I want a kik-ass MIDI suite. And a pony.
December 14, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I need new MIDI sequencing/editing software. Something as close to Logic as possible, given that I'm using a Windows PC at home.

First off, no, for various reasons I can't get a Mac and load Logic onto it, as much as I might like to.

My first MIDI sequencing/editing experience was on Logic 4 back around '99-'00, and I really liked it. It was fast, powerful, and at least somewhat intuitive.

Fast-forward to today and I'm struggling with the limitations of Acid Pro 5, which treats MIDI as an afterthought. Good VST support, but I need to be able to use external modules and keyboards, and Acid doesn't like that. The editing functionality is pretty meagre too.

I can upgrade to Acid Pro 6 for about $200. It has improved MIDI support and editing, but it's still barely as good as Logic was back at the turn of the millennium.

Also in tis price range is M-Audio Pro Tools. I have little experience with Pro Tools. My major impression is that it's mainly geared towards audio recording. That's good, I do that too, but I'm unclear as to Pro Tools' MIDI functionality.

I hear a lot of good things about Cubase too, but I've never used it. How does it compare?

To sum up, I'm looking for a recording suite that:
  • Has robust MIDI support. Editing and sequencing of VSTI synths and external hardware.
  • Multitrack audio recording capapbilities.
  • ReWire compatability
  • A price tag that isn't above $500. Around $200 would be perfect, but I know that may not be realistic.
So, Hivemind, sell me on some kick-ass MIDI software!
posted by lekvar to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
FL Studio, Producer edition.

* at 150 bucks, very cheap compared to higher-end stuff
* logical and simple but very powerful
* you get lifetime upgrades for the cost, which has been true for about 5 point releases

I <3 FL Studio. If you've been trying to do anything anywhere near serious with Acid, you will be very happy with it once you figure out what you're doing. Back before it was a full-featured studio app, and simply just a step sequencer, I used to use it to make loops to bring into Acid. Which made Acid even useful at all. Now, it does wayyy more than Acid can ever claim to do.
posted by Embryo at 11:44 AM on December 14, 2007

You might also like to try Ableton Live. It's a little different to most sequencers, and it's also great for improvised/live playing as the name suggests, and it might not have quite the level of MIDI-editing power of Logic. But for most people's purposes it should be fine - I swear by it - and it's much cheaper than Cubase too, if I recall. There's a free demo on the site, so you've got nothing to lose by trying it!
posted by Ted Maul at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2007

I'm a big fan of Ableton Live as well, but if you're concerned about price or care more for traditional "multitracker" kind of sequencing/recording, give Reaper a go. It's free to try out (full featured shareware, kind of) and very reasonably priced.

It is almost too cheap, but there's nothing cheap about the software itself.
posted by phax at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2007

2nding Reaper http://www.reaper.fm/

I think a section playlist feature is on the horizon. This would be similar to Live's session view and Project5's Groove templates (or whatever they are called).

plus it's just 50 bucks!

It has been more stable than Cubase4 for me.
posted by distrakted at 12:47 PM on December 14, 2007


Totally un-crippled shareware, incredibly cheap licence for home / non-commercial use ($50). Reasonable price for commercial use ($225). Meets all of your requirements, as far as I can tell.

Well worth a look, I'd say.

Fruity Loops and Ableton (mentioned above) are both fine pieces of software - but if you have experience with logic, you may find the learning curve with these more esoteric packages a bit steep.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 12:49 PM on December 14, 2007

I've got a lot of musician friends who swear by Ableton Live.
posted by kpmcguire at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2007

Best answer: Mmm. Difficult. Logic's often cited as the best MIDI platform going.

Initial disclaimer: I have literally no idea about the US price for these packages. I know that they vary between being in line with the UK price to being almost half what we pay, so I'm not going to guess.

You could think about Cakewalk Sonar 7.
If you're in it for the MIDI, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It's been pretty good for a while now generally, but with the enhancements in the latest version, they've apparently created one of the best MIDI environments there is. Caveat: this is from the Sound On Sound reviewer's opinion. I haven't personally used Sonar since version 5, when I found it perfectly easy to use and quite slick actually.

There's also the old faithful Cubase. I haven't used Cubase 4, but other people have and do recommend it. I'm suprised you've never used it at all. It's been one of the primary sequencers since the Atari ST days.

There's also the surprisingly good Mackie Tracktion. That's a very logical, simple to use audio/MIDI editor. It's remarkably straightforward, and a good choice for actually getting things done. It's lacking some advanced features, but worth trying a demo for, I think.

Personally, I do a lot with Ableton Live (6, as it happens) using both MIDI and audio. It's a very slick package, but it does work in it's own way. If you detach yourself a bit from the physical process of using a console then the excellent tutorials will help you through easily. Still, there are some annoying quirks. It's not got the absolute maturity that Cubase, Logic and Cakewalk hae accrued over the past 15-20 years, but it's doing pretty well.

Pro Tools is good at what it does well, but that's not really MIDI. (IMHO)

From my (very limited) experience, FL Studio is an advanced toy rather than an evolved tool.

I've heard very good things about Reaper and it may well serve you well enough. The price certainly can't be wrong.

For most users, there isn't going to be a huge amount of division between Cubase, Sonar and Logic . It's down to the user interface, the bundled VSTs (or AUs with Logic), and a few perks and quirks. I think you should try Cubase, Sonar and Ableton. I assume all three have demos waiting to go.

Good luck!
posted by Magnakai at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2007

Look at tracktion. Here's the last review of Tracktion from Sound On Sound. It's had one upgrade since that review.
posted by bigmusic at 5:13 PM on December 14, 2007

Response by poster: I'd forgotten about Sonar. So far the demo looks exactly what I'm looking for, and I can crossgrade from Acid for $200. I'd love to try Cubase, but I'm not seeing a demo for it.
posted by lekvar at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2007

Personally I still use Logic 5.5 on my PC. I use Ableton as well, and I've tried almost every other DAW, but for me nothing beats the Logic workflow.

I got my copy from ebay years ago, althought I don't see any auctions with it currently.
posted by cmicali at 7:11 PM on December 16, 2007

Response by poster: Does it still interact well with modern soundcards and drivers?
posted by lekvar at 1:49 PM on December 17, 2007

It does, you just have to be a little careful. A simple ASIO card (m-audio delta 2448 for me) will do the trick. Multi-core machines (and >1g ram) have been known to cause some trouble, but you can find many answers at the Sonikmatter Forums
posted by cmicali at 5:18 AM on December 28, 2007

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