Author Topic: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015  (Read 22874 times)

JohnnyRocket

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Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« on: November 16, 2015, 03:25:20 PM »
I'm interested in creating Ambient music, and need some insight and help from those already doing something similar.  The type of Ambient music I want to create is similar to Brian Eno and Liquid Mind.  I don't have an interest in DJ, Dance or Hip Hop music.  I'm a pianist/ solo piano composer and have a good foundation on music theory.  By trade I'm also a piano technician, and have a good foundation of acoustical theory and modulating sound.  About 10 years ago, I spent a few years studying audio engineering and spend time interning in a recording studio, (just enough to be dangerous of course).  I'm pretty much out of the loop with DAWs and music engineering.  In the past I've used Protools, Digital Performer and Cuebase.

There are three things I need help on:
what is the best DAW for what I want to do? 
What is the best keyboard/ midid controller for what I want to do?
What computer is best Mac or PC?

DAW
I really like modulating, tweaking sounds and soundscapes. I don't plan on doing anything live.  I will be sitting in my soon to be home studio and composing music.  I want to mainly work with softsyths and plugins.  I've worked with hardsyths and studio gear in the past.  Before we go down the road of hard gear is better, I already understand that concept. No need to debate that here!  I don't have the space or the money at this point for hardware, that is why I'm going with softsyths and plug-ins for the time.  I've heard Live, Logic, FL Studios and Reason would all be good for what I want. I'm leaning more towards the purchasing Logic and would like feedback.

Live
I've read and heard many people say “Live”is the best for electronic music.  It seems to lend itself to the creative process better for dance and hip hop.  I've also heard it being said the “Live” doesn't sound good on the play back, it cuts your top end off.

Logic
I've heard is harder to route and learn, but is great for soft syths, plugins and modulating sounds.  This is the main reason I'm thinking of going with this.

FL Studio
I heard it's good, but no specific reason why. 

Reason
I heard it's good, but no specific reason why.

If have experience with any of these DAW please share.


Midi Controller/Keyboard

I would like to  get a midi mixing/controller and/or keyboard.  If any of you have one that you really love, please share.  Two aspects I'm concerned with is the functionality of the midi controller/mixer and if it would be good for softsyth modulation and tweaking of sound.  The other aspect is the feel of the keys.  I might have to end up sticking with my Yamaha keyboard, because it feels great.  I might end up  getting a separate midi mixer/controller.

PC or Mac

I think I already know the answer to this, but thought I would ask.  There seems to be two schools of thought Macs cost much more, but are better and easier for music.  PCs are cheaper, but harder to work with for music.  Do any of you have any thoughts on this.

Thanks for any helpful advise shard.

Seren

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2015, 01:59:35 AM »
Best of luck with getting the studio up and running, let us know what you get up to.

Unfortunately I don't use computer based recording (other than for effects or overall tweaking on an ancient version of Sonar) as my main recording process so can't give you any advise at all.

Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2015, 05:58:45 AM »
I would have to say to most of your questions....I does not matter what you choose.  A computer is a computer.  IF you only want to use Logic then you have to get a mac because Logic will not run on a PC. Keep it simple and dont over think it.

There is some concern with DAW choice....Live is quite different than most other daws.  Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, Digital Performer et el were all conceived with the recording engineer in mind and the traditional recording studio concept of console and multi track tape. Live was created  later and was design for Live sample based performance and evolved into studio production. Live looks, feels and behaves quite differently from the traditional DAW. That said as you have no experience with these things, you should be quite flexible and open.  I came to Live from Logic and as of yet have not really connected with it.  Im old school multi track and prefer audio that I record.

Once you get set up there should be trlal versions available for some of these Daw's....Try them out!

Exciting Times.....Enjoy the journey
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phobos

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2015, 06:23:21 AM »
I don't think there is a specific DAW which is best for ambient. What one person finds best for them isn't neccessarily going to be best for you. I think it needs to meet your requirements of how you want to work and what you want it to do for you, so it is what is best for you to enable you to have a positive workflow.

I am only experienced with Cubase and I find it great for me and the way I work. Of the others you mention, I believe Reason is a self contained programme, that being you can't use third party VSTi or plug ins. Althought you can use it with a DAW using the Rewire function I believe.

From what I hear about Live, isn't it more loop based, as for the others, Logic and FL, I know nothing about these.

