dp9-hero

This is the way DP – Digital Performer – looks in version 9. The tried-and-true Mac DAW now has Retina Display support on that platform, and looks like a viable option on Windows, too.

DP9 may not get the amount of attention on the forums and such as some rival DAWs (Logic, Cubase, Ableton), but it has a hugely loyal user base and dominates in film and TV production. The DP9 release seems mainly about giving that loyal user base the stuff they want.

The big features: Retina UI on the Mac, lots of workflow improvements (including score export), and new bundled MX4 synth and effects, including one effect that turns your guitar into a synth.

First, the internal features:

  • Separate automation lanes when editing sequencing (for audio, MIDI automation, plug-in settings, etc.), as seen in some other DAW arrangement views. That same view also gets a Spectrogram.
  • Retina themes – Retina resolution for existing themes and that purty new DP9 theme. Unfortunately, this is Mac only, so doesn’t help you if you’re running a PC at higher resolution (though I suppose that’s more rare).
  • Add tracks quickly with the ability to have at all the track types you need in one go.
  • Keep plug-in windows floating.
  • MIDI learn with plug-ins, including Custom Consoles.
  • Mute MIDI notes
  • Project notes
  • Search by Markers, Chunks, and plug-in preferences.

Now, oddly, I think what could prove to be the biggest feature in DP9 is MusicXML export. That lets you take notation from DP’s QuickScribe view (which shows scores alongside arrangements) and export it in a format you can bring into dedicated notation tools like Finale and Sibelius. DP9 is hardly the first to add this feature: Cubase/Nuendo have export and import, and Logic and SONAR each do export. Avid’s Pro Tools even integrates Sibelius directly, now that Avid owns that tool.

But DP9’s enormous popularity in TV and film scoring – including use by giants like Oscar winners Michael Giacchino and Dario Marianelli – mean that this could be a huge boon in score and part preparation. The list of users working with DP is just stunning, and this is a user group that is hugely dependent on turning projects around with incredible speed.

The other advantage of coupling DP’s notation facility with MusicXML export is transcription. You can work with MIDI – even un-quantized – directly in DP and quickly produce notation that will work in scores. MOTU claims it’s got one of the best transcription engines on the market; I can certainly at least say that it’s a lot more comfortable to use than trying to manage MIDI in a notation tool. The notation software is often poor at handling un-quantized MIDI data (as it’s built to work with rhythmic values on the score, not in the recording), and it lacks the punch, recording, and tracking features that make input easy. So MOTU’s QuickScribe and MusicXML are a combination that’s been waiting to happen.

Export only means you can’t start a score elsewhere and bring it into DP in MusicXML format (though SMF is possible), but I suspect scoring in DP first to picture and then preparing parts or editing elsewhere is more common, which means export is sufficient.

See the official MusicXML site for more on that terrific format.

Upgrading to DP9 costs US$195, though. So the other story here is new synths and plug-ins to sweeten the deal.

On the synth side, there’s MX4, a hybrid subtractive/FM/wavetable/analog synth – basically, a big machine that does everything. That may or may not be of interest to you, given how many synth options are out there these days, but it’s there.

Perhaps more interesting are the effects plug-ins. These used to be a bit scarce in DP, but the collection has really rounded out in recent updates:

DP9-plug-ins

  • FET-76 1176 limiter model gets added to the MasterWorks collection for some classic limiting.
  • MultiFuzz is a model of Craig Anderton’s QuadraFuzz kit distortion. (Hey, has that gotten a reissue in hardware? If not, why not? But I digress.)
  • Octave Generators: MicroG and MicroB for guitar and bass, respectively.
  • MegaSynth processor: Guitars go in, synthesizer comes out. You basically get polyphonic octave generation, with a full synth architecture (envelopes, LFOs, flexible signal routing, and even a pattern generator and macros).

MegaSynth and MultiFuzz are two I’d try out, for sure.

DP remains US$499 street, though probably nearly anyone interested will qualify for the competitive upgrade of US$395 – and anyone with MOTU hardware probably has a copy of AudioDesk, which means you can get a US$395 upgrade from that.

https://www.motu.com/store_products/upgrades/dp

  • Fabian-Robert Stöter

    maybe someone should tell them that if many people don’t know your product it makes sense to release a demo/trial version

    • MOTU

      Thanks for writing! Digital Performer 9 is available as a free, fully-featured demo for 30 days. Visit the MOTU Downloads page to download the demo, and give it a try! http://www.motu.com/download/body.html/

      • Fabian-Robert Stöter

        That’s great! Sorry for not checking first!

  • Fabian-Robert Stöter

    maybe someone should tell them that if many people don’t know your product it makes sense to release a demo/trial version

    • MOTU

      Thanks for writing! Digital Performer 9 is available as a free, fully-featured demo for 30 days. Visit the MOTU Downloads page to download the demo, and give it a try! http://www.motu.com/download/body.html/

      • Fabian-Robert Stöter

        That’s great! Sorry for not checking first!

