The long wait for the new production software Bitwig Studio has created anticipation and exasperation in equal measure – people were excited, people were impatient; some drooled over every tiny feature details, some dismissed them and said they’d wait until it shipped. But the wait is over; today is actually the day Bitwig Studio is something you can download, try out, and buy. It’s not a beta; this is it. 299€ / US$399 buys you the full download version; a demo is available. (Boxed versions cost more.)

So, what can you expect on today as release day?

Well, at least Bitwig has enlisted some significant third-party support.

bitwignektar

There’s hardware controller support, from Novation’s Launchpad, for instance. At Musikmesse this month, we saw hardware integration from Livid Instruments and (newly-debuted) support from the beautiful Panorama keyboards. The latter means a keyboard that integrates directly with the workflow of the software, with Bitwig joining Reason, Cubase, and Logic. Here’s a look at how that works with the very-pretty Nektar (and that installer just went live today, too):

The hardware support is partly thanks to an easier-to-script API for controllers. We’ve seen equivalents of that in software like Renoise and Reaper, but it’s notably a more difficult task to customize in most DAWs, including Ableton Live.

There’s also training available on day one, including askvideo.com, with producer Olav Basoski doing a complete 10-tutorial video course.

But that leaves the question of the actual product. I’ll be testing it. I’m actually quite looking forward to it, and know some others who feel the same way, not necessarily in that I expect to dump tools I’ve used for years, but because I find it refreshing to explore new tools.

I don’t think that’s true of everyone, though; Bitwig will likely face the uphill battle any new DAW maker has in setting their product apart – and even in getting people to know about it.

Sound on Sound did an interview with Bitwig at their booth at Messe, in which the creators talked about their perspective.

To me, the most interesting part of Bitwig is something we still won’t see today. Every effect, every instrument is built in a modular environment they’ve constructed. That approach has borne fruits – you can use the stuff they’ve built. But you can’t yet use the modular guts; that’s promised for a future release.

What you do get are some features that have a slightly more niche appeal, but that some enthusiast producers may find attractive. Bitwig has outlined them on their page, but here’s what I think is most important:

1. Linux support, in addition to OS X and Windows. Linux users have had Renoise (and some have made use of Reaper inside a Windows compatibility environment), but this is a big deal.

2. A modulation environment for everything. Okay, so it’s not modular yet – you don’t get this sort of Reaktor-inside-Ableton feeling of having a complete modular tool. But you do get semi-modular control of everything in sight, with some powerful tools for authoring complex sound designs.

3. Controller scripting. There’s no Bitwig-manufactured hardware as there is Ableton’s Push or Native Instruments’ Maschine. Instead, what you find is an easy way to build controller support, as the above examples illustrate. That’s important for any environment that emphasizes live playing, and I’m curious to try it out.

4. A refined interface. The comparison is obviously here strongly to Ableton Live, especially with four ex-Ableton employees founding the company. One thing Ableton lacks is a clean-slate tool; they started around 1999 instead of Bitwig in 2009. Bitwig therefore has some interface elements specific to their approach (like inspectors), and some Ableton users have asked for (like side-by-side clip launching and arrangement, or multiple projects open at once).

None of these to me is a radical departure from what’s in the market, but it is worth testing, and we’ll do that.

Here’s Full Compass with a look at how the workflow comes together:

You’ll see some things aren’t on the list. There isn’t a fusion of DJ-style waveform previews with this environment. There isn’t much departure from the central clip paradigm of Ableton Live. There’s no use of mobile, or touch, or truly-scalable user interfaces.

So, I think the real question is whether any of this matters much beyond a small-but-loyal enthusiast community who get deep in this sort of production software. But I’ll give it a test both from my own ‘enthusiast’ perspective and to see if it might matter beyond our niche, and we’ll see how people respond now that it’s in the market.

We’d love to know what you think, and what you’d like to know.

