Q It Up: Your Multi-track DAW: Likes, Dislikes, Wish List - Part 1

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: What software or hardware do you do your multi-track production on? Audicy? Cool Edit Pro? Vegas? Something else? What are your likes and dislikes about the multi-track system you use? If you could have any system available, regardless of cost, would you keep the same one you have now, or would you get something else? What would you get and why?

Justin Taylor [studio[at]voiceimage .com]: I use several different set-ups depending on the project. I have an Orban Audicy, I have ProTools on my Mac G4, and I have CoolEditPro and Sound Forge on my PCs and portable laptop studio.

The Audicy is my choice for short form mega-edit music and sfx spots and promos due to the versatility and easy audible scrub. It’s a great machine...but it works in RAM. Therefore, anything longer than a high-content :60 spot or promo can be a bit restraining without adding several thousand dollars worth of additional RAM.

For just about everything else, including long form audio projects and music sessions, the vote goes to my Mac Platform ProTools set up. It’s just simply awesome. I can do anything and then some. Although it does not offer the ease of audible editing that the Audicy has, it’s more than everything anyone would need. Music production and intricate voiceover/commercial production is a pleasant experience.

For simple voice-only mono or 2-track, I stick with Cool Edit Pro on my PC. It’s fast and easy, and I can convert to mp3, upload, and I’m finished. Wham, Bam, Such A Ham. I archive everything to Zip and with Cool Edit I just Save As mp3, and there it stays after the upload.

My laptop goes on the road with me. I’m running Cool Edit Pro and Sound Forge using a Digigram Sound card thru my PCMCIA slot. I can mp3 up to the web or burn it to CD right in the box.

Likes: Audicy and ProTools — “real time effects and processing” are a definite plus. The learning curve for each was not incredibly difficult like SAW and others.

Dislikes: Cool Edit Pro and Sound Forge — “effects” must be processed and applied. This cannot be done in real time and it’s a battle of trial and error to get it just the way you want it. One more dislike is the extremely high price of the Audicy.

Until I can afford a Pro Tools|24 MIX set up, I’m very happy with ProTools and my Audicy as my main editing DAWs. I choose to stay with them. Of course, I’ll be happy to bench test anything for free! Bring it on!

Jay Rose [jay[at]dplay.com]: I’m still very happy with the Audicy system. My clients, mostly ad agency types used to watching producers who have to work with a mouse, are blown away by its speed. Orban still provides active support with a staff who knows the system and understands professional deadlines: I needed a board replacement a few weeks ago (gee, my system has seen three years heavy use), and they shipped it overnight.

I only hope they’re really over the development hiatus that’s lasted the past two years. I used to count on new effects and features every six months. Now, if I need cutting-edge sound-designy stuff, I have to pass tracks to my Mac G4-867 and mess with them in software. It’s still faster to work that way, and pass the finished element back to Audicy, than to try to do the whole job in the Mac.

But if you really want to buy me a new system, and price is absolutely no object, I’ll take a Fairlight. Either the Prodigy or their new Dream line. It’s got the same kind of ergonomics and flying speed as Audicy, with a lot more tracks, effects, and options.

Rob Frazier [robnokshus[at]yahoo .com], KLSX, Los Angeles: Great Question! I’ve used Pro Tools, Cool Edit Pro, SAW, and the “Odd-icy” and am now a full-on fan of Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Audio. Coupled with Acid and Sound Forge (both Sonic Foundry products), this is an un-beatable setup for Radio.

What do I like about Vegas? Well for starters, Vegas is all software, meaning you don’t need a bunch of proprietary ($) hardware as with Pro Tools and Audicy. Written specifically for windows, Vegas uses many windows keyboard shortcuts that are second nature to PC users; it’s very intuitive and pretty easy to sit down and start working with right out of the box. Vegas incorporates an explorer window which allows you to drag and drop audio files from anywhere on your computer. You can also drag from your desktop or from another open Vegas session.

Hate having to convert all of your audio before loading it into a session (Pro Tools)? Not only can you drag WAV files, mp3 files and record directly into a Vegas session, you can do it all in one track, with crossfades!

Vegas also has a cool little window called the “trimmer” where you can open larger files for editing without having to drag the whole file into your session. The whole Vegas desktop is easily customizable—track size, position, etc., all can be clicked and dragged wherever you need.

Vegas comes with a nice selection of DirectX plug-ins and readily accepts 3rd party plug-ins. Plug-ins can be assigned to tracks, busses and non real time events. All in all, Vegas offers a lot of speed and flexibility for a great price, under $500 if memory serves me. If I had more money? I’d stick with Vegas and spend the money on bigger hard drives, faster processors, more RAM and plug-ins, plug-ins, plug-ins!

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay 92.com], CJAY/CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA: We have been using ProTools for about 4 years now and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I love it. We went from the analog world straight to ProTools. And from what I have seen, it is definitely the cadillac of DAWs. Digidesign makes a great product and they listen to the pros for what options are useful. I really dig the plug-ins that are available as well. It really makes production easier, better, faster. The only real knock I have is they have had a few upgrades that aren’t compatible with previous versions (they always want your money). But it rocks.

