Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Recording Your Stories At Home - 3 What's Behind the Green DAW - recording software and other bits

Here we are at the third installment of Recording Your Stories At Home. In this blog, I will be talking about digital audio workstations. You have your space. You have a recording devise. And now it's time to look at recording!

Following are my feelings and opinions based on my experiences. And that is all they are. Everyone, as I said, has their own favourite DAW or any equipment or device, and some may disagree with me! And I welcome comments about the software I do not use, or have not used, so please speak up!

There are a lot of digital audio workstations (DAWs) out there. And everyone seems to have their favourite. Most people in the industry use Avid's Pro Tools, but this is not cheap. It is also way more than a storyteller or voice artist will ever need! I truly believe that this would not be a good use of valuable resources. Here is a quick list of some of the available software in no real order:
Don't worry it doesn't have to be this serious or scary!
Ableton's Live
Propellorhead Reason
Cakewalk's SONAR
Sony's SoundForge
Steinberg's Cubase
Adobe's Audition
Logic Pro
Avid's Pro Tools
and my favourite - Studio One by PreSonus

Some thoughts on software in general. Some software manufacturers are now providing cloud based software. What this means is that you pay a fee every year to keep using it. It is cloud based, so not on your computer, and it is ALWAYS up to date. I think this is a great model for large production houses, but for a small user like me, I hate it. I find myself with yet another annual fee to add to my expenses. For my uses I do not want a ton of bells and whistles. The basics do just fine for what I need and I do not like being held hostage to these big companies. So although Adobe's Audition has some great tools, at $250 a year I am striking them off the list! The above list is not comprehensive either. These are the better known DAWs or DAWs that are better suited for voice work, and not rappers and electronica!

Most DAWs come with a 30 days free trial. Some voice recorders and both Presonus' AudioBox and the Scarlett 2i2 (mentioned in the previous blog) come with free, or light versions of a DAW. Try these out and see what you like the best. But read the rest first!

There are free DAWs out there. Are they any good? For some very basic uses, yes. Try out Audacity, if you want. However, when you set out to create great end products, after spending a few weeks maybe even a month or so playing around with it, you will find it lacking and need to find a program more suitable. So save your time and start off right.

As I began buying recording devices I tried out a few of the above mentioned DAWs. I started with Audacity, and found it lacking. I tried the light version of SONAR and found that, although it was good, was not great. Same thing with Cubase. I have met and know people who love both of those programs and will never change. In doing my due diligence I have looked up some reviews, so you don't have to, of the new versions. The programs  used, I used a good long while ago. A source I discovered and like is: http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-daw-software/ In writing this particular blog post, I have also used a fair number of other sources, including Amazon for likes and dislikes of users. I liked ehomerecoording because Bryan seems to have similar thoughts to mine! I also found Ask.Audio to be a very helpful site.

Ableton's Live
More for multi-instrument, and live recording so will have a lot of what you might not use for just voice work. I have heard it works better with a Mac, but I have heard that with Adobe products, and never had an issue as a PC user! I have heard and read that Ableton is not so good for vocal and better for electronic music, but wanted to mention it as it is quite popular with some. (from $88 to $700 in 3 stages)

Propellorhead Reason
Although this new '9' release is supposed to be much improved, this has many tools a none musician will not need, making the intro price of $400 a little steep. It has many music maker fans, so if you play and write songs, this might be, if the price is not too off-putting, a way to go.

Cakewalk's SONAR
When I used this years ago, I hated it. Not user friendly, not intuitive for me, and I went back to... dare I say it... Audacity! I did. But then I found Studio One! SONAR - Entry level $90, mid-level $160, top level, $400. It has been a bit of a mainstay for us PC users apparently. Recently they have been welcomed to the world of Mac, although it was said somewhere there is so much old programming it might be found to have glitches on a Mac! And SONAR has its rabid fans. Sometimes tried and true is good. And it seems, from what I have read, it's new release is a lot easier to use. It would have to be. It has lots of bells and whistles at lower levels than some (like Cubase), and it seems much better (from reviews) than I remember it.

