Well, with the release of DP 4.6, it’s time to check in with how our DAWs are doing. These insanely-cool pitch features certainly mean it’s still in the ring. First, see my previous reviews:
Digital Performer 4.5 (review for Keyboard)
Giant Cubase 3 vs. DP 4.5 vs. Logic 7 Blowout (review for Macworld)
Live 4 (review for Macworld)
What the upgrades did: Logic 7.1 addressed my complaints about Logic 7 (latency compensation, the screwy UltraBeats presets, and easy drag-and-drop reordering of inserts). DP 4.6 added cool stuff I hadn’t even asked for, though it misses my one major complaint, which is there’s not even a simple virtual synth to make music with out of the box. Live 5 will take a perfect program and make it better, as near as I can tell, though it’s still not a total replacement for these other apps — no surround, no video, no power-user MIDI, no Pro Tools support. (That won’t matter to everyone, but to those for whom it does matter, you can probably afford to buy it and ReWire it!)
Who’s winning? Okay, let me take these incredible subtle, complex programs and give you really simplistic advice. If you’re looking for a Pro Tools replacement that lets you do more with less pain, or you’re scoring new Peter Jackson movies, get DP. If you want the best all-around value in synths and instruments and you believe he/she who dies with the most software toys wins, get Logic. If you’re on Windows, and you want surround and power audio features, get SONAR. If you’re starting out, or you want to perform live, or you just want the most elegant app for audio and MIDI creation, get Live. If you’re cash-strapped, get Tracktion. I love Cubase, but unless you’re cross-platform, I’ve had a harder time finding things that make me want to use it. Existing users certainly could do worse, but I can’t see picking up Cubase anew.
Bottom line: with DP, Logic, and SONAR there are plenty of reasons to use DAWs that aren’t named Pro Tools as your primary, pro environment. And if you are happily using Pro Tools, great — just do me a favor, give that Ableton Live thing a try, now that it’s included with Pro Tools. You’ll find it’s a great addition to your Pro Tools arsenal.