I would say get yourself a good keyboard controller with plenty of knobs to tweak the controls on your vsti, Novation do some good ones, and Akai have just released some new ones. I would use a seperate controller for DAW control and mixing, something like the Novation SL mk2, or similar.  If you intend to record stuff to release, you will need an audio interface, to get the best possible sound recorded, there are many of those to choose from, Tascam, Focusrite, Presonus, M- Audio, to name a few, all make audio interfaces.

PC or Mac, each to there own, I suppose each has it's advantages and disadvantages, boils down to personal preference. I use PC, don't think I would change to a Mac now, And I never use my music computer on the internet.

It would be nice to know what you end up with, but most important of all is that you enjoy creating with the tools you have chosen, oh and welcome to the forum  :)
« Last Edit: November 17, 2015, 06:27:14 AM by phobos »
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APK

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2015, 06:55:36 AM »
Hi there.

DAW / PC / Mac -- you could take a look at Reaper, works on both systems, is inexpensive but very deep. Lots of routing options. Can record both midi and audio on the same track. Very good automation. And even comes with some useful plugins. I've been using it for years on a PC, and occasionally on Mac. It is very stable and does everything I need. FL and Reason do things their own way and are perhaps not as easy to move to from regular DAWs like Cubase or Logic. I don't think Macs are any easier to work with than a PC. It is more to do with what OS you are used to.

The tweaking and modulating you speak of has a lot to do with plugins and synths. Make sure you go for plugins that offer a lot of hands on tweakability and easy midi control of knobs/sliders. If money is a problem keep an eye out for deals ... there are always deals (sign up for newsletters), like on Waves plugins each week , or Melda Production plugins half price each week. BTW, those Melda effects are not the best looking things but they are really very good and with a lot of details and modulations you don't at first notice. Worth checking out.

I've used a lot of midi controllers, but now I primarily just use an M-Audio Axiom keyboard:
http://www.m-audio.ca/products/view/axiom-61#.Vksvh3arSM8
Plenty of sliders and knobs to use, plus controls for your DAW (pause play etc) and not a bad feel on the keyboard. And not expensive.

There are of course lots of controller keyboards to choose from. Novation is another brand, they also offer automapping of controllers to various software.

It's never easy to say what is the best for anyone, depends on personal taste, feeling comfortable with the system, and finances. But I think the issue of creating ambient is more a matter of the right synths, effects, and technique. With the right skills you can create great ambient with a few field recordings and a dash of drone. You need to demo stuff and find what sounds right to you. Many good synths these days already come loaded with effects and great modulation and tweaking abilities. I'd say concentrate a lot on what synths give you what you need.

Good luck!

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LNerell

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2015, 11:29:28 AM »
As others have said, their is no perfect DAW for ambient music. I think finding something that works for yourself is what you need which depends upon how you like to work. All three of the previous DAWs you mentioned would work fine, and I also don't think Logic is that hard anymore, it's changed a lot over the years. I was a long time dedicated Cubase uer and then switched to Logic, it wasn't that hard of a switch. And yes you will need to use a Mac to run Logic. I think Logic still has a pretty good selection of plug ins and it's pretty cheap now. If you go that route you should also pick up a little app called Mainstage which has some editing software for the ESX24 sampler, not sure why its not in Logic and only in Mainstage but there you go.

As far as keyboards go, for touch I know a lot of film composer go for either the Doepfer LMK4+, or the old Yamaha kx88. For one that has integration with various DAWs check out Nektar's Panorama range, though I don't think they have an 88 key version yet.
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Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2015, 10:49:27 PM »
Lots of solid advice here Johnny Rocket,

If I were really into soft synths as you suggest you aspire to be I would serious consider the NKS system.  Native Instruments has a way of propelling everyone else into the future and their NKS platform may create a standard to come.

« Last Edit: November 17, 2015, 10:54:10 PM by Julio Di Benedetto »
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petekelly

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2015, 03:11:58 AM »
Any thoughts on all these suggestions, 'Johnnyrocket' ?

JohnnyRocket

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2015, 07:13:04 PM »
So sorry for the delayed response.  I've been working a lot this last week, and I'm just now checking the replies. 

I want to thank everyone for posting and sharing, it's a big help. The more I read all the replies, the more I realize there are a heck of a lot of options out there. Almost too many! At this point I'm thinking possibly Logic, a Mac, VST,  a midi mixer/controller and a midi keyboard. I most likely will start off simple and small and learn from there.  I kind of get the feeling like, I could buy a bunch of expensive stuff that I might not use and simply be overwhelmed.  Then forget about the important part, the enjoyment of creating music.

