With his permission, this is the english transcript of Etienne Tremblay’s YouTube video by the same name, but in french (“Logiciels (DAW) – Lequel choisir?”).
Here is Etienne’s video:
Here is my english transcript:
This is Etienne Tremblay from La machine à Mixer.
Today we will talk about software (DAW)…
I should have done this video a long time ago,
DAWs being such an essential part of recording these days.
But, as they say: better late than never!
So, we will talk about the 4 main DAWs currently on the market.
Their advantage and their disadvantages.
I’ll also mention two other pieces of software.
But, before we get started, it is important to point out that some of these advantages and disadvantages are a question of taste. It is using my vision, my perception, my taste that I will be sharing with you.
I encourage you to do your own research, make your own opinion up… And above all, try out these pieces of software before buying them. Most editors provide free trial periods, so don’t hesitate!”
“Without further ado, I’ll start with the DAW that I have been using for many years: Pro Tools. It is one of the most famous, as it is the first company to have provided external audio processing hardware.
If we go back to the early 2000s, computers were much less powerful than today.
For audio professionals, when it came to doing a digital mix, we were very limited by the processing power of the computer, by its CPU. The fact of having external audio processing hardware made a huge difference.
I remember, when I first started mixing, I would put one or two linear phase EQ plug-ins and everything would start freezing. We were therefore very limited. We had to think things through. It took a long time… That’s why Pro Tools found its place in studios. They were the first to bring solutions to the processing issue.
One of the big advantages of Pro Tools is its interface.
It is very user friendly. It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful and pleasant DAW to use.
It is also, in my opinion, the best sounding.
Now, here, we could go into a big debate. Some people will tell you there is no difference in the way DAWs sound. And other people, like me, think that, on the opposite, because of their different audio engines, not all DAWs sound the same.
To me, Pro Tools is the punchiest, grittiest, most aggressive DAW. And it is obvious that I have evolved with it… Learned to make Pro Tools sing. So personal taste does come into play 🙂
On the downside, Pro Tools is very limited in terms of MIDI.
And, in general, Pro Tools tends to be late in adopting new features.
So if you do a lot of MIDI or electronic music, Pro Tools might not be the best choice for you.
Another disadvantage is the feature to price ratio.
Some features in the LE versions are limited… So is the number of tracks.
So, in general, the feature to price ratio isn’t that great.
Pro Tools is currently in version 11.
Personally, I work on version 10.
One of the big issue with versions prior to 11, is that when you want to export a project, Pro Tools will only do realtime bounces. So, if your project is one hour long, it takes one hour to bounce to two tracks. This is very limiting when you are doing long projects, especially in post-prod, exporting full-length TV shows or documentaries. It is less of an issue for music projects.
And in version 11, you can now do “offline” bounces. Those will be faster that realtime!
So, Pro Tools is mostly for folks who do mixing or mastering and want an interface that is quick and instinctive in its workflow. Naturally, I promote it because I know it well.
So once again, if you do mixing and mastering, I encourage you to go and test it out.”
“The next DAW we will discuss is Cubase by Steinberg.
For a long time, Cubase was considered the PC alternative to Pro Tools, as for many years, Pro Tools was only available on Macintosh and Cubase only available on Windows. If you owned a PC, you worked on Cubase, if you owned a Mac, you worked on Pro Tools. Nowadays, both are available on both platforms, so it is a little less true today.
In my opinion, Cubase is one of the better DAWs on the market for tracking, mixing and composing.
One of the big advantages of Cubase is that MIDI functions are extensive.
If you do a lot of MIDI composing, Cubase will give you a lot of control and editing features. You even have a chord assistant to help you not only find chords, but also chord progressions. So this is really interesting.
Another advantage (there are many small one like this…) is that you have AutoTune directly available on each track. So, if you have to do a little adjustment on one of the vocal tracks, you can do it quickly.
You also have the Cubase mixer. On each of its channel strips are available an EQ, a compressor, saturators, etc… With such functions, the workflow becomes very interesting. Bing! Bang! And quickly you can adjust the EQ and a little compressor without having to pull out a plug-in. That is a big bonus! This approach is also very efficient in terms of CPU usage… As long as you use the plug-ins built into the mixer.
Down sides… Well there aren’t that many.
And, once again, we get into the realm of personal taste.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t particularly like the Cubase interface.
I find the layout a little messy. The workflow also takes some time to get used to. But that is secondary.
In my opinion, it is on the sound that Cubase falters.
I had the opportunity to work with Cubase intensively for three month and I found that the way it sounded was softer in the mids, with a bit more bass and a bit more highs. For pop music, that is good because it feels like you have a built V-shaped EQ.
Once again, we could debate this little issue for ever and not come to an definitive agreement.
I’ll just say that, for me, Cubase doesn’t sound as good as Pro Tools. Maybe I haven’t taken enough time to get used to its sound. As always, the important thing with any tool is to be able to get the result you envision by working with its particular characteristics.
In anycase, Cubase is one of the most advanced DAWs and Steinberg is a company that is often ahead of the curve, when compared to other editors.
