I'm curious who else out there is either a professional or maybe just a hobbyist digital audio creator. My dream is to one day have a perpetual music thread like the photography one in the Visual Haven, but I'm not necessarily the most creative person on earth so I'd leave that for someone to start off with a bang. But at any rate, I'm always interested in what other folks are doing with audio and what your workflow/setup is like. I'm sure some of you are aware that I am - was - a big proponent of Logic on OS X, but I've become frustrated with some limitations imposed on Logic in general, and Logic Express in particular, and the increased leaning on Garage Band's half-hearted software instruments, which really don't have a place in a serious audio app. So I started digging around wiht the release of the Win7 RC first to see if I could handle going back to Windows, and second to see what kinds of sequencers I could get my hands on.
This is not a user review, but first impression of Cakewalk Sonar 8 Studio from a Logic Express user's perspective. I’ll also say that since I’m self-taught, I’m probably going to use the wrong terminology for certain things. I also do very, very little recording – my work generally involves creating accompaniment tracks for everything from a modern praise choir to classical pieces that I play live on my clarinet.
I evaluated demos for FL Studio and Sonar 8 because both of them had demos (Cubase either doesn't or hides it really well). I ended up settling on Sonar 8 I liked Cakewalk's interface better. Many of the features of either app are available in both - they are both VST/VSTi hosts. But I'm an OLD Cakewalk user - I first got exposed to it with a demo for Pro Audio 2 or 3 for Win3.1 (included on a Gravis Ultrasound demo disc) when I was in high school, and then Home Studio 9 in 1999 or so. Then in college, I took a DAW class and it was taught on Logic...and now we're here, and I'm talking in circles. And 8 years after first learning Logic, notation-style entry via a MIDI keyboard STILL sucks ass. I actually bought Finale PrintMusic as a MIDI entry method, export to MIDI and import to Logic. Oddly enough, it seems that much isn't going to change.
Anyway, it's not fair to compare the $170 Logic Express with the $350 Sonar 8 Studio (which I got for much less than that on Amazon) other than to say they're both one tier from the top. However, Apple makes a big divide between LE and Logic Studio (extra apps like Soundtrack, extra library content with the Jam Packs and additional EXS24 sounds, more effects and effect processors, etc.) and Cakewalk, while making the jump to Sonar 8 Producer, still makes Sonar 8 Studio well worth your cash. Anyway, here's a rundown of features:
Logic Express 8 comes with:
The Garage Band soft synth library
A decent library of effects processors for echos, band filtering, flanges, delays, modulations, etc.
30-ish EXS24 instruments
Ultrabeat - a pretty excellent drum machine with about a dozen drum sets
Apple Loops - these can either be analogous to REX loops, which are recorded sounds that have points matched to beats, or they can be MIDI data that plays through the soft synth instruments.
A soundfont sampler (which if anybody still uses SFZ sounds could be handy)
Probably the best thing about Logic Express is the Apple Loops library, especially the drum loops. It's very easy to get realistic-sounding rhythms going with your music.
Sonar 8 Studio comes with:
64-bit binary - this is the biggest reason I skipped Home Studio XL in favor of Studio
Dimension LE - VSTi/DXi soft synth with a ton of different high-quality instruments. This kills the Garage Band library for believability, just based on my use
Garritan Pocket Orchestra - kind of a Personal Orchestra Lite, with some awesome orchestral instruments that again slay Garage Band's orchestra if you don't want to pony up $100 for Jam Pack Symphony Orchestra (that's 1/3 of what I spent on the whole package)
Rapture LE - a wavetable synth that I don't know a whole lot about yet
Session Drummer - a drum machine for programming loops, has several kits
Cakewalk TTS - a General MIDI soft synth. Not as high-quality as Dimension, but a larger library than Garage Band that I can see using parts of. Pretty light on CPU usage compared to Dimension, but my E7300 is overclocked to hell and back.
Cyclone - another "groove sampler" (drum machine) with its own step sequencer
A soundfont sampler like Logic's (well, that’s built into Dimension LE)
RXP - REX player, like the REX drum machines available in Propellerhead Reason
Roland GrooveSynth - some real Roland synths have been sampled, and it includes a real TR-808 and TR-909. I like them to give a bit of flavor to some of my arrangements, and I think this is going to be a VERY flexible
A couple other synths I haven't had time to play with.
I’ve had an awesome time with it so far. The notation entry is just as easy as I remember, although I’ll probably stick to Finale – the human playback plugin is a quick shortcut that for my amateur-level tracks is something I don’t mind relying on, though I can hand-tune note durations and velocities on the piano roll. Also, entering a drum track using a general MIDI drum machine is very easy compared to Logic, since the notation entry doesn't hold me back.
The built-in synths are very, very good, although I would like some more variety. Since I’ve now in the last 10 days given up OS X entirely in favor of Sonar, I think I’ll end up selling it and picking up Kontakt (only $335 at MacMall, and even though they collect sales tax, it’s still the cheapest I’ve found it). That’s kind of outside the scope of this thread though. Might also bump myself up to a Core 2 Quad and a bigger monitor
Sorry this is rambling a bit, and I’ll cut it off now, but it seems like I’m happy and that’s really all I’m concerned with.
So my getup looks like this:
Core 2 Duo E4400 @ 3.2GHz
8GB DDR2-800 (2x2GB Crucial, 2x2GB OCZ)
1.1-ish TB drive space (500GB + 640GB)
X-Fi Xtreme Gamer (ASIO support is very nice)
Win7 RC 64-bit
Sonar 8 Studio
Yamaha PSR-290 connected via Yamaha UX-16 MIDI USB interface
Philips 2.1 speakers, Sennheiser eH250 headphones
Hanns*G 17" 1440x900 (ehem) monitor. This needs to get bigger.
Once I clean off my desk, I'll post a pic or something. You guys should feel free to do the same.
So again, I reiterate, what do you do with your digital audio?