People often seem to be willing to die by their platform of choice. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but many people either swear the software they happen to use makes their music sound better or that itâ€™s superior from a user interface point of view.
I think all the major DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations) are viable options – Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Samplitude, Logic, Protools, and even open source software Ardour (although it does not yet support midi and software instruments) – and I very much doubt that there are any significant differences in the sound quality they provide. Sure, there are variations in the arithmetic used by their respective audio engines (24 or 48 bit fixed point math as well as 32 and 64 bit floating point) but I challenge anyone to pass a true double blind listening test, telling these things apart. Rather, I believe the people who claim to hear the difference just donâ€™t know how to use the â€œworse sounding systemsâ€ correctly and thus simply achieve worse results when using them inappropriately. Tools are important, but the person uses them, and especially how they use them, is much more so.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing for any engineer when it comes to the tools he or she uses, is to be really really comfortable with them so that technical aspects don’t end up getting in the way of creativity. So even if software A happens to be a little bit better on some technical level or has some desirably feature that software B lacks, the loss of productivity involved with having to re-learn everything after a switch is usually not worth it. Only in extreme cases, like when a software manufacturer goes out of business (think Studio Vision in 1998) does it really make sense to leave one DAW for another.
That being said, the situation is very different for someone who’s just starting out and doesnâ€™t already have a large knowledge investment in a specific piece of software. It’s of course always good to keep experimenting and trying out new tools. Without pushing oneself, it’s hard to develop as an engineer, but it might be a mistake to let that get in the way of the creative process.
I’ve used Apple’s Logic for the last 10 years, from early Platinum 4 all the way up until today’s Studio 9, and by now, I know it really really well. Unless Apple does some serious mistakes with its continued development, I’ll most likely keep using it for a long time.