the right computer-based DAW
February 25, 2011 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose the right computer-based digital audio workstation.

I'm looking for a computer-based digital audio workstation, and am having trouble appropriately selecting one based on my needs.

- runnable on a laptop (dual core 1.46GHz, 2038mb RAM, 32-bit Vista)

This is my one of my biggest concerns. A friend has Reason on his desktop PC, but I think it would overwhelm my computer.

- fairly intuitive and manageable to learn

I have a music conservatory background, so that will (I assume, maybe wrongly) assist in some regards, but I am not familiar with sound engineering or production.

Price is not particularly important.

I'm not sure how relevant this is, but the type of music I'm looking to record (using an Edirol R09) involves human vocals, electric bass guitar, electric guitar w/effects, classical guitar, clarinet, saxophone, and perhaps improvised percussion (hitting various objects with various objects). I'd like to have the option of inserting pre-recorded instruments into tracks - so hopefully the program will have a decent library.

Apologies beforehand for any obtuse ignorance
posted by past to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
A variation on this question gets asked every few days (most recently here), so look back through the archives for some good advice.

I would second Reaper, which is free to use for the first month and thereafter doesn't cost much. I know you said money isn't really an issue, but the thing with Reaper is that you can download it straight away, and start working in five minutes or so from now. I would specifically recommend that you download it now and spend the next three hours/weekend/week recording a simple project for practice. I guarantee you'll learn more in that time just diving in than you will with a question like this. You'll get a much better sense of how DAWs work, what you need and don't need in one, whether Reaper is for you, and if not you'll be better equipped to research what would be ideal for you, etc.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:09 AM on February 26, 2011


runnable on a laptop (dual core 1.46GHz, 2038mb RAM, 32-bit Vista)

This is my one of my biggest concerns. A friend has Reason on his desktop PC, but I think it would overwhelm my computer.


FWIW, I used to run Reason on Powerbook G4 1.5Ghz and it ran great. I think this is partly because the Propellerhead folks make some pretty lean software (some other software instrument suites will indeed bog down a 1.5Ghz machine), but the other factor worth considering is that most computers have been powerful enough for real-time multitrack audio for at least a decade now. Up to a dozen tracks with modest effects processing, you're probably going to be OK with most recent model machines. With good software (probably not Windows) you might even get that out of a netbook.

It's also worth noting that while Reason itself is more of an electronic instrument suite / sequencer rather than a DAW, Propellerhead (makers of Reason) now has a DAW called Record. I haven't used it yet, but based on my great experience with Reason, I want to.

Reaper looks like something I'd want to try out too.
posted by weston at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2011


If you have absolutely no experience with music production, I'd try Ableton Live.

It's easy to use and runs on minimal hardware just fine.
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2011


(Ableton was designed to run on laptops, because it's used in live music production all the time.)
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2011


Great!

cincinnatus c: I had looked back, but used the wrong keywords. And thanks!

I have Reaper now - I was working with it last night in the dark slumber-silence and thought I'd add a virtual instrument. Just by name, I picked the Gaussian generator and hit play: it was like the first time I heard certain tracks by Brown Wing Overdrive - terrifyingly obliterative! woo.

And thanks everyone - all your answers have been very helpful!
posted by past at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2011


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