Which daw is the easiest to use with external hardware, synths and effects?

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278 posts since 26 Mar, 2014

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 8:54 am

I've got a couple of hardware synths and i'm thinking about getting more hardware.

Which daw do you use with external hardware and why did you choose that one?
Win 10, Bitwig 3.2.2, too many plugins, Novation Circuit Mono Station and now a lovely Waldorf Blofeld.

1700 posts since 30 Dec, 2014

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:13 am

Octamed Sound Studio on the Amiga 1200, as it recognises Midi Bulk Dumps back and forth which can be saved to disk. :-) So if you are looking at older 1980's / 1990's hardware. An Amiga 1200 is actually a viable option, including for sequencing.

It's really where my own musical spark started in creating my own music back in the early to mid 1990's, but like many people, I started with just the Amiga's qwerty keyboard. Funny when I watch this video, because my own Amiga 1200 is shouting at me now to turn it on as it sits in front of me lol. Super Startdust AGA is just as awesome but still bloody hard without the cheat codes. Need a new Midi interface and mouse for it though.

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533 posts since 14 Nov, 2005 from León, Spain

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:01 am

Kypresso wrote:
Tue Nov 24, 2020 8:54 am
I've got a couple of hardware synths and i'm thinking about getting more hardware.

Which daw do you use with external hardware and why did you choose that one?
If storing presets with Sysex Patch Dumps is important to you, I would certainly try Cakewalk, that has a dedicated Sysex View, and allows you to have total recall of your setup stored with the project inside the DAW.

That one is huge for me, because patch dumps don't have to live in a MIDI track, but in the Sysex View that is a very simple Sysex editor/librarian, and you can send the sounds to the synth from there with a stopped transport. I edit hardware synth sounds using the synth's front panel, and I request the patch dump from CbB's Sysex View using a dump request macro. I set the auto send flag for the patch dump in the Sysex view, so it gets sent to the synth on project loading, and this way I have total recall of all the synths sounds without using the synth's internal memory.

The nice thing about this workflow is that I can keep several versions of a sound saved with a project, but only use one of them. I can also keep a second project open at the same time just as librarian for patch archiving.
Cakewalk by Bandlab with all Sonar Platinum plugins and Melodyne Essential, Live 9, Komplete 12, a handful of hardware and software synths and some guitars. Currently obsessed by VCV Rack.

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6058 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:09 am

Another +1 for Cakewalk. It was my main DAW for many years when I was on a Windows PC and had a lot of of hardware synths. As Jose said, the Sysex view is great, not to mention that there are a ton of instrument definitions already out there that work perfectly with it. And, if you can't find one that works for your particular gear, they're pretty easy to make and/or edit yourself.

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5230 posts since 17 Aug, 2004 from Berlin, Germany

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 10:55 am

Cubase has also very good support for external hardware (this includes also device panels with a own GUI and a Sysex editor/view where you can load/save sysex files).
Recording and playback of sysex dumps is also no problem and works great. I have been using it for many years without any problem. You can also use in Cubase "track versions" to store different dumps for different ideas/versions which makes this very handy.
The latency compensation also works very well with external hardware and of course the external synchronization e.g. via Midi Clock.

But to be honest, sometimes it can be a better solution to use a tool like Midi-OX and save the sysex dump somewhere in the project folder. This makes it easier to have multiple versions and the recovery is also very fast.

273 posts since 11 Dec, 2017

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:13 pm

If you need patch dumps to be part of the DAW, it’s really just Cakewalk and Cubase.

Personally, I just handle patches with Midi Quest and use Studio One because it has a very capable workflow for external hardware and inserts with Pipeline and Aux tracks (they don’t behave like a typical mixer’s aux tracks, they are basically specifically for external hardware). It’s way easier to get bug fixes and troubleshoot librarian compatibility with the incredible Michael Lambie and let the DAW handle all the audio and stuff.

6635 posts since 7 Oct, 2005 from Auckland, New Zealand

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:34 pm

It depends on what hardware you have mostly! I have Yamaha MODX which obviously would be best with Cubase, ATOM with Studio One and Arturia keylab ii with Ableton Live!
I use mainly Live 10 now because it is the best one overall (best with keylab ii and it supports most of ATOM. It also has External Instrument which works fine with MODX.
My Setup: Windows 10 / Cubase 11 Artist / Live 10 Suite / Studio One v5 / ATOM / MODX 6 / KeyLab MK II / iTwo interface, DT 990 Pro and HS7 monitors.

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28889 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:40 pm

EnGee wrote:
Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:34 pm
I use mainly Live 10 now because it is the best one overall ...
Live 10 here too. External Instrument/Effect does all I need for my setup.
Before that it was Cubase on an Atari STe ... :)

4263 posts since 21 Sep, 2005

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 3:32 pm

When I was integrating a bit of hardware in to my DAW setup then Studio One was the best by far. And it's come leaps and bounds in that department as well since then.

I had my midi keyboard triggering softsynths on multiple channels. I had my same midi keyboard able to record in audio from its outputs to the same project. It was a basic set up but so powerful. I didn't feel like I needed any more at the time.