It also seems time to look at some other “underground” DAW rivals, like PreSonus Studio One or the latest version of Renoise.

But I’ll say this: the era of desktop software for music is far from over. There are still intense rivalries and an insane embarrassment of variety. And whether you’re impressed by those offerings or not, I think we’re blessed to work in a community of musicians so idiosyncratic in their tastes. There isn’t just one (cough) creative suite for making music. They just keep breeding. And that’s good news for those of us who enjoy playing with them.

  • renderful

    The modulation system is ace. I just created some incredibly alive, moving textures using the built in polysynth, blur effect, LFO and frequency shifter. Wow. Much simpler than modulating with Max4Live.

  • http://fzero.ca/ Fabio Neves

    Looks like a cross between Live and Renoise (the modulation system is really similar). I’m very impressed!

  • dudel

    lookin good .. won’t be upgrading to Live 9 now that this is a reality, been really tired of Ableton anyways .. they should offer a crossgrade from Live :-)

  • Ken Adams

    not sure why they think anyone who already uses something else will want to pay that kind of $ for basically what they already have?

    • foljs

      Because they value their work? It’s not as if software that’s similar to other software people might already use should come at a lower price.

    • Ken Adams

      Sure… of course. But I’m trying to understand what their advantage/value-add is. If it is just another DAW I don’t see how they move anyone at that price. That’s all.

    • Charles

      Who said it was just another DAW?

      I’m still unconvinced, but they’re definitely going to some trouble to offer things Ableton still does not (though unsurprisingly they also lack some things Ableton has, as well). The primary appeal is to get an Ableton replacement without the handicap of Ableton’s aging code base, which prevents them from adding some much-requested capabilities. Remains to be seen how well Bitwig pulls that off.

  • http://andrenascimento.net ElectroBlob

    As a long time user and fan of Ableton Live, I’m not planning on changing anytime soon – presently Ableton Live satisfies all of my music making needs.
    But competition is always welcome in this field and I have to say I’m glad Bitwig has finally surfaced. The modular environment and the way they handle midi and audio clips is refreshing.

    I’d also like to point out the significance of Linux compatibility:
    1) this opens up more possibilities for professional music making in open source platforms (besides Renoise and Pure Data there wasn’t really much you could do with Linux until now)
    2) this also opens up the possibility of development of a full-fledged live performance DAW for tablets (FL studio mobile is great, but is still essentially a sequencer and production suite and not 100% suited for live music);
    I’m betting that porting Bitwig to Android won’t be too difficult, and I’m pretty there are already plans in motion for that to happen over the next few years.

    • digid

      I love many things about Live, but the DAW section is definitely its weakest section (and it hasn’t been adjusted in any proper sense of the word for years and years). I mean, just the fact that you can’t move two clips residing on different tracks without messing up the clips *around* these clips, is a sign of an immature DAW that needs some serious improving.

      Love the improvisation-aspect of Live, though, and really like what Max for Live has become. But will probably try the demo for Bitwig just to see how good the DAW section is.

    • http://andrenascimento.net/ ElectroBlob

      True, but you have to see that the improvisation aspect is the main focus and concept of Ableton Live. I still use it a lot as a “normal” DAW for composition or sound design, even though you have to work around those limitations, of course. You’d be surprised with how much you can get out of the Arrangement view, considering its shortcomings.

      In any case, I suspect the straight DAW section of Bitwig will probably also have a similar design, for the same reasons – after all, Bitwig is also oriented towards live performance and improvisation.

    • mauriziojuvefc

      I’ve been a loyal fan of Live and I think the only reason why I’ll keep it installed is so I can go back to old sessions, I myself am mightily impressed. Best things for me are the separate processes for plugins and how easy it is to manipulate plugin parameters.

  • haszari

    I really like Bitwig a lot, just for its general approach (modular etc), but I can’t find a way to alias/clone note/automation clips! For example, reuse the same note clip in various places in the arrangement, and when you edit one of the instances, they all update. I had assumed this was another of the key improvements over Live. I can’t believe how many DAWs/sequencers don’t really support this kind of workflow ..

