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Topic: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

  1. #1

    Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    I hope you guys dont mind me posting this sickeningly long plea for help here. I have had GPO for a long time, and love lurking here..I even got to speak to Gary on the phone before- very nice guy! (hi Gary!). I write mainly progressive rock, and I see mostly orchestral composers here. The overlap in these types of music is just enough that I am hoping you guys wont mind helping me I hope...lol...

    I am a long time Pro Tools user, PT HD primarily. However...I have finally realized that I am becoming more and more frustrated when I try to use it for composing. For quick and simple stuff, it is great for me. For tempo and meter changes, PT7 and up is stellar IMO. But, it also lacks quite a bit that someone like me would love to have for composing...so, I am hoping that I can get some ideas/experiences. Please try to avoid trashing apps...I would rather hear what "this app can do this, and this, but I havent had much luck with it for this" rather than "well, this app does this well, MUCH better than this app coudl dream of, and while I dont think my app does this the best, it is so much better than this app, which sux anyway..."

    Here is what I would love to have in a DAW (audio/MIDI sequencer?), but realize a single app having it all is going to be a miracle..and hold on, cause it is a nice long laundry list...

    Must be on Mac OS X for Intel (Mac Pro dual 2.66G dual core, 4G ram; also have a MacBook). Vista looks promising someday, but I am looking for something to buy (try?) this week. Mmm...let's say that finding this and using it is some recommended therapy for my diminishing social abilities... heh

    MIDI Features..a biggie, but not as big as you might think...
    MIDI loop recording, "takes style." This is HUGE. While writing, I love to loop a section, hit record, and simply try new ideas each pass. (not merging material, but a new take or region each pass). And if I want to do this for 5 minutes, and have 30-40 takes, so be it. I probably would simply loop it through several times at most before I found myself hitting stop to review a take I really liked. Which leads into the next one...

    Once I loop record into takes, I want to be able to check them out easily. I would love the idea of being able to simply right-click and choose...but I know of no app in which this exists (No, Pro Tools does NOT do this properly- it is incredibly broken...but it is where the idea came from ). My absolute fav idea for this would be a Cubase "Lanes" type of thing, with each pass/take being "recorded to" it's own lane as regions (parts, whatever they are called in whatever app), so I can simply mute and unmute to audition. I know there are apps that do this with audio, more or less...but with MIDI regions? I think you get the idea? I will want to be able to merge into existing material of course (loop, kik n snare first pass, come back and do hats n cymbals later if I want..etc)(Oh- and Cubase would be great for the Lanes feature, if it included the rest of what I need...but I think it might not?)

    Scoring. With support for guitar/bass tab (would be nice to specify number of strings, up to 7) + notation (simultaneously, if possible), lyrics, printing options. (I think Logic comes closest here?) I do not need the full feature set of Finale, or Sibelius. If I do, I can simply export using one of several methods, and continue working from there.

    With scoring capabilities, something I would LOVE to have is audio-to-MIDI capabilities. When inspiration hits, it would be nice to be able to have audio I am recording (guitar and bass, typically) transcribed to MIDI. I suck at this, and sitting back after every fit of inspiration to try and transcribe what I just put down can be rough, and I forget 9 times out of ten. Even if I would have to make a single note line instead of chords, it would be worth it to me. Plus, to have it do audio to MIDI for vocal work...priceless...

    Bonus: Export a single selected MIDI region as a .mid file, or select several regions and export as a.mid file, type 0 or 1. I do not want to have to save the entire MIDI performance of the entire song, or have to jump through sets of hoops (as I do currently with PT). Once again, I think Logic is capable of this?

    I use BFD, Ivory, Garritan Personal Orchestra (WOOHOO!!! The best!), the Arturia stuff, some NI stuff (grrr.), and have a decent sampler library (split between Giga and K2, but some is also EXS24). I also use a Nord Electro 2 (brilliant piece), K2500XS, and a Korg PadKontrol. I can use a Digi MIDI I/O, or a Steinberg MIDex8. I need to be able to use all that stuff...

