Yes, you have our attention. LF-Ogling this one could raise an eyebrow or two.

We’ve been waiting for Bitwig betas to start to look like something that’s ready to use, and for Bitwig Studio to start to set itself apart from a certain, popular live performance / clip-launching DAW that’s made a few blocks away in Berlin. (Cough.)

But at last, it looks like that wait is over. Bitwig is performing tricks we haven’t really seen in this sort of tool before – and the complaints we’re hearing most from the ever-ornery Internet crowd has changed from “been there, done that” to “oh – we want in on this now.” (Maybe a good problem to have. Seriously, look at their Facebook page, though. People are getting … uh … antsy. Ah, the ever-friendly, ever-cheerful, ever-patient Internetz.)

First, let’s talk modulation. The latest video, at top, shows an active beta and has some of the most powerful, unique functionality we’ve seen yet. Ableton Live, Renoise, and others all feature some sort of Device Rack, and these are capable of basic routings and macro controls. But Bitwig extends the concept to endless modulation of anything, anywhere – assign an LFO, assign velocity, morph between controls, whatever. It’s the sort of modulation architecture you’re used to in many modern synths, but now available for the entire DAW.

Next, we’re hearing praise for Bitwig’s open API for controllers. While it’s possible to hack unique controls in something like Ableton Live, it tends to involve mucking about with Python scripts, and it isn’t easy to test. Livid Instruments earlier this month posted a video of some of their results with Bitwig — the same stuff they showed CDM at Musikmesse back in the spring, evolved. They caution that this isn’t something that they’re using as a musical demo, but it does show what’s possible with grid controllers – and they had kind words for how easy it was to use an “open and supported” scripting language.

Bitwig tells CDM that Native Instruments’ Maschine and Novation’s Launchpad are explicitly supported for step sequencers, but as Livid has shown, JavaScript opens that up to other hardware, too.

Finally, our friend Thavius Beck has been enjoying the beta enough to cook up a really lovely music set, slicing away with Bitwig Studio’s sample-dicing support.

Could you do this in another tool?

Absolutely. But we look forward to hearing from Thavius how the beta is going.

And all in all, this is the sort of competition we want in this space. While most development focus has kept to conventional DAWs, it’s great to see tools like Renoise and Bitwig Studio. As a great fan of Ableton Live and user of the tool from the beginning, I’m all the more eager for real rivalries and new ideas.

I’m really impressed with the direction I’ve seen Bitwig going. At this point, to me, it’s really about shipping. But rest assured, we’ll keep our tabs on those betas.

  • Konstantin Fateyev

    Honestly, I feel a little bit of butthurt as an Ableton user. Even though I understand that competition in this field is good, because we will see more and more good stuff from both of the competitors (hopefully), I still feel kind of concerned. Maybe I am just being too conservative and lazy to learn new stuff, since I am so got used to Ableton.

    • Lion

      Actually it looks like not only a very low learning curve for Ableton users but a lower curve going from other DAW programs like Reason and FL Studio to Bitwig.

  • Tom Bombadil

    I personally think that Ableton is in dire need of some juicy competition.
    Live is cool and all, but didn’t really evolve much over the one main initial idea.
    I don’t plan to update Ableton any further over the version 8 I have.
    Bitwig looks much more like a software I’d like to use in 2013 than almost everything else.

    • Aaron Zilch

      Have you tried 9 Tom? Seriously, world of improvements to workflow and sound quality. What did you want, some new “revolutionary” new synth plugin with an animated wood paneled GUI and a bunch of Trap presets? ;o)

    • lokey

      well, as griot mentioned above: one glaring issue with live that hasnt seen any improvement in nears is better control of within-clip playback, clip chopping a la mlr is broken, and will be until they fix the move_playing_position behaviour, or better yet reinvent how they deal with clip playback in general. live has seen dramatic changes in its midi handling, and has become a much more well rounded production environment as a result.
      but there has been very little attention to improving its use as a live playback machine, which is ironic given that was its initial focus, and what lead to its prominence in the first place. lets hope bitwig brings some new perspective, and spurs greater innovation all around.

    • DPrty

      I tried 9 the Database could not be shutdown nor moved and kept crashing. it needed a ton more bug testing and was basically useless for many of us in the state of its release. I did love Ableton and recommended them to everyone who would listen … but the shoddy work on 9 changed my mind about them. Long live Reaper.

    • foljs

      Sure, “didn’t evolve much”.

      Only got MIDI, built in instruments designed for it, a shitload of fx processors, Max for Live, a dedicated controller, tons of modulation options, etc.

      But it still doesn’t read my mind and write the music itself, or invent some magical new unicorn-flavored way of writing music, so it’s boring. ADD much?

  • Chad Clark

    Close your eyes and listen to the music of this demo. Is there anything that distinguishes it? Keep software in perspective.

