I’m constantly repeating—like a broken record—how intensely personal sequencers are, and how one has to look past feature sets and deep into how a given sequencer is designed to work, and then exercise strenuous imagination laced with diligent skepticism in order to determine whether the tool is likely to work for you or not. As an individual.
A DAW is the same situation. Hence, every imaginable opinion and preference is out there, and, as usual, they’re beginning to accumulate here (some better substantiated than others). The main difference, I think, is that many of us will grudgingly use whatever DAW we have on hand to get the bare minimum we need out of it—because some needs are unavoidable
—whereas an unloved sequencer is likely to just sit there unused.
For basic purposes, like recording, simple arranging, and saving some tracks, one DAW is much the same as any other. Past that, the devil is in the details. As lisa and several others have pointed out, switching DAWs for most of us is traumatic, expensive and a huge time-suck, because there’s so much to relearn, and it can take a long long time to become genuinely proficient in the new environment. The opportunity cost is extremely high.
The grass is always greener on the other side. The number of DAWs out there seems to be proliferating. Just researching them is exhausting. Here be dragons.
It does seem to me that for modular folks, Ableton and Bitwig stand out because of their modular-like support for modulation, and their built-in support for control voltage hardware. There’s a really interesting convergence there, but you have to actually see value in that for your process, or it just doesn’t matter
. If—but only if—you’re really interested in recording and working with loops, then you have to factor in the “session view” implementation that various DAWs sport and avoid the ones that don’t have it. If mixing is really important to your process, you’d better look really carefully at that, because you’re probably going to care a lot about even tiny differences in the UI and the available tools. You may even resort to moving between two different DAWs for different stages of your work—zoiks! If you’re really into MPE, that might draw you toward Bitwig, but if MIDI composition is really at the core of what you do, then you might be getting distracted by flashy stuff when you should just stick to Cubase (or whatever). If you’re a player, and tracking multiple takes is your game, then you might be a lot happier in Logic.
Or you might not.
Having gone through the traumatic process of migrating from Logic to Bitwig over a year ago, I’m still not quite in the clear. I like most things about Bitwig—particularly the hardware integration features—but I continue to fight with the arrange view. Basic navigation and editing on the timeline seemed a lot more straightforward and (Mac) consistent in Logic. Zooming and scrolling in Bitwig is just weird. Interacting with the audio clips on the timeline (I don’t make much use of MIDI) seemed natural in Logic and continues to trip me up a bit in Bitwig—I’m still clicking in the wrong places and probably mis-using the cursor modes. (One major reason for some of the peculiarities in the Bitwig interface is that it’s designed to be a touch interface, too, which is nice, but I’m sure is only a benefit to a minescule percentage of their customer base. Another reason is that Bitwig is cross platform, including Linux, so it’s a no-standard UI.) I’ve also had some frustrations clocking my modular from Bitwig, which I’ve documented elsewhere