Other Equipment

Advice, Comments, Recommendations for DAW: ProTools, Ableton Live, …

1

Happy New Year, All!

My resolution for this year is to finally start recording all the original music I've accumulated. I have about 3 albums' worth of material, and I'm hoping to finish the first one this year. The first order of business is to decide which Digital Audio Workstation to invest in and learn. I have a little experience with Pro Tools and Cubase, and was shown some pretty impressive features today about Ableton Live. So, I'd very much appreciate feedback from any of you that have used any of these to help in my decision. Some basics about me and what I'm up to:

  • I previously started on a Korg digital 16 track recorder, so I have some experience with the basics of digital recording. I've done recording projects (someone else engineering) in both Pro Tools and Cubase, and soundwise don't hear enough difference to be concerned with. I tend to learn softwares pretty quickly, but shifting between performer and engineer roles is difficult for me, so intuitiveness of use is a factor.

  • I know Pro Tools is the industry standard, but also hear it takes longer to learn, and is more menu-driven than perhaps I'd like, but again, that's only one (though important) factor. It appears that Ableton can export recorded sound files to be uploaded into Pro Tools for mixing and mastering, with some effort but not too much difficulty, so that 's a helpful option. Your thoughts/experiences?

  • The music I'm working on is more traditional/realistic ---- not so much electronica, dance, etc. Jazz, reggae, Latin, funk, etc. I plan to play most of the instruments myself, with maybe some ringers brought in for congas/timbales/percussion, harmony vocals, horns and such.

  • Good-sounding (by which I mean mostly natural/acoustic sounding) drums are important. I'll likely replace the internal cymbals and hi-hat with real ones, so not too concerned about those, but the kick, snare, and toms have to sound good. Also need to be able to route internal drum sounds to separate tracks.

  • From what I've seen, the prices for all three are in the same ballpark --- although it looks like Pro Tools puts you on the hook for monthly support, which I consider extortion and immoral. If it truly yields the best results, though, I could live with that (sigh).

  • I'm looking for the optimum balance (for me) between audio quality (I plan to release them and have them be radio-worthy, even if no station anywhere wants to play them) and painlessness (dare I say even fun?) in using them.

Your experiences pro or con are much appreciated --- especially if you've discovered any idiosyncrasies, like incompatibility with certain types of microphones, effects, or whatever --- or certain tricks to enhance performance in some area.

Thanks in advance for your comments!

2

I've used Audacity. It's free. Doesn't have drum kits, etc. but I have an Alesis box...and will eventually buy a kit.

3

I'm using Logic Pro X .

It's supposed to have a shallower learning curve than the others, but comes with a much bigger array of sound libraries, really expanding every aspect of shaping the sound you're looking to get if you're willing to spend the time.

I love it, but I have to warn you of the additions you can get...for the guy that can't decide what sound he wants, you can disappear down the rabbit hole of tweaking ever aspect of the gear you decide to use.

Every aspect of drum gear and beats, speakers cabinets...amount and size, room ambiance, guitar tone, outboard gear like compression, effects, etc...is malleable.

My sons are usung Garageband which comes standard with their OS, and it works really well, it's 'drawback', if you could call it that, is the limits on how you can contour the sound.

It works fine, as is, but if you find yourself using more tracks attached to more libraries you'll want to up your RAM to ensure no lag time. This is true for any of these products, they just don't tell you that.

When recording your drums, be sure to make them midi as well when recording so that you'll be able to change the character of the drums you are playing if they're not satisfactory. It's really anazing what's available to you.

Oh, lastly is the price. $199.00 from the Apple store.

4

Parabar: Your assumptions are correct. PT has a steeper learning curve compared to others. It is also more about editing and integration with proprietary hardware and systems ( TDM, RTAS, VST, AU, etc).

As an example, In our SSL room, we use PT because we share files with other professional studios.

However:

In our "B" room, we use StudioOne 3 . It's operation is more streamlined and intuitive than PT and requires less "horse power". As a writer, you can be up and running much faster with many "songwriter friendly" options with several tech advantages as well.

This may be a bit "techie", but you NEED to know these things:

  1. Pro Tools 12 requires a buffer size of 1024 samples to play and work effectively.
  2. Studio One 3 requires a buffer size of 512 samples to play back and work without error.
  3. Logic Pro X requires a buffer size of 64 samples to play back and work.

