Well, with the release of DP 4.6, it’s time to check in with how our DAWs are doing. These insanely-cool pitch features certainly mean it’s still in the ring. First, see my previous reviews:

Digital Performer 4.5 (review for Keyboard)

Giant Cubase 3 vs. DP 4.5 vs. Logic 7 Blowout (review for Macworld)

Live 4 (review for Macworld)

What the upgrades did: Logic 7.1 addressed my complaints about Logic 7 (latency compensation, the screwy UltraBeats presets, and easy drag-and-drop reordering of inserts). DP 4.6 added cool stuff I hadn’t even asked for, though it misses my one major complaint, which is there’s not even a simple virtual synth to make music with out of the box. Live 5 will take a perfect program and make it better, as near as I can tell, though it’s still not a total replacement for these other apps — no surround, no video, no power-user MIDI, no Pro Tools support. (That won’t matter to everyone, but to those for whom it does matter, you can probably afford to buy it and ReWire it!)

Who’s winning? Okay, let me take these incredible subtle, complex programs and give you really simplistic advice. If you’re looking for a Pro Tools replacement that lets you do more with less pain, or you’re scoring new Peter Jackson movies, get DP. If you want the best all-around value in synths and instruments and you believe he/she who dies with the most software toys wins, get Logic. If you’re on Windows, and you want surround and power audio features, get SONAR. If you’re starting out, or you want to perform live, or you just want the most elegant app for audio and MIDI creation, get Live. If you’re cash-strapped, get Tracktion. I love Cubase, but unless you’re cross-platform, I’ve had a harder time finding things that make me want to use it. Existing users certainly could do worse, but I can’t see picking up Cubase anew.

Bottom line: with DP, Logic, and SONAR there are plenty of reasons to use DAWs that aren’t named Pro Tools as your primary, pro environment. And if you are happily using Pro Tools, great — just do me a favor, give that Ableton Live thing a try, now that it’s included with Pro Tools. You’ll find it’s a great addition to your Pro Tools arsenal.

  • carmen

    cant believe anyone would honestly suggest SONAAR for "power audio features" over Samplitude or SawStudio, but its forgivable youve never heard of those if youre a mac user. btw Samplitude has had those "insanely cool pitch features" for 2 years now…

    oh and its impossible to read this comment box, since youve specified a background color of white, but no foreground color (which defaults to white) in the CSS:

    .inputbox {
    padding: 2px;
    border:solid 1px #cccccc;
    background-color: #ffffff;

  • erichmond

    I can give you a good reason why Sonar over Samplitude… workflow 🙂

    All the cool features in the world don't help if you can't use them in a efficient manner.

    With the release of Live5, I'm moving as much work as possible inside Live, and only using Sonar when neccessary. It's *that* good 🙂

  • admin

    I'll try to fix that CSS issue. But which browser defaults to white as a foreground color? Never seen that.

    Anyway, I've heard of Samplitude and SAWStudio, just never met anyone who's using them — including on the PC. If you can come up with some good reasons to use these, by all means share them. It's not my ignorance of the PC, it's my ignorance of those programs. I've been a PC user since 1985, Mac actually for a shorter time.

    But I'm skeptical on the pitch features, because MOTU's implementation looks pretty advanced. Anyway, feel free to defend the product if you like.

    And Live 5 is, indeed, amazingly great. More on that soon.

    I leave my in-depth reviews for the print magazines I write for and do the "shoot off my mouth" thing here — though the latter has advantages, like finding out what readers really think, which is always educational.


  • Guest

    I have DP and I hate it, mainly because I dislike Protools and DP is more of the same. If you really just want a tape deck on your computer and you don't give a rat's how it looks or performs then, sure DP or PT will do, but for effeciency and versatility it's gotta be Cubase IMHO.
    Main contentions here are: PT and DP only grudginbgly implement MIDI, whereas Cubase is built around it, second Cubase has the feel of a design team that spent a long time planning before actually finalising the app and releasing it, whereas DP particularly is obviously thrown together on the fly with a 'yeah we'll fix it in post attitude'. DP is notoriously unstable, it's interface is clunky and inconsistent and just lacks a lot of intuitiveness that makes desktop composition attractive in the first place.
    Also, if you're a drummer, forget DP, certainly forget PT, just take a glance at the poorly conceived drum editor in DP, I'd love to see some producer try to edit a Billy Cobham style performance in that nasty Fruity Loop-esque piece of nonsense.
    DP's one redeeming feature, however, is the pitch tool. I use it solely for singing in my basslines and solo's and converting to MIDI, which it does surpriseingly well. Has the usual dumb faults of everything from MOTU (for instance: it recognises pitch, but it doesn't export this pitch data as pitch-wheel data, and has no option to do so, yet it graphically displays the pitch deviations with great accuracy; so one is unable to use the pitch-to-MIDI conversion to create bass slides or viola gliss's to which it is ideally suited = dumb), but it is a useful tool, if you already own DP. And finally, if you collaborate with anyone, DP is useless, it does dual MIDI in but only as an afterthought and it has inumerable glitches which make it useless, there's plenty more I could add, but I would seriously be here all day.