Bits Gone By
Last week I had a some fun putting together a list of all the different music making hardware I’ve owned over the years, so I thought I’d try and do the same thing with the different software I’ve used over the years. There’s a lot more overlap in the software realm than the hardware side of things for me, but I’ll do my best to keep it as chronological as possible. So, here goes:
– Cakewalk for DOS (I have no idea, it was barely a GUI is about all I can remember). A guy I used to work with got this free with some computer magazine or something, so he thought I might want to mess with it. I spent about 3 days trying to figure it out, and eventually it made a “ping” sound that might have been a 3 bit piano.
– Cubase 5 VST. Years later while attempting to rebuild my studio after having to sell a lot of it off, I decided to build my own PC (my first ever) and get into music software. Went to a lot of seminars checking different ones out, but it was Cubase that seemed the most intuitive to me. Used it until about the SX3 days.
– Reason 3. Shortly after I got into making music on the computer, a lot of my friends did too. They all liked Reason and were always asking me for help with the program, so eventually I got it too. It provided the intro and hook for the very first track I ever got signed, so I’ll always have fond memories of Reason. Bit too tiny and cluttered for me now though 🙁
– Wavelab 3. At the Cubase demo they also showed the latest version of Wavelab, and it was that app more than Cubase that got me excited. Hmmm, it’s for mastering you say….?
– GRM Tools. I got talked into getting these by a friend who really didn’t know what he was talking about. Very wild for weird sound effects and what not, but never stable at all for me and ultimately a lot of wasted time.
– Cakewalk Z3ta+. I think this was my first softsynth. Such a spartan UI, it felt like the perfect computer synth at the time. Still a great sounding and really flexible synth though.
– Waves Linear Mastering plug ins. I bought these when I started getting people coming to me asking me to “master” their work for them. In those days there was very much a “linear is better” mindset, so they seemed like the best package for my needs. Oh boy did I like to go overboard with those in hindsight, though I guess we all need to learn one way or another.
– UAD Plug ins. In many ways I think my Cubase and UAD set up was one of the easiest to use and offered the greatest range of tones. I wrote a lot of tracks using these plug ins, and only sold them when I decided to switch to a laptop and UAD didn’t have any options for those yet. I still plan on getting an Apollo one day….
– NI Spektral Delay, Absynth 2, Akoustik Piano. My first disastrous foray into NI plug ins, all of these were nothing but buggy and crash prone. I loved the Alien looking GUI of Absynth, though the tiny text boxes you used for actually programming it were less liked. This is one of those synths I find myself often considering repurchasing.
– Ableton Live 3. I had been watching Live since version 1 came out, but it wasn’t until around version 3 when I started to see that I could use one program for writing, DJing, and playing live. I didn’t have any hardware for playing live at the time, and I missed doing that. Enter Live…
– Battery 3. So much potential, and so much wasted time lost to buggy errors and crashes. I swore I’d never buy another NI product after this. I didn’t listen to myself though.
– Elemental Audio Inspector XL. Got this on some sale, excellent set of tools, too bad they got dropped when EAS was bought by RND (short-lived as it was).
– Logic 7. I finally got curious enough about Logic after being a Mac user for awhile that I had to get it. Seemed needlessly complicated at first, though over time I’ve grown to get more accustomed to it’s little peculiarities. I’m still amazed at how little it’s changed over the years.
– Sonalksis SV-517 EQ. The first digital EQ that made me go “wow, this sounds as good or better than analogue.” Debate amongst yourselves.
– Audiofile Engineering Wave Editor. Switching to an OSX based set up also meant leaving my beloved Wavelab behind. I used it for awhile in Parallels, but eventually got sick of the Windows-ness of it and looked for a native OSX solution. Audiofile Engineering seemed new and full of good ideas, so I jumped onboard with Wave Editor pretty early on.
– Sonic Charge MicroTonic. Best drum synth period.
– u-He Zebra2. Huge potential and amazing customer support and interaction on his forums, and it sounds as good as you’d expect. Ultimately I just found the UI uninspiring and sold it though. The new version due out soon is making me rethink this one as well.
– Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Stylus RMX. For years these were my go to plug ins for synth and drums. Incredible sound and flexibility, easy to program yet capable of a lot of variations. Only because I’ve been looking at them for so long am I starting to check out other options.
– DMG Audio Equality. If you love the SV-517 EQ, this one will blow you away. Sounds amazing.
– Sonic Charge Synplant. I bought this one on principle alone. A weirdly unique way of programing a synth from the creator of MicroTonic? I was first in line. Drives me crazy that this one still is not 64bit compatible, it’s the only one of my plug ins I miss that is not. 🙁
– Voxengo Elephant 2 and Polysquasher. Serious mastering tools in the right hands, frustration and distortion if you don’t know what you’re doing. A little complex to set up, but still what I reach for when I need a really clean and cool sounding master.
– PSP Xenon. Bought this on a whim after hearing so much about it, but I rarely use it. I like it for softer more dynamic music, something where you don’t want a really transparent limiter, but you don’t want too much color either. Has a way to reacting to transients that feels different to me from anything else. Not often used here, but I know exactly when I need it with some projects.
– NI Traktor 2. After using Live to DJ for years and years, it was time for a break. Checked out Traktor and was hooked immediately. Combined with the S4, it’s most tightly integrated laptop/controller set up I’ve ever used. Works great, never gives me any issues, and is a ton of fun to use.
– u-He Uhbiks. Bought these on a deal when they first came out, and loved the sound of them. Sadly, I hated the interface, weird tempo multiple for delays times and what not. As a result, for two years I never used them and eventually sold them.
– Presonus Studio One. Presonus heard I was interested in Studio One and invited me to join the beta team. So I’ve used Studio One quite a bit since it was released, and it’s still my go to for client mixdowns and audio editing.
– Fabfilter Pro-L. Best sounding limiter ever, very easy to make things weak sounding though. Powerful when you can really hear what you’re doing through
– Audiofile Engineering Triumph. The update to Wave Editor took me awhile to get used to, and this is with daily use as part of my mastering business. For every user request they added, it felt like 2 steps back in the usability of some other function. I’m used to it now and rely on it daily to earn a living, but it still feels needlessly complicated at times.
– Jam Origin MIDI Guitar. Finally, an audio to MIDI program for guitar that works with my playing style. I love this app, it’s amazing how well it works.
– DMG Equilibrium. The best EQ ever. This does everything, and expects you know what you’re doing when it comes to EQ. If you do, welcome to the most amazing EQ ever designed.
I’m sure there’s quite a few smaller plug ins I’m forgetting about, but I think this covers most of what I’ve purchased over the years. Quite the list again in hindsight!