What if your DAW were completely open-ended and modular, allowing you to send audio and control anywhere, and control from any device – including touch? Now Windows – and Mac users – find out.

Driven by musicians’ need to do a lot of the same things, and expecting certain ways of doing those things, DAWs have traditionally been mired in the same molds. Sensomusic Hollyhock, an upcoming DAW from the makers of Usine, promises to be genuinely different. Like Usine, it’s built around an entirely open-ended, modular environment – you can patch together only what you need, and can patch together just about anything. But building on Usine, Sensomusic have created an entirely rewritten app, with new audio engine, rebuilt interface, new MIDI management, and, among other things, cross-platform 64-bit support for Windows and the Mac.

Public beta comes early next year, with a preorder now (for those hard-core Usine fans, I presume). But what we can see already looks promising.

One thing I really like about Bitwig Studio is the idea of having any device be a patch – so the entire environment can be customized. But Bitwig says they won’t have public access to that functionality in their first version – and even the first version is promised only for some time in 2013.

Building on their existing modular app, Sensomusic might get there first. And they offer uniquely flexible input from hardware.


  • Arbitrarily route audio, MIDI, and even stuff like cameras, joysticks, or the Nintendo Wii remote, right in the device window. (Other apps have tried similar things, but generally requiring scripting or Max patches or the like.)
  • Drag and drop devices and inputs and create multiple instances of a device. (Remember, everything here is essentially modular.
  • Each device doubles as a patch, with subpatches for different levels.
  • Record anywhere – even with quantization.
  • VST (Mac/Windows), AU (Mac) plug-in support, video support, and even Freeframe plug-ins for video – this is shaping up to be a fully modular audiovisual environment.
  • Workspaces, playlists for workspaces, Start page…

The rack is reminiscent of what you’d see in, say, Ableton Live – but get in there, and you can route any control or audio you like.

A lot of what you get does come from Usine, or iterates on that tool, though that could be a good thing – there’s a long experience of development and user feedback here. In fact, if Usine did nothing other than come to the Mac, it’d be news. Now, it’s I’d say fairly big news. (My only complaint: I just wish that UI could get some added polish. Minimal is great, but this is … well, awfully minimal. The functionality is great, though.)

And that brings us to the beautiful automation features, physics, and touch – all building on the stuff that made Usine cool in the first place. That’s best seen in videos, not bullets, so see below for some of my favorites.

Mac users are going to wish for a touch display. (An external display could be one way to go.)

In Hollyhock, each device is also a patch. That will eventually true in Bitwig Studio, its developers say, but it appears Hollyhock will get their first. Here’s a compressor. (I hope the similar discussion in these two tools means more modular goodness, generally!)

Patching interface – there if you want it.

New browser functions, modules.

One tasty sampler with zoom abilities – especially nice with touch.

Complete details from developer Olivier Sens:

Special preorder price, at a discount, including beta access, and double the free updates (2 years instead of 1), as well as a chance to influence the design: 119€, or upgrade 49€.