Choosing a Digital Audio Workstation

November 16, 2018 | Ted

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Microphone and computer screen

Interested in audio recording? Which Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is right for you?

by Michael Chambers

Audio recording is more accessible than ever. However, choosing which software to use can feel intimidating. In fact, there are more options than ever before – and choosing the software that best suits your needs can feel like trying to find your way out of a maze. Fortunately, there are three very good – yet different – options available for you to use at the Toronto Public Library’s Digital Innovation Hubs: Logic Pro X, Ableton Live and REAPER.

How to Choose?

Ask yourself, what are my goals? Do you want to record and edit a podcast? Are you a singer-songwriter who wants to record your voice and guitar? Or are you an aspiring producer looking for the best way to make beats? The answer to those questions will help point you in the right direction for choosing your software. The best software for you will depend on what you want to do. You may also be influenced by what your friends are using, especially if you’re planning on collaborating.

Logic Pro X

If you’re a Mac user, you already have GarageBand on your computer. If you’ve been considering making the leap to Logic, why not spend some time learning what Logic can do at the library. Logic Pro is a one-stop-shop that comes with all the effects, loops, and virtual instruments you’ll need to make some great sounding recordings.

Best for: Music production

Pros:

  • Good option for upgrading from GarageBand
  • Lots of built-in effects, virtual instruments and loops

Cons:

  • Mac only

Ableton Live

Ableton Live is one of the most powerful beat making and remix tools available. If you’re into beat making (any genre from EDM to hip-hop) this might be your best choice. In addition to being a great studio tool, Ableton Live can be used like an instrument allowing users to ‘perform’ their mix in real time.

Best for: Beat making and remixing

Pros:

  • Excels in loop creation and manipulation
  • Works like a musical instrument or studio DAW
  • Mac and Windows compatible

Cons:

  • Poor workflow for recording live instruments

REAPER

REAPER is professional level recording, editing, and mixing software without all the virtual instruments and audio loops that come with programs like Ableton Live or Logic Pro. That being said, it comes with all the effects you need to get started. With a download size similar to a high-quality mp3 file (the Windows version is only 11MB), it’s incredibly lean, powerful software. If you want lots of virtual instruments and loops, you’ll need to get those separately.

Best for: Audio editing, music production, podcasting

Pros:

  • Inexpensive and fully featured
  • Excellent audio editing features
  • Mac and Windows compatible

Cons:

  • Needs additional VST or Audio Units virtual instruments for music production if you don't have access to, or can't record live instruments.

There are certainly many options to choose from, but these three are available for you to try out at the library. Why not book some time at your local Digital Innovation Hub and check them out? Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, and REAPER are available at Agincourt, Albion, Fort York, North York Central Library, Richview and Toronto Reference Library.

Michael Chambers is the Innovator in Residence at the Richview Digital Innovation Hub.

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