Gear Talk: Tools of the Trade Part 3

Welcome back to Studio.Stage.Live! Last week we talked about the leatherman/flashlight combo that I wear everyday and the benefits of that. If you missed it, check it out here at this link. For this last week of the series, the tool I want to talk about is the DAW of your choice. Yep, that’s right, I’m not going to recommend one specific one. They all do different things really well, they all have their little quirks that a lot of people don’t like. But what I am going to do is talk about 3 of them that have risen to the top of my attention. In this season of non-live production, what you’re doing and how you’re editing in, can make a big difference to your sound or your workflow. Those three are Logic Pro X, Reaper, and Pro Tools. Now, there a lot of other ones that are good as well such as Cubase or Ableton (and many others), but for what I’m doing right now, the three I’ve listed seem to be what works best for what I’m doing. 

Now I think about software programs in terms of three categories: price, user interface/compatibility, and reliability. Let’s be honest, money always matters. Whether it’s a subscription, a one-time fee, or no fee at all, what things cost makes a difference. If you’re a pro it’s an extra cost to your bottom line that you have to think about (and probably bill for and if you’re not a pro you are like me, you are doing contracting gigs or working for a non-profit where cost matters even more. Pro Tools comes with a yearly subscription whereas Logic and Reaper are one time fees incurred on large version changes (worth noting that Apple hasn’t charged for recent big updates to Logic Pro X). Next thing to consider is the user interface you like the best. All three of these offer a demo in some form and all of them definitely have so many Youtube videos dedicated to people using the software. If you’re going to buy, be sure to watch a few of these and see which one you can identify with the most. Secondarily, all three DAWs are available on OSX but only Reaper and Pro Tools can be used on a PC. If you have a great computer to use already don’t feel like you have to buy a Mac or buy a Windows machine. All three of these DAWs are used in the professional sphere to some extent. Reaper is very new to the space but it has been picked up by Waves as their DAW of choice. Logic Pro and Pro Tools both are basically the industry standard. The last thing to consider is the reliability of the workspace in your environment. This has a lot of caveats to it. Is the manufacturer fixing issues and updating it? Does it work with your plugin provider of choice? Can you use it with an external processing server? When under load does it handle latency well? These three factors are the things that impact my workflow the most. What ways do you use to compare DAWs?

In order to make this comparison a bit more efficient, I decided a table would be best in order to do that. Now, this is not an exhaustive list, these are just the points of comparison I thought would highlight their differences. If you don’t see it here, it’s likely that all three have or don’t have that trait. Here we go:

What the chart isn’t telling you is what’s left. First, Pro Tools is basically the industry standard DAW. Pro Tools is the DAW of choice for educational institutions across the country as well. Logic however is the creators choice. Because of the prevalence of OSX amongst the artistic community and it’s incredibly reasonable price, Logic Pro has positioned itself as the DAW of choice for songwriters and indie artists across the country. Reaper is the dark horse here. Up and coming and acting as the DAW that Pro Tools users flock to when they are fed up with the proprietary ecosystem that is Pro Tools. Reaper being the wide open west of DAWs continues to pick up steam. Just a little while ago Waves.com stopped supporting Tracks Live and chose to use Reaper as their primary host instead. But really, features aside, your opinion and how each works within your workflow is what matters most. Secondarily to that is what the people you’re working with and doing work for use. I would highly encourage you to demo each of these and talk with your colleagues as in the end, they all do the same thing in different ways.

So why write this post at all if the heart of the matter is your opinion. Because you might be looking for someone else’s. Here’s mine, in the atmosphere I’m working in, a subscription model is a tough pill to swallow if it can be avoided. So that eliminates Pro Tools. I actually currently use Reaper to do live tracking simply because of its efficiency and price. But we’ve tried it as a fulltime DAW and well, the UI falls short in a few places. The workflow can be quite a bit different than many others so unless you are ready for that, you’ll struggle a bit. When a mac suitable for running Logic came around, we paired with an external processing server and were off to the races. If you add to that the fact that all (or at least most) of the content creators in my immediate circle also use Logic, which makes it a great fit. Because of everything that’s going on I’ve gotten to really put it through its paces and things have gone quite well. As would be true with any of these options, each have their strengths and weaknesses. If you have any questions I can answer just let me know in the comments below and I’d love to follow up with you. So here is my recommendation, if budget is no issue and you are looking for the best integration with industry professionals, use Pro Tools. If you already have a mac and are looking for a that pro experience without the subscription fees, use Logic Pro X. If money is a bit tight but you need a robust workspace, check out Reaper!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the series and that you’ve learned something from the series as a whole. As always my goal here isn’t to tell you that you have to have something but just expose the tools that I use with the hope that maybe one of them will become applicable to you. If you want to be updated when a new post is live, just fill out the form at this link, and you’ll receive an email when one is hot off the presses. As always, hit me up at daniel@studiostagelive.com and I can answer any questions you have or use the comment section either here or on facebook with any questions you have. Next week I’ll be starting a series on the process I’ve developed to create good quality content each week for my day job at Christ Community Church. I’ll be highlighting the gear I use, my process, and how I deliver the mix each week. See you next week!

2 Replies to “Gear Talk: Tools of the Trade Part 3”

    1. Hey David, I admit that wasn’t worded very well. I did update the table to better explain this. My point was that when it comes to interfaces it isn’t as simple as the other two to just plug something in and go. In most cases it is plug and play, but as soon as you start adding inputs and such there seems to be a few extra hoops to jump through when it comes to Pro Tools (especially when compared to the other two).

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