    For hardware, I am using an HD2 Accel system right now. I am anticipating a change, but may simply keep PT HD for tracking once songs are ready to record. Minimal editing after tracking (if I or my band cannot play it, we better learn, or just not play it), and prolly just mix on PT as well...UNLESS! What I find for composing has a nice track record (pun definitely intended!) for tracking and mixing abilities. Heck, I would prolly toss it for a nice Nyquist RADAR if I could afford it...that is how simple my tracking-editing-mixing needs are. Ya know, old school? Erm...ok, new old school? lol...

    Folder tracks. They look like a composer's dream.

    Freeze, or a "render instrument track to audio" type thing. Not a must ny any means, but this would be so cool to have!

    Editing tools: oh, yes please! An excellent set of tools and capabilities are a must here. PT does pretty well IMO, but for the composer, they fall slightly short. I like to drop regions on top of one another, and nudge them around...without the action deleting the damn region material below it! (PT does that, and as a composer, it is hell x 1000) Compress/Expand a region, ala the TCE tool in PT, fitting material (audio or MIDI); like, tempo is 120, I decide to go to 124, and instead of rerecording all the guitar and bass, I simply stretch it (I do alot of cut n paste of quick recording bits to build songs; copy versse, paste into other verses, etc, and then go back later and create variations). Select an area, and then be able to quickly crop, split, delete, etc using the selection. Ya know, most of what can be done in Pro Tools. I believe DP5 is strong in this area? How about Logic?

    Nudging is a must; "Snap to" features as well. I love nudging parts by beat divisions, and sometimes by samples. Being able to nudge independent of the main ruler type and grid setting (PT can do this, amazingly well too). Which flows into..

    Rulers. I love having the ability to see a Bars|Beats ruler, minutes|seconds, Tempo, and meter changes. PT aded in the Key Changes ruler as well, which is very cool. Plus, being able to play with the tempo while being directly above the material it is affecting is quite nice. I would sacrifice here a bit to gain other features I am seeking though...

    Markers. A must. 'nuff said.

    MIDI Editor Window. A serious lacking ingredient in PT. To open a track's material in a window with a CC lane below the notes, a nice piano on the left... Bonuses: Multiple CC lanes below the notes. Ability to select multiple tracks in a single MIDI Editor window, with some manner of discerning between each track (perhaps the inherent track color?). Being able to add a track (or two...or three..) to an existing MIDI Editor window's content- huge bonus points! Next, and I never figured I would need this one, but if it is there, what the heck..I am open to see what the fuss is about...in Cubase, you can make custom drum maps for the Editor? So, instead of piano keys, the names you set each key for appear instead? Kinda cool I guess.

    Sysex. I would love to be able to dump patches to the app, and have it sit there as data...not as part of the sequence, but rather like...hmmm...how to explain...I dump the sysex, and the app says, "Cool! Let me put that in this little locker for you, with a nice label on it" Then, when I open the song, I can check the "locker room" and see if I need to send any of the lockers' contents to any synths. Make sense? Only way I have seen sysex is by recording it into the "sequence" itself. Previously, I simply used a MIDI Editor/Librarian. I dont have one, and I dont want to play a session/project back later and discover the patches are gone...I would love to have everything saved right there in the session/project. Make sense? Another bonus type feature, but would be cool...

    Playlist type feature. I guess I could simply copy a track, disable the original, and then work on the copy; repeat as needed, and enable/disable as desired for a pseudo-playlist function. I am just used to PT, and love playlists. Maybe it is simply adapting to a new way of working?

    Region anchors, user assignable. Goes with the "Snap to" features, and nudging abilities.

    User assingable key command sets!!! I think I will pee myself from the sheer joy when I have this ability the first day. Macros would be a big, huge bonus...but I imagne at worst, I could incorporate Quickeys into my workflow?

    Routing. Oh my. Being able to route from one spot to another via busses; assign inputs and outputs; send from one track to any other I choose; true sidechaining; rename I/O busses and in's and out's; create stupid things like infinite feedback loops if I choose to; send to a track, and then be able to use a send on that track to send somewhere else if I choose (like, send from a guitar track to an aux type track with a delay on it, and the use a send on the track with the delay to a track with a reverb if I choose. This is flexability for mixing primarily, I know. But, I also use this while composing to establish "special effects" type things sometimes. The example I gave is a perfect one, where I might choose to feed the delay with 2-3 tracks of guitars, and then choose to have the delay track use a send to a track with reverb. Stacking the effects on the one track is not the same...

