Does the world really need another DAW / music production tool?

That thought has to at least echo a couple of times in the back of your mind as you see a new attempt to provide all-in-one computer music making tools. But there are reasons to pay attention to Ohm Studio, aside from the fact that the music making application comes from a fairly beloved plug-in developer. One is, the tool promises to approach real-time collaboration and community (or “cohmunity,” as they say) from the ground up. It’s a desktop app for the cloud. That may or may not be of interest to you, but it at least provides differentiation.

Two, this week we get to find out that the UI looks quite gorgeous.

Cid Andrade of Ohm Force writes CDM with three screenshots of the new interface for the upcoming beta builds. (Previously, we had seen only alpha UIs.) It looks clean and clear; there are strong similarities to GarageBand (which in turn borrowed functionally from Acid), but with some twists. There are quick-access edit tools, freely-routable plug-ins, and lots of integrated tools for collaboration.

Cid walks CDM through what’s in the beta interface and how it works; see the callouts in the image below. (Thanks, Skitch!)

Cid explains:

1 – Sequencing Panel’s “Macro Viewer”: gives an overview of the whole sequence. The movable focus-square has two functions: it allows the user to navigate within the macro viewer and easily locate and go to some region of the sequence, and also shows to all other session members which sequence region the user is working on. In this example, this focus-square is the one controlled by the user who’s actually seeing this screen. It’s over the current selected pattern. All other session members will also see this user’s focus-square, so they will know what he’s working on. There will be an efficient color code allowing a quick visualization of each session member’s focus-squares and current selections.

2 – In this example, the macro-viewer is displaying two focus-squares, what would mean that there are two members working simultaneously in this session. The user who’s actually seeing this screen also sees this second focus-square (the one belonging to the other member) and thanks to that can know where in the sequence he/she is working on. Still, in this example, one user may be editing some rhythmic parts in the sequence intro while the other one is starting to compose a bass line later in the timeline.

3 – This is the current selection of the user who’s seeing this screen. The other members can see a colored pattern in one of the focus-squares that the macro-viewer is displaying. By the color they’ll know which user is.

4 – These are the “power tools”. An user will be able to make all possible audio/MIDI edits using only these tools, as their function can be altered by pressing some keys (of course each edit action will have its respective keyboard shortcut so none will be obliged to use the mouse all the time).

5 – This is the Gear Panel, where the members of a session will place (and freely route) audio effects and virtual instruments (in addition of Ohm Studio’s own built-in effects, it will support VST and VSTI).

6 – The Gear Panel’s macro-viewer. Works similarly to the Sequencing Panel’s one, this time allowing an user to navigate within the Gear Panel (which is virtually infinite in area) to easily locate a specific region. It’s also useful to let each session member know on which Gear Panel’s region the other users are working on, and see/show each one’s current selections.

Thanks, Cid!

The beta is scheduled to start mid-December. There’s still time to sign up, says Cid, if you’re interested in testing.

…and Ohm have plenty of other information about how they’re handling collaboration, community, and versioning, all essential when your project is shared by others:

  • The two things I wonder about when I see this are, 1) is there much of a demand for project-level cloud collaboration facilities, and 2) is the audio workstation interface so perfected that all new entrants to the market must at their core retain the same way of doing things?

    The answer to that latter part in fact may be yes, the core of the multitrack DAW interface is perfect, but it seems strange to me that in a reasonalby overcrowded field, newcomers (like Ohm, Studio One, Reaper, Indaba, etc) all hit the market as just variations on the same thing instead of really shaking things up.

  • Not sure Indaba was the right company I meant to include in that list. Didn't they used to be a Flash-based DAW-like thing? Their website doesn't suggest that any more. Perhaps I was thinking another website (they're all so similar, becomes hard to even remember them straight).

  • shim

    @ steve h: i totally agree with your first point and this is why i personally stick with a mix of logic and and live.

    honestly, i love ohm's plugs and instruments so i had high hopes for this being way more left of center. at least graphically. sigh. the UI is looking pretty hot 'tho. i really wish ableton would wake up and warm up live's UI. i really dig live but there gets to be a point where it's look just kills my creativity.

