Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
The Best DAW is the One You Know the Best
I've been writing and recording songs to a computer since 1989 or so. I've standardized on Logic Pro X for most of my songwriting and production, although I've worked with many versions of Cubase and Pro Tools as well.
My first experience recording music on a Mac was back in college using Opcode EZ Vision and Deluxe Music Construction Set. EZ Vision was pretty cool, and since all the hot stars at the time were using Vision, I upgraded after graduation and used Vision through the mid-1990's. I actually have a surprisingly small back-catalog of songs recorded in MIDI; this is probably because of my switch to guitar in 1993 and focusing on writing simpler, more pop-inspired music. I'm a far better keyboardist than guitarist though, and my weak guitar chops limited the chords and keys that I could play. A bunch of the bands I've been in have been more rock-focused, but my own material doesn't necessarily fit that description.
In 2016, I upgraded to a 2009 Mac Pro with dual quad-core Xeons (8 cores). I've since upgraded to dual 6-core Xeons with hyperthreading, so it now has 24 ocres of processing powwer. The expansion capacity of the Mac Pro model is what jazzes me the most. 8 slots for RAM (I'm running 32gb) and 4 bays for SATA drives (I'm running OS's back to 10.11) means it's easier to upgrade as one's needs require. Apple's latest iMac Pro is probably faster for single core performance, but I'm ok with not spending $8000 for a non-expandable computer.
I've been using a pc infrequently for writing and recording music since 1998. I purchased the Steinberg Dance Production package because it included Mac & PC versions of Recycle (which I never use) and Rebirth (which I toyed with for awhile, but never made full use of). Surprisingly, while PCs are cheaper than Macs, and have more software available for music, I find that more of the work I do is on the Mac whether it's using ProTools to record or Cubase for MIDI recording. It's not that I'm not as comfortable on a PC, it has more to do with the fact that for most of the time I've had MIDI interfaces wired into my Mac, not my PC. Also because since moving back in with my parents in 2008, my home studio is now an ugly, cement-floored basement workspace area that floods.
My current PC laptop is an HP Envy x360. It's got a 2-core Intel i7 processor, 12GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and is running Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. I haven't loaded any MIDI recording software on it yet, just the Adobe Creative Suite (including Adobe Audition). I'm not a huge fan of Windows 10 but I figured it was time to start using a touchscreen and getting familiar with the alternatives if Apple can't adequately support audio professionals.
One of the biggest changes we've seen over the past 20 years using DAW software is the exponential growth in the storage requirements of virtual instruments, specifically those which use sampled content. Back in the 1990's, folks were impressed with a 16-bit mono sampled piano; nowadays there are some sample pianos which use up to 12 layers of 24-bit, 96mhz stereo recordings. Collections like Native Instruments Komplete take upwards of 90gb of storage space. So where should we store all this sample content?
One solution is to invest in a big hard drive, say 1TB-2TB. But a far better solution is to invest in REDUNDANT storage, such as what we would find in a corporate computing evironment. RAID = a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, and it functions by copying data across multiple drives simultaneously. While this is more expensive than running one or two individual hard disks, it's the safest way to store your files. I chose to use a DROBO unit on both my Mac and my PC because it's the best technology available.
Drobos are quiet, hold a lot of storage, and are the simplest RAID I've used in 20+ years of being a professional network administrator. They make models in lots of shapes and sizes but I opted for the relatively inexpensive 4-drive model (supports USB 2.0 & Firewire 800) and 4 * 2TB drives (which yields about 5.6TB space after redundancy is in place). The Drobo software formats and handles replacing failed drives and upgrading to newer bigger drives without much user input required. My PC's Drobo is using 4 * 1TB drives but I hope to replace them all in 2013, now that both Drobo's firmware have been upgraded to support 3TB & 4TB hard drives. The only complaint so far is that access to the Drobo can seem slower than it should be given the bus speed, and it puts itself to sleep so sometimes it takes a couple of seconds to respond as it's waking from sleep mode.
Mac Pro (early 2009 flashed to 2010)
Ableton Live Standard 9.7.4
Free AU Plugins
RTAS Plugins No Longer Supported
AAX Plugins Not Working in PT 11.xu>
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