It was bound to happen… Apple hasn’t released a major version of Logic in 4 years.  The MOMENT I install Pro Tools 11, Logic X shows up.  (You can thank me at ANY time 🙂 )

So, what does one do with 3 DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation software)?  Why compare and contrast them, of course!

First off, I’m not a pro.  I *might* fall in the pro-sumer category, but I think I fall into the ‘talented amateur’ column.  So, any thoughts here will be from that point of view.

My DAW journey has been interesting, to say the least.  In my PC days, I only used Cakewalk Pro Studio and Cakewalk Sonar.  I had some success at learning to record with it, but never ran projects like I do now.  In ’07, I switched to the Mac, and have basically never looked back.  I did mourn the loss of Sonar, as there is no Mac version, but instead switched to Garageband and then Logic.  I was mainly doing very basic stuff with Logic 8 & 9, just trying to learn my way around a DAW, still in the newbie stage for a long time.  I really didn’t push my learning of the software too much.  Both were good, but not exceptional, as Sonar had been, but as I wasn’t really doing too much recording, it really didn’t matter too much.

Then, Studio One happened.

Somehow, I had started working with a church on doing their sound.  They got a Presonus 24.4.2, and started recording all of their services.  I ended up using Studio One to mix the weekly worship and create the pastor’s podcast.  To say that my knowledge and understanding grew would be a VAST understatement.  Week in and week out, we had problems, difficulties, and challenges that had to be overcome.  I learned a LOT during those three years.  I learned what *I* needed a DAW for, and what the challenges were for a small personal+ studio.  I’ve helped record, mix, and master a couple of EPs for other people, plus my own band’s material.

Having said all that…  🙂

I’ve only started to learn Pro Tools 11.  I recently upgraded (sorta) my audio card to an MBox Pro 3.  That’s the subject of another blog post, though.  Since I bought it after the Pro Tools 11 announcement, I was able to get the Pro Tools 11 version.  Woo-hoo!  My initial impression has been interesting.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading the Avid forums, and it seems like there are a lot of people who missed out on the announcement information.  Pro Tools 11 is a complete rewrite of the audio engine.  Avid dropped all 32 bit support, and went 64 bit, new plugin format only.  For some reason, the community didn’t understand that, and have been upset with Avid.  From what I’ve seen, that’s been a great move.  Sometimes, the legacy code will kill you.  Ask Microsoft… 🙂  Users have dismissed some of Pro Tools 11’s features, like the faster than real time bounce.  What isn’t clear is how MUCH faster than real time it is.  I saw some posts stating that 90 minutes of audio were being rendered down in under a minute.  Folks, that’s an AMAZING number.  Rendering the church’s audio usually took me 10-15 minutes, and that was for a measly podcast.  The one thing that the prosumer / consumer market doesn’t get is that tools that people make money are are usually designed to do one thing only… and that is let the user get something done as quickly as possible, with money rarely being an object.  Why do you think the studios buy high end computers, converters, boards, effects, etc?  You can get the same sounds with much less, but at a huge cost of time.  Pro Tools is centered around workflow, and using the least amount of anything to get the job done.  Watching someone do drum replacement on Pro Tools is insane, it’s that fast.  Unfortunately, the cost is that Pro Tools has a high learning curve.  Nothing that can’t be overcome, but one must live with it day out and in, trying to get as much done at once to get the real benefit from it.

The new Logic X is very interesting.  It feels like it’s definitely trying to get back into the race.  So far, from just a couple of days of puttering around on it, I really like the new version.  Look and feel are awesome.  It always bothered me that Garageband looked good, while Logic seemed to be stuck in the 90s 🙂  That certainly has been fixed (well for the most part).  Just playing around, the new workflow looks good.  One issue I did run into is that certain things in Logic are destructive.  I’d thought that destructive audio edits were long gone.  Unfortunately for Logic, working directly with the audio files can be surprising if you are used to Studio One.  The example I ran across is the strip silence command.  In Logic, that works directly on the audio file.  Frankly, that’s a bit scary, and probably VERY unneeded in today’s world with 1 TB hard drives.  Correction:  Logic X has non destructive edits for Strip Silence.  Hooray!!!  One other thing about Logic X has been that it is completely 64-bit only.  I think that’s a great move, and long overdue.  Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to come from any code clean up, more like just not enabling the 32-bit build flag in XCode 🙂  I do expect that there are going to be ongoing updates with Logic, just like Apple did with Final Cut Pro.  Which brings up one of the major cons about Logic… Apple itself.  Apple has been VERY tight lipped about updates the last couple of years, even more so after the Final Cut Pro X debacle that happened two years ago.  There were rumors floating round that Logic had been rewritten the same time as FCP.  My guess is that the ‘next’ version of Logic was done, but just like FCP, did not have feature parity with the current version.  After the FCP backlash, I think that Apple decided to modify the current Logic instead of coming out with a completely new version, hence the 2 year delay.  It would be nice to get a *bit* more warning that a new version is coming out than a text saying ‘Logic X is out’.  Pro communities usually like a *bit* more interaction than the current Apple silence.  I bet the FCP people have the same issues…

Still, my go-to right now is Studio One.  Even though it is being updated constantly, it feels like it’s falling a bit behind.  The look and feel from v1 to v2 seems to be a bit of a step backward, but the usability has been excellent.  One of the things that I like is that Studio One is making changes with each and every release.  v2 added a lot of features that people had been asking for.  When some of them didn’t exactly work like people expected, the updates changed the functionality in a pretty timely manner.  Studio One feels like it falls between the uber-Pro-ness of Pro Tools, and the simplification of Garageband / Logic.  Are there some pro level features I’d love to see?  Sure.  But, one thing that Studio One has that neither Logic nor Pro Tools has is unlimited track count.  Again, in this day and age, why should track count even *remotely* be an issue?  My laptop runs circles around my old Mac Pro.  Plus, the 100% non-destructive editing (unless you tell the DAW to do destructive editing) REALLY rocks.  I don’t know how many times I’ve clipped something short, then just been able to lengthen the clip to get the rest, even across projects.

All three have a different focus group.  Since I’m not doing as much church work and needing to be under the gun, I’ll probably switch back to Logic.  All of my plug-ins work in Logic, and I’ll be very interested to see how often Apple updates it.  My guess is that there are a couple of extra features on deck, just like the FCP updates.  The major issues I had with Logic are pretty much gone.  Get to 100% non-destructive editing and update the look and feel of the plug-ins, and Logic is a pretty much slam dunk for me.  The songwriting tools look VERY strong, which is where I’m going to be living for a bit.  Not as much audio production work going on right now.  For that, though, it will either be Studio One or Pro Tools.

It’s GOOD to have choices!

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One thought on “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions… (personal DAW comparison of Logic X, Studio One, and Pro Tools 11 with Industry thought

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