Your recording/mixing software (or “digital audio workstation”) is something you will be constantly working with if you plan on producing music with a computer based system (which is what this site is all about.) Because it’s going to make up the core of your studio, choosing the recording software you’re going to go with is a pretty big decision.
The first thing you should probably consider is what kind of computer you have (or are planning on getting.) Some recording software works only on the Mac or the PC and some software is known to work better with one or the other (such as Pro Tools’ reputation for working better with Mac computers.)
The second thing you should consider is what kind of music you plan on recording/producing and whether or not you will be using MIDI heavily. Some programs such as Cubase are very good for MIDI while others such as Nuendo are not very well suited for MIDI. If you plan on creating music that is entirely (or almost entirely) loop based then Sony’s Acid may be the best choice for you.
The third thing you will definitely be considering is your budget. Some recording/mixing software is far more expensive than others. For example, Nuendo 4 is $1800 at GuitarCenter.com while Cubase 4 is only $600.
The fourth thing you’ll want to consider is your audio interface. If you do not already have one you may be interested in buying an audio interface package which includes reasonably high quality recording software. If you’ve already got your audio interface then you’ll want to make sure that your recording software works well with the interface you own.
Summaries Of The Seven Top Choices For Recording Software:
Pro Tools – Pro Tools works with both the PC & the Mac although it doesn’t yet (as of this writing) work with Windows Vista. The next release of Pro Tools is supposed to be compatible with Vista but even then it will work only with Vista Ultimate. Pro Tools has a reputation for working better with Mac computers, if you are a PC person you may want to consider another option.
If you do not already have an audio interface then you may be interested in one of the Digidesign audio interface packages which come with “light” versions of Pro Tools (you can then upgrade these versions if you become unsatisfied by any limitations.) If you do already have an audio interface then you’ll probably want to choose another option as the Pro Tools software probably will not work (or at least not work well) with your non Digidesign audio interface.
Pro Tools may be considered the “standard” for producing audio but that doesn’t mean it’s the only choice or the best choice for you. You also must make note that the Pro Tools LE versions that come with the cheaper Digidesign audio interfaces are not the same thing as the Pro Tools versions that professional studios use, it’s a “light” version which has quite a few limitations that you may be very irritated by. Other choices such as Cubase & Nuendo do not have these limitations.
Nuendo – This software works well with both PC computers and Mac computers, it also works well with almost any audio interface. The only drawbacks are it’s price (about $1800) and that it’s not particularly strong with MIDI. If you do not use much MIDI (or don’t mind using MIDI through Reason, which can be rewired inside of Nuendo) and you have money to burn then this may be a great choice for you.
Nuendo is excellent for surround sound mixing. If you are interested in mixing in 5.1 (and many other options) then this is a great choice. It also includes a video element so if you are interested in producing music for television, movies, or any other video format then Neundo will get the job done.
Nuendo works well with Windows Vista.
Cubase – It is made by the same company that makes Nuendo (Steinberg.) It also works well with both PCs (including Vista based machines) and Macs. Cubase is an excellent choice if you are MIDI based, although it also works fine for recording audio. It’s far less expensive than Nuendo.
SONAR – Cakewalk makes SONAR which is PC only software. Obviously if you have a Mac you’ll be crossing SONAR off your list of possibilities. It works well with audio & MIDI. It’s capabilities are similar to those of Cubase. In the end it comes down to which program you are most comfortable with, as each program has it’s own quirks but generally the end result (in capabilities & audio quality) will be similar.
Digital Performer – Mac only. This software works well with both MIDI & audio. It’s created by MOTU (Mark Of The Unicorn) which also makes quality audio interfaces. This is a great alternative to Pro Tools for Mac users, but you should note that their audio interfaces do not come with Digital Performer, you’ll have to purchase it seperately.
Logic – Mac only. This is Apple’s recording software. If you are an Apple fanatic you’ll probably be pleased with how it works. It’s reasonably priced and has a lot of great extra features. It works well with audio and MIDI.
Acid – Sony’s Acid is a PC only program. It’s designed primarily for creating loop based music. For Hip-Hop or electronica it may be a good choice but you should probably avoid it unless that’s what you are doing. It is considerably less expensive than the other options as it’s only $300 for the Pro version currently at GuitarCenter.com