Bitwig Studio for Mac

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated music-related software of the past few years is Bitwig Studio, a full-featured DAW (digital audio workstation) designed by former employees of Ableton, the company that made the popular program Ableton Live. It bears more than a passing resemblance to that application, with a slew of additional enhancements and unique features to clearly differentiate it and make it a viable tool for live and studio work.

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The ability to display the Clip launcher and Arrange panels next to each other in a single window is a real improvement over Ableton Live.

Bitwig veers away from the standard multitrack approach of traditional DAW software and instead embraces the mindset established by Ableton Live: clips are self-contained, layered musical segments created with internal softsynths, samplers, or pre-baked musical loops, and are triggered via a clip-launcher panel (designed for live performance), while the Arrange panel is where clips are sequenced in a timeline along with sampled audio (such as vocal passages), or recorded external instruments (think guitar solos). A mixer view lets you ride the virtual track faders, and a separate edit view delivers precision, event-level editing, and track automation. Bitwig offers some uniquely powerful nesting and linking of effects and instruments in ways that go far beyond the scope of this review but are indeed unparalleled in the DAW market.

There is a decent (if somewhat limited) range of included musical instruments, including a nice polyphonic synth, drawbar organ, drum machine, and a sampler. You’ll likely want to use external softsynths, however, and here is where we found a big gremlin: Bitwig lets you use VST plugins with ease (unusual for a Mac DAW), but, surprisingly, there is currently no support for Audio Units plugins — a significant oversight. Bitwig also lacks ReWire support, limiting its connectivity with other music applications, which is a notable drawback.

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There are a lot more audio effects plugins in Bitwig — these are just a sampling — and they all sound stellar and offer extensive modulation options.

The range and quality of the bundled Bitwig effects is a more promising situation, with an excellent compressor, a few different equalizers, a very smooth reverb, highly customizable filter, a pair of delays, and much more. All of these instruments and effects offer a level of cross-modulation control that gives us a glimpse of the underlying modular architecture of Bitwig — suffice it to say that it far surpasses most other audio software, and is most comparable to the extensive modulation and scripting options of Adobe After Effects. Bitwig is a natural for crafting complex, shifting aural textures that pulse and shimmer, as if alive.

The bottom line. It would be almost impossible for any third-party DAW software to currently offer more value than Apple’s potent Logic Pro X (which is a bargain at $199), but if you’re curious about a different way to create and perform electronic music, and don’t mind dealing with the slightly rough edges around a 1.0 product, Bitwig is certainly worthy of consideration. It costs nothing to download the fully functional demo at the Bitwig website, and while it’s a bit expensive at $399, you might discover it’s the perfect songwriting partner for your music.

(Via Mac|Life all.)

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