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A comprehensive native DAW audio engine shootout
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Phase Shift
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27th September 2007
Old 27th September 2007
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Exclamation A comprehensive native DAW audio engine shootout

Hello, after hovering around GS for a long time, I decided to contribute in any way that I can.

We had a recent shootout concerning the playback and recording engine of various sequencers we own/would like to own. I specifically say "playback and recording" because no summing was done in these programs whatsoever. They were simply used as recording machines.

Sequencers that were tested:

Samplitude 9.1.1 (our currently used sequencer)
Nuendo 3.2
Saw Studio
Reaper

We've done these tests in the past before, and have ruled out Sonar (maybe not), traktion, and Live. Unable to test Logic since we run a PC.

The test was done to compare Reaper's audio engine to the other ones that we know well. Let me specify what I mean by the word "audio engine". The sound of a specific sequencer, without summing, processing, pan low tricks, etc.

The test was conducted as follows:

7 channels of drums going into the pc, RADAR being the A/D converter, recorded into 7 different mono tracks on each sequencer, one at a time. 7 mono outputs mixed and panned to taste @ the console. After the initial balancing, the console was not touched in any way (same goes for the control room level). Settings on the programs were identical. Same sample rate, bit depth, panning law (0dB @ center) file format, faders at unity.

Now, to really have an objective test, you need to only change on variable at a time. We had: same room, same drumset, same mics, same drummer, same PC, same converters, same sequencer settings, same mixing balance provided by the analogue board, same monitoring volume.

The only variable that changed was the sequencer itself, and the minor variations in playing style from take to take.

So we basically recorded 4 times, drummer playing the same thing, switching between sequencers as fast as possible, without touching anything else.

Initial conclusions (that agree with past conclusions over numerous occasions)

Samplitude: Impressive as always, mainly due to the fact that it is slightly hyped (in a good way). Even the drummer could tell the difference from his foldback mix).Hyped can be restrictive some times though...

Nuendo: as always, tiny and 2dimentional.Has a mid-rangey quality to it. Stereo image collapsed greatly, probably to timbre related issues, not digital crosstalk. :P. Reminds me why we dumped it some years ago.


Reaper: Impressive for a shareware, good quality overall, a bit harsh and forward sounding. Wouldn't mind working with it though. Better than cubase/nuendo.

Saw: Again, really really, impressive and breathtaking. Superb stereo image and natural sound. The best thing we've heard excluding Radar's native engine. Can't really describe it, but felt right, and was the closest thing to what we were hearing inside the live room. Unfortunately, it a real pain to navigate through it, but we're working on it. Makes me wonder how much of a mad scientist Bob lentini is...Also, the only one of the DAW's tested that uses fixed point math.

We'll probably gonna try the same test again using Lynx's aurora as the converter.

In order to post the results though, we have to record the console's output. Which of course means another generation of conversion. Oh, and we have to agree on a sequencer that will act as the 2-track recorder.

Any others having similar opinions? Do you agree/disagree? Has anyone else tried this in that particular fashion?

There you have it. My own way of saying thanks after so much knowledge-jacking


Alex.
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27th September 2007
Old 27th September 2007
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I agree with Samplitude and SAW ...Its amazing to know that Bob Lentini still in the game I was one of the crazy guys that bought SAW in the very beginning and used to call Bob every week!...but I do not use it anymore.



I disagree with the description you gave to Nuendo...for me sounds great.



Did you compare in any other test Protools HD? if yes what is your opinion?
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Phase Shift
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27th September 2007
Old 27th September 2007
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Yeah, seems kinda of a 50-50 thing with nuendo/cubase. Some have the exact same opinion as we do, others say it sounds great. Granted, using really good converters all programs come very close, but the difference is still there, especially with cubase/nuendo. And trust me, we really want to give it a 50th chance cause the workflow and ergonomics is great when using cubase/nuendo. Really enables us to work quickly, and keep up with musician needs.


We don’t have PT HD at the studio. Even if we did, I would be very careful about throwing PT HD into the fray. Too many variables, must be done carefully. Although, I kinda know the sound, and I honestly don’t like it. Logic on the other hand is a great sounding program, but no PC support any more :(

Alex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phase Shift View Post
We don’t have PT HD at the studio. Even if we did, I would be very careful about throwing PT HD into the fray. Too many variables, must be done carefully.

