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DAW Recommendations

Reaktor, MAX/MSP, VST/AU, etc. A place for all things soft....

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marugenji
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DAW Recommendations

Post by marugenji » Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:02 pm

Hi all,

I have been mostly hardware based but just took the plunge and bought a new MacBook pro with the m1 pro chip. So now I am in the market for a daw and I thought I would ask here to see what everyone's preferences were. I would like it to be versatile but since I have a lot of hardware being able to integrate the daw nicely with external hardware is important.

I have been doing a bit of research and am kind of just leaning towards getting Logic since it seems like a good price for what you get and runs M1 native. But I don't want to jump the gun...

Thanks so much!

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by abelovesfun » Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:07 pm

Not the answer you want, but the best DAW is..... the one you use :)
I use Abelton, but these days they are highly interchangeable. The most important thing is to have fun making music, and you can do that with any DAW.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by marugenji » Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:23 pm

I don't use any DAW right now so I might be in trouble then ;-)

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by s.l.o.w » Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:27 pm

Most modern DAWs are quite capable, but for me it depends what I want to do. If it's straight up recording and serious mixing, I almost always use Logic. I'm I'm experimenting with composition and structure and looping, etc., Ableton. And then I'll usually export stems and mix in Logic.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by smurphd » Tue Nov 23, 2021 1:36 pm

I use studio one and bitwig. Studio one is great for most things. You Can make Marcos, everything is drag and drop and its awesome for arranging. Its really capable and you Can work very fast. In bitwig i love the grid and the modulation system and its awesome for interfacing with modular systems. If you’re not into building things in the grid and you dont really want the modulation system or the modular io plugs, id definetely go with something like s1 or Logic or Cubase. All of those things are awesome but it still lacks so many things that more mature and classic daws like s1 and logic etc do. I also used logic for 20 years and I really like it, it does everything, just read through the list of assignable key commands, have great plugs, looks awesome and is cheap. The only way to find out if you gel with a daw is to use it, I’d suggest trying to make a track in all of them. It’s worth the time, you might end up using it for the next 20 years.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by Funky40 » Tue Nov 23, 2021 8:18 pm

Logic has a 90 day trial period. Since you are on a new Mac, would i strongly suggest to just load Logic in trial mode.


Or Live11, which has alos a 90 day demo, iirc.


i personally found my way to VST-Hosts for "live music-playing" , ie. NOT production work.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by kcearl » Tue Nov 23, 2021 8:39 pm

I like Live, I like that my Akai range all export in Abletons format and Ableton link works well. I mostly just use it as a tape recorder or for finishing off something started in my Force, but its very capable and feature rich. I own and have tried many others but without committing enough time to them they feel like running through mud.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by ATW » Tue Nov 23, 2021 8:55 pm

Ableton Live works for me. The interface is quite minimal, and it is easy to move around the two (yes, only two) views with hot keys. I would use the words ‘fast’ and ‘lean’ to describe it. Plays well with external gear.

Other DAWs often feel overly complicated to me in comparison. Though they are basically all excellent. I’ve used Logic, Cubase, Reason, and
Protools. Reaper is something I’m curious to try.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by wuff_miggler » Tue Nov 23, 2021 11:29 pm

the thing that has been made SUPER clear to me after downloading the ableton trial (being an FL studio user for 10 years)
is that Ableton is just hard to beat for experimental electronic music. MAx for Live...polyphonic audio to midi (yep - you can record mono drums and it will try to assign a differnt note for snare, hats, and kick...along with preserve velocity...) thats great great stuff for melding electronic/midi/micced intruments. Then there's max for live...then there's the included phys modelling stuff...

fl studio is cool if you're working primarily with VST instruments and arent looking on going crazy with effects iterations (you can do anything - but audio editing and warping is just not at the same level as ableton). It think its hard to beat when ALL the music you're making starts in FL and finishes there. Pop, rap, trap, and so on...perfect for that stuff.

Both Reaper, and Protools are great for multitracking.

Protools is king for takes and comping imo. and still think its routing simplicity is unmatched. Love the way Aux tracks, and sends work. SO simple.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by GuyaGuy » Tue Nov 23, 2021 11:50 pm

wuff_miggler wrote:
Tue Nov 23, 2021 11:29 pm
the thing that has been made SUPER clear to me after downloading the ableton trial (being an FL studio user for 10 years)
is that Ableton is just hard to beat for experimental electronic music.
Yeah, it's hard to beat for that sort of thing. Plus with Max it's a platform as much as a DAW.

I'm kind of biased because Live Lite was my first DAW and Live my first big boy DAW. But I'd take it over any of the others I've worked with. That said, if you're mostly just recording audio with it and slapping on effects, Logic probably makes more sense.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by lukemodular » Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:06 am

Live suite has solid m4L options (midi LFOs) for modulating VST effects and synths, which I find is really nice for augmenting a hardware setup if that’s your thing (I did this before but sold my license since 11 is such a CPU hog.. kind of miss it though. Bitwig does something similar and is supposedly more stable.

