With the explosion of affordable digital recording equipment in the mid- to late-90s, the audio-tech industry ushered in a new era of music producers and creators: the weekend warriors, the college dorm-room engineers and the GarageBand gurus. It was the dawn of a new Renaissance for young music creators. For the cost of a decent home computer, digital audio workstation software and a microphone or two, we were buying “pro” recording gear and the dream of self-publishing our own music…heck, we could even burn our own demo CDs! Things have come a long way since those days, but the home-based production studio is here to stay. Most every commercial artist has their own place to work at home to cut demos and scratch out song ideas. For aspiring or hobbyist musicians and singer-songwriters, it’s a simple matter of economics, and these days, some of us are even giving commercial studios a run for their money.
Anyone remember Cubase VST recording software? I picked up a copy of Version 4 at Sam Ash Music and installed it on my computer, a first-generation Power Macintosh G4 in 1999. I was off to the races, but even in those days, my ears could hear the inherent rubbish in the audio I was capturing. I was running my guitars and basses straight into the sound card, and of course it was coloring the sound…alot – like the way my 4 year-old daughter colors things. I’m not knocking Cubase software at all (it had nothing to do with the software), but the approach I took toward recording was amateurish all the way, and no matter how amazing my tunes may have been, I definitely didn’t impress anyone with the sound quality on those early CDs. Ever heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out?” Exactly. Here are solutions that function great in today’s environment and which help enhance the quality of the final product:
3 Top Digital Audio Workstations for Home Producers
There are many different options available these days. Pricing will range anywhere from free, to tens of thousands of dollars depending on how elaborate a system you go with. Like with any creative tools though, you’ll likely want to interface with other producers somewhere along the way, so sticking with one of the industry standards is always a good way to go. Most DAWs offer either a demo or some sort of limited, inexpensive version too, so try before you buy. The key thing is to get a dedicated audio interface along with the software:
1. Avid’s Pro Tools with M-Box Pro Interface [$999]
For those who are willing to spend a bit more, this is your gateway to a professional recording package. Pro Tools is the industry standard for a lot of reasons, but its biggest advantage is the ability to easily transition sessions from your home studio to just about any pro studio in the world for further production and back again. This package includes not only software, but also an audio interface to get the best out of your instruments and mics. Want a little extra value? Do a little searching and you might find a package that includes a slightly limited version of the software in exchange for some powered monitors, microphones and more all for around this same price…
2. Apple’s Logic Pro [$199]
You’ll need to snag an interface to go along, but this is a great option especially if you’ve already spent time playing with Apple’s bundled DAW GarageBand, and are ready for the next step towards a full-featured software studio. Logic has long been a favorite of keyboard-based producers because of its excellent selection of software synths and instruments, but it also offers an excellent recording/production alternative for those who are especially keen on Apple’s intuitive approach to pro-level creative software.
3. Ableton Live [$799]
Again, you’ll still need an interface, but Ableton has always been designed with live performance functionality in the forefront of its interface. You’ll find everything that you need to tweak plugins, sequence and mix will all fit easily on a single laptop screen. If you’re interested in incorporating some pre-produced elements in your live shows, but also want a reputable DAW to produce your tunes with, Ableton might be the right pick for you.
Next time we’ll have a look at 3 Plug-ins That (when applied with taste) Won’t Trash Your Tracks