    • griotspeak

      Software is an instrument. We become excited by different instruments because the music is not *only* about the end listener’s experience. The ‘end’ performance is an auditory experience but there is much more to it than that for the musician. Sometimes it can seem self involved and sometimes it is because sometimes it isn’t only about what you hear when you close your eyes and listen.

    • Chad Clark

      Software is an instrument and I recognize that process is important to the artist. But OF COURSE the only thing that matters is what you feel when you close your eyes and listen. Ultimately that is the only intrinsic value of music.

      I wasn’t intending to get into a tiresome debate; I was simply saying that this software is unlikely to revolutionize anyone’s work as an artist. Certainly anyone who’s already working with Ableton Live, etc.

      There’s very likely no musical idea that you cannot express with your current set of tools.

      – c

    • Peter Kirn

      Okay, I think I better understand your point.

      I still disagree. Part of the joy of engineering tools for music is that you really have no idea what people will do with the things you create.

      It might revolutionize *someone’s* music, somewhere. It very often does. Those of us who are creators usually can’t express what that will be. That’s why we get into the business of sharing tools.

      The tool itself isn’t going to do anything at all. But someone may pick it up and express something that goes beyond the tool.

      Ironically, you’re making an argument for music over the tools, but I think you may underestimate the power of musical expression and imagination. It’s that end of the equation where it happens, and where even some minor design change in the software winds up blossoming into something that’s actually musical.

    • Chad Clark

      My comment was a minor comment not meriting this much discussion.

      I’m just saying that there’s no need for anybody to be “antsy” [to quote the piece] for the release of this thing.

      – c

    • mooch

      well i think a big part of making music is the actual process of creating, and it can be very different with different tools. i for one, am very ‘antsy’ for this because it looks like a fun way to create music. its not just about the end result and feeling, but also the fun you have getting there.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      re: antsy …. there is a reason to be antsy if you use Linux as a platform, where there are no tools that approach the Abelton Live workflow.

      (disclaimer: i am the lead author of a DAW on linux (and others) that does not offer the ableton live workflow :)

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, if the idea is to focus on the music, not the software, then why the heck are you focusing on music *in a software demo*?

      The point of the demo video is to demonstrate the functionality of the software. In the case of Livid – the guys who are engineering the gear – they actually *specifically hung a disclaimer* on the video saying don’t judge the music too harshly.

      You can’t have it both ways. If you want to focus on the music and not the software, then you shouldn’t single out music made for a demo of software.

    • Chad Clark

      This discussion is a little bonkers. I was making a small, passing comment. It wasn’t meant as a put-down of this specific software.

      I was just pointing out that no amazing musical moments happened in the demo. No crazy sound none of us had ever heard before. No demonstration of the musical vistas you could not explore without the tool.

      If someone demonstrates a guitar amplifier to you in a store, they try to show the tones it can produce that are specially characteristic to it. There’s nothing that sounds quite like a cranked Vox AC30, for example. This is why people buy them. The actual sonic output.

      It was really a small comment. Please don’t assign it any great import.

      – c

    • Todd Fletcher

      I for one think it’s a good point, and one worth making. 99% of the conversation on emusic sites revolves around equipment rather than music. It should be the other way around.

      While it’s fair to point out that this is an equipment based site, I would ask what else is there? Where are all the emusic blogs talking about music making?

    • Lion

      That is a completely invalid argument for any music software. There is no discernible sonic difference between any software that sets any of them apart. Many people have made the claim they can, but you cannot listen to a song and tell what software or (modern) hardware it was produced on — MAYBE with the very slight exception to samples or synth presets that can only be found in that particular program and cannot be stripped out and used in another program.

    • Chad Clark

      Wait, now it sounds like you’re agreeing with me.

    • Lion

      I’m saying to argue that there is no sonic difference between software (and a lot modern hardware) is invalid because that isn’t the point. It’s not about having a different end result its about the journey.

      It’s like arguing that a Maybach and a Tesla is exactly the same because they get to the same place and in roughly the same time and completely ignoring how different the experience of the journey is.

    • foljs

      “””Well, if the idea is to focus on the music, not the software, then why the heck are you focusing on music *in a software demo*?”””

      Because the idea is to focus on the music. DUH!

    • Yur2die4

      I could have you listen to a sloppy rendition of a Beethoven piano sonata, and an ideal rendition of it. And of course the latter one would probably be easier to listen to and appreciate with your eyes closed.

      But what if the first one was played telepathically, by a person resting their hands on a sensor which reads the mind by someone who has never played piano, while the other was simply played on a piano by a seasoned professional?

      This is a very far reaching example. But the point is, people get excited about what tools allow for expression. The cat is skinned, pretty common. But one guy made a bigger mess in the process. Another might have more control over how he gets his results. The third likes the skinning process more than the actual skinned cat.

  • griotspeak

    This looks nice. I wonder if the API allows for jumping around in an audio clip a la mlr. If that last piece is in there… I am definitely in for one. If not… I am only probably in for one.