    Groups. If you are not familiar with Pro Tool's grouping feaatures, then skip this one. It would take a post FARRRR longer than this huge post to explain what it is I like about the feature set, and how I use them. Getting close the the feature set in PT would be cool, but not a "make or break" thing. Eclipsing it would be impressive, but only if the rest of what I wrote is there already.

    Automation is at least close to acceptable in most apps these days. Most do a decent enough job to make it unnecessary to bitch and moan about here. But, I do love PT HD's automation feature set (not talkin LE here!). From what I recall, Nuendo has some sweet stuff automation-wise, no?

    So that is all I can think of right now. Long enough post or what?
    Just keep in mind- I am writing (primarily, but not solely) progressive rock music. Some will end up being what it is, with live guitars, bass, keys and vocals, with sequenced drums. Other stuff will end up getting done in a good studio. I am figuring the top two suggestions will be DP5 and Logic Pro 7.2, with Cubase getting a nice honorable mention. I am scared of where Logic is..or, erm...might be...going (although the current rumours make it even MORE attractive). DP5 has more windows than the Sears tower in Chicago. No matter where I end up, I know I am looking at nice learning curve, and a nice bit of adjustment (PARIS and PT for almost 10 years now). And I used most of these aps wayyyy back...so the feature sets, and my needs, have changed considerably.

    Also- if there might be somewhere better to place this plea for help- another forum maybe? Please! Let me know! I posted this over at Gearslutz in the Music Computer section..and aside from that, I am pretty "forum ignorant."

    Thx in advance!!!


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Orlando, Florida

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    Unless you want to "Boot Camp" Vista, Cakewalk's Sonar 6 is out. I purchased Cubase 4, mainly because of the time one of their local dealers spend showing it to me. If you go to http://www.digitalmusicdoctor.com/sh...ut_summary.htm
    you can see how they compare Sonar, Cubase, Pro Tools, and Acid Pro. This company sells tutorials on the various packages and I don't thing they have any axes to grind. They don't mention Logic Pro, which is one of the options.

    Go to the Steinberg website and check out some of their tutorials. It might answer your questions about the product. Some people complain about the hardware "dongle" CP device. I sort of like it because I hate the way NI and some of the other s/w vendors do CP. You can put it on as many computers as you like, as long as you plug the dongle into the USB port first.

    The overall ratings, in order from the site mentioned above was:
    Cubase 4 (Regular)
    Sonar 6 Producer
    Sonar 6 Studio
    Cubase 4 Studio
    Acid Pro 6
    Pro Tools 7 MP
    Pro Tools 7 LE

    I hope that helps you a little. You can't go wrong (in my opinion) with either of the first two, but, as I said at the beginning, Sonar is Windows only. No Mac.

    Keith Walls

  3. #3

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    Offhand the proggie that comes to mind that will convert audio to midi (with good results) would be Melodyne Cre8 or Melodyne Studio. I don't have it myself, but it certainly seems like one nifty little piece of software that will handle nearly all of the DAW's shortcomings.

  4. #4

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    DP will do most of what you want. I'm sorry I read your post pretty fast and right now don't have time to go over it again. I know you can get an ap that will convert audio to midi, I'm sure a Google search will help you find something.

    DP's one weak point is its notation abilities. However it does most all that PT does, although be it in different ways and by calling similar things different names. The one thing that DP has over I believe all other DAWs is its MIDI implementation. It is far better in that regard than PT.

    Best of luck,


  5. #5
    Senior Member rayzalaf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    It's pretty hard getting one DAW to do it all but I agree with Keith, I've used Cubase nearly since day one of it's existence. I don't know that it's better than the others but when you know your way around it, it works!
    Cubase 4 suits me and does of what you want. I also have Melodyne Celemony which is great for correcting pitch and the graphics show the notes being played on voice or another mono instrument. Cubase is not good for scoring. If you like recording with human feel, check the score and it'll be a mile long!!!!! you end up quantising it to death before seeing a reasonable score. Too much like hard work for me.

    Good Luck



  6. #6

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    Thx for the replies so far...I realize it was a very long post, and for you guys ot take the time to read it was quite nice!

