I am an old musician from the analogue days. Since I gradually switched to the digital world about 20 years ago, one of my priorities has always been to use programs and plugins that are as intuitive and simple as possible on the one hand, yet still without lacking nor quality nor essential features to work on a high level on the other hand.
Within the years, I have found the DAWs, plugins and musical programs that fit my needs. One thing was missing, though: a good audio-editor, especially for delicate restoration and editing purposes. Everybody who records acoustic instruments (especially string instruments) or vocals knows the problem of having a great track but with some annoying noise(s) in it, such as clicks, crackles, pops, bangs etc. I had tried out various restoration plugins to solve this inevitable problem, nothing really convinced me.
Another important aspect for me was - since I have always been teaching, too - to find a simple DAW with which beginners could learn the basics and principles of (digital) audio production, without getting confused by hundreds of additional features, yet still on a high quality level.
Fully featured audio-editor, simple and intuitive to use, with restoration tools and many other plugins/tools for all editing-, tracking-, mixing- and mastering-tasks: But even a "mini-DAW" (cf. further below, chapter "mini-DAW"):
restoration and spectral cleaning: from my experience the best restoration tools I have ever used. Spectral cleaning (only available in the Premium Edition) is ideal for delicate tasks by applying repair tools across time and/or frequency, which allows to clean up a noise at a certain frequency without affecting the frequencies of the same band where there is no noise. Here, Acoustica really shines.
editing: from basic to most subtle tasks, everything you need is available.
mastering: all you would expect.
recording in editor: one track at a time, Premium Edition also supports simultaneous multichannel audio recording, editing and rendering in up to 8 channels, such as 5.1 and 7.1.
simple recording and mixing in Multitrack-Session: unlimited tracks or stems, time stretch clips, automate volume, pan and send levels (Multitrack-Session tracks have less features available than the full editor).
possibility to open several tabs in one project (you can compare different masters or mixes, or to reference tracks).
installing both 32-bit-version and 64-bit-version in parallel: this way you can work with 32-bit VST plugins when needed. Installation goes very easily and smoothly.
Some people might get confused about the terms "multichannel" and "multitrack session". So let me shortly explain: You have 3 different possibilities when you open a new project:
New Recording = opens the full editor, as described above, with all possibilities available. Here, you can record, edit and render a mono or stereo track, or (only in the Premium Edition) up to 8 channels (= multichannel). Ideal for people who work in Surround 5.1 or 7.1.
New Multitrack Session = opens a new tab for recording and mixing as many tracks as you like, as described above.
New CD Project.
Acoustica comes in 2 versions, both with plugin support for VST, VST3 and AU for Mac:
Premium Edition v. 7.x for US$ 199.90.
Standard Edition v. 7.x for US$ 59.90.
I recommend the Premium Edition, but the Standard Edition is also very good (see comparison sheet on acondigital.com - Products - Acoustica - Features).
Individual plugins (in 32 and 64-bit for VST, VST3, AAX for Windows and AAX and AU for Mac) sell for $ 99.90, but if you buy the Premium Edition of Acoustica, you will get a 50%-discount on the plugins (ask Acon Digital's support when buying, they will send you a coupon code).
Check homepage for videos and sound examples of the plugins.
My personal experience and the way I use Acoustica
After having used Acoustica Premium Edition for a few weeks now, I can say that it fulfills my expectations. All features and GUI are very well thought through and everything you would expect from a professional audio-editor is at hand, yet even more. In no time I was able to use it with minimal time spent and having to refer to the manual only punctually.
It's true, you can track, edit, mix and master fully within a DAW, a dedicated audio-editor is not absolutely needed. But it definitely offers advantages, especially in the case of Acoustica. My procedure now is the following:
I record a delicate track (track by track) into Acoustica where I have all the excellent editing- and restoration-tools at hand, clean and edit it before exporting it to a DAW for mixing. Eventually, I export the final stereo-master-mix (or stems) out of the DAW into Acoustica again where I do all the mastering (and still some editing if needed). This procedure has proven to be very useful and efficient, especially cleaning and editing tracks/clips with outstanding tools before entering a DAW.
"mini-DAW" for beginners
Of course Acoustica is aimed at experienced users, but I think it's also a great program for beginners. It's the perfect program to get you familiar with the basics and principles of digital audio production. You won't get lost here.
In the Multitrack Session Tab you can record, edit and mix different tracks (or stems), use audio-effects (inserts and sends/returns), use effects on the master bus, time stretch clips, automate volume, pan and send-levels; in the end master and render your mix into all common formats.
As somebody who has taught - and still does - younger and older people in audio production, I know the difficulties they have when first being confronted with a mixing desk or a DAW with endless features, plugins, etc. Most of them are completely lost or even intimidated.
And the internal plugins and tools of Acoustica are so good that you don't really need external ones - except for saturation-, channel strip- and delay-plugins (which I recommend to you).
Once you are familiar with the essential features of recording, editing, mixing and mastering audio, you can sooner or later buy a major DAW, it works on the same principles at its core. You will be able to much better make a choice of which DAW to buy, for there are so many.
Just one thing here: ALL major DAWs are very good and capable of delivering excellent results in our days, as is Acoustica as an editor and a "mini-DAW", it only depends on the person who uses it. That is why I am not giving any suggestions here. The differences lie in the way DAWs approach the different tasks, in the additional features or functions, there can also be differences in the quality of the included plugins and tools, and of course in the price.
Don't believe this blatancies claiming that "one DAW sounds better than another one". Yes, there is a DAW such as "Harrison Mixbus" (by the way excellent if you like an analogue style of working and a virtual analogue mixing console), that has already saturation built in so it sounds more "analogue". But you can get the same effect by adding external saturation plugins or channel strips to any DAW.
Remember - things are always only getting more complex, but the principles remain: an audio signal comes in from somewhere and eventually goes out - after some detours and additions - on a master bus. Find out for yourself, do some research, by testing, asking around, checking the internet (lots of boasters and dilettantes there; also lots of superficial, mediocre and very subjective stuff; but also many good, capable and helpful people which you will soon be able to distinguish). You have plenty of time to do so while you are working and progressing with Acoustica.
I generally prefer small companies where the developer(s) can be reached directly, and which don't have marketing budgets but offer top quality instead and with regular updates based on customers feedback (just to make it clear: I'm not saying that big players don't have top quality, of course they have, too). The problem is you often won't find them on "best-lists" etc., you need a hint.
The attitude of the company is very customer-friendly. It counts on honesty. (Remember: cracking or cheating = stealing, especially from such sympathetic companies with very fair prices and service who trust you). No online-activation, no dongle, just a S/N or validation-file, that's it (like other great small companies).
Try before you buy - you can download trial versions from the homepage. And you should also download the free and also outstanding plugin "Multiply" (Chorus) to get an idea of the quality and GUI of Acon Digital products.
I wrote a more detailed review on the other big audio site (here 10'000 characters only). If you still have any questions, you can contact me on mdl747(at)gmail(dot)com. I cannot promise to answer immediately, but I will do my best.