Top audio recording software

December 11, 2016
Aura Audio Software

One thing that unites an otherwise disparate range of musicians – from guitarists and techno heads to drummers and vocalists – is the fact that, at some stage during the creative process, recording software will doubtless be called upon. For the uninitiated, DAW stands for Desktop Audio Workstation, which, as the name suggests, deals with a lot more than the once standardized job of sequencing audio and MIDI. In this feature we take a look at our five favourite DAWs – in no particular order – and outline the key features that will determine which of these heavy hitters becomes your weapon of choice.

Ableton Live was launched in 2001 and completely revolutionized the way we interact with our computer when composing and arranging music. This forced us to think away from the technicalities of the linear based DAWs or musical notation systems that had previously been standard, and jam with our machines in much the same way as musicians throughout the ages have. This is due first and foremost to the session view window, which enables you to collect, sketch, record and experiment with your sonic arsenal in real-time. You can capture, then edit or tweak your efforts in the equally versatile arrangement view, which tips it hat to the more traditional approach to sequencing and editing. One of the things that put Ableton on the map was its ability to warp or sync audio loops of different tempos to the same master BPM without huge sound degradation in an ‘on the fly’ manner, making the software equally attractive to DJs and live performers. The warp engine is at the heart of the system and it’s at its most effective in Suite 8, allowing you to adjust events actually on the timeline as opposed to stretching it around the events as before. There is a newly enhanced “Beats” warp mode for improved warping of percussive material and new control options with the “Pro Complex” mode for warping intricate, polyphonic material with fewer artifacts. In addition to this are the existing modes, which’ll take care of re-pitch, tones (stretches vocals, monophonic instruments and basslines with a clear pitch structure) and textures.

The included instruments are equally as innovative, many of which have been with the package for some years; others are brand spanking new. Operator is possibly the best known, an FM synthesizer designed by Robert Henke (aka Monolake) with lots of excellent features. Sampler, as its name suggests, will take care of all your multi-sampling needs. Not only will it handle sound libraries such as AKAI S1000, S3000, GigaStudio, EXS, SoundFont and (non-encrypted) Kontakt, but is also a very powerful wave-shaping tool featuring a dedicated modulation oscillator which allows samples to be frequency or amplitude-modulated. There are also three LFOs, five multimode envelopes and MIDI inputs to wreak havoc with. Analog tips its hat to classic analogue synths, with two oscillators featuring sine, square, saw and white noise, plus a sub oscillator with hard-sync and self oscillate. Filters are well catered for, with 2 and 4 pole lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch and formant modes with flexible routing. You’ve also got Collision, a physical modeling synth for mallets, Tension for strings and Electric, which takes care of classic electric pianos. Amp completes the instrument line-up, recreating all kinds of amplifiers and cabinets. There’s also enough built-in audio and MIDI effects, not to mention pre-set instrument racks for jobs like mastering and drum racks. You also get enough samples to sink a battle ship with the likes of the Essential Instruments Selection 2, Session Drums, Drum Machines and Latin Percussion. DJs can use it with The Bridge, which communicates directly with Serato. [Find out more at Juno]

Ableton Live Suite 8: Key Features Nondestructive editing with unlimited undo
MIDI sequencing of software and hardware instruments
Warping and real-time time-stretching
Library with over 1600 expressive sounds, each with versatile control options
A comprehensive selection of built-in audio and MIDI effects
A wide range of software instruments
Instrument Racks for simple management of complex instrument setups
Drum Racks for intuitive and responsive beat-making
Effect Racks for professional-grade mastering, mixing and creative sound processing
New groove engine – apply and extract grooves in real time
Construction kits containing loops and phrases in a number of styles
1000s of single-device presets: simple components for making new sounds and exploring synthesis
Song templates with pre-configured tracks and routing
VST and AU support; automatic plug-in delay compensation
REX file support plus built-in audio to MIDI slicing
Supports AIFF, WAV, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and FLAC files
Video import and export for scoring, video warping
Full ReWire support; runs as Slave or Master
Support for The Bridge, Ableton’s collaboration with Serato
System Requirements Mac: 1.8 GHz G4/G5 or faster (Intel® Mac recommended)
2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended, if supported by your computer)
Mac OS X 10.4.11 (10.5 or later recommended)
DVD-ROM drive
Windows: 2 GHz Pentium® 4 or Celeron® compatible CPU or faster (multicore CPU recommended)
2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended on Windows Vista and Windows 7)
Windows XP (home or Pro), Windows Vista or Windows 7, sound card (ASIO driver
support recommended) DVD-ROM drive, QuickTime recommended
Boxed Editions Content Printed reference manual in English, French, German or Japanese (box only)
Built-in interactive lessons
Localized software menus, tutorials and PDF reference manuals in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Italian.
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