Samplitude

(official website)
Magix Samplitude
Magix Samplitude

Unlike Reason, Samplitude was long limitied to audio management, and could not handle MIDI data. It's no longer the case. Samplitude is based on the concept of audio objects, where each audio clip has its own routing and automation capabilities. Samplitude includes many effects plugins and virtual instruments, as well as sound banks. More technical than other DAWs, the full version is also pretty expensive.

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Tracktion

(official website)
Tracktion
Tracktion

Tracktion is available for PC, Mac and Ubuntu. It costs 60 dollars for the base version, and up to 200 dollars in bundle with other in-house software (plugins and virtual instruments). That makes it one of the least expensive DAWs on the market. Users like the ergonomy of the software, but there seems to be a number of annoying bugs (rendering problems, unexpected crashes...), that will hopefully be fixed at some point.

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EnergyXT

(official website)
XT Software EnergyXT
XT Software EnergyXT

EnergyXT has been created by Jorgen Aase. EnergyXT is compatible with the VST standard, the ASIO protocol and the REX2 format from Propellerhead Software. This DAW is compatible with 16, 24 or 32 bit files, mono or stereo. The user interface is organized around a menu bar, a tool bar, tabs, a navigation window and a main window which, by default, shows the sequencer, but can also display the "Mixer" and "Modular" parts thanks to the customizable tabs. It's well suited for live performance and small configurations, with a low price of about 40 euros. It's rather simple to use but remains somewhat less powerful than more complete (and more expensive) DAWs.

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Zynewave Podium

(official website)
Podium
Podium

The company Zynewave has been created by Frits Nielsen, a software engineer, who developed the DAW Podium on his own. As it's a one-man company, Podium may not be as rich and complete as other major DAWs such as Sonar, Cubase or Logic, but it offers many of the features you might expect from a DAW. As a result, you may encounter compatibility issues with some hardware and plugins. Podium supports recording and editing of audio and MIDI, and hosts VST instrument and effect plugins. It is available for Windows as a 32 or 64-bit software and costs 50 dollars.

You will be glad to know that a free version is available. it's adequately called Podium Free, and it has pretty much the same capabilities as the paid-for version, minus a few limitations. The most severe limitation is that the plugin multiprocessing is disabled, which means you might experience processor overloading if you use too many plugins within a project. Yet, it's worth trying, because this free version is way more powerful than other free DAWs like Kristal (obsolete in so many ways) and Audacity (really inferior to all other DAWs).

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Two free DAWs

Let's be honest, these free DAWs are no match for the retail DAWs.

Kristal is no longer developed and updated, so it may even be incompatible with recent plugins. But it gave birth to Studio One, a retail DAW from PreSonus.

As for Audacity, it's more an audio editor than a real DAW, even though you can use it as such, with severe limitations.

You'd rather use a DAW such as Reaper, which costs only 45 euros and is way more complete and modern than those free software It's much more interesting to start using Reaper, which costs only 45 euros and is much more complet and modern than theses free software, or even the free version of Studio One, even though it's incompatible with plugins. I should also mention Podium Free, a very interesting free version of Podium (presented above) which also supports VST plugins with a few limitations.



Those DAWs are way more complex (just a question of habit...) but they are the real thing and will train newcomers about the logic behind DAWs. If you get hooked, then you may choose whatever DAW suits you best.

As a conclusion, free DAWs will help you out occasionally, but don't expect to make serious audio work with them in the long term.




Kristal Audio Engine

(official website)

Kreatives.org Kristal Audio Engine


Audacity

(official website)

Audacity

You can use VST plugins with Audacity, but you cannot listen to them in real time. In fact, when applying an effect to a track, you have to "render" it before you can hear what the effect does to your track. And if you don't like what you hear, you have to start over. Not convenient, not user-friendly...
Audacity should be used as a DAW if you really don't have anything else, but it isn't up to the task and that's not its primary use anyway.
At least, it's free.

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MESSAGES

(Leave a message)

Message page # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27



Ym_trainz
11/11/2017, 00h35

Merci pour ce tuto !
Le seul bémol que j'apporterais, c'est la dynamique finale : ne pas céder au chantage mais rester à -14 / -12dB RMS si on exporte sur CD. En revanche, -12 / -11 dB pour un mp3 192kbps paraît acceptable.
Ym_trainz

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Oui, dans la mesure du possible, je confirme que c'est bien de rester à des niveaux inférieurs à -12dB. Il faut tendre vers ça le plus possible. Mais en arrivant à -10dB dans mon exemple, je fais malgré tout déjà mieux que la plupart des albums actuels.
Quant à l'export CD, il est quand même de plus en plus rare. La plupart des gens écoutent désormais leur musique depuis leur téléphone portable, et bien souvent en mp3. Et honnêtement, la différence entre un fichier wav et un fichier mp3 à 320 kbps est indiscernable pour 99 % des gens. Même à 192 kbps, rares sont ceux qui sont capables d'entendre la différence, surtout quand c'est écouté au travers d'écouteurs ou d'enceintes bas de gamme ou moyenne gamme.
Grebz



Doum66
10/20/2017, 09h00

Bonjour et merci pour votre site sur la MAO que je ne connaissais pas il y a encore quelques mois.
Je suis sur PC Windows 10 système 64 bits, séquenceur Reaper. J'aurais voulu savoir comment récupérer les réglages des presets (.fxp). J'ai téléchargé le preset exemple pour les amplis LePou, je l'ai enregistré dans mon répertoire VST, et là je ne sais pas comment récupérer le réglage. Autre petite question, dans le preset, y a-t'il la définition et le réglage des impulsions ? Merci d'avance et encore merci pour toute l'aide que fournit votre site.



Mercenario
08/08/2017, 08h22

Hi, I am from Guatemala, thanks for all the information about music, I am learning here. Cheers !!!!!



seipstar
06/26/2017, 02h21

Bonjour, je fais mes compos avec zommR8 et cubase LE8 (et ma strato)et mes sons leads j'accroche pas alors que c'est justement ceux que je recherche. Une grande variété de sons "légers", non métal ou lourd. Tu aurais un vst à me conseiller ? payant ou gratuit.
Je viens de découvrir ton site c'est juste trop TROP bien, j'ai pris plein de trucs à l'instant mais j'ai pas encore essayé.
Merci d'avance pour ton aide

David

ps: suis sur pc windows 10 64bits 4g de ram
ps2: c'est peut-être le second message que tu reçois car j'ai pas eu confirmation du précédent



Greg1400
06/12/2017, 07h09

Bonjour,
Je débute dans la MAO, je voudrais tout simplement jouer via un irig branché sur mon Mac et avoir des simulateurs d'amplis gratuits (et oui, c'est la crise :-) ). Je pensais qu'avec Audacity et les plugins Lepou ça collerait mais je n'y arrive pas. Je précise bien que je ne veux pas forcément m'enregistrer, mais juste jouer, y a-t-il une solution pour moi ? Je le répète, je suis débutant, merci donc de votre compréhension et de vos explications simples. Musicalement.

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