    I think I have it narrowed to Logic and Cubase 4. But, I am absolutely ripping my self apart inside trying to make a decision...

    Cubase 4 seems to have the more elegant manner of loop cycle record and takes. I think I read that in Cubase 4, with MIDI regions in various Lanes in one track, the lowest region receives priority...correct? And if a region end is reached, it will look to the next lane that has an unmuted region in it, correct? But, if unmuted regions of MIDI are in Lanes above a Lane with unmuted MIDI regions, ONLY the lowest Lane's regions will play- not all playing? (Logic, AFAIK, will not do this...and this is a biggie for me).

    Logic seems to have nicer scoring features, and I have heard Logic will "translate" MIDI material better, and require less work later (read as: clean it up to be readable). But, Logic cannot do 7-string instrument TAB (I play 4 and 7 string bass, and 6 and 7 string guitar)..dunno yet if Cubase can. Cubase has a very cool "guitar chord stamp" tool/thingy that, stupid as it may seem, appeals to me; I see none in Logic, just the standard chord *declarations* as one would see in piano sheet music for example (like, "Eb7m").

    Logic has several instruments I could definitely use at the early stages of composing- the vintage insturments (B3, Rhodes and clav)..as well as EXS24. If Logic is that much less demanding in resources, and if using those instead of say, B4II, Kontakt2 and Louge Lizard, then that is a big plus.

    Cubase is winning, but the performance thing is a HUGE concern, seeing as I am on a Mac Pro, and using OS X; XP does not cut it for me, and Vista is too early in the game to try and use anything reliably via Bootcamp. I have seen reports of constant crashes with Cubase 4, and yet others complaining of how much of a resource pig it is compared to the PC version...while all the Logic users that used to use Cubase are saying how much more resource friendly Logic is. If this is greatly exaggerated, and if Cubase 4 is doing well on Intel Macs, I might just cal it a day with Cubase 4. But...coming from a very solid and stable Pro Tools enviornment (PT HD), and one where I do not worry about resources as much, I would hate to trade the crying and frutration I had trying to compose on Pro Tools to only find different headaches with Cubase. And as far as learning curves? I will be MORE than happy to learn as I go, and grab someone help where I can

    Thx again, and sorry for these long posts...I am really in a tough spot here, and I am a paraplegic, so I do not have much "real world try it out" capability...maybe someday, but for now, it is a very crippled Logic Express trial and word of mouth, along with a few videos here and there. VERY tough to make decisions based on just that..

    thx- nikki

  7. #7
    Senior Member rayzalaf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    You'll just go 'round in circles here.
    Cubase 4 has vst3 plugins now that do just about any processing, it also has a sample engine based on Yamaha Motif instruments which are pretty good, but, I've spent a lot of money over the years keeping up to date with the versions, as have others on their preference in DAW's, so we're not about to tell you what a waste of money they've been.
    Steinberg Cubase works for me - I don't work for it. Beware of product sponsored forums advice, if they compare their product with others.
    This forum is a great place to get advice on Garritan products but you won't be told why you should'nt use some other product.

    Best of luck


  8. #8

    Re: Help choosing a new DAW pls (very long post)

    all i know is that i use logic. i actually just bought it a couple weeks ago and i've been picking it up pretty quick. i've never use cubase before, but i hear its a great program. i went with logic because it seems to be more powerful, and its made by apple, so i figured it will have less problems. i used to use sonar on my pc, and logic is very similar, but it seems a lot more powerful. i think that no matter what you get its going to take a decent amount of time to get familar with the program, and i'd recommend you order some books on whatever you get to help speed up the process. i just got Logic Pro 7 and Logic Express 7 by Martin Sitter, and its helped out a bunch so far. i'd also suggest going to a place like guitar center (or whatever is near you) and ask the guys in the software department. they helped me out a TON. well good luck with whatever you get, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.
    -Keith Fuller

    iMac Quad i7 * MacBook Pro * Logic Studio 9 * WD 320GB & 1TB Externals@7,200RPM * Presonus Firebox * M-Audio Axiom 25 & Keystation 61 * Rode NT1-A * Epiphone Hollowbody * Fender Amp * KRK Rokit 8's

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