Then there is the pipeline plugin for inserting hardware FX. Never really used that beyond proof of concept. Since then it's got a lot more powerful and I believe there are other enhancements in this area as well. I've not got around to upgrading to v5 yet, but I will at some point.

Oh, and I set up my Akai MPD-26 controller to work flawlessly with the inbuilt Impact VST. That was also another nice little integration. Had to program the MPD and Studio One to get it working. You can probably still find it somewhere on the Presonus forum if you want to use that combination of software und harware. :borg:

I'm going to be looking seriously at Studio One to be my main DAW when I get all of my hardware hooked up. I know what a pain Cubase can be. Ableton can be hit or miss, depending on what you are doing. But so far, Studio One is the boy for me.

Then again, I don't even want to think about SMPTE tracking and FSK and MTC. :dog:

Have to also give a shout out to REAPER for integration with old DAT machines and also Akai 4-Tracks. That program does that stuff better than anything. Well, that and Energy XT2. Lol.

Also FLStudio for recording in old multi-track sequencer stuff via midi, though as has been noted by Admiral Bumblebee, the jitter stuff is not the best on that. It works though and can be worked around, just takes time. It can still do things that no other DAW can do.


All that stuff kind of loses me. I just defer to people that do this stuff day in day out. That's a great resource to have though, even if a lot of it goes over my head.

https://www.admiralbumblebee.com/music/ ... sions.html

Whilst FLStudio might have the worst latency and jitter according to his findings (I don't doubt it), it's just so easy to record in 12 midi tracks at once in real time, that it's hard to resist. Makes it frustrating though. You're wondering why your tracks are slipping out of sync after 8 bars... then you have to manually realign them.

Horses for courses.

There is no perfect DAW.

There is certainly no perfect synchronisation solution. It's a nightmare. Stuff that you can't buy any more. Stuff you can costs a bomb. Sometimes works with this but not with that. I've resorted to just buying all kinds of things I can find on eBay and hope they work. XRI Systems, Philip Rees.

It's a good argument for not clobbering together too much stuff that is just never going to work together, especially if you are thinking about hooking it up to a modern computer and DAW. Good luck wid dat! :cry:

And if you're really going to get kinky, then yeah, an old Atari or Amiga might even work better again to hook up all that old hardware.

Anwyay, I've gone too far as usual. I'm assuming you mean modern computer/DAW and modern Hardware.

What was the exact question again???

5631 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 8:54 pm

Another vote for Cakewalk. You can choose to store sysex as an init for external gear on track or in sysex manager. Some gear has a mix of midi CC and sysex they send if you want like a snapshot of the chosen patch etc. Or make a sysex dump of entire patch and record on a clip before project starts. Works in Cakewalk and Cubase, not StudioOne which does not support sysex at all.

But one thing I found really useful is track notes - so you can make notes which synth and patch you used for that track or each clip on a track. So if to pick a daw, look at own notes on a track, very useful.

Like how StudioOne did that, since you can choose to have notes visible in track view and in mixer console. Cakewalk has notes, but only visible in Inspector view, which is ok but could be better. But since StudioOne does not support sysex at all, choice is easy. Cubase has Notepad as well for this purpose. StudioOne has best implementation though, both track view and console view can have notes visible. Cubase only in console.

Cakewalk is also easier to setup IMO. StudioOne went overboard with all the definitions you had to make - one as instrument to get midi out, and one as keyboard to play on the synth. So again +votes for Cakewalk. I don't think I saw a daw that made midi that complicated as StudioOne. All other daws basically just list midi ports available for ins and outs, give them personal name and done.

Both Cakewalk and Cubase are good in the sense recording midi. You have a choice to have midi just as recorded and it will be sent back just as it is. StudioOne convert everything to automation in where there are some strange things happening if you do realtime tweaking on knobs as you record, these will be sent back at start of a clip, not where they first happend. Both Cakewalk and Cubase allow to convert to automation, but on demand - not forced upon you.

StudioOne does not allow to remove all midi CC if there by mistake either. I had situations I touched mod wheel unintentionally, and no way to remove that from recording - I had to move to Cakewalk and do that, then import again in StudioOne. It's all automation in StudioOne, and that has pros and cons - automation always has an initial value.

Nice with StudioOne is built in midi monitor which is useful sometimes. There are free plugins for Cakewalk for this too - here http://www.tencrazy.com/gadgets/mfx/

Cubase is good in there are external instrument definitions, meaning you can freeze such a track by pressing a button - and it starts recording in realtime until that is done for you. Downside is that you need dedicated analog inputs for that instrument. In Cakewalk you assign an audio track for each synth and just arm record and do that manually, no big deal to me. Then with audio on the track external gear need not be running anymore.

A little pros and cons for Cakewalk, StudioOne and Cubase.

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6058 posts since 7 Sep, 2006 from Roseville, CA

Post Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:26 pm

Here’s another big +1 for Cakewalk..... it’s free

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