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Home Recording: Choosing a DAW

15 Aug Posted by in Blog, Links | 5 comments
Home Recording: Choosing a DAW

One of the toughest first steps that anyone wanting to get into home recording has to go through is picking which Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to use. As the DAW is the heart of any home studio, it’s also one of the most important steps. The good news is that all modern DAWs are going to sound good…once you get them to work and know how to use them. And therein lies the varying degrees of bad news. Some are easier to work with (both hardware and software-wise) and some are harder.

So how do you choose? Everyone has heard of ProTools, as it’s the professional studio standard – but it’s also pretty expensive (for more than the entry level system) and complex. I’m not saying it’s a bad choice, of course, it’s just that it’s a good idea to not just assume you have to go in that direction – there are lots of options. This blog post over at Discmakers is a good place to start, at least to introduce you to some of your choices:

Discmakers – Choosing Your DAW

It’s not a completely comprehensive list – be sure to read the comments section to find even more suggestions readers have. Personally I use one not on the list: Tracktion 2, which is Mackie’s software (currently unavailable and unsupported). Why? Because not only does it have a super intuitive software interface, but it came bundled with Mackie’s great hardware interface and mastering software. Point is, I did my research, picked a system that fit my needs and budget, and I’ve been happy ever since. Not that there aren’t trade offs – my system has plenty of quirks and limitations I’ve learned to workaround that may be non-starters for you.

So go take a look, do your research, and I’d love to hear your comments on DAWs you’re thinking about using or maybe you have strong feelings about the one you already use. They all have positives and negatives – what have you learned about different DAWs?

Chris Klimecky
Chris is the Executive Director of Songwriters in Seattle. He has been songwriting and recording for over 25 years and has called Seattle home for the last 17 years. His discography includes two albums with his band in the 90's, Jester's Crown, and three more recent solo album releases. He is currently working on a new album with his band while producing other local artists in his home studio.
  1. Jacque08-15-11

    You breezed over a very important point – “unsupported.” I have a moderate amount of work that I did in Tracktion (ver 3, on a macintosh), but now that the latest version of the Mac OS has rendered Tracktion unusable, I need to go back to an older computer and convert a lot of Tracktion files into something I can port to another DAW. It’s a drag, and it IS one reason to consider going with a widely used, probably more expensive system.

    • Chris Klimecky08-16-11

      Thanks for the comment and I agree with you, Jacque – I want to be clear that I’m certainly not recommending anyone purchase unsupported software in setting up their system (Tracktion 2 was supported at the time I set up my studio and continues to be solid as a rock for me). I only wish to illustrate the fact that there are great choices off the beaten path if you take the time to look. The many factors involved in choosing the right DAW for your situation are different for everyone.

  2. Christian Nelson08-16-11

    For generating/working up new ideas and getting rough cuts done, I definitely prefer GarageBand to Pro-Tools. I really like GarageBand’s smart drums, drum loops and wide variety of keys and synth sounds.

    Is there anything comparable to GarageBand with regards to these elements on other recording software? I’ve tried, for example, experimenting with drum tracks/loops on my friend’s Pro-Tools software and have found it to be much less user friendly.

    • bilgem08-16-11

      I haven’t seen GarageBand but what you explain seems to be available in Studio One the DAW that Presonus guys made. Its “Artist” version comes free with Presonus equipment. It has many prerecorded loops and fills etc, that it can change the tempo of. Check that out.

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  1. Home Recording: Choosing a DAW | recordingdigitalaudio.com08-15-11