  • resist

    no rewire is a deal breaker

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Really?

      How are you using ReWire? For Reason?

    • http://music.thinkbay.net Nikola

      Maybe for Sibelius, or for Reason stated above

    • KNS

      Not supporting rewire is absolutely ridiculous. I have no time to be fussing around with JACK. I will buy it when its implemented because I like the demo so far.

    • hydro

      I would love to use this with Renoise, so i’m out until Rewire is supported

    • Ric Basilio

      No rewire; no omf; no aaf. Basically, no cross-platform compatibility for a professional environment. Very premium price for a semi-professional software.

      I like their ideas. I like that they support linux. I want to support, but I know a red flag when I see one… I don’t mean to doom them…

  • Oliver Greschke

    I just downloaded the demo and it’s very impressive. Ok, it’s really an Ableton Live clone, 80-90% works just the same or similar, but it’s a really good one. It looks nicer (very personal, of course) and it also sounds better and is more intuitive than live – especially the build in synths and effects, I had immediately great fun with these. Looks all very promising, I don’t know, if I can hold myself back and buy it ;-)

    • Xebulon

      Can you clarify how it sounds better? Better built in instruments and effects, better warping algorithms, or easier to come up with good sounds? I know its very subjective but would like to hear your thoughts.

    • Oliver Greschke

      Well sound is of course very subjective … but I was able to produce much faster interesting sounds with the analog poly and fm synth, than I was able to do with the same in Ableton. And I really love the Bitwig’s modulation and delay effects which I don’t like in Ableton (except Pan Delay, which is awesome), where they sound boring compared to those in Bitwig, which are able to sound much more “extreme”. Again, all very subjective, just download the demo and test for yourself …

  • Martin Wheeler

    Very, very interesting, but there are advantages and disadvantages of the ‘build the modular programming environment, then build the program completely inside it’ approach. The advantages are already obvious, but a major disadvantage is that this means that they have to reinvent the wheel and then program it from scratch, for everything. As we have seen, this takes a massive amount of time. One example : this program has many features that would be a godsend for people composing for film, video, multimedia etc. The ability to have multiple projects open that correspond to multiple cues, (and seamlessly copy elements between them) … this alone is absolutely major. Many film music composers ( including myself) would consider getting it almost for this feature alone ! But we can’t. Because Bitwig doesn’t do video. At all !!! Why not just add Quicktime support like all the other programs ? Bitwig say they will never use Quicktime or any other existing code, they will build their own cross platform video code and then build their own Quicktime inside it ! How long will this take them ? Based on what they are saying, probably years rather than months. Until then, if you need any kind of video support at all, you are out of luck. Total deal breaker, and IMHO a real impediment to the software being adopted by a lot of _exactly_ the sort of people who would make the most of many of its other ground breaking features. Very, very frustrating.

    • kgzm

      Really Bitwig just needs JACK Transport support.

      Then you could use a video player with JACK transport support such as http://xjadeo.sourceforge.net/

      And have a unified transport. Then you don’t need the audio program to have the kitchen sink of video inside of it.
      I’m hoping for greater JACK integration in Bitwig, because JACK’s modular approach to routing is really very powerful… and it’s better to use smaller programs that do what they do well, than monolithic programs that do everything but don’t necessarily go into very much detail on the features that are outside of their core use.

    • Martin Wheeler

      No way. For those of us who work to picture, JACK is totally inadequate. You need to be able to have multiple video files on the timeline, sometimes on multiple tracks, to move video with respect to audio and vice-versa, to scroll the video with mouse / controllers, to render the audio of the video to an audio clip with one click, to render video with audio from inside the program etc etc etc Just having transport syn is not even 10% of the way there. Ableton Live does all this ( AFAIK, at least on the Mac, simply by using Apple’s built in QT code) as do most other serious sequencers out there … and has done for years.