Although, I kinda know the sound, and I honestly don’t like it. Logic on the other hand is a great sounding program, but no PC support any more :(


Alex
Well..yes PT have a sound , for sure........and I think that " Protools sound" is happenning when you use the Digidesign coverters.....I think is a cool sound for certain things.....I use Lynx Aurora 16 with my HD3 Accell....and sounds very different.
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27th September 2007
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Alex,

I'm sorry, but I have to say I'm lost!
How many people where in this room doing the test?
Was it a blind test?
You know that recording 4 different takes each one WILL sound diferent from the other.
How can you hear "better image" coming from the DAW if EACH OUTPUT is mono and pans are done within the analog mixer?
I don't mean to be rude, but I think you're listening what you WANT to listen.
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27th September 2007
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When I first used an online music forum in 2001 this topic was the big thing then. I guess things havent moved on then.
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27th September 2007
Old 27th September 2007
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Amiel, I always thought that part of the PT sound is the engine itself, which of course is highly desirable nowadays since you hear it everywhere, but yes, for the most part it must be the converters.

Jeronimo,

when recording, there were two of us. Afterwards we played it blind to 2 fellow mastering engineers, resulting in the same opinion regarding saw, samplitude, but they liked reaper more than we did. The only real flaw in the test is the 4 different performances. But, on the other hand we standardized a 20 second drum part and the drummer was pretty consistent in his playing. Also, the qualities that I describe have a certain texture, like a full veil covering each performance, varying it a bit from the "different performance" scenario. Also, we have been noticing those differences for some time now during sessions. Same opinions always arise when switching between programs, performance aside. Or it could be that we are so unlucky that every single band starts playing punchier when we switch to Samplitude!

The imaging thing must be due to changes in frequency balance alone. I.e. more high frequencies on the overheads make them stand out more, hence the perceived stereo image. I am not saying that there was any kind of digital crosstalk.
And, if I WANTED to listen something, I would listen to nuendo being the best, since I like its workflow better than any of the other sequencers.

Alex
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28th September 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phase Shift View Post
Amiel, I always thought that part of the PT sound is the engine itself, which of course is highly desirable nowadays since you hear it everywhere, but yes, for the most part it must be the converters.

Alex[/COLOR]
Alex yes is exactly what I think....and its interesting because everytime I go to a studio where they have a Digidesign interface my session sounds different....the classic Protools sound......so the converters for me have a big part of that sound...and again a sound that works great for certain songs according to my taste.
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What ? No Sonar ?

Should have tested sonar......64 bit mix engine....
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The test doesn't seem very clinical, or objective. I try not to worry about such things. Nuendo works fine for me. What I put in it sounds like what comes out of it. Never noticed it being thin, lacking stereo width or anything like that. I think any DAW will sound as good as it's user.
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Not only do I share others concern about the lack of rigor of your testing methodology, I can't even figure out what the heck you're supposed to be measuring -- the DAW's ability to store and retrieve ones and zeros?

You're not doing any summing or processing so just what is the DAW doing except storing the audio data stream as it comes in from the interface and then feeding it back out to the PB interface...


Am I missing something here?
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Quote:
Am I missing something here?
Nope, I'd say you nailed it......although I do agree that the 64 bit audio engine in the new versions of Sonar afford more detail through the converters and beyond (I use earlier versions and current versions and can hear the extra detail, so why the Sonar snub, poster?).
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I'd like to see a test ITB, going through a buss, since that's where the audio engine reveals its sound.
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28th September 2007
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what made you specifically exclude sonar, tracktion, and live from your test?

and haven't there been around 100 threads stating that aside from summing, all DAWs sound the same?
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What are you talking about, guys?!

All DAWs will record exactly the same audio on similar converters and sound cards!
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That's what I said... how can he hear better stereo image (from the DAW) if he has 2 mono files coming out the converters? Remember, there are no PANS insinde the DAW.

Well, if you're really listening something, congratulations, but I bet I couldn't tell a difference...
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I was using SX3 for quite some time and switched to Pro Tools M-Powered while ago, and recently gave Reaper a go.

I'm hearing huge difference between them. Period. PT has the best sound and most natural. You can 'see' what's going on in the mix, close your eyes and you can feel where are the strings players, pianist, drummer, guitarist etc.

Strangely, compared to my friend's PTHD rig, I must say I HATE the sound. It sounded way too clean in a way, and somewhat harsh. I believe it was the converter, or the monitor he's using. But I absolutely LOVE my m-powered.

I'm not sure how much difference between SAW and Reaper, but I've tested Reaper, I think PT beat it upside down. I'm going to give SAW a try since there's a demo available for download. It's gonna be fun.

That said, there're peoples hearing difference, and many are not. To me, there ARE very obviously difference, why people are not hearing difference is way beyond me.
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28th September 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigcat View Post
I was using SX3 for quite some time and switched to Pro Tools M-Powered while ago, and recently gave Reaper a go.

