Tracktion Waveform 10 is now Available

Could this be the time to move to the underdog DAW?
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After its announcement at NAMM in January, Waveform 10 has recently become available. You may not be very familiar with Waveform, but this top-tier DAW has had a colourful history. Starting out as Tracktion, the software was taken under the wing of Mackie, then later re-acquired and re-established under the Tracktion brand again. Older versions of Tracktion are regularly made free, with the full version of Tracktion 7 (the version that was released in 2016) being currently available to anyone and everyone right now for no money. Based on past behaviour, we can expect Tracktion to remove the price tag from version 8 – the first of the series dubbed Waveform – sometime in the next few months.

Waveform (and Tracktion) has always been a bit different. Developer Jules Storer's history lay not in traditional studio equipment but in programming and classical guitar, meaning he had few preconceptions of the rigid workflow and expectations of audio engineers. The original release of Tracktion had a completely modular philosophy, meaning that connections could be made and signals routed from anywhere to anywhere. Back in 2002, when studio hands were largely still sceptical of working with computers whatsoever, Tracktion was a firm contrarian – no realistic faders, no skeuomorphism, just a forward-thinking vision of how music software should be.

These days, the expectations of studio aesthetics and workflow have, to an extent, melted away, and younger generations are more open to approaches like Waveform's than ever before. Let's get back to 2019, then, and check out what's new in Waveform 10.

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Not long after the release of Bitwig 3.0 and its modular 'Grid' software, Tracktion are pumping up Waveform's modular processing offering. The DAW has actually had its own plugin 'rack' system since day one, allowing a Rack item to be loaded as an insert onto any channel, with plugins dragged into the enclosure and routed as you like. It's most likely this that inspires one of version 10's key new features: 62 additional built-in plugins, created by AirWindows, covering the gamut of effects processing. Previously, just a few devices were available with Waveform, although some other Tracktion-made and Tracktion-distributed offerings also came with it.

Not only do these 62 plugins bulk up Waveform's value to users, they also increase the value of its rack system, being simple, to-the-point processors that would be equally at home as part of a channel strip or a rack setup.

Waveform 10 users also get a version of Auto-Tune Access, meaning that the DAW scores the hat-trick of all three major pitch treatment solutions: Auto-Tune, Melodyne and Elastique Pro.

The in-built MultiSampler – a previously cheerful, straightforward sampler device – has been improved in a few areas, allowing keyboard control of sample selection, layer mute and solo, and the ability to sample from "the retrospective record buffer"; seemingly akin to Ableton's Capture but for audio. The MultiSampler can also record its input from other apps running on your system.

Waveform 10's Actions panel is something inspired by other software, but this is the first time I've seen it used in a DAW context. This left-hand panel contain entries based on actions related to what you've currently selected, and allows you to favorite certain actions you take regularly. The key point here is that the Actions panel offers functions related not just in a direct way but in a peripheral way. If you select a mixer channel you might be given actions not just within the channel (such as mute, solo, resize, etc) but also actions indirectly related to it (add a new channel, freeze or render the corresponding the track, and so on). The favorites you've marked on the Action panel should also be available via right-click from the focused parameter. Very Handy. Tracktion says it's an easier and more intuitive way to navigate projects, and it should certainly mean less menu-diving and headscratching that has been a part of the Waveform experience so far.

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Tracks in Waveform can now be grouped, and certain parameters – Volume, Pan, Colour, Record, etc – can be linked or left independent between them. Grouping is a necessary part of today's DAW experience, and may have only been left out until now because of Waveform's more modular philosophy. It's good to see it addressed anyway, and going above and beyond with linking specific properties seems a very good idea.

Another interesting innovation is the ability to edit a track or single clip within its own window. This idea takes us far from the original philosophy of Waveform (then simply named Tracktion) as a 'one-window workstation'. Given the DAW's ability to add effects to specific clips within a track, separate window editing should be a boon to those who choose to use it, and shouldn't bother those who don't want to add it to their workflow. Depending on the editing task, having a waveform or MIDI region open in two places at once – at two different zoom levels – can be a great way to work, and this has been a feature that's been possible in few DAWs. It's a welcome addition in Waveform 10.

Sometimes with Waveform it can be the little things that help the most. Things like passive rendering while exporting, and the handling of multiple projects can be extremely useful, and another addition to this list in version 10 is Mute/Solo dragging – ie, simply click and hold on Mute or Solo, and drag your mouse to other tracks to set the same on each. Another 'little thing': when Waveform 10 crashes, it automatically relaunches and reopens the project, making things just that bit less frustrating.

Waveform 10 is available in three editions with varying content from $119 to $499. There's also an option to formulate your own Custom Bundle. Upgrade pricing from Tracktion 7 upwards costs between $69 and $369. Find out more at www.tracktion.com

James Russell

As well as being an Editor At Large for Electronic Musician, James also dispenses software news and views as the co-host of Appetite For Production Podcast, and tweets on Twitter as rusty_jam. You can find his 'collected works' at his website, XoverFreq.