PRO AUDIO
The Unique Geek

The Unique Geek
September 12, 2011

What’s the right DAW Software for me?

It is time for the masses to rise and say, “enough!” Are you like me? Are you sick of reading product reviews, spec sheets and talking to professionals about which interface may be right for you? If so, this is the article for you.

This is For YOU

Who are the best people to ask?

First of all, if you are blessed with an uncle who never married, squeezes into his Kia, works part-time as a security guard at Walgreens and is secretly smarter than everyone else alive – consider yourself lucky. This is just the type of person that you need to approach with this quandary. Even if your personal expert never completed a song after using their favorite DAW for the past seven years, they know an awful lot. The person who has used Sonar for years and once used Cubase may still be an expert at Cubase. So, don’t discount their opinion when they tell you that “that Cubase stuff is all crap, it’s all dumb n’ stuff.” They may be on to something.

It is important to know whose opinion to trust. It’s important to choose your expert wisely as you could end up spending months and months working with software that isn’t really right for your needs. Another type of person to consider is someone who speaks with absolute authority and conviction, but happens to know very little. I went into a store recently and I asked the sales guy, “what’s a great DAW to record with?” There was only one that I needed. He never asked me what I was going to record, what type of music I make, how powerful my computer is and never bothered to determine how computer proficient I was. I asked some questions about other software titles on the wall behind his misshaped melon and his answers were spell binding. Not just in how inaccurate they were, but in their simplicity and lack of curiosity on his part. Thankfully, I was sick of good information from reliable sources so I took everything he said at face value. I learned that this DAW has “great sounding instruments” and (it gets better), “comes with a bunch of plug-ins…like…reverb…uh…you got cher compressors…a whole bunch of stuff comes with it.” I was floored, “well, hell, that sure beats Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase, Record, Sonar, Live, Digital Performer, Nuendo, Garage Band, Vegas, Audition, Samplitude and Sequoia”, I thought. He talked my ear off for about 20 minutes about how awesome this software was. I finally realized after he kept pointing to the colorful pictures on the box in retort to all of my queries that he didn’t actually use the software himself. I use this anecdote only to illustrate the ideal person you need discover for the answers you seek – it’s this guy.

What Features Should You Look For?

Sonar Icons

Sonar Icons

Ableton Live Screenshot

Firstly, make sure your DAW is pretty. I mean, really pretty. So, that rules out Ableton’s Live. Too bad. I used to love its ease of use and surprising amount of power. Check out the fan base on these guys – they are hardcore. But, they made the software so simplistic in its look and feel that it can’t possibly be any good. Garage Band actually shows you a picture of a piano if you mean to play a piano sound. Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. The more pictures and icons in your software – the better. And if you want icons – Sonar, baby! Anyway, don’t be dissuaded about this goobly-gook about summing and floating-point coefficient yada yada in your DAW – how does it look?

The second feature you should be looking for is lots and lots of loops. And I do mean free loops. If you’re like me and can’t be bothered writing your own music, look for a software that has already done it for you. I know it seems weird when you are watching a television show or hear an ad on the radio and you hear Reason pre-packaged music in the background, but you have to give it up to that person. They went out and bought some software (I guess they bought it) and realized that what was in the box was better than what they could do anyhow. Problem solved.

Sequoia

Lastly, look for software that very few people are using. Say, you want to be a producer or mix engineer for a living and aren’t “there” yet. Then, by all means, get something like Sequoia or Nuendo and learn it inside and out. Then, when you go to interview as an intern in a studio you can tell them, “well, no I don’t know how to program MIDI in Logic…well, no I’ve never used video with DP…uh, yes, I have heard of Pro Tools.” You’ll be able to follow up with, “…maybe you didn’t hear me, I said Sequoia comes with reverb.”

If you aren’t going to work in the studio and plan to be a well-kept secret (much like myself) then you are free to choose as you like. I suppose, ultimately, you could watch tutorials for free on YouTube, read reviews, talk to folks who really use the different software titles and try demos. But, in this day and age of information – can we really be bothered with experts and hands-on training? Nay. I think we should listen to the weirdoes, dorks and misinformed. If you want to find them it’s not hard. You’ll find them posting the most and shouting the loudest in forums online.

 

Comments

  1. ben says:

    Nice. I just use the stuff that came with my audio interface. I mean, it says it’s the PRO TOOLS so it’s gotta be good right?

  2. Zach says:

    Don’t be so quick to rule out Ableton. I know its the popular choice but they are on the cutting edge of all of this DAW stuff. Sure it doesn’t come with many loops of its own but you can always buy more (unfortunately). Also the bridge with Serato (and Traktor soon – fingers crossed) is key for DJs everywhere to hone their craft and make it sound real good. The ease in preforming live with Ableton is also very important to consider, thats why so many famous producers and DJs use it during their shows. Sure it may be the popular choice but there are good reasons for that.

    Plus the box is really colorful.

    1. ben says:

      I think you missed that the whole blog entry was satire of what appears to be Gearslutz in the screenshots. :D

    2. ariff ariff says:

      Thanks for the comment Zach. One of our UniqueSquared Artists, 3LAU, uses Ableton for his live shows…

  3. Andrew says:

    if i don’t get myself together, i’ll be that uncle…..

    1. ben says:

      I wish this was Facebook so I could like your comment.

  4. Mcflail says:

    No offense but this is the saddest blog on DAW’s ive everseen. Reason 6 and ableton is where its at. SMH

    1. ariff ariff says:

      It appears The Unique Geek’s sarcastic tone was not picked up well, and in fact he is not saying Ableton is bad at all. Thanks for the comment Mcflail!

  5. Brad says:

    I thought it was funny… great job. Hey and if you ever need a really good spreadsheet software Lotus 123 has the most accurate math algorithms of all!