  • RB

    Does it record OSC messages ?
    Can I control it with OSC at least ?
    Can I set a different tempo on each track ?

    No? Tschüss, ciao, bye-bye, bien le bonjour !

  • It looks like it borrowed a bit from FLStudio as well. If I recall correctly it was one of the first DAWs to ditch the ghastly and gawdawful classic MS light grey and go with a darker grey for all background elements. Within the last couple of years I have noticed that more and more DAWs are using darker backgrounds and "polishing" the visual aspects instead of just inserting buttons and giving them titles.

    For what it's worth I don't think the kind of collaboration which they are going for is very highly in demand and I feel like especially in this isolated society we live in artists would still rather get together and plug things in and look at eachother to get cues on how they want to jam. Coming from an artist who taught herself how to use software to make music and has never had the chance to actually jam out with other like minded people I don't want to give myself any further excuse to feel isolated. At the same time I feel like any form of collaboration should be encouraged. I kind of wish that we could take leaps forward in the fair use/copyright situation.

    In any case.. I just want to look over at someone while turning knobs and hitting pads and know that the pads and knobs they are working with will sound cool with mine. In other words jamming.
    /end extremely long winded blathering post.

  • Martin

    Nothing stopping you 'jamming' with someone in the same room with / inside of this. In fact for me that would be the main interest of it.

    Having a visual matrix for making complex routings of audio and midi VSTs etc is a wonderful feature … I wish Ableton would bring a little more of the Max approach into Live itself and do something like this …

    Have to agree with others that given the nature of some of their plugins, and the somewhat mad UIs that they are known for, this seems a surprisingly conservative and even consensual design and interface from Ohm … That being said i'm not sure that i'm completely ready to spend my life inside a DAW where the tracks drip blood on cats from outer space, so maybe just as well.

    is it skinnable ? 😉

  • @Martin I also feel that freely routeable audio should be incorporated into Live. I used Buzz for a while early in my audio adventures and found the free routing to be quite inspiring – though you can do much of the same things now with chains and such, having the visual layout really helps. Plus there were some really cool recursive audio generation things you could do with it… may still be possible with live… hmm…

  • pc999

    Actually it seems a very good option for new people on this.

    Or for those that are tried od old workflows (lets see how doop the sonar redesign is :D)

    Or for those how want to colaborate in mixing and composition (this is not for jaming).

    Personally I think there is room for one more.

    But I also would like to see new things, where is bitwig?

  • Audio routing is a great idea.
    Actually, that and the collab would be two things I'd really like to see in for example, live or renoise.

  • Eric

    Haha! I love the rip on Songsmith in the video.
    I've got to say, I think that I would give online collaboration more attention if, like in this video, the syncing to a central server is as seamless as it looks.
    Working with one other person on two different hard drives is bad enough as it is.

  • James Bernard

    Hmm.. the UI looks a bit like Mackie Tracktion and Ableton Live had a child.

  • Juan Pablo

    @james yes sir, It does look like a graphicall hybrid of those 2 – and a little bit like garage band.

    I've seen a video at a while a go showing off the collaboration part of it it seemed quite amazing but I wonder how well you could collaborate online with the sluggish internet connections latinamerican people have. 

  • Fabrice Fortner


    I have recently played around OhmStudio with a friend using a LAN connection: looks promising, we will test it with Internet connection soon.

    I like the GUI, navigation and edition functionnalities, the dual screen and collaborative features in place: so far it all looks solid.

    Ohmstudio is still available for free during the beta phase.

    I was wondering what might you think about collaborative music creation.


  • Fabrice Fortner


    I have recently played around OhmStudio with a friend using a LAN connection: looks promising, we will test it with Internet connection soon.

    I like the GUI, navigation and edition functionnalities, the dual screen and collaborative features in place: so far it all looks solid.

    Ohmstudio is still available for free during the beta phase.

    I was wondering what might you think about collaborative music creation.