  • butt dirt

    this is looking very streamlined and approachable compared to the DP I tried years ago (after seeing those Autechre automation screenshots)

    this being 2015 it’s very important for UI designers to be confident in their work, so even if you want things to remain flexible, you still shouldn’t be like Sonar. Have some courage to snap things into place and curate the production experience, don’t just leave it up to the end user to resize and shuffle floating windows and arbitrary UI elements

    nobody should be looking at submenus of submenus in pop up dialogs anymore. if the task you’re designing is too complicated for that 90s paradigm then break away from it and envision it in a new way. Tracktion is a good example of this

  • butt dirt

    this is looking very streamlined and approachable compared to the DP I tried years ago (after seeing those Autechre automation screenshots)

    this being 2015 it’s very important for UI designers to be confident in their work, so even if you want things to remain flexible, you still shouldn’t be like Sonar. Have some courage to snap things into place and curate the production experience, don’t just leave it up to the end user to resize and shuffle floating windows and arbitrary UI elements

    nobody should be looking at submenus of submenus in pop up dialogs anymore. if the task you’re designing is too complicated for that 90s paradigm then break away from it and envision it in a new way. Tracktion is a good example of this

  • So, Performer with the embedded MX4 synth is 64-bit, but MX4 as a plug-in for other hosts (which I bought) is still only 32-bit. I wonder if that makes MX as a product essentially dead?

  • So, Performer with the embedded MX4 synth is 64-bit, but MX4 as a plug-in for other hosts (which I bought) is still only 32-bit. I wonder if that makes MX as a product essentially dead?

  • Yo

    “and dominates in film and TV production.”
    I keep hearing that about DP all the time. But what is it exactly about it that makes it so popular for that, compared to other Daws ?

    • Brian

      Punch, flutters and streamers in the quick time movie you are scoring. Allows you to know exactly when that hit occurs. That’s one big one. But it’s been popular before this function as well. The overall sync to picture functions that MOTU kept uppermost to serve composers.

  • Yo

    “and dominates in film and TV production.”
    I keep hearing that about DP all the time. But what is it exactly about it that makes it so popular for that, compared to other Daws ?

    • Brian

      Punch, flutters and streamers in the quick time movie you are scoring. Allows you to know exactly when that hit occurs. That’s one big one. But it’s been popular before this function as well. The overall sync to picture functions that MOTU kept uppermost to serve composers.

  • DPrty

    Well I am looking for secondary recording software although I am very happy with Reaper and have used everything made. What I want to know is how good is DP at midi and since I use motu interfaces can I expect better midi timing with DP? Any comments on this are appreciated.

    • gunboat_d

      I used DP from 3-7 (then moved to Windows) and they have very strong MIDI tools. Probably the best in the DAW world. I’m using Sonar now and there’s no comparison.
      plus, DP really can function like an old-school tape machine and record in realtime from VIs driven by MIDI.
      The global I/O routing capabilities and saving to a template is something i miss every day.
      (I went to Windows and Sonar just a few weeks before Motu anounced a windows version. i had never expected DP to go Windows and I’d sold my license and turned over my Motu account. I’d have been less shocked to hear Logic was going Windows.)

      • DPrty

        @gunboat_d Thanks for the info. Sorry if this is dense of me but you mentioned (“DP really can function like an old-school tape machine and record in realtime from VIs driven by MIDI”) What is “VIs”?

        • gunboat_d

          Virtual Instruments. Also, instruments in ReWire. DP has (or did up until 7) the best method for printing your virtual instruments.

          • DPrty

            Yup I’m dense.

  • DPrty

    Well I am looking for secondary recording software although I am very happy with Reaper and have used everything made. What I want to know is how good is DP at midi and since I use motu interfaces can I expect better midi timing with DP? Any comments on this are appreciated.

    • gunboat_d

      I used DP from 3-7 (then moved to Windows) and they have very strong MIDI tools. Probably the best in the DAW world. I’m using Sonar now and there’s no comparison.
      plus, DP really can function like an old-school tape machine and record in realtime from VIs driven by MIDI.
      The global I/O routing capabilities and saving to a template is something i miss every day.
      (I went to Windows and Sonar just a few weeks before Motu anounced a windows version. i had never expected DP to go Windows and I’d sold my license and turned over my Motu account. I’d have been less shocked to hear Logic was going Windows.)

      • DPrty

        @gunboat_d Thanks for the info. Sorry if this is dense of me but you mentioned (“DP really can function like an old-school tape machine and record in realtime from VIs driven by MIDI”) What is “VIs”?

        • gunboat_d

          Virtual Instruments. Also, instruments in ReWire. DP has (or did up until 7) the best method for printing your virtual instruments.

          • DPrty

            Yup I’m dense, should of known.

  • DP-User

    To answer some of the questions below… DP has many features that make it a top choice for film/TV. A big one is something called “Chunks”, which enables you to have multiple cues as sub-projects within one project file. It works in conjunction with V-racks, so they can share the VIs and plugins. It also has other features that make it easy to work with SMPTE time code and to integrate markers and film-scoring techniques like streamers, punchers, and flutters. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ljd7R8ASuw for more details.

