Acoustica Mixcraft 5
(download $74.95, 60-day license $14.95; www.acoustica.com)
Mixcraft fans are like cultists—check
out their online reviews. The prevailing
opinion is “I tried lots of DAWs, this
one is real easy to use, and the value is
outrageous.” I reviewed Mixcraft 4 for
Keyboard in 2008, and despite some
missing features, was blown away by
the value. (Note: In addition to this
profile, I’m doing a full Mixcraft 5
review in the 5/10 Keyboard.)
A REAL DAW?
At this price, you might think this
Windows-only DAW (which includes
WaveRT support for Windows 7) is
another lite program, but the feature
set is true DAW: virtual console, video
support (AVI and WMV, but if you have
suitable decoders, you may be able to
load other files) with basic editing—see
Figure 3, notation editing/printing, and
send tracks. Interestingly, version 4 had
none of these features, so V5 is a
pretty major upgrade.
Features carried over from
Mixcraft 4 include unlimited
audio/MIDI/virtual instrument tracks,
unlimited effects inserts, “piano roll”
MIDI editing, a useful collection of
instruments and sounds, clean and
obvious interface (it recalls Steinberg
Sequel), and beat-matching/stretching
that supports Acidized files and Apple
Loops—although you can pretty much
convert any audio or MIDI clip into a
loop. It still doesn’t support direct
import of REX files (or ReWire), but if
you have a VST plug-in instrument that
supports REX import, you’re covered.
Zooming remains basic—only + and –
buttons—and while you now can dragcopy
clips, you can’t do that with
individual MIDI notes.
Like most DAWs, Mixcraft has added a guitar amp emulator (Shred). New instruments
include the Messiah polysynth,
Lounge Lizard electric piano (lite version),
Alien 303 bass synth, and Acoustica
Expanded Instruments (adds 66 more
sounds to the existing set of Acoustica
Instruments). These join the Impulse
synth, Minimogue, and VB3 organ.
Bundled effects are chorus, compressor,
delay, distortion, EQ, flanger,
and reverb, as well as Kjaerhus’s nine
classic freeware effects, and Voxengo’s
guitar amp and spectrum analyzer.
The Mixcraft effects are basic: No
tempo sync on delay (except for the
Kjaerhus delay) or chorus, no
sidechaining, no parametric EQ (the
Mixcraft and Kjaerhus are both graphics),
and the mixer per-channel EQ
simply has hi/mid/low boost/cut. But
it’s not like plug-ins are hard to find,
and what’s included works.
Mixcraft also has unexpected features,
like noise reduction for audio clips. This
works if there’s a section of noise you
can isolate, whereby Mixcraft removes
that from the clip. I also like the
utility that lets you play notes
from a QWERTY keyboard—
great for laptops. You can use a
single-window interface, or
undock the mixer, library,
audio/MIDI editor, etc. Automation
is now available for clips as
well as tracks, and for MIDI
tracks, the controller strip
below the piano roll shows controllers,
program change, channel
pressure, and pitch bend.
Mixcraft 5 also offers a ton of
you can download all of them
at once to your hard drive so
they’re always available.
Want to burn an audio CD?
You can do that too, and it even
Mixcraft is an overachiever. Usually the first
cut in budget programs is video support,
but Mixcraft recognizes that even budget
users want to upload videos to YouTube.
Notation is also a rarity in programs at this
price point. The plug-ins are basic at best,
yet low-cost and free plug-ins are plentiful,
so it makes sense Acoustica decided not
to develop more plugs and raise the price.
This is indeed a DAW “for the rest of
us,” offering a surprisingly complete
feature set, at an even more surprising
price, that works on desktops or laptops—
and your CPU won’t break a
sweat. It’s fast, fun, and friendly.
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