But honestly free VCV rack stuff and a super cheap daw like reaper or something else affordable like Logic Pro x would get you where you need to go too. Too many options tbh, I’m trying to stick with a few hardware boxes and limiting my computer interfacing.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by BailyDread » Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:27 am

Welcome to the world of software! You can get some terrific results this way.

I use logic as a “tape machine” and as a midi sequencer mostly. My most used instruments are the sampler, the monosynth, the drum synthesizer and the “drummer”. The “drummer” feature is terrific for coming up with ideas on the fly. You can drag the clip to a midi track and it will render it into a midi file exactly. I’ve come up with a few melodies this way accidentally that turned out to be just to my liking.

Imo logic has some of the best sounding stock plugins available. I routinely use them alongside my other plugins from uad and pluginalliance. The varispeed feature is very handy for making interesting sounds and resampling, and the bussing and routing is pretty intuitive. I have no complaints about the midi functionality, which I use a lot. The stock instruments and loops that come with it are all very useful for coming up with ideas quickly or making a quick sample.

I used live before and I felt that my productions took on a more polished sound when I switched to logic. I’ve never null tested them, but I personally found that logic sounded less “smeared” when using complicated sends/returns and bussing, whereas live kind of seemed like it was giving me weird artifacts when I’d do similar routing. I had an older version of live though… it’s probably worked out now.

Imo, for the price, logic is a terrific option. They routinely add new updates and features too. In the course of having logic, they’ve come out with multiple new “boutique-style” eqs, a remote function for using an iPad with logic and many more features.

There are a lot of features I haven’t dug into much, but it’s good to know the capacity is there for more if I felt like digging in more.

Every once in a while logic will have a quirk in workflow or something… for example I’ve made tracks where I somehow looped a 4.00001 bar loop, and only realized after hours of working when I was noticing drum hits hitting weirdly. I’m sure there’s ways of calibrating the default looping or whatever but occasionally logic will have some weird extraneous “feature” be a pain in the ass somehow. Maybe just me, because I don’t RTFM and just stumble along until I figure out some brutish way to do what I’m trying to do lol :)

Overall I’m pleased with logic as my daw of choice now and would happily recommend it. I’ve heard good things about reaper too but it seems complicated for someone who just wants to open up the software and go. Once you learn it it’s probably great but at the moment I’m a bit lazy to learn a new daw

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by ee_ » Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:38 am

I use Cockos Reaper. It's super cheap ($49 I think when I got it for a lifetime license for the existing version) and deep and super intuitive (for the most part). It comes with a ton of basic Doepfer-modular-like VSTs and it is very easy to get tons free stuff for. If you're a programmer, you can edit the native VSTs pretty easily or code your own. There are a couple of very good, straight-to-the-point tutorial channels for Reaper on Youtube (Kenny Goia's is great). I haven't compared it against the big names in a while, but I went back to it after a short stint with a much higher-end Mac DAW ... I forget the name, wasn't Logic. Digital something Suite or .. ? I forget ... but that one was cool too, had much nicer native VSTs that felt more like commercial VSTs. But I just liked the layout and workflow in Reaper much better and found it way easier and more efficient to use. They also have a bunch of custom themes and skins you can download and install if you don't like the default look/feel, and everything about the look/feel/layout is customizable if you dig around a little.

I haven't used it for anything very advanced in terms of interfacing it with my eurorack system yet ... eventually I will ... but perhaps somewhat like the user above, I currently use it mostly as a recorder for my eurorack output, for some MIDI sequencing/digital melodies, and for some post-processing and mixing/mastering of stuff I record. But prior to getting into eurorack I made almost all of my music strictly in Reaper and always found it to be a great tool that had everything I could reasonably want or need, especially once you start collecting additional VSTs.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by asoundingbell » Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:47 am

Reaper is great. Highly customizable so you can make it function and look like other major daws if you're used to them.

Customizable actions make workflow insanely fast and intuitive once you get used to it. If you don't know how to do something press the '?' on your keyboard and a list of all Reaper actions pop up. You can search them and assign your own shortcuts.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by smurphd » Wed Nov 24, 2021 3:26 am

Live gets mentioned quite a bit, and I’ve also used that for a while. The reason why I didn’t mention it is because it has some shortcomings that I found unforgivable. Mostly that you can’t make your own shortcuts, I just can’t live with that. they actually expect you to use theirs which seem to have been made up by a trainee in a lunch break. but I also hated the controller scripts for hardware synths, at least if I was missing something, and sample chopping for exporting was a nightmare. bitwig is also using controller scripts though it does it better. If there’s nothing that you just can’t live with, I think live is a great program. It looks great and have max for live, and i love how they made only one tool. But at the end of the day there’s a reason it’s called live. It’s what it’s made for and it’s what the company is prioritizing. for production and mixing “real” daws like s1, logic and Cubase etc runs circles around it imo. And for a live like program I much prefer bitwig, what I think makes live great is max for live, the controller, if you’re into that, and the looks. There’s also a controller script around for the controller to work with bitwig as well.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by efluon » Wed Nov 24, 2021 5:10 am

It really depends on what you want to do and how you approach it. If it is recording and mixing you want, surely Studio One is the easiest to get into and even has a free version and some nice integration with their digital consoles.
When using with integrated hardware it is a little like Protools, which (like Logic) has a huge entry-barrier but gets much faster to use later on. Reaper also works very well and is cheap, but has awful ergonomics out of the box.

