There are dozens of professional programs available for recording, editing, mixing and mastering audio on a Mac computer. As a whole, these audio production software programs are commonly referred to as digital audio workstations or DAWs.
The major DAW programs for Mac include Digidesign Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, Apple Logic Pro, Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer and Ableton Live.
Despite the inherent differences between each program, they all include some basic features that define DAWs in general: MIDI sequencing, audio recording, editing and mixing, virtual instruments and plug-ins.
Origins of the Major Audio Production Software for Mac Computers
With the exception of Ableton Live, all of the major software DAWs have been around for decades. Most of these programs began as professional MIDI sequencer software in the mid to late 1980s. Cubase, Logic, and Digital Performer are all examples of modern-day DAWs that started out as MIDI creation and editing software.
With advances in technology, each new version of these three digital audio workstation programs gradually adopted more and more digital audio capability. Conversely, Pro Tools was originally released as digital audio production software with notoriously limited MIDI capability. Little was done in terms of MIDI development until Pro Tools 8, which finally boasts full MIDI integration.
Key Features of the Major Audio Production Software for Apple Computers
All of the brands of Mac DAW software mentioned above will yield professional results for audio engineers and music producers. The key to choosing the best DAW depends on how each user prefers to work and thus, which features are most important to that particular style of workflow.
Digidesign Pro Tools users tend to appreciate the fact that their software DAW is the industry standard. This affords Pro Tools users the luxury of seamlessly transferring sessions to audio engineers and musicians at almost any major studio or project studio around the world.
Steinberg’s Cubase often appeals to those Mac users looking for a DAW focused on creating professional audio compositions. Cubase offers outstanding MIDI capability, powerful audio editing features and an impressive collection of built-in virtual instruments and plug-ins.
Mark of the Unicorn’s Digital Performer is a derivative of ‘Performer’, one of the first audio applications for Mac. Besides this long history of Mac compatibility, users of Digital Performer also enjoy a professional film scoring environment with the ability to export to Final Cut Pro and Pro Tools.
Users of Apple Logic Pro are unique in that their DAW and computer are both built by the same company. This allows for enhanced efficiency and integration with other Apple applications such as Final Cut Pro. Users of Logic Pro are also given a fully customizable workspace and a massive collection of high-quality virtual instruments and plug-ins.
Ableton Live is a relatively new but very popular digital audio workstation. This loop-based DAW first appeared in 2001 and quickly became a favorite of DJs and electronic musicians due to its unique interface and its ability to excel in both studio composition and live performance. Another feature that attracts Mac users to Live is its ability to be used within the environment of other major DAWs via the Rewire protocol.
How to Choose the Best Mac Audio Production Software
Whenever possible, personally test out the most appealing DAWs before making a purchase. Some companies (such as Ableton) offer ‘trial’ or ‘demo’ versions of their software. Another option is to buy a ‘lite’ version of the software (such as Apple’s Logic Express) which usually sells for a fraction of the price of the ‘full’ version. For those DAWs that offer neither of these options, the only choice may be to spend an hour or so experimenting with that particular DAW at a local music retailer.
Once you have decide on a DAW, stick with it and spend the time to learn the software thoroughly. This is important because in the event that the DAW fails to meet expectations, the standard knowledge gained from working on that digital audio workstation can be transferred to any of the other DAWs.