Digital Audio Workstations are wide and varied in their application to digital audio. From audio editing to MIDI sequencing, loop-creation and remixing, to somewhere in-between, the following list of the most popular and widely used DAWs illustrates their core functionality and features.
ACID Pro is a digital audio workstation by Sony Creative Software. Mainly a music tool, users can create loop-based songs by drawing the audio files on different tracks, and align them on a musical grid. Out of the box it includes more than 3000 loops and 90 virtual instruments, as well as additional software for production and editing. Beyond loop sequencing, it can also do multi-track recording, mixing, MIDI sequencing, and supports VST’s and VSTi’s. If price is an issue, there exists a simplified version, ACID Music Studio. Both are only available for Windows.
Adobe Audition started its life as Cool Edit Pro by Syntrillium, which was acquired by Adobe in 2003. It’s designed mostly for editing and mixing, with separate multitrack and individual file editing views, as well as an extensive list of built-in effects, including noise cancellation. New features specific to voice editing, plus the ability to time-stretch tracks non-destructively in the multitrack editor are recent additions. There is no MIDI support, but it can easily record from other applications through Soundflower or similar programs. Audition runs on Windows and Mac, and supports VST and AU plugins.
Audacity is a free and open source audio software. Capable of recording and editing sounds, it is equipped with many basic audio editing tools. From editing music to creating sound effects, the multi-track editor allows the arrangement and editing of audio files, as well as the ability to apply effects. Information about Audacity is found on the Audacity Wiki, that any user can update. Further, because the software is open source, it can always be improved by anyone. Price and functionality make Audacity a common first audio program for many users.
Originally released in 1985, Digital Performer is now in its eighth iteration. A workhorse program by nature, the 64-bit architecture is able to access “unlimited RAM” and is capable in handling both VST and AU plug-ins. One of its most well-known features is its ability to excel at bringing together MIDI sequencing and multi-track recording. With an ability to work side-by-side using dedicated editors for each, they can be used separately or in tandem with common editing, mixing and processing features that work in a similar fashion across each.
Logic became a Mac-only Digital Audio Workstation when Apple acquired Emagic in 2002. It is widely regarded for its intuitive and efficient user interface, its MIDI sequencing, and its many high quality plug-ins and synthesizers it comes bundled with (including Space Designer, a convolution reverb, and Sculpture, a component modelling tone generator synth). Only Audio Units plug-ins are natively supported (though VST is possible by using a VST-to-AU wrapper). Logic is also a favored tool by many media composers due to its integrated support for scoring to video. Perhaps one of its most amazing features is its low price point of $199.
Pro Tools is available for both Windows and Mac and is one of the most widely-used systems across audio industries. Whether you create music and sound for fixed or live media, its robust features allow both newcomers and seasoned professionals the flexibility to attain high-quality mixes quickly and efficiently. The latest version, Pro Tools 10, features higher-resolution mixes with support for 32-bit floating-point file formats, and quicker editing and mixing with the new “Clip Gain” feature. To learn more you can subscribe to Mac Pro Video for a monthly fee to follow a structured curriculum.
Cubase is one of the oldest DAWs and has been around since 1989 when it was running solely on Atari using MIDI. German company Steinberg are developing the software alongside Wavelab, Nuendo, audio hardware and VST’s. You can usually choose between different versions of Cubase, from the most basic to professional. All in all Cubase is a good choice for anyone wanting a DAW with features developed over decades and a dedicated community.