Simply stated, you need a modern, fast computer with plenty of RAM (overkill is always the best). Accordingly, the demands of PT can slow the playback, limit track counts, etc. StudiOne 3 is right in the middle as far as performance (even @ 192K). BTW- 48 or 64 is more than enough, especially if MP3 is where it will end up. The higher the rate, the more stress on everything.

We could spend weeks or months discussing this subject, but I suggest you visit www. gearslutz.com. I've been a member for a decade and it is THE best audio site. Ranges from professionals to newbies and like the GDP, is helpful and welcoming.

Here's an examole of a thread discussing your questions. It's over 21 ages deep AS IS OFTEN the case. Lots of real world advice from REAL pros and the like: https://www.gearslutz.com/b...

It should become your "go to" site for recording, live - you name it.

Here's a quick overview of "why" StudioOne 3 may be what you need: https://www.presonus.com/pr...


Interface:

While we have a small fortune invested in the Apogee 64 Ch platform in the SSL room, our "B" room is all Apollo. Can't recommend that platform enough. Sound is fat, warm, "analog" like and plays nice with ANYTHING. The UA plugins are very good ( 1176, LA2A, etc). BUT, because they run natively on Appolo, there is little to no strain on the CPU- the Apollo assumes the bulk of the processing burden ( very low to "no" latency).

The learning curve is short and the headphone feed sounds great. It also has a Hi Z input so you can go direct with a guitar, etc. It has 2 balanced XLR/TRS inputs and more.

Best part is it's affordable, especially for what you get. Want a 2 channel Apollo? Around $799. 16? Around $2K.

https://vintageking.com/cat...

https://www.sweetwater.com/...

https://reverb.com/p/univer...


While the DAW is important since this is how you interact with the music and tech, the AD/DA interface is Key. Best advice is to visit gearslutz, spend time on the UA Apollo and StudioOne sites, and educate yourself.

Like all things, you get what you pay for. Logic is garage band dressed up. Others that are cheap or free, are limited and will eventually frustrate you. Since all DAWs require a learning curve, you don't want to choose any 'ol thing and discover after X months, it's going to limit you and your music that you abandon it and start all over again.

FYI: Another key consideration is where will it be mixed? What platform(s) do they support? PT, CB, SO? And, plugins: RTAS, TDM, VST, etc. Research that first.

NOTE: f you're doing it all yourself, then use what you like.


To sum things up, read. read. read. Download demo software. See how intuitive the DAW feels to you.

Make sure your computer is current, fast processor, plenty of ram, with lots of "extra horsepower". The computer is the hub of your studio and a fast, efficient cpu is where it all starts. NOTHING else will work properly if your track counts or plugin are stressed and the cpu hangs up. Frustration is not even the word to describe the feeling. BTW: Mac is king, here...

Next, decide which AD/DA interface you'll use and confirm your operating system plays nice with it. Again, Apollo is a GREAT choice (next to the Apogee platform, Apollo is found in pro studios). You'll be thrilled with the conversion and it will sound natural/analog to most users ( especially with acoustic instruments). I have an Apollo Twin Duo at home for writing and because it's a high quality device, I can easily transfer sessions to the pro studio and import into a PT session.

As I stated above, this conversation could go on for weeks and months. Do your diligence and go to gearslutz. The education you will receive there is invaluable.

Good luck!

5

My own $.02...

For PC: Reaper (yep, bought the license. Those developers rock.)

For iOS: I decided to go for as powerful a portable rig as I could figure out so I bought an iPad Pro with 512gb hardrive to use as my DAW. Much to my chagrin, Reaper doesn't exist for it or I'd still be using it. After lots of research, I went with Auria Pro. Not quite as versatile as Reaper but what it won't do actually forces one to have to play better, i.e., less turd-polishing ability in Auria Pro. Other than that, I've personally had really good luck with it.

6

Thanks, folks --- more comments are welcome too. I will be using a Mac, and plan to buy a new one to use exclusively for recording, with external hard drives to back up files. (with as much RAM and memory storage as I can manage). I can't use a laptop, because the displays are too small for my aging eyes. Big-ass monitor is part of the plan.

