Recommend some good software for multi-track recording in Windows.
November 17, 2004 12:11 AM   Subscribe

What are some popular (both expensive and cheap) software packages for windows based multi-track recording? Also, are there any relevant and good websites/webcommunities and newsgroups? Soundcard/hardware recommendations would be nice as being limited to one input might be a drag and I really don't know how to tell the difference between a good soundcard chipset and a bad one.
posted by skallas to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

M-Audio's line of stuff is fairly inexpensive and decent. Actually, there's a lot of USB/Firewire I/O boxes out there in the under $500 range, including the Lexicon Omega, Mackie's Spike, Digidesign's MBox, and who knows what else. Then you move into the higher end stuff, like MOTU and Digidesign's Firewire-based interfaces. Or you can break the bank and go with an Apogee.

Your options are actually very, very wide and few of them suck badly. Most of them suck a little.

See also here, here, and here.
posted by weston at 12:30 AM on November 17, 2004

This might seem like a strange recommendation because the title is Audio Post-production for Digital Video and you're interested in a music home studio, but you will have to look far and wide to get a better intro to digital audio then this book. There are a lot of *bad* or confusing books out there, many of them are either platform, hardware or software specific.

I would second the M-audio recommendation, especially if you're talking about using a laptop. If you got this box , you would save a lot of time and effort looking for something that fits your needs. This will fit your needs. It does come with Pro Tools LE and will only work with Pro Tools. But Pro Tools is basically the industry standard multitrack software.
posted by jeremias at 5:24 AM on November 17, 2004

Audacity is free, and at least for what I use it for, good.
posted by duckstab at 6:06 AM on November 17, 2004

I can't help you with the hardware, but if you're looking for cheap multitrack software, check out n-Track. Its interface is wonky, although no wonkier than any other multitrack software I've used, and it's quite lightweight compared to others. (It does tend to be selective about the hardware it runs with, though, so try the shareware version first). For sampling/sequencing, I highly recommend FruityLoops. It's cheap and really couldn't be any easier to use. Sure, there are more powerful packages out there (pretty much all of them), but Fruity gives you quite a lot of bang for your buck.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:16 AM on November 17, 2004

I've used Reason for the last 3 years.

You can download a demo here

Also, are there any relevant and good websites/webcommunities and newsgroups?
posted by SpaceCadet at 7:25 AM on November 17, 2004

I like Reason quite a bit, but haven't found a way to conveniently work my own samples into it. It's not a great tool for working with digital audio.

Ableton Live is growing on me, but it sortof seems like the opposite of Reason -- great for samples/sound, not so good for MIDI.

Pro Tools Free (which will only work with Win 98 SE and Win ME) actually had reasonably good MIDI tracking and audio capabilities. Unfortunately, there will be no such thing for Win XP... I think Digidesign's experience with PTF wasn't what they hoped for and it's been abandoned. But really, you can get into an Mbox (which comes with Pro Tools LE, a step up from PTF, and slightly crippled versions of Reason and Ableton Live) for $400. Considering that you will probably spend $200 on any USB box and $200 for useful software by themselves, this is not a bad deal.

Cakewalk / Sonar -- I don't own them myself, but I've played with them in someone else's studio, and made a few recordings that I ended up being pretty happy with. Pretty simple, good MIDI/audio capabilities. No idea what the cost is.
posted by weston at 11:28 AM on November 17, 2004

I like Reason quite a bit, but haven't found a way to conveniently work my own samples into it

I guess the inconvenience is that you are using rather long samples? You can load samples in through the NN19/XT Sampler, DrRex or ReDrum modules. For longer samples, I prefer using the ReDrum just as a sample trigger. If the timing is out, you can quickly "turn off" the sample by making the length zero on it. It doesn't have an audio-in though if you want to record live instruments along with your tracks, but you *can* still play live with Reason using ReWire (it's a device that allows you to slave the Reason clock to other music software that does allow you to record live).
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:04 PM on November 17, 2004

The Cakewalk products tend to be overshadowed by their European-made competitors, but are good and reasonably priced. My wife's two solo albums (first one here) were recorded and mixed entirely in Sonar, and we think they came out quite well.

Full disclosure: I worked at Cakewalk for a while doing tech support. For what it's worth, when users asked us for hardware recommendations, we always went with M-Audio first.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:49 PM on November 17, 2004

Oh, and Cakewalk user forums are here.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:51 PM on November 17, 2004

i highly recommend for any and all music software and hardware questions. the site is focused on making electronic music, but it's a well-mannered, supportive, and thriving community of people making all sorts of sounds in all sorts of ways. also try the message boards at Tape Op for more discussion, focused mainly on recording (analog and digital).

if you're doing multitrack audio, an audio interface will be pretty essential, in order to avoid issues with latency, and to give you multiple inputs and outputs from the computer. not suer if you've got that sorted out, but if not, be sure to look into that as well as the software.
posted by cathodeheart at 7:14 PM on November 17, 2004

I'm a happy Cubase user. The included instruments and effects aren't all that great, but the interface is really easy to use, especially for editing recorded parts and moving them around. The SE version probably has all you need for a list price of $149.99.
posted by fuzz at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2004

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