I should be up and running by the end of the year and hope to share what I finally decided on. Thanks for all the replies and welcoming me to this forum.  I hope to be back soon

Thanks again,
JohnnyRocket

JohnnyRocket

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2015, 10:07:55 PM »
I'm thinking starting off simple with Logic,some VST's and maybe a midi controller.  I figure I might need to get my hands wet a bit before understanding what I need.

Thanks for the help, sorry for the delayed reply


Any thoughts on all these suggestions, 'Johnnyrocket' ?

we are talking to the

 

LNerell

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2015, 10:17:42 AM »
At this point I'm thinking possibly Logic, a Mac, VST,  a midi mixer/controller and a midi keyboard.

Just to be clear, Logic doesn't use VSTs, but AUs or Audio Units. They are basically the same thing, but if you buy any third party plugins make sure they make AUs. I think most do now but better to check first before spending any hard earned cash.

I most likely will start off simple and small and learn from there.  I kind of get the feeling like, I could buy a bunch of expensive stuff that I might not use and simply be overwhelmed.  Then forget about the important part, the enjoyment of creating music.

Smart move, learn what you have now, you can always add more when you feel the need. Good luck with your new creative path.  :)
Take care.

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JohnnyRocket

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2015, 10:29:32 AM »
Thanks for the tip.  I just realized they doesn't use VST's, and only AU  this morning.

At this point I'm thinking possibly Logic, a Mac, VST,  a midi mixer/controller and a midi keyboard.

Just to be clear, Logic doesn't use VSTs, but AUs or Audio Units. They are basically the same thing, but if you buy any third party plugins make sure they make AUs. I think most do now but better to check first before spending any hard earned cash.

I most likely will start off simple and small and learn from there.  I kind of get the feeling like, I could buy a bunch of expensive stuff that I might not use and simply be overwhelmed.  Then forget about the important part, the enjoyment of creating music.

Smart move, learn what you have now, you can always add more when you feel the need. Good luck with your new creative path.  :)

petekelly

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2015, 10:31:24 AM »
Yes, a good move methinks too, start simple and take it from there.
Are you going to be recording a real piano out of interest ?

JohnnyRocket

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2015, 01:15:06 PM »
I am planning on recording some live piano, though mainly with and ebow on the strings.  Being a Piano Tech by trade, I have a lot of options to work with pianos.  I wouldn't mind doing some in the box piano work too

Yes, a good move methinks too, start simple and take it from there.
Are you going to be recording a real piano out of interest ?

JohnnyRocket

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2015, 01:17:27 PM »
Thanks for sharing VST are faster.  It sounds like I can't use VST with Logic.  How much slower are the AU's?

Do you have suggestings for a DAW if I wanted to use VST.

Any good suggestions for reverb plugins?

Thanks again for sharing

At this point I'm thinking possibly Logic, a Mac, VST,  a midi mixer/controller and a midi keyboard.

Just to be clear, Logic doesn't use VSTs, but AUs or Audio Units. They are basically the same thing, but if you buy any third party plugins make sure they make AUs. I think most do now but better to check first before spending any hard earned cash.

I most likely will start off simple and small and learn from there.  I kind of get the feeling like, I could buy a bunch of expensive stuff that I might not use and simply be overwhelmed.  Then forget about the important part, the enjoyment of creating music.

Smart move, learn what you have now, you can always add more when you feel the need. Good luck with your new creative path.  :)

AU will give worse performance though so VST is to prefer

I think if you start a good reverb is probaly the most inspiring thing.

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2015, 10:33:26 AM »
Thanks for sharing VST are faster.  It sounds like I can't use VST with Logic.  How much slower are the AU's?

AU's being slower then VST's is total bullshit, there is no proof to this. I use AU's all the time with zero issues, they are just fine. Ekstasis is making that up because he doesn't like Apple products.
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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2015, 12:18:07 PM »

This was written by the plugin manufacture AudioDamage.

AND FINALLY: This is only semi-related. I've lately noticed a lot of people that use Live as their main DAW, and don't have Logic at all, who use the AU instead of the VST. All our recent products are built using Sonic Charge's Symbiosis compatibility layer, and the AU is just a VST with an extra layer of crap on top to make it act like an AU. With commercial plug-ins, it is very rare for the plug to be a true AU. Almost all commercial plugs use some sort of compatibility layer or wrapper to create the AU, and you are nearly always better off using the VST, given the choice between the two.

That's because they are using Symbiosis which as he says is a wrapper not a true port. Symbiosis is also buggy and has had general issues making AUs that are compatible. Using the AU template provide by Apple is a better way to go, but more work. If manufactures are using Symbiosis they are being lazy.