      Bitwig say that they will support video someday, but they will build the whole kaboodle themselves … which given how long it took them to get to release makes me think it won’t be anytime soon … till then it isn’t an option for those working to picture … and that is a very big shame, because many of its features seem almost deigned for music for film !

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      That is a peculiar explanation for not supporting video, so I’m not sure it necessarily follows their approach to creating this modular environment.

      Look, either way, video support can be a challenge. And the cross-platform state of QuickTime and QT development in general is – well, a whole other discussion.

      But I can see why you’d want it. And some DAWs can do it. ;)

    • Martin Wheeler

      Peter, it was the reason given by the Bitwig guy when I asked him about it at MusikMesse.

    • Gabe Knox

      Martin – you’re right, some of the applications for video work this DAW offers are very tantalizing. I’ll definitely be trying it out this weekend with that workflow in mind. Having said that, as frustrating as the lack of QT support is, I’m actually glad they’re going to work on creating their own engine. While the wait time will be frustrating, it shows they’re serious about real video support – as I’m sure you’re aware QT isn’t the be all end all of video. I for one can’t stand Ableton’s handling of picture (Personal preference, obviously).

      One thing I’ll be looking for as I test is what kind of “chase-to-video” system I can set up with its sync features. I highly doubt there’s very good timecode options yet, but maybe if we bug them enough, they’ll work something out.

    • Martin Wheeler

      I too hope they will do video properly and get it right, but in the five years or so that that will probably take them they are going to be losing a lot of money (that maybe could have gone to paying some video coders) by shutting out all the different audio/video segments of the market. For sure that is a minority of potential customers, but it is a much bigger minority than Bitwig seem to realise. I might be wrong, but the feeling I get from having talked to them about this at MusikMesse is that they probably know a great deal about working practices in the Berlin electro scenes, but, unfortunately, very little about working practices anywhere outside of it.
      If they just implemented bog standard QT support ( like most every other sequencer out there) while they were working on their own custom video solution then they might be surprised to find that there IS life outside Kreuzberg after all ;-)

  • Miguel Marcos

    “they should offer a crossgrade from Live :-)

    Yes!

  • Freeks

    Too expensive to be impulse buy. Without introductory pricing not many will buy it with their own money. Everybody that i know that have got it free from Bitwig.

    When i explained some of the features to a friend he replied:”Sounds like FL studio few years ago”. It’s funny how Bitwig is only compared to Live. When it comes to modularity it’s more like FLS.

    Thing is that while like the demo, i would like more to see those few extra features to be added to live. Audio editing in clips is MUST. When you try it in Bitwig you really don’t want to go back to Live anymore. But then again, live is better in other areas so one has to go back.

    I doubt that we will see any of these improvements in Live. I’m pretty sure that Abletons roadmap is set for two years ahead and there is no improvements to Live’s core features (that are as good/bad as they were seven years ago). We will see Push 2 and other “new” features rather than stuff that would make everyday users life easier.

    I will test every Bitwig update in demo mode. Maybe one day i can press the Buy button.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I would hope no one impulse-buys this, and if I implied you should, that was a huge error on my part!

      No, this is fairly untested 1.0 software. Check the demo, watch for some thoughtful reviews, etc. We’re at this point still verifying basic reliability, let alone whether this is something that compares competitively to other tools. Better not to rush. ;)

    • Zapo

      “Sounds like FL Studio a few years ago”

      That is the common answer that you get from the FL community, whatever you talk about with them.
      But when you scratch a little bit beyond the surface, you find out that ok, you can do that particular thing with FL Studio, but only by using 10 000 workarounds…

  • Andy Cartridge

    i quite like it, it has a nice look, and is easy enough to use… i wont be suddenly dropping live 9 though, i’d miss Touchable on my ipad for a start ..