I'm hearing huge difference between them. Period. PT has the best sound and most natural. You can 'see' what's going on in the mix, close your eyes and you can feel where are the strings players, pianist, drummer, guitarist etc.

Strangely, compared to my friend's PTHD rig, I must say I HATE the sound. It sounded way too clean in a way, and somewhat harsh. I believe it was the converter, or the monitor he's using. But I absolutely LOVE my m-powered.

I'm not sure how much difference between SAW and Reaper, but I've tested Reaper, I think PT beat it upside down. I'm going to give SAW a try since there's a demo available for download. It's gonna be fun.

That said, there're peoples hearing difference, and many are not. To me, there ARE very obviously difference, why people are not hearing difference is way beyond me.
Order Awesome DAW sum sampler CD. And listen to difference.

There is no difference in summing if you make correct test.
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28th September 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigcat View Post
I was using SX3 for quite some time and switched to Pro Tools M-Powered while ago, and recently gave Reaper a go.

I'm hearing huge difference between them. Period. PT has the best sound and most natural. You can 'see' what's going on in the mix, close your eyes and you can feel where are the strings players, pianist, drummer, guitarist etc.

Strangely, compared to my friend's PTHD rig, I must say I HATE the sound. It sounded way too clean in a way, and somewhat harsh. I believe it was the converter, or the monitor he's using. But I absolutely LOVE my m-powered.

I'm not sure how much difference between SAW and Reaper, but I've tested Reaper, I think PT beat it upside down. I'm going to give SAW a try since there's a demo available for download. It's gonna be fun.

That said, there're peoples hearing difference, and many are not. To me, there ARE very obviously difference, why people are not hearing difference is way beyond me.
I think you might be mistaken...
Did you use the same plugins in all applications you've tried?
Did you use stuff recorded at the same time, by the same converters to compare?

You know what?! I'll forget this thread... it's going nowhere...
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Post your results files and certify how they were achieved - don't label the results files and let it be a blind A-B test - don't put your own opinions as they are biased.

Lacking that this thread is total BS
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I don't need those tests, they're all plain and simple everyday-task. Even a simple set of multi track audio files, put them in and do nothing, it still make a difference. Yes, obviously there're level difference, but the differences are more than that.

Don't get me wrong, if it works for you, then use it. I have a pair of nasty ears and it keep telling me they all sounds different, so I'll have to choose 1 that my ears like it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigcat View Post
I don't need those tests, they're all plain and simple everyday-task. Even a simple set of multi track audio files, put them in and do nothing, it still make a difference. Yes, obviously there're level difference, but the differences are more than that.

That's simply not truth. Awesome DAW Sum Sampler CD contains mixes from SSL digital console, Protools. Nuendo etc. They are identical.

When I made such test by myself, all sounds identical too.


But if you love mythes, do not check anything and say they that calculators can calculate differently.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bazzirliozzo View Post
That's simply not truth. Awesome DAW Sum Sampler CD contains mixes from SSL digital console, Protools. Nuendo etc. They are identical.

When I made such test by myself, all sounds identical too.


But if you love mythes, do not check anything and say they that calculators can calculate differently.

And how did they conduct this test on this DAW Sum Sampler ?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
And how did they conduct this test on this DAW Sum Sampler ?
Many peoples mixed wav files on different systems. I do not remember exactly. Do a search.

When I did such tests, I just placed audio at different tracks and sum. Logic, Samplitude, Nuendo, RME Totalmix, Behringer DDX 3216, Yamaha mixers etc.. All the same.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bazzirliozzo View Post
Many peoples mixed wav files on different systems. I do not remember exactly. Do a search.

When I did such tests, I just placed audio at different tracks and sum. Logic, Samplitude, Nuendo, RME Totalmix, Behringer DDX 3216, Yamaha mixers etc.. All the same.

Forgive my ignorance please , but how did you determine they were the same.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
Forgive my ignorance please , but how did you determine they were the same.
By doing null tests I would assume.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
Forgive my ignorance please , but how did you determine they were the same.

Listening and summing phase inverted files.
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wow, so all Michael Wagener mixes sound tiny and 2 dimensional.

hm..

also the several thousand other nuendousers are 2D


I am 2D and tiny.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bazzirliozzo View Post
Listening and summing phase inverted files.
So does that mean that all Daw Summing engines are the same ?.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
So does that mean that all Daw Summing engines are the same ?.
Yes. They just sum bits. They maybe somewhat different, but all audible range or even more (up to -137 dB) they sound IDENTICAL, otherwise it's BROKEN.
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