Photo: Marla Cohen
When you consider the capabilities of the current generation of digital audio sequencers, it's hard not to be awed. An example of a feature that really impresses me is the software mixing board in Propellerhead's brand-new Record application (reviewed on page 44 of this issue). It's an SSL emulation that, to me, comes closer than any other program to date in capturing the vibe of working on a large-format mixer.
Another one of Record's stand-out capabilities is its time-stretching feature, which allows you to change tempo on your entire mix by large amounts, in real time, without any noticeable artifacts.
But it's not just Record. The current crop of DAWs includes such stellar releases as Digidesign Pro Tools 8, Steinberg Cubase 5, Ableton Live 8, Sony Acid Pro 7 and Apple Logic Pro 9. Recently, MOTU Digital Performer 7, Image Line FL Studio 9 and Cakewalk SONAR 8.5 were introduced, all promising substantial additions to their respective feature sets. Although no program will offer everything you want — and none are without drawbacks — they all give you unprecedented production capabilities. Your home-recording counterpart from 10 years ago would be incredibly envious of the tools you have available today. Your peer from 20 years ago, toiling away on a 4-track cassette deck, would be totally blown away.
Between amp models, built-in synths and samplers, pitch correction, beat making, time stretching, incredible mix automation, integration of outboard processors and instruments, pinpoint editing, vintage-processor emulations, high-quality notation editing and lots more, we are awash in possibilities. Perhaps the only downside to having so many options at your fingertips is trying to keep your workflow simplified.
Of course, having access to these amazing programs doesn't necessarily translate to making good music. The old, “garbage in, garbage out” cliché applies, as it always does and always will. You've still got to supply the songwriting, musicianship and engineering skills if you want to make good music. Still, it's hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store when you peruse the features of the new generation of DAWs.
Something else that's new is The Robair Report, which you can find in the blog section of emusician .com. Written by none other than former EM editor Gino Robair, it will regularly present his take on a range of topics relating to personal-studio recording, synthesizers and more. It's sure to be entertaining and at times controversial. I worked with Gino for many years, and I can tell you that he's very knowledgeable about music technology and unafraid to speak his mind, so you'll definitely want to check this one out.