    DP also has some of the most advanced MIDI features of any DAW, a is by far the best at working with external MIDI hardware synths.

    • Yeah, exactly – I think that’s MOTU answering here, but as an observer I can say that even just playing video in other DAWs can sometimes be a chore. DP’s combination of solid support for time code, setting up cues, and playing video are a winner.

      The reality, too, is that if you’re doing broadcast/film work daily, you can’t afford to be jumping from one DAW to one another. So I think DP has won over these users over a longer period of time, deservedly.

      I mean, obviously there are people working in other DAWs, but DP is really popular in this segment.

      And those features can be useful to you even if you aren’t doing that sort of work.

  • DP-User

    To answer some of the questions below… DP has many features that make it a top choice for film/TV. A big one is something called “Chunks”, which enables you to have multiple cues as sub-projects within one project file. It works in conjunction with V-racks, so they can share the VIs and plugins. It also has other features that make it easy to work with SMPTE time code and to integrate markers and film-scoring techniques like streamers, punchers, and flutters. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ljd7R8ASuw for more details.

    DP also has some of the most advanced MIDI features of any DAW, a is by far the best at working with external MIDI hardware synths.

    • Yeah, exactly – I think that’s MOTU answering here, but as an observer I can say that even just playing video in other DAWs can sometimes be a chore. DP’s combination of solid support for time code, setting up cues, and playing video are a winner.

      The reality, too, is that if you’re doing broadcast/film work daily, you can’t afford to be jumping from one DAW to one another. So I think DP has won over these users over a longer period of time, deservedly.

      I mean, obviously there are people working in other DAWs, but DP is really popular in this segment.

      And those features can be useful to you even if you aren’t doing that sort of work.

  • I used DP till I switched to Logic 7, would love to know if I can still open my older sessions…
    If yes, I’m buying this straight away

    • Roikat

      It should, although I haven’t upgraded to 9 yet. DP has always had good support between versions, including the ability to save files compatible with older versions. (I was just wondering if it still does that well, because this version won’t run on my oldest Macs.)

      I’ve never had trouble reading old files from previous versions in my experience … the main nightmare is that I never have exactly the same plugins installed on all computers I use. They’ve upgraded to WAV from SD2 but it -should- still import old sessions (Mac OS doesn’t tend to know what SD2 files are any more so it’s time to move on there …)

      • Oh yeah that SD2 madness… Just to open, re-export or re-mix a few tracks then sell them straight away…

  • I used DP till I switched to Logic 7, would love to know if I can still open my older sessions…
    If yes, I’m buying this straight away

    • Roikat

      It should, although I haven’t upgraded to 9 yet. DP has always had good support between versions, including the ability to save files compatible with older versions. (I was just wondering if it still does that well, because this version won’t run on my oldest Macs.)

      I’ve never had trouble reading old files from previous versions in my experience … the main nightmare is that I never have exactly the same plugins installed on all computers I use. They’ve upgraded to WAV from SD2 but it -should- still import old sessions (Mac OS doesn’t tend to know what SD2 files are any more so it’s time to move on there …)

      • Oh yeah that SD2 madness… Just to open, re-export or re-mix a few tracks then sell them straight away…

  • dbmarin

    Peter, you mentioned MetaSynth twice in this article. The screenshot of DP9 says MegaSynth. It would be great to access MS within DP but is that what you really mean?

    • Ah, the brain is a mysterious and unpredictable organ.

      No, that’s definitely not what I meant. 😉 That’d be an amazing feature, though!

  • dbmarin

    Peter, you mentioned MetaSynth twice in this article. The screenshot of DP9 says MegaSynth. It would be great to access MS within DP but is that what you really mean?

    • Ah, the brain is a mysterious and unpredictable organ.

      No, that’s definitely not what I meant. 😉 That’d be an amazing feature, though!

  • WalterMidi

    A few basic operations I keep hoping to see:
    Where’s the indicator in song mode that tells you where you’re at? Like a wiper or something that highlights each chunk as it is played?
    How do I change the color of each chunk so I can tell them apart in a song?
    Where’s the other views of a song, like track view or QuickScribe, with color indicators that match the chunks in the song?

  • WalterMidi

    A few basic operations I keep hoping to see:
    Where’s the indicator in song mode that tells you where you’re at? Like a wiper or something that highlights each chunk as it is played?
    How do I change the color of each chunk so I can tell them apart in a song?
    Where’s the other views of a song, like track view or QuickScribe, with color indicators that match the chunks in the song?

  • Mick Goch

    also their tempo/hits function – you can set hit markers on a video timeline then calculate extremely accurate beats at various optional tempos – enormously helpful when working on a soundtrack

  • oceantracks

    it’s 2016 and DP still has real time freeze.
    No bounce in place….and tiny faders.
    No vari speed record like PT and Logic.
    Cool program but needs to get with this century.