Ron Harper [ronharper[at]fuse.net], The New 96.5/ESPN 1160 BOB: I use SAW Pro. I like being able to name the regions I’m working with – that makes it quick and simple to update stuff on a moment’s notice, or to swap fx or tracks from one production to another. I used the Orban pre-Audicy, a few years ago in another market, and I still think it’s the best piece of proprietary hardware available.

Joel Moss [JMoss[at]webn.com]: I find that when reading or talking about DAWs with others, it’s very much a “what your used to working on” kind of thing, which is completely understandable; no one looks forward to the inevitable speed bumps learning any new technology presents. But as we’ve all learned, you better embrace it...or it’ll find someone else to love.

Having only used the Roland DM-80 PRIOR to installing Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Audio and Sound Forge three years ago, I don’t have a whole lot of working experience on other programs to note the differences, or compare systems; however, from those that I’ve spoken with who have used a variety of platforms, it appears I’ve “lucked” into a very elegant and efficient work station.

Those that are familiar with Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Audio know that there is a version of the software which allows video playback to produce soundtracks (vegas video 3.0). I don’t use that program, but strictly Vegas Audio. With a modest PC (Pentium 3 class) and a basic 128 megs of ram, 60 gigs worth of hard drive; the system is fairly robust and trouble free. I currently use the most recent updates of both programs (Vegas 2.0h/build 434, Soundforge 5.0e) and view the projects on two flat screen monitors. The dual-screen setup with Vegas audio is not a luxury, but a necessity. There’s simply too many windows that really need to be open simultaneously to work efficiently. And the flat screens provide not only a multitude of options as to how you set-up your work space, but the program is actually visually pleasing to look at (less eye fatigue as was the case with tube monitors). I have an exact duplicate system in my home studio, which makes for very easy transfer of data from drive-drive, etc. I do it by just burning CD updates of audio and project files...and whatever other changes need to be made.

I’m looking forward to a processor/ram upgrade within the next few months and anticipate that change will allow smoother functionality as fx processing is added to a project. The program comes with a nice assortment of DirectX/Sonic Foundry fx plug-ins, and you can add as many as your processor will permit to each track, and set up aux buses as well. I love the track envelopes that are user defined for volume, pan, and fx. The envelopes do lock to the event, and you can hide them when it all begins to resemble a Samuel Pollack acid trip.

The fx themselves are real time, and very easy to use—4 seperate eq’s for example; my favorite is the graphic eq because of the graph that you can draw...get as precise as you want. The only drawback (sorry) is the lack of logic that occurs as you open a saved project and attempt to determine exactly what processing was used; i.e. the eq always defaults to “untitled” even though the track is playing a user defined set of parameters, which actually are saved, and can be restored by simply highlighting and clicking on the saved preset. The audio processing is actually correct with the most recent saved application, it’s only the text line that comes up “untitled.” Just a little not-so-user-friendly anomaly.

I’ve also found that I use the batch converter with Sound Forge 1.5; Sonic Foundry now offers the batch converter as a separate program, and not bundled with Forge 2.0. I just keep both programs installed and go back to 1.5 for batch conversion. They both reside on the same drive in peace.

All in all, Vegas completely rejuvenated my love of production about 3 years ago and I continue to find new tricks that this powerful tool is capable of. The only limitations are the ones I bring to the machine.

Bill Downs [billdowns[at]clearchannel .com], KSSN/KHKN/KOLL, Little Rock, AR: We’re using ProTools at Clear Channel, Little Rock, running on Mac G4’s with the Waves TDM Gold Bundle plug-ins. We got it when we moved into our new facility about a year ago. Before then, we’d been using Spectral’s Prisma Express system on a P200 PC.

When I first sat down and began trying to learn ProTools, I really thought it was overkill for the kind of down and dirty radio production we were doing. I was used to working with a CS-10 interface on the Express system, so to do things totally by mouse and keyboard took some getting used to.

(It says something about how I’ve taken to it, though, that when our engineers came in and said we might have some extra cash to put an actual production console into the room, I found myself less than enthusiastic about the idea. We have ProTools set up as a 2-in/2-out system where we input one audio source at a time, running through a Mackie mixer. It’s really all we need.)

As I’ve used the system, its real strengths have started to shine through, particularly using the effects plug-ins, both the Waves and the ones that came with ProTools. As a matter of fact, we have an outboard Yamaha effects processor in the room that I have almost no clue how to use. Thanks to the versatility of those plug-ins, I’ve never needed it.

I do wish the audio element cataloging system was a little more intuitive so that I could, for example, audition different elements before dragging them into a project. I would also like to see a better zoom-in/zoom-out system, a la Express, where you could grab one end of the slider bar and drag it to zoom in and out smoothly. (If there’s a way to do that in ProTools, I haven’t discovered it yet.) Right now, it’s a matter of clicking buttons to step in and out. Finally, the latest 5.2 enhancement to ProTools, which basically turns it into groupware, strikes me as less than useful for our needs.

Overall, though, I’m very happy with ProTools. I’m constantly learning new things about it, and so far, it’s never let me down.

Part 2 Next Month!

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