The only internal sounds that are critical to me are drums, since everything else will be audio recording from my keyboards, guitars, basses and amps. I have some good mics and a Steinberger AD/DA interface, so that's covered. The AD/DA was supposed to come with a free downloadable version of Cubase, but I could never even log onto the website to register the interface, let alone download Cubase.

Gretschman36, I stumbled onto gearslutz yesterday, and while, as you say, there's LOTS of information there, it's hard to digest all of it, especially since, as one would expect, there are many differences of opinion.

7

Yes, as always, opinions are plentiful. That said, there is very solid tech knowledge and advice as well. And, admittedly, there is a bit of pro audio snobbery regarding which interface, DAW, etc. What's useful is not the cork sniffer threads, but the "gear specific" threads with real world experience.

If you start a thread about "what you need", your level of experience, etc., the "good ones" will chime in without judgment. IMO, unless you know PT well, are invested in it's platform, will not be tracking drums or mixing at another studio, the "industry standard" is kinda moot. And if you go StudioOne 3, you can export and import sessions into PT, so...

To me knowing the logistics of how you intend to record, what the limitations may or may not be, one can decide upon the path that works best for them. When you add in room treatment and "space", even the best equipment in the world can't over cpme bad acoustics, reflections, absorption issues, etc.

If you're mixing and tracking live drums at an outside facility, those variables become less important.

8

I don't do this stuff but a friend does with ProTools. He said two monitors make life much easier.

9

I'm not a pro musician or studio engineer, but as an audio software developer I jump between many different DAWs on a daily basis.

Reinforcing what has been said - PT is the industry standard, but if you just need a decent home studio, it's arguably overkill. A tasty Mac running Studio One 3 or Logic Pro X should fit your needs nicely. A motorised control surface (like a PreSonus CS18AI or Behringer X-Touch) would also make your life easier.

Personally, I prefer Logic Pro X. Its ability to use very small buffers (as mentioned by gretschman36) is extremely useful. This lets you overdub with the built-in instruments (pianos, synths, drums etc) from a MIDI keyboard with almost no audible latency. (Although note that low latency and performance is a balancing act. As you add more tracks to a project, you sometimes need to increase buffer sizes)

Ableton is a capable program, but its workflow is aimed at live performance. For multitrack recording using acoustic instruments & mics, there are better solutions.

10

Thanks to all who have commented so far. Studio One looks better and better the more I read about it. Their homepage with knowledge base and support looks very good too (WAAYYYY better than Cubase), and since they have free downloadable trial versions, I'm definitely going to check it out.

I even found an online site that's offering the full professional version 3.2 plus a paid of powered monitors for around $375, which seems like a great deal, so I'm looking forward to some more hands-on experience very soon.

11

For me,Cubase is fantastic. Ableton too--- ! ! What you will find,is that the learning curve is steep for DAWs and you tend to stay with what feels familiar.Probably why I loathed ProTools and Logic/Garageband....Liked Studio One though.

12

Parabar: If it’s the full pro version, that may be a deal depending upon the speakers! Usual cost of pro version is $399

Do you know the brand and model of the speakers?

13

(1) Pair of Rockville APM5C 5.25" 2-Way 250W Active/Powered USB Studio Monitor Speakers

And the listed price today --- with the full pro version 3.2 --- is $319.95.

14

I do not know the brand, but found them @ WalMart and Amazon for $114.95, so your guess is as good as mine. But, for $319, the speakers are actually free given the price of StudioOne 3. So, if they don't work, sell 'em for $50, right?

BTW: If your room is not treated with absorption, reflection, diffusion, etc., you may want to look into a pair of JBL LSR308's: https://www.sweetwater.com/...

What's nice is they feature JBL's Image Control Waveguide design that creates a detailed stereo image - virtually ignoring room issues (creates a tuned sweet spot at the listening position). Very useful!

SEE HERE: http://www.jblpro.com/www/j...

They match up well with a sub, too: https://www.sweetwater.com/...

BTW: The Bi-Amps are very, very good. Lots of headroom and power. Nothing less inspiring than mediocre monitors.

15

Great thread!

My first rig was a 4 x 4 digidesign nubus system. I now have a duet and just use it for home demos... But I would have thought that even the cheap converters now days would sound superb and that as long as you had a decent computer setup the money would be better spent on mics, monitors, pres etc. do the converters make a big difference? Obviously you want stable drivers etc

16

I'm still kind of old school, so my preference is to use audio files over digital where possible. (.wav over midi, for instance)

My own workflow is Notation (Finale or ?? to write the arrangement), Reaper (mixing, effects, live instruments), Audacity (Mastering) and finally, the MP3, or CD (up to 48bit) final product.

