The DAW wars continue to rage on, even in 2016, at a breakneck pace. Pro Tools vs. Logic vs. Ableton vs. Cubase and the like continue to dominate the blogs with impassioned defenses and rebuttals on all sides. As DAW software begins to become more affordable, however, a new type of home studio user is beginning to emerge—the brazen user of multiple DAW software. Different digital audio workstations have different features that can help you streamline your workflow on various projects. Gone are the days of your only DAW options costing over a thousand dollars, and it looks like the sub-$500 DAW is here to stay (for now, anyway!). It’s never been more realistic to utilize multiple DAWs, and here are my top 4 features of the top 4 DAWs which, in my own opinion, each handles the best!
Whenever I have to record a band, I typically reach for Pro Tools first. If I’m doing straight up audio recording, few DAWs are as rock-solid reliable as Pro Tools. With features like clip gain, tab to transient, discrete monitoring levels built into the mixer, and audiosuite plugins, editing audio in Pro Tools is incredibly fast and precise. In particular, the ability to apply a plugin to a small region of audio within a track without having to instantiate a plugin for the entire track is a real blessing sometimes.
If I’m working on a project and the client is going to ask me to add instruments via MIDI and virtual instruments, I’ll almost always reach for Logic without any hesitation. Logic’s built in EXS instrument library can round out any sample library you might already have. Sure, I’ve got a load of virtual instruments I can call up on any occasion, but there is something about the immediacy of the instruments that are built into Logic’s core that help me call up sounds within a moment’s notice. This really helps keep my creative juices flowing and can also rescue me in a pinch when I discover I actually don’t own a VI that has a good accordion sound.
Although I don’t consider myself an electronic/dance composer, I do own a copy of Ableton Live and find it extremely effective when I have to assemble a song together from a bunch of fragmented ideas. Being able to record clips, store them away for later, and reassemble them into a cohesive musical composition is extremely convenient. I find that I can take a song from guitar riff to finished product extremely quickly in Ableton Live, and sometimes it’s just what the situation calls for.
I do love my ‘trashcan style’ Mac Pro, but at the same time my PC setup is pretty sweet. If I’m working with a client who seems very keen to have massive layers of vocals on a song and we want a polished, tight sound on those tracks, I’ll often break out my PC and load up Cakewalk Sonar. The VocalSync integration is truly spectacular, and you can get a ‘downtown sound’ with your vocal tracks extremely quickly. The built-in effects in the form of Pro Channel modules are really fantastic, and you really don’t need much in the way of third-party plugins to get a supremely polished sound with Sonar.
Those are just 4 of my favorite features of these DAWs… there are countless others, just like there are many more digital audio workstations to choose from! The time has never been better to be an audio professional—there are so many tools at our fingertips! Don’t limit yourself to just one, get out there and try a bunch!