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Music Software


February 13, 2007 01:40 AM PST

One of the original reasons that I justified buying a PC back in 1996 on my tiny grad student research grant was the prospect of turning it into a recording studio where all the effects and synthesizers were software and storage was digital: lossless copies and no bouncing tracks around on 4 track tape recorder. No more racks of expensive dedicated gear that you'd have to lug around and best of all, no wires, power cords, MIDI cables, or patch cords. U2 had even talked about releasing one of their then upcoming albums with raw instrument tracks for fans to remix, which sounded too cool. That never happened, but it would have been fun to mash up Edge's guitar tracks:

"Bono always messes with my settings"

The thing is, I just never got around to setting up my home studio. There were practical considerations for this: the only disk I could afford in 1996 was 1.6 GB which is about the size of an MP3 these days or "Hello World" in .NET, and the music software was just too expensive for a student like me. I had Guinness to buy! And bus fare. Alas.

Now that I have a job, I can actually afford to buy the software (and disks!) that I need, so I'm looking at starting some serious audio recording. I just have to choose which software package I want, which I guess will choose the platform. I'm going to do this in sort of reverse order though, and say that I'm leaning very heavily in favour of an all Mac OS X solution. Not to turn this into a platform war, but I've had some pretty crappy experiences with Windows and plugging peripherals into it. But if there were some amazingly compelling software out there that was Windows only, I'd consider using it as one stage in the audio production pipeline.

I have some pretty specific things I want to be able to do:

Packages that I'm currently looking at, in decreasing order of likelihood of purchase:

Any recommendations?

Comments (6)
John, February 13, 2007 02:22 AM:

I'll ask around.

I think you can probably scratch Reason off your list right now based on your 400 knob and sliders criteria. Reason is the one that simulates everything in the real world, knobs, sliders, switches, meters right down to virtual patch cables on the 'back' of the panels. Unless it's changed since I looked at it a couple of years back.

Paul, February 17, 2007 01:37 AM:

Crap, Logic Audio requires a USB dongle.

Mark, February 21, 2007 12:11 AM:

I had a longer response in mind, and might come back to this post, but essentially I think you're going to need at least two packages to do what you want. One for recording, one for synths. The professional musicians I've talked to and read blogs about their setups sere not one-tool setups. The exception to this was some of the electronic/DJ guys that just used Reason for everything. I'd suggest looking at Digidesign's ProTools? If you really want studio quality sound, you should also plan on inputs from a very high quality sound card or USB/Firewire input device.

I'm also curious about what you feel is an easy to use interface? Most of the pro audio packages are targeted at sound engineers most familiar with the knobs-and-sliders interface. I think there are packages out there that allow you to drop down into a more language/script based interface, but I don't know if you'd consider that an improvement.

Paul, February 21, 2007 10:41 AM:

I'll add Pro Tools to the list of software to check out, thanks!

I guess that some of my requirements, like only one piece of software to do it all, are more of a wish list. What I'd like to do is have one reasonable application that I can start with, and see what my needs end up being. It would be great if I could avoid buying a simplified version for $300, only to find out that I really want the $1000 version (Logic Express vs Logic Pro, for example). But it's hard to know if those extra features are worth it when starting out.

As for the interface thing, I've kind of resigned myself to the large numbers of knobs and sliders, since I don't know how else they'd expose those features. When you see some of those tools running full screen on a 24" monitor, it's kind of overwhelming and hard to know where to start.

Paul, March 29, 2007 03:27 PM:

There is also a new GarageBand-like product from Steinberg, called Sequel. It supports Windows and Mac, and costs $99. This is probably a little lower end than what I'm looking for though.

John, March 29, 2007 05:01 PM:

Hmm, this might be cool for my oldest however. Any comparisons out their to garage band.

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