DAW Platforms

People often seem to be willing to die by their Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) 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 it’s superior from a functionality or user-interface perspective.

I think all the major DAWs are viable options – Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Samplitude, Logic, Protools, Studio One, Reaper, and even open source software Ardour – and I very much doubt that there are any significant differences in the sound quality they can 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 them apart. Perhaps the people who claim to hear quality differences just don’t know how to use the other DAWs correctly and thus simply achieve worse results when using them inappropriately. Tools are important, but the person who uses them, and especially how they use them, is much more so.

In my opinion, 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 actual work and creativity. Even if software A happens to be a little bit better on some technical level software B, or has some desirable 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 make sense to leave a DAW that one likes and knows well for another.

That being said, the situation is very different for someone just starting out, that doesn’t already have a large knowledge investment in a specific piece of software. Of course it’s 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 18 years, from early Platinum 4 all the way up to today’s Logic Pro X, 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 until I can’t make music anymore.