My interface is a lowly but latency-free M-Audio, sometimes taking its input from an older Yamaha 8 channel analog board (for multiple miking of acoustic guitars, grand pianos or larger choruses). It cost me a whopping $29.95 at a Boxing Day sale five years back and it's still going strong.

17

ECastro: Yes, there are large differences in converter boxes today, chief among them is the analog circuitry utilized in the conversion. The analog stage and the power supply are very important to achieving a high quality conversion. Yes, I said power supply.

The quality of the analog section and the accuracy of the conversion are two places to study the differences in various boxes.

Each manufacturer will use different strategies of filters, circuit board layout, shielding and the like to minimize self-induced noise, smearing, etc. But, they can't totally eliminate it. This is the "analog circuitry" that affects the ultimate quality and price points.

Also track counts matter. The more tracks you have with lesser AD/DA, the more "smearing" occurs. Think of it this way: 1 or 2 tracks, not much noise in average priced boxes. But, push that track count up with lesser AD/DA, and the "smear" is greatly increased, making those tracks much less clear, punchy, etc. You are just adding mediocre on top of mediocre making it hell to build a mix that's professional or even useable.

Further, consider dynamic range and distortion measurements...

Example: A 24 bit converter ( in a budget box) might have only 90 db of dynamic range, while a higher end box might have at least 127 dB. It is easy to compare output files from converters, and they will never match at the least significant bits. Then there's the importance of the master clock, which is significant in sound quality.

The "voltage" the AD/DA ultimately sees is affected by the electronics of the unit itself. Its own power supply, transformers, circuitry disturbances and the like will add its own sonic imprint to the voltage you're trying to sample. There's no way to get around this. You can't "sample" a voltage without affecting the incoming voltage signal itself.

Again, I could go on for days, but reading advice from respected sources is your best bet. Bottom Line: Buy the best AD/DA box you can as it matters wayyy more than the DAW you select. AND, pay attention to the master clock! Garbage in. Garbage out.

So, if you want to know which box is best, IMO, the Apollo has proven itself in pro and home studios (mid to high range - tons of records made with Apollo). Same with Apogee (high end) and found in most pro studios. Since the Apogee platform is so prevalent, most records made the past 15 years use these boxes and believe it or not, our ears "hear" an Apogee just like we hear the compression of a series G bus on an SSL. Our ears say "that sounds like a record". So, why not start there if you're investing in a new setup?

Wanna splurge? Try the BLA Apollo Mod and Antelope offerings - they are without parallel at the moment. The acoustic and string guys love these.

18

Happy with my Zoom R16. I can record great live drums with additional condenser mics and we play until we get it right. Guitars recorded with a mic on a small amp with a bit of delay Dunno what I’d need else. Do use Audacity for a tidy up at the end. A lot of the time spent setting up the software for DAW recording worries me, bores me and leaves me thinking why do I have to do all that stuff? I don’t of course, just happy Rockin and a rolling around with what I have

19

Thank you gretschman36! Very much appreciate the answer... was not what I wanted to hear :-p but glad I heard it before I bought a behringer.

I remember I sold an mpc60 which was 12 bit to buy a mpc2000(16 bit) and thinking the 2000 sounded horrible compared to the 60. Now I’m wondering if it was down to the analogue circuitry

My setup is simple. Don’t use plug-ins as I have vintage keys etc... have external pres too so they aren’t a consideration but we are working on a ‘Casio n western’ project so was going to update my interface(FireWire duet) and computer. Will check out UA looks like the twin retails for 1500 here so they are more than the duet. Do you think these are ok ? I use a Mac with Logic Pro. Other option I just read a great review on is the Focusrite Clarett

20

Happy with my Zoom R16. I can record great live drums with additional condenser mics and we play until we get it right. Guitars recorded with a mic on a small amp with a bit of delay Dunno what I’d need else. Do use Audacity for a tidy up at the end. A lot of the time spent setting up the software for DAW recording worries me, bores me and leaves me thinking why do I have to do all that stuff? I don’t of course, just happy Rockin and a rolling around with what I have

– Vince_Ray

After using and/or trying most of the current and past DAWs available on both PC and Apple (and Amiga, if you want to back that far) I have landed on the same method as Vince, the Zoom R16 but with a little mixdown on Adobe Audition. We record live drums, guitar and vocal with the occasional voice overdub. Works great and I don’t burn valuable hours trying to wrestle a DAW into submission.