    I forgot about the beta … I signed up and received an email when it opened but no email to actually start testing. I have to wonder where I am in line after a year of rollouts.

  • max

    Bitwig Watch: Endless
    its the endless wait and watch for Bitwig?

    • max

      sorry, but that combination of words asked for it

  • gLOWx

    Im’ just totally bored (and probably not the only one).
    Nobody asked them to start teasing us years ago (around 2010…you know ?)
    AL 9.0 was a bag of bugs, each update with at least 20 bug fixes.
    So what Bitwig team is waiting for ?
    Like a lot of ppl, i really don’t understand why they still stacks features on a non-released DAW instead of releasing a simpler version…now.
    They can’t beat Ableton with a virtual vaporware DAW (only beta testers touched it).
    It is not because i want it now (i lived without it until now.).
    But because they are really boring, showing their beta boobs again and again, and running just after…
    I will not even read anything Bitwig related (like this article) until they release it.
    See you in (at least) 6 months…if not one year…if ever.

    • Aaron Zilch

      “AL 9.0 was a bag of bugs, each update with at least 20 bug fixes.”

      As opposed to what other DAW? Is there a single one that doesn’t come out with a major upgrade and require a bunch of fixes? What are the odds Bitwig will be any different, if not likely much worse since they are just starting out.

      Which is why the whole Bitwig thing is hardly exciting to me. Or why it’s hardly surprising that it’s taken this long and still not materialized. I’ve seen nothing you can’t accomplish in Ableton if you know what you are doing, and a lot of Bitwig features that seem like potential bug nests. Not to mention the fact that while Bitwig are busy making hybrid audio/midi tracks ( why? am I missing some use potential use for this? ) Ableton is doing useful things like upping the sound quality by working with DSP geniuses like Andrew Simper and more fully realizing the “studio as an instrument” concept in a highly intuitive manner with Push.

      So now after being heavily “inspired” by Ableton, they incorporate modulation mapping “inspired” by Massive. And it still ain’t even close to having a delivery date. Yawn…..

    • Peter Kirn

      I don’t think it’s necessary to be disappointed in Ableton to see potential in an upstart rival. So, that’s my point. But you’re absolutely right – you can’t judge it until it ships. What I can say is that the betas are now something I’d consider usable, and there are some ideas in there that are distinct from what other people are doing. That to me is cool, and I think worth considering even without the comparison to Ableton.

      Actually, I’d say it’s CDM’s obligation to sometimes talk about software other than Ableton. (Funny, people are often reminding me that. Ahem.)

      That said, I will say what I say in the article – I think the absence of standardized, open, documented controller customization in Ableton is a huge oversight. So, here, a comparison is useful – you can take the same hardware vendor or the same device, put it in the two programs, and get more reliable results quicker with what Bitwig has done. I’m going to keep making that criticism, because I believe that perhaps Ableton is capable of addressing that, and that Max for Live isn’t exclusively the solution. (There’s a reason Push isn’t operated with one big Max for Live patch.)

    • heinrichz

      Yes Massive came to mind..

  • heinrichz

    Cool stuff indeed ! Looks like in the end DAWs will become big Synthesizers/Samplers. I’m actually surprised it took so long for someone to implement this universal modulation concept…something i’ve been wanting to have for a long time now and unfortunately it seems like the Max4Live implementation is only giving me some of that. Competition in this area will be a good thing for everybody.

  • Adam Murray

    “While it’s possible to hack unique controls in something like Ableton Live, it tends to avoid mucking about with Python scripts, and it isn’t easy to test. ”

    Did you mean to say “it tends to involve mucking about with Python”?

    • Peter Kirn

      Heh, yes. I was in a hurry, off to a gig… with Python scripts for Live, actually. (thanks, trash80!)

  • crz

    i think it s a shame that someone can copy so much a daw!Obviusly competition is a good thing ,but come on ,they just add native endless modulation (MaxforLive does the same+hundreds things) and few more shit.Do we really need it?

  • Edwin Razafimahatratra

    The modulation system reminds me the nord modular.

  • Bruno Afonso

    I must be honest and say that my interest in bigwig is merely to see if it is cheaper than live with max. I find it insanely priced. I really just want the clip launcher approach for some projects I have. I’d love for max for bigwig eventually though…

  • poopy

    reaper does that

  • poopy

    reaper does that

  • Øivind Idsø

    If (and that’s a big *if*) Ableton improves on the actual DAW-part of the software, it will become a monster. It is already huge (and the workflow is absolutely fantastic in sessions view), but I still find it way too akward to use in Arrangement view. The point being, Bitwig can do what they like as far as I care, the combination of Live and Max For Live and the workflow has enormous potential, and I don’t see anything in Bitwig that will be a game changer (at least not for me, which is important to point out).

  • Derpatron9000

    When and how much?
    This is the HL3 of DAW 😉

    Seriously, a rought idea how much this will cost and when it will be released would be good.