    • HansMono

      checked out the part about Java “controler-scripting-api”..?! maybe not in the first few weeks, but I think we will see some pretty nice stuff be done with this.. ;b

      (ipad+touchOSC or Lemur).. imagine the possibilities! :D

  • Derpatron9000

    I’ve been subsscribed to their newsletter for years, and hardly got anything from it. Today I find this news on CDM, rather than from the vendor. Hopefully they do a really good job at marketing this now that it’s available, this isn’t a serious criticism, just an observation from a potential customer. Thanks Peter/CDM for bringing this to my attention. Like many I’ve been waiting for Bitwig on Linux for some time, this is very exciting.

    I’m very interested in this, have installed the Demo on Linux. I’m keen to learn more about the “Forthcoming” features (http://www.bitwig.com/en/bitwig-studio/forthcoming.html) as well as OSC support (I have a monome).

    If I buy now do I need to pay again (full price) to upgrade to a version supporting OSC? I don’t see OSC support listed on the homepage any longer.

    If anyone knows I’d appreciate a reply, otherwise I’ll let things calm down over at Bitwig before asking my questions directly.

    Congrats to Bitwig for what looks like an amazing product.

  • Godly

    How long before the cracked versions come out. ? I know that sounds kinda cynical but its a fact and unfortunately its gonna happen sooner or later. i wish the folk at bitwig the best of luck..

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      It’s not cracked yet. ;) Anything that looks like a cracked site is currently a phishing scheme. We were looking at one of those sites this week. By creating these dangerous sites, they’re actually making a great argument for getting software via legal means instead.

      I can’t see any argument for using a crack, with inexpensive and free alternatives and a complete demo version – and a small, independent team of developers here.

      I think at that point then someone probably really does just hate developers and want them to suffer. If you can afford a computer and audio interface, you can afford something like Reaper or Renoise, at the very least.

    • Michael Thornton

      That’s not true… There is a very real cracked version of this out there as of 2 or 3 days ago. Won’t say where, but anyone who’s OK with that sort of thing already knows where to go.

  • James

    Looking forward to your voyages, Peter.

    I have renoise because I liked the demo music and the producers contributing to it (and the price made it low hanging fruit). My thinking was that such tools at least in some way invoked this kind of thinking and freedom. What I’d need to see here are some authentic performances before I can literally hear why I would want to work in this environment. (Unless of course that pioneering role was meant for me)

    The VST conflict handling is a step forward.

    The new coding and ableton comparisons remind me a bit of Pixelmator as it relates to Photoshop (having various tasks target the gpu for example.) Again, a product that’s priced closer to renoise. So my question to you as you put it through the paces: could you tell us if you find that the equivalent session in Bitwig is less taxing on the cpu and whatnot?

  • cooptrol

    Are there already any serious SRC studies on the BitWig audio engine? Something like this: http://src.infinitewave.ca/

  • http://music.thinkbay.net Nikola

    I spotted some bugs, but seems that they are minor and will be washed away with the surge of „testers” Bitwig is certainly facing now.
    F.eg. it recognised my little akai mini, has some great innovative mapping for it, with its own graphical help page to get You started, but it doesn’t work (no midi input/output) so I was happily using it with „generic midi controller” option. One crash to desktop, one controlled crash with crash report tool popping up to aid the bug-squashing. I hope this release will heat the feature wars again for the benefit of us all

  • trash80

    The only thing stopping me from purchasing Bitwig is there is no support for multitimbral plugins or external synths- That is, anything that can use more than 1 MIDI channel. (Example: Reaktor, Vienna Ensemble, Play, Kontakt, VirusTI, etc etc etc) I hope it will be implemented as a “router” device, that would be slick. :D

    • Martin Wheeler

      What ? Surely that can’t be right. You mean you can’t send internal MIDI to instruments on different midi channels in an instance of Kontakt ? I can’t believe that, but if it really is true then that really is the stupidest thing ever. What do they expect you to do, open 16 seperate instances of Kontakt and melt your CPU ??? The more I learn about Bitwig the more it seems to be a very strange mix between absolute cutting edge brilliant ideas and : we’ve been living under a log for the last two decades and we know absolutely nothing about how people actually work in the real world. Seriously. Can someone confirm (or hopefully ‘unconfirm’) that it can’t do multichannel MIDI.