21

I use Ardour on Linux. They also make an OSX version. It's free, but full-featured and easy to use IMO. All DAWs have a bit of a learning curve until you figure out your own workflow.

22

Per Crowbone: "My sons are usung Garageband which comes standard with their OS, and it works really well, it's 'drawback', if you could call it that, is the limits on how you can contour the sound."

I use GarageBand to record simple, multi-track demos of my originals songs for our band. Pros: Shallow learning curve; free/standard on the Mac & iOS operating systems. Cons: limits on mixing as Crowbone alluded to.

If your just doing demos, etc...GB is okay. If you're recording for issue, sales, etc...you'd probably want to look at ProTool, et al.

23

I tried doing all of this back in 2005. Used a PC with an M-Audio interface and had to have the right sound card for whichever computer your using. Using Audacity, because it was free. Lovely hours of latency and editing and waiting for edits to emerge then erase and redo. I'm done. No more fun, forget it.

A friend of mine uses Pro Tools along with Logic and gets great results. he's way past the learning curve and has spent the money on all of the upgrades. As of this year,he says he's done with Pro Tools. The cost is getting ridiculous and he likes Logic better. He'll be doing our next album to be released this year. Can't wait.

24

Thank you gretschman36! Very much appreciate the answer... was not what I wanted to hear :-p but glad I heard it before I bought a behringer.

I remember I sold an mpc60 which was 12 bit to buy a mpc2000(16 bit) and thinking the 2000 sounded horrible compared to the 60. Now I’m wondering if it was down to the analogue circuitry

My setup is simple. Don’t use plug-ins as I have vintage keys etc... have external pres too so they aren’t a consideration but we are working on a ‘Casio n western’ project so was going to update my interface(FireWire duet) and computer. Will check out UA looks like the twin retails for 1500 here so they are more than the duet. Do you think these are ok ? I use a Mac with Logic Pro. Other option I just read a great review on is the Focusrite Clarett

– eCastro

Sure, ECastro...

Well, the Duet has been a nice little box, but the new interfaces (like the Apollo) have better converters with increased speed and stability to better address latency (Thunderbolt vs. Firewire). So, IMO, those 2 factors alone make Apollo the clear winner.

I also use very few plug-ins as the studio is mostly vintage outboard gear ( in and out OTB and summed), so you will have more horsepower for tracks, processing audio, etc. That sounds fine.

Same with LogicPro. If you like it, then stay with it.

Since you have OTB mic pres and related gear, you'll get the most bang for your buck with quality conversion.

The processing burden is mostly handled inside the Apollo itself, freeing up your computer's processing power for other tasks - more than other boxes.

As far as the Focusrite Clarett, it's built on their Saffire platform, which is a mid-level "prosumer" box. However, the Clarett has a 10dB improvement in dynamic range ( on the input and output side) compared with the Saffire interfaces.

Further, it offers a Thunderbolt connection, so that gives you increased speed & stability. I'd say it's a bridge between the Duet and Apollo.


Have you looked for an Apollo in the used market? Given you're outside the US, that may be a great option.

Lots of deals around @ $450-$500 for the original "silver" units, which are VERY good. Just A/B agaInst the new "grey MKII" boxes and you'll see the specs are nearly identical. It's more about additional I/O, increased monitoring options and bundled plugs. The silver box is well supported and I have it installed at home. More than good, which is why I did not "upgrade" to the MKII. The original "silver" offers great performance and value. Since the market has stabilized for used Apollos, bet ya you could recover 85% if or when you sell it. With the Clarett, you'll lose at least 50%.

Also consider a used Apollo has already gone through depreciation making it the better value as well. So, better value, better conversion, better dynamic range and better options. Seems like the "better" deal, right?

25

Yes. You are right..Unfortunately second hand Apollo are few and far between down here and i would be nervous buying secondhand.

Also I’m thinking the multiple inputs would be great fro recording my old 808. So maybe an apogee element or Focusrite claret are more afordable options.


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