If you want to use a DAW to make music though, especially with modular, live and bitwig are far ahead of everything. And Ableton has Push. And CV tools. While Bitwig is certainly more ingenious (thanks, Claes), Push 2 is just what I want to use to control a computer.

So, what I am trying to say is, the user interface / control surface decides it for me.

Full disclaimer: I use a DAW only for working and as an effect host / recorder in the Studio. Staring at a screen kills inspiration for me.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by starthief » Wed Nov 24, 2021 5:58 am

Big fan of Bitwig here. I started with FL Studio and used that for many years -- it's gotten a bit bloated and awkward over time though. I went through a Maschine period, and while it may not be the most full-featured DAW available it's great for a groovebox style workflow... and I could navigate it very quickly and easily even when I went more experimental and modular.

But Bitwig really suits me best, with the Grid as an extension of my modular, modulators assignable to everything, and super flexible routing even outside the Grid. Honestly I don't even use the clip launcher or arrangement view, don't do MIDI sequencing, but it works very well for hosting effects, mixing and recording.

(I have a Launchpad X, and though there are controller scripts available for it, I prefer keeping it just as a MIDI performance controller. I found I prefer it over a standard keyboard, but with the way I use Bitwig, it wasn't much of an aid to navigation.)

I demoed Ableton three times before trying Bitwig and never really got into it. It's possible a tutorial would have helped though. I did need one to get comfortable with navigating Bitwig and work out how I wanted to use it.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by wuff_miggler » Wed Nov 24, 2021 10:50 pm

a few things that grind my gears about FL:

*seemingly stagnant feature innovation
*no new plugins
*long un-attended obvious requested features ...audio editing for one...seriously its fucking 2021.
*combinations of old shit skins and old plugins with revamped new ones.
*no undos in some plugins.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by ATW » Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:15 pm

Yeah I would agree that Live can sound a bit artifacted, especially if left to its defaults. There are default settings (optimized for performance) like auto-warp, as well as the default fade envelopes for cut/paste editing—these have audible artifacts and qualities. Disabling them, or at least being aware of them, can help get to a cleaner sound.
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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by eboats » Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:36 am

Every thread about DAW recommendations inevitably results in the listing out of every DAW on the market ( like in this thread!) since they're all competent. I use Cubase and it can do anything I've ever wanted and more, fully featured for not just loop based electronic music but for more linear stuff as well. The Midi functionality is massive. I'll either record hardware synths into it for more electronic stuff and manipulate it, or use sample libs with expression maps for orchestral music, so it's a great tool that isn't just focused on loop stuff like the Abeltons of the world.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by marugenji » Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:09 pm

Thanks everyone! You gave me a lot to think about...

I think I am going to start with Logic, and if I want to get more into the live side of things with a daw I will also try Bitwig (or maybe Ableton). I tried Reaper before and didn't find it intuitive for me at all, and it was ugly and I don't have the time to customize it to my liking. Cubase I can't stand the dongle (and with a mac I will need a dongle for the dongle too!). Protools doesn't seem great to work with midi (it seems better for traditional recording studios) and I don't like the subscription pricing. FL Studios aren't people just using it because they pirated it a long time ago to make some EDM tracks and never got a real daw ;-)? Oh, and when I found out Fender just bought Presonus it moved Studio One way down on the list.

Am I forgetting anything?

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by wuff_miggler » Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:14 pm

^ strong disagree regarding FL.

despite it having its niggles i mentioned above. As their company motto is...incredibly fast to go from idea to finished product. Also the additional functionality inside the piano roll of using their stock plugins is quite sublime. The FL piano roll is unbeatable...so its a strong contender imo if the majority of sound sources you use are VSTs. Even more powerful if your ideal workflow is lots of INTENTIONAL work..ie. strong vision.


Ableton comes out ahead if you plan on recording audio from outside sources and want to fuck with it, if youre ideation loves experimentaion :-)

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by rurs » Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:57 pm

As regards your gripe with Cubase, Steinberg are ditching the dongle, although it remains to be seen how the replacement shapes up.

And there's a decent sale on Bitwig at the moment, I'm tempted to upgrade my 8 track license.

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by marugenji » Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:19 pm

Yes, I was joking a bit about FL studio :-).

Thanks for the heads up on the Bitwig sale!

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Re: DAW Recommendations

Post by Dilibob » Fri Nov 26, 2021 3:24 am

I am pretty focused on cubase and protools, but I wouldn’t recommend them at this time since they go through the intel “Rosetta 2” translator. I btw have a M1 max and normal M1, have tested with both but at this time I would only recommend native apps. I actually use the adobe stacks, they are especially nice if your going to edit video with your music. I was thinking about trying apples sound platform Logic Pro because I heard that works well on M1 … but haven’t gotten around to it.

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