Production Clips: Digital audio workstations

Digital audio workstations

By Yasmin Hashmi

Despite the recent demise of a number of long-standing digital audio workstation (DAW) manufacturers, there are still plenty of products to suit virtually every budget and application. The DAW Buyers Guide at lists more than 120 different manufacturers offering over 270 current products including cards, software, turnkey systems, rackmount multitracks, stand-alone desktop units and portable recorders. More than a third of these products are aimed at the post-production market for TV/video and, of these, more than 75 percent are priced at less than $10,000.

Many new products in the digital audio industry, like HHB’s PORTADRIVE, are aimed at portable tapeless recording. Photo courtesy HHB.

Developments in DAWs

Even before the dotcom crash, the DAW market was experiencing a shakeout. For instance, a pioneer, Digital Audio Research (DAR), no longer offers the SoundStation STORM product range, though it is still actively marketing other systems, including its four stereo output Trigger system and its OMR8 24-bit/96 kHz eight-track disk recorder/editor. iZ Technology broke its ties with Otari and is marketing the RADAR system directly. Fairlight acquired the intellectual property of DSP Media and launched the new DREAM series of digital recording, editing and mixing products.

Sonic Solutions recently announced the formation of Sonic Studio, LLC, a new company that aims to accelerate development of the SonicStudio HD line. Merging Technologies will rescue the WaveFrame FrameWorks owners by means of a software upgrade to the Pyramix.

Apart from DAW market newcomer Apogee with its NativeTools Studio Edition, which combines Apogee converters with Steinberg Nuendo software, many of the new products available are aimed at portable tapeless recording. These include the new Mayah Flashman handheld recorder and the HHB PORTADRIVE compact location recorder for TV and film sound recordists. In addition, TASCAM has launched the Pocketstudio 5, and Digidesign has developed the Mbox portable micro project/home studio, which consists of Pro Tools 5.2 LE software and a small two-channel USB audio peripheral.

Among the new offerings from well-established manufacturers are significant enhancements that are designed not only to appeal to new customers, but to help keep existing installed bases up-to-date. AMS Neve, for example, has announced several plug-in partnerships such as the ServerSound that integrates mSoft's sound effects library and search engine into AMS Neve's StarNet environment. In addition, AudioFile SC now supports a multitrack trim feature for editing surround stems in response to the increasing demand for tools to simplify surround format editing.

As well as offering a Dolby Digital encoder plug-in for Nuendo, Steinberg has announced an alternative that automatically encodes to DTS (Digital Theater Systems) surround format and allows DTS audio to be saved in WAV format for direct burning of a 5.1 mix to CD.

The latest release of SADiE Disk Editor software for the SADiE 24.96, ARTEMiS and RADiA systems includes new display features such as individual vertical zoom settings for EDL streams, large or small PQ and video stream settings, and enhanced waveform viewing.

New developments for the Merging Technologies Pyramix aimed primarily at audio post-production applications include the ability to synchronize and control third-party applications running on the same PC, over networks and to external time code-based machines using TCP/IP, RS-232 or RS-422.

For those interested in Windows-based software-only packages for PCs, new features included with the Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro 2.0 include real-time effects and track-based EQ, MIDI and video playback support, six new DSP effects, loop-based music composition, and a compressed loop file format. Version 2.0 of the Cakewalk SONAR offers unlimited digital audio and MIDI tracks, a centralized interface design, advanced audio looping and editing tools, DXi software synthesizer plug-ins, and extensive audio loops and SoundFont libraries.

AMS Neve’s AudioFile SC now offers support for a multitrack trim feature for editing surround stems, to meet demand for tools to simplify surround format editing.

Accessing more tracks

Around half of all DAWs on the market now support 32 playback tracks, and almost a quarter support more than 96. Many are also offering the ability to access these tracks through more than just a limited number of I/Os. CreamWare, for example, is offering the Luna II Extreme I/O recording package bundle that offers 36 I/Os, of which 18 analog I/Os can operate simultaneously at 24bit/96 kHz. The new Digidesign Pro Tools|HD is available in three expandable core configurations ranging from 32 I/O channels and 96 simultaneous audio tracks, to 96 I/O channels and 128 simultaneous audio tracks.

A growing number of manufacturers are also focusing on using multichannel I/O for digitizing and archiving analog recordings. Cube-Tec, for example, has introduced a new Tape-24 module for its QUADRIGA automated audio archival system that supports 24-track audio capturing of analog session tapes. The TransferStation hardware and software option for the Euphonix R-1 multitrack recorder translates R-1 formatted files to the industry-standard AES31 file format while retaining all edits, crossfades and time-stamped information. It aims to offer enhanced compatibility with current and future DAWs, and is now also bundled with the Steinberg Nuendo software, Version 1.6 of which includes support for the AES31 interchange standard.

On the move

While AES31 promises true interchange between different systems via more than just sneakernet, manufacturers have also been looking at alternatives for long-distance collaboration. Digidesign and Rocket Network have announced the DigiDelivery service for sending Pro Tools sessions and other data via email, while SADiE and Rocket Network intend to launch a RocketPower application for interchanging SADiE data with other RocketPower-compatible products.

Yasmin Hashmi is a partner at SYPHA and editor of The DAW Buyers Guide.

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