Also if you browse the forums with real world evidence please provide me the data which suggest AU (not made by apple) works better then VSTs ?

You are the one making the claim, not me. I love the internet, people make stupid claims as fact, then argue that when they are pointed out as stupid the burden of proof is on you.


edit: jkn - fixed the quote attributes for Loren.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2015, 07:14:48 AM by jkn »
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jkn

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2015, 07:13:03 AM »
I'll add my 2 cents... same advice I pretty much always give.

Tools are Tools are Tools.

What you use is entirely up to you.  Try different things. Download demos, get the feel for them.  Something is going to "feel" right to you - something that clicks a little better when how your brain and hands work than other things...  Go with that one.

What works for one person - sucks for another.

What sucks for one person - is a dream to someone else.

There is no "best tool" - there are only "best tools for you"...    things I love to use I know are seriously not best in class - but I love them.

A person with a cheap computer and nearly free software (Reaper or the cheaper / intro versions of DAWs) can make wonderful music.  A person with a beat up old guitar can make amazing soulful music.  One of my favorite artists and friends (Steve Brand) used nothing but Garageband and the 1/8" jack into his mac to record the vast majority of his albums - he's since gotten a soundcard.

Mac vs. PC
Ableton vs. Reason vs. FL Studio vs. Logic vs. Reaper vs. Studio One vs... 
Midi vs. Live Audio Recording
Hardware vs. Software
Acoustic vs. Emulated

All are personal choices that best fit your situation.

...

* START SMALL!
* Dip your toes in
* Get to know what you buy really well

You'll easily know your next thing you want to get - and we're always here to provide our favorites and point you to articles and recordings, etc... 

« Last Edit: November 30, 2015, 07:16:34 AM by jkn »
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jkn

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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2015, 07:34:23 AM »
Now for my personal opinions...  :-)

I love Mac over a PC for music.   It "just works" - the majority of the time.  It's more expensive inside the walled Apple garden - BUT - I don't have many issues ever with them.  They are computers so yes they do have problems now and then.

PC?  I'm a data analyst / programmer / anything that plugs in with blinky lights person in a 2 person IT dept.  I have a Win8 laptop at home.  I frequently use four letter words with PC's. 

If you love tinkering with PC's and updating them - then by all means - do it.  If you like Mac better - by all means - go that route.   You seem to be leaning that direction.

...

Mac's come with Garageband -before you spring for Logic - record in Garageband - it covers all the bases.  This will offset the cost of the mac over a pc.

...

Midi Controller - seriously tons of them out there.  If you can go try them.   That is getting ridiculously hard these days as music stores aren't plentiful.  Read up on them - read reviews.

Loren Nerell just bought a Nektar and I have to say - I've been looking at Nektar's for a long time as well.  But I don't really use softsynths so ...  not high on my list.

I've seen people happy as pie with akai, native instruments, behringer... I don't own one.

...

AU vs. VST - sheesh...   get what works well for your system and you'll be fine. I did some quick google searching and found tons to argue against VST (mainly a ton of poorly made ones - which you'll get with ANY software)

You may not need many VST's or AU's or ?  for a long time to come anyway.  Remember - start small - explore what you have.   Add when you're ready.

...

My recording style... software:

I'm a hardware guy.  I started on piano at 5 back in 1975... so I hit my prime teen years right into the poly synth explosion of the 80's and then digital craziness.   I still have synths and effects from the mid-late 80's.  I hate selling.   I'd rather have something I've known and loved for a decade or three than constantly sell / buy.  That's me.  That's not everyone.

I prefer recording audio like to tape. That's how I learned on 4-track cassette tape - and that's how I prefer to work.  So when all my pc's died in the mid-00's - I switched to Mac and Logic.   Logic works nicely although I still find it less intuitive than Vegas 2.0 I was used to.   Now Vegas went all video after 2.0 so... it's weird. 

So I record audio to Logic and occasionally I use softsynths now since I bought an 88 key piano controller. 

I'm sort of in love with playing guitar these days althoguh I can't play it and my gear lust is generally toward guitar pedals.  But I have 3 synths, a modular, and a nice array of hardware effects.  (remember, I don't usually sell anything.  :-)

Sincere good luck - and ask us anything.
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Re: Best DAW for Ambient Music 2015
« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2015, 08:12:30 AM »

Exactly Ekstasis - that was my point. Start small... and Mr. Rocket has already said he's leaning towards Mac which makes Garageband a perfect start.   

I'm fairly positive it comes with an array of synths and effects to get started with.

http://www.apple.com/mac/garageband/


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