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About Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software

Posted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:25 pm
by superphool
In essence, a "Digital Audio Workstation" or DAW program is a software emulation of a recording studio multi-channel recorder, mixing console and effects racks.

In other words, a full recording studio in a program, just needing a PC - a desktop, laptop, Mac, or Linux based, depending on the specific program - to allow you to create music and giving capabilities and quality that would have cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, only a couple of decades ago.

Any fully-capable DAW has the ability to:

Import (load) existing audio files, clips or "samples" and allocate them to different tracks at any point in time to build up a piece of music without any other equipment.

Take "plugins", software modules (eg. VST or AU types) that emulate instruments or effects - eg. drum machines, bass, piano, organ or string sounds and effects like reverb, echo, chorus, overdrive and uncountable others. (Search Google for "free vst" to get an idea of the the vast range available).

Connect to an "Audio interface", a connection unit that allows such as microphones or instruments to be recorded in extremely high quality win no delays - and audio simultaneously played back for monitoring, so eg. tracks can be added one at a time, with any already recorded tracks being played back at the same time so the new track is synchronised to them.

Smaller audio interfaces often have two channels (or a single channel) though types are available with 4, 6, 8 or more, sometime 20, 30, or more to equip a full studio sistem with every possible instrument and microphone connected and capable of being recorded simultaneously.

Many audio interfaces also have inputs and outputs for MIDI connections, allowing instrument with MIDI outputs such as keyboards & electronic drums to be recorded and played back as MIDI data.

Examples of good quality audio interfaces are the Focusrite Scarlett range and the various Presonus units, though there are many others and this is not claim any one make is better than any other; those are simply the two types we have direct experience with.


Most DAWs can also connect with "control surface" devices. These look very much like audio mixers, with banks of sliders or control knobs - but unlike audio mixers, they do not work with audio but control the levels and settings within the DAW software, allowing rather more direct and intuitive control of the sound levels and functions than using a mouse to click or drag controls on screen.


Note that some DAWs only work with one or another computer operating system, while others are "cross platform", with version for the various different OSs used on different computers.