Rrrhum… Sorry, I am still a little sick and my voice isn’t perfect…”
“Another DAW is Logic. Logic is provided by Apple.
So if you are on a PC, this DAW is totally irrelevant to you.
This being said, Logic is very popular with Mac users.
It is a little like a GarageBand version on steroids… Or a version of Cubase on Valium… Depending on your point of view 🙂
The big advantage with Logic is that it comes standard with a whole host of virtual instruments. Nice keyboard sounds, nice pianos, nice drum kits, virtual acoustic instruments that are very realistic.
There is also the AutoTune feature directly accessible on every track.
It comes with great plug-ins, such as great sounding reverbs, everything sounds very good.
The big disadvantage of Logic is its interface.
It looks very bland… And, once again, the sound is meeeee (average)… And, of course, it is only available on the Mac… So if you are on a PC, it is not even an option.
So, all in all, Logic is best for musicians who want to compose, and to do so, want a good number of virtual instruments and good dexterity. For that purpose, Logic is very well suited. If you have a Mac laptop, Logic is probably the best option. And price wise, it is a good deal, at around 200 Dollars / Euros. That is a great deal when you take into account the feature set, especially its virtual instruments.
For mixing and mastering, it isn’t as obvious.
MIDI functionalities are not extraordinary either.
That’s my knowledge and opinion of it. It is up to you to test it.
And keep in mind that Pro Tools, Cubase and Logic are the three DAWs most used by music production professionals, with a preference for Pro Tools, for the reasons mentioned above. Pro Tools was the first, and it is the most common in large studios… A lot of people use it out of habit.
“The last DAW we will discuss is Live from Ableton.
Ableton Live is really a DAW for electronic music making.
In my mind, it is THE software if you want to go from the studio to the stage.
Why? Because all the functions, ever setting in Live can be assigned to a controller. So if you are doing Electro, you can set it so that such and such instrument or such and such function is assigned to such and such fader or knob. When on stage, you can quickly and easily play with your mix.
The way it is structured is also geared towards playing on stage. You can easily trigger such and such loop or section. This enables the user to go from part to part of his/her song, all this time playing with the different settings. So, once again, it is perfect for electronic music.
Another of the great benefits of Live is that is it very nimble on CPU resources.
Even if you are on a laptop, on a huge session, you will still benefit from very little latency and maximum stability. That is its big plus.
For Electro, it also has many instruments, many effects.
If you do Dance, Trance, Trip Hop, Dub Step… this is the DAW for you.
Another strong point is its export capabilities.
You can easily export the different tracks and sections of a song. They will be placed in a folder as separate files. That’s nice and handy.
Its a good thing it is handy, because Live is probably the worst in the way it sounds.
It is not a top choice for mixing, in my opinion. It doesn’t sound so great. But those export features make up for part of that.
The interface is also a bit strange…
And it is probably the least user friendly for new users. But once you know your way around, it is a very powerful tool to compose. It becomes an instrument. Being able to assign anything to a physical controller is awesome. It can also make the creative workflow very quick.
So, once again, Live is for Electronic music… I realize I am repeating myself.
The learning curve is a bit steep. But if you plan to use your DAW on stage and interact with it, this is the one. That’s where it gets its name, right?
More and more pros use it to compose because of its features and power once you master it. It can be really quick to set up a song.
So there we go… 4 main DAWs.
I will mention two others that are important.”
Fruity Loops Studio
“The first is Fruity Loops.
Why did I not mention it as part of the big four? why will I not go into depth with it?
Because, for a long time, FruityLoops was geared towards amateurs who wanted to create beats.
But with time, FruityLoops has evolved and it now hosts some pretty advanced features.
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that FruityLoops is a mix between Cubase and Live.
It looks very user friendly.
Actually, if you use this DAW, please let me know about your experience in the comments.
Tell me what you like about it. I know it more or less. I’ve done a little research, but by its more “amateurish” nature, I am not sure, that even today, it would be ideal to get a professional sound. But then again, let me know if I am wrong on this. It does seem to have progressed.”
“The last piece of software is Reaper.
Reaper is an alternative for those who do not have a huge budget and want to avoid gimmicks…
It is also for those who do not want to get into the logic of paying for updates. So, if you want a full-featured DAW without the cost, checkout Reaper. More and more professionals are using it because it is well done. It is also a bit more “open” than other solutions out there.”
“So that’s it. We are done with our run through DAWs.
Once again, you are allowed to disagree with what I said.
There really is this question of taste to be taken into account.
I would also be curious to know, via the comments section, what your preferred DAW is and why.
This feedback would be very interesting, especially for other users. It will give other readers cues that I may not have mentioned.
Ok, that’s it for today.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I invite you to post them in the comments section (of YouTube).
It is always a great pleasure.
If you have gotten something out of this video, the best way to give back is to spread the news 🙂
I thank you, I thank all the people who will do it in the future.
That’s it. This is Etienne Tremblay for La Machine à Mixer.”