    • trash80

      You can download the demo and try yourself. It’s not there- but rumor has it will be there in a point release on version 1. We can’t expect them to have everything under the sun on the first public release. ;)

    • leno

      Yes, Bitwig is the most retarded company of ego-tripped assholes ever. 5 years teasing a shit that doesn’t even work as expected.

  • Florian Krause

    Bitwig Studio looks nice and I very much like the modular approach. Linux compatibility is indeed a big thing (although I would like to put things in perspective by reminding you that it is only available for one specific architecture and packaged only for one specific distribution, so “Linux support” is a bit of a stretch, compared to true Linux supporting software, as for instance Renoise, but it is a start). The price seems a little high, though (but well, this is true for most audio software it seems).

  • MEGALOBSTER

    No DAW is and will ever be perfect.

    I’ve loved ableton for many years but I’ve grew more and more irritated with core design choices and bugs that haven’t been addressed for years (PDC anyone).

    For me Bitwig delivers what I was waiting for. The fact that there are native midi controllers scripts and that I don’t have to deal with M4L is freaking great for me.

    And I can, finally compose my entire songs in a single MIDI window for every instruments.
    The only issue is that right now, I’m totally broke and can’t buy it right away.

    I really really really really really hope they’re gonna find their market and not go bankrupt because this is a really needed DAW.

  • http://fkillmary.com/ Jason Duerr

    How many copies do you think Ableton will buy?

  • jaja

    What is it about Live? I am a Logic user and would like to perform too… I don’t like Live and how it works for making music. Bitwig is another story, at least from what I tried out and saw in the demo. I think it is not intended for people to ditch Ableton Live rather than perhaps for people who are new into all of this. I will perhaps ditch Logic for my more rhythm oriented stuff.

  • Doug Gough

    I’ve been learning Live 9 for a while now, and have paid only cursory attention to Bitwig. I’m very curious and I’ll be trying the demo soon. On the negative side for me is the simple fact that I have Live 9 and Push, and I’m getting fairly good at using them. This represents a big investment of evenings and weekends and I don’t really want to go through it all again, especially considering that Push integration will take a lot of time and custom coding on my part. The potential positive for me is the arrangement view in Bitwig, and that’s what I’ll spend most of my time testing in the demo. I know that some people have found ways to make Live’s arrangement view work for them, but I really want a more complete DAW.

  • Gfat NoiZe

    i did try it ,and the work flow it’s good, but the audio engine got nothing to do with the quality of ableton and logic without wishing to disturb protools

  • Edu Ardo

    I found very good features that i would like other DAWS to have it, such as :
    linear and mixer in the same display
    Editor per note
    Micropitch editing per note
    Layer Notes view/editing relationship notes
    Layer Clips view/editing
    Hybrid tracks
    Multiple Projects
    Plugins 32 & 64 bits
    Metadata
    Audition Level
    However i do not understand how bitwig forgot to include a ZOOM for display profile,
    also i felt a bit of lack of dynamic perhaps due to so many switches to change display behavior, I usually use live 9.1 (the switch most used is TAB ) and protool .
    In my case scenario where i use a 17″ laptop screen and 32″ led, it is essential to have a facility as ZOOM like in Ableton for 32″ screen.
    I think bitwig is a very good product for new ppl in the business , on the other hand if the other DAWS will implement bitwig above improvement it will be a killer….

  • money

    Peter, you say “this is not a beta, this is it”. Did you actually tried the software? It’s pretty beta, full of bugs and missing obvious features.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, a beta can be very stable. That was a reference to what they’re calling it. The quality of the software is another issue. ;)