So here's the list; In the order of importance as I see them they are as follows:
- Audio Interface
- DAW Software
- Power Conditioner
- Acoustic Treatment
- Studio Monitors (speakers)
- External Hard Drive
- Cables & Accessories
Today's topic - DAW Software aka Digital Audio Workstation Software. First, as stated with the computer section above, sometimes a re-purposed old computer can save money – just make sure it meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for the software. In addition, some DAW software companies suggest you don't use your for running anything other than DAW software - especially not surfing the internet or emailing. Some don't recommend writing to the main Hard Disc - and recommend a disc just for any and all recording. Other make no such suggestions. One thing is for certain, check your DAW software for compatibility with the Interface and the computer! Not all DAW/Interface/computer combinations work together.
If you don't already know - you'll soon find that every piece of DAW software you will find is music focused. As a result it is much more complex than you may ever need - depending on your use. Midi is something that you may want if you are working with music - but if you're just recording your strumming on a guitar, singing some lyrics, podcasting or voiceovers - then midi isn't something you will likely need. DAW software may also come bundled with your interface and you may not need to purchase any (though many choose a preferred version for ease of use, training or familiarity). You don't even need to purchase any as you can also use Audacity – a free software - with many interfaces. If you have an Apple computer - then Garage Band (included on a Mac) can even work well. One final thought before we move onto some of the options (though again more than listed are available) is the phrase 'Industry Standard'. Many people are under the assumption that only one particular software is the industry standard. That is not the case. Almost any DAW software you purchase will meet industry standards. All of the major players will be updated from time to time to allow you to stay current as the standards change. Some of those updates are free, some you have to pay for. I don't like to reference WikiPedia often, but if you wantt o find out more about DAW software available, click this link (with caution). One area I like is the 'comparison of digital audio editors' on that page.
That said, here are the Digital Audio Workstations I have worked with, and some considerations to make when looking at them:
Audacity (pros - free, free and free. Also fairly simple to navigate for beginners cons - can crash, lacks functions and support of pay software). There are sites that will charge you, but the software should only be paid for if you choose to make a donation. It can be downloaded from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
GarageBand (Pro – free* (on a mac) and files load directly into Logic. con – not compatible with PC, a bit tricky to use ) most people think this is only for podcasting and musicians to record themselves for training purposes. It’s much more powerful, and can be used for basic VO needs, however many people find it difficult to use as many of your conversions of files have to be done in iTunes. Many people use Garage Band for auditioning for VO jobs.
*If you have an older Mac and don't have the more recent version of GarageBand and iMovie, etc. You can buy the package called iLife '11
Audition (Pro - easy to use interface, 'royalty free' sound library - though these may get overused and tired soon, CS 5.5 is NOW Mac Compatible. Con - a bit 'bulky' in it's newest version, somewhat pricey). Adobe Audition has been used in many radio stations since it was known as 'Cool Edit'. At that time it was a compact software that had a fairly straightforward interface and was easy to learn. New improvements and changes to the interface have complicated that, and many Radio stations haven't upgraded for that reason. The newest version is CS 5.5, though older versions are available, and fair well with many users. Adobe Audition 3 (older version) & Adobe Audition CS 5.5
Studio One Pro – (Pro – clean layout, easy to learn ‘drag and drop’ effects, social media integration. Con – more than you may need. Social media may not be for you) from Presonus, this is a new build over an old music engine (CuBase), but the updates are done very well. This software boasts great social media integration allowing you to upload and share files from right within the application. This is an ‘extra’ that you may not need, but can also allow you to share your files easily with friends/associates for feedback – important when starting in VO’s. As with most software, it’s intended for people creating music, but the many plugins available compel some to upgrade from the Artist Version: Studio One Artist to Pro Upgrade & Studio One Pro (Full Version)
ProTools – (Pro –often called ‘the industry standard’ software for audio. Massive amount of support and plugins available - some free. Con – quite pricey, many flavors that lack necessary functions creates confusion, older versions don't play well on PC's). ProTools got into many homes and studios with the older versions of their software that came bundled with the mBox. Lower quality, and much less useful versions were called 'Fast Track' or 'M-Powered' and caused quite a bit of confusion (most likely thanks to ill informed salespeople). Now, however, you can buy ProTools 9 as a standalone software and use it with several interfaces that support ‘Core Audio’ Drivers. An added bonus is that you can now edit on the go without an interface plugged in - by purchasing an iLok device. The iLok also holds the 'key' for plugins you may be interested in purchasing for use with your ProTools edits. ProTools 9 and iLok and iLok 2.
[EDIT]- Of course for those who use, or want to use, ProTools and feel they could use it better, or need to use it better - we do offer training for ProTools. At your location, or perhaps one of ours in the Burlington, Vt area or online anywhere via Skype. Screen sharing allows you to see exactly what the coach is teaching, and for you to repeat the steps they've just taught you. Contact us to let us know your ProTools needs today! [EDIT]
Cakewalk Sonar X1 series - (Pro - three versions - priced competitively, fairly easy learning curve, Cakewalk/Roland makes loads of equipment and it all plays well together & great Midi support - if you need it. Cons - PC only, so no Mac's) What has amazed me is how Cakewalk's Sonar software started to really falter in some areas, and came back. It's also a software that has plugins available to make it useful for the visually impaired . It's really a very functional software that took some lumps for awhile (though they did have some great features even then) and seems to have learned from them. There are three flavors available: SonarX1 Essentials, Sonar X1 Studio & Sonar X1 Producer
Logic – (Pro – Garage band files work with it, works with almost any interface. Con – only on a mac, a bit pricey, made for music creation & editing it can be overly complex for basic users) Logic is a very powerful music creation software, but quite a bit more than you need for VO’s, recording your guitar or singing. If you like actually creating music, and want to plug in just about any interface there is – Logic might be for you. Logic Studio
Disagree with any of what we've said? Think we're missing any software that should be included? Let us know in the comments!