Sony's SoundForge
Declaration here. I do like Sony. I have thought a few time about getting SoundForge and trying it out. But then I did try out their video program Vegas, a few years ago and found it cumbersome and frustrating. And Sound Forge Pro is not cheap at $400 but will let you create a finished CD and burn it. It does not have a mastering suit, something you would think it would have, if you can burn a CD. Lots of good reviews of this program if you want to spend that sort of money to do those sorts of projects. I suppose this could be said for all the top level editions of a DAW. Apples to apples and all that! One other thing I just discovered from Ask.Audio:
The first thing to clear up is that Sound Forge is an Audio Editor, not a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). It has different functions and capabilities to your standard DAW. You can record audio and edit audio files, but it’s not like a DAW where you arrange your audio regions to form a song. It’s more of a tool where you can edit and process audio files. So it’s well suited for audio restoration, mastering and sound design as it deals with audio on a different level than your DAW,  for example audio batch processing. With an audio editor you can edit a file and apply those same settings across numerous audio file in a batch process seamlessly, which would take ages in a standard DAW.

Steinberg's Cubase
Already said something about this already. Was not my favourite, and is used by many. Not as intuitive as some other products, but a very strong contender. This latest version, Pro 8.5 has a sharing ability similar to Pro Tools. It has an improved workflow. And the Pro version costs $550. There is a Elements version for $100 which could be a good starting point, or point of entry. It seems to me that some of these editors I tried a while ago have made great strides to improve - maybe because of the number of newer products on the market now offered. Elements has an EQ system which is great to remove hisses that may come out on words like hisses! This is a huge bonus.

Logic Pro
I know people who use this and Pro Tools together. I think Pro Tools has some of the final production pieces that Logic does not. Not sure why! One disadvantage and plus to this is that it is Mac only, If you don't use Mac, this is not for you. If you use only Mac, and have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iMac or Mac Pro -  then this would probably be the way to go. It is $200 and is filled with lots of musical add-ons. I did not find a free version of this, or a light version. This is it!

Avid's Pro Tools
As I have said this is the go-to for professionals and has a professional price tag. They do have a free version which might be worth trying out, and if you find you need or want to upgrade, it costs $300 for the mid-range version. The pro is a lot more. I have read it is clunky and has a lot of very old (outdated?) parts to it. They do, however, have a great tool which allows engineers (that would be you!) to share work. This means you could work on something and send it to a pro studio for them to put finishing touches on. Just a thought. Because of the price, be sure you want to go this route.

My favourite:
Studio One
I have not used the new and improved, and recently released version 3. I have and use version 2.5 and love it. When I got Studio One, it came with a mic, cables, headphones and the AudioBox USB "adapter" interface. I tried Studio One and fell in love with it. I found it so easy to use, quick to pick up, and easy to discover things as I worked. It has a number of very useful features for voice work including punch and roll. I will discuss this feature/technique in the next blog. The free version does not have EQ but the $100 Artist version does. This is nice as you can get a feel for it in the free version, and buy into it if, like me, you found it easy to use. It has both Mac and PC versions of the software. If you buy the artist version and want to be able to do more, then when you are ready you can upgrade to the $400 Professional version for $300. As I imagine you can do with other multilevel DAWs. One thing I like a lot about Studio One Producer (now the Pro version) is that it has some of the tools featured in Pro Tool and Logic Pro. They are easy to learn and very useful.

Having done my due diligence and looked at/read about the newer versions of old software I have used, it seems that maybe Cubase is not so bad after all. all these programs have their fans and all of them have reasons for loving what they use and not liking the ones they do not. If you know people who have digital audio workstations or audio editing software, ask if they can show you how it works, try it out yourself and see what works for you. Ask why they like it over others. Then you can make a sound, well educated decision.

If you found this information useful in any way whatsoever, please considering following my blog and subscribing. Click there on the right! If you know anyone who is interested in this stuff, or is also thinking about getting into recording their own stuff, forward the blog!

I will also invite you to visit my website: http://www.diamondscree.com/
where there you can listen to recordings made in the studio, watch short movies of me telling tales at various places, and where you can also sign up for newsletters (which are a lot shorter than this blog) among many other cool things!  Thanks for reading.


NEXT UP: "What the Dang Does a DAW do?" A blog about digital workstations, mic placement, headphones, popscreens and file formats - not necessarily in that order!

Intro about recording: http://worldofstories.blogspot.com/2016/01/learning-art-of-narrating-audio-books.html

1 comment:

Richard Martin said...

Many thanks for such valuable and details work, Simon. This is really useful.