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MOTU Digital Performer v3: MIDI Audio Sequencer For Mac By Robin Bigwood
Published November 2001


The latest and greatest incarnation of MOTU's flagship Mac sequencer adds full surround mixing support among many other new features.

Despite very positive reviews in Sound On Sound and elsewhere, Mark Of The Unicorn's Mac‑only Digital Performer sequencer hasn't quite taken off in the UK market in the way that Logic and Cubase have. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that various updates to Digital Performer version 2 were saddled with a few inconsistencies, and the program also had a very non‑standard user interface which took some getting used to. In the last couple of years, however, MOTU have added a steady stream of features and refinements to Digital Performer, many of which have been very classy indeed. Certainly the MOTU Audio System (MAS), which lies at the heart of Digital Performer's audio capabilities, has always sounded great, and 'MIDI Time Stamping' (MTS) technology was introduced in DP2.6 to provide sub‑millisecond MIDI timing precision when used with MOTU's range of USB MIDI interfaces. Unsurprisingly, too, MOTU's widely used multi‑channel audio interfaces have always worked swimmingly with Digital Performer.

Until recently the most up‑to‑date manifestation of Digital Performer was version 2.72. Although versatile and very stable, this still looked a bit odd, had no dedicated surround‑sound support, and retained small but annoying inconsistencies, particularly relating to some editing and zooming actions. It was clearly due for a revamp, and not before time MOTU showed a pre‑beta DP3 at the NAMM show earlier this year with most remaining operational quirks ironed out and sporting a handsome new OS X‑inspired look, a new Sequence Editor which allowed audio and MIDI data editing in a single window, state‑of‑the‑art surround mixing capabilities, and support for multi‑processor Macs. It looked like Digital Performer was at last destined for the big league — so now that DP3 is finally here, how well does the reality stand up to the hype?

Mac Requirements

One of the most important new features in DP3 is the Sequence Editor, where detailed audio and MIDI editing can be carried out while retaining an overview of the sequence.One of the most important new features in DP3 is the Sequence Editor, where detailed audio and MIDI editing can be carried out while retaining an overview of the sequence.

DP3 will run as a MIDI‑only application on quite lowly Macs, but you'll need a 120MHz 604e running System 8.5.1 (or better) to record and play audio under the MOTU Audio System. Clearly this is an absolute minimum, and in my own experience anything at all ambitious will require at least a 300MHz G3 with 256Mb RAM. MAS supports the use of a variety of audio hardware, including the Mac's built‑in audio under Sound Manager. MOTU's own audio hardware can of course be used, either via the PCI324 card driver, or, in the case of the Firewire‑based 828 interface, with its own dedicated driver. The venerable Korg 1212 can also be used, as can Digidesign's Audiomedia 3 and Digi 001 interfaces, and there's support for ASIO‑compliant hardware too. Digital Performer has long supported TDM‑based Pro Tools interfaces via DAE (Digidesign Audio Engine), but MAS and DAE can't co‑exist in DP3, so you can't, for example, run TDM and MAS plug‑in effects simultaneously.

It's always difficult to give meaningful indications of performance and efficiency on various different Mac configurations, but suffice to say that on my G3 (with a G4 ZIF upgrade) a DP3 project playing back 24 audio tracks (44.1kHz/16‑bit) and eight MIDI tracks, with 10 two‑band EQ plug‑ins, four compressors, a high‑quality software reverb and Native Instruments' Pro 52 soft synth sends processor use to between 30 and 40 percent.

DP3 Basics

The MIDI Drum Editor allows multiple drum parts on separate MIDI tracks to be edited together, with independent quantise settings if necessary.The MIDI Drum Editor allows multiple drum parts on separate MIDI tracks to be edited together, with independent quantise settings if necessary.

To start working in DP3 you begin by creating a Digital Performer Project. On the Mac's hard drive a project appears as a folder containing a Digital Performer 3.0 document and, when necessary, additional folders containing, for example, audio files. This sort of file management is sensible as it makes projects easy to back up, and no problems arise when an entire project is dragged or copied to another location.

DP3 Projects can contain any number of Sequences (or 'Chunks'); these can be chained to produce songs, which themselves can be chained inside other Sequences, but — thank goodness — you don't have to work like this. In fact most Digital Performer users I know tend to keep clear of song structures and work instead within one Sequence, creating additional Sequences to handle alternative versions of the material they're working on, as 'staging posts' in the development of material, or even as storage areas for MIDI System Exclusive dumps. This multiple‑Sequence structure can be very usefully and flexibly employed, allowing different users to work in the way that is most comfortable for them.

Tracks Overview Window

A selection of the excellent bundled plug‑ins: Multimode Filter, the Plate reverb, and Masterworks Gate.A selection of the excellent bundled plug‑ins: Multimode Filter, the Plate reverb, and Masterworks Gate.

Despite the recent introduction of the new Sequence Editor window (of which more later) the main organisational 'hub' of a DP3 Sequence is still, often, the Tracks Overview window. This provides a simple, uncluttered 'timeline' view of all the MIDI and audio tracks in use in the Sequence, together with a huge amount of information relating to each track. Blocks of data can be moved, duplicated or deleted, MIDI and audio routing set up, and tracks record‑ and play‑enabled. Multiple recording takes can be made on a single track (the concept is rather like that of 'virtual tracks') but sadly they can't be viewed or edited simultaneously.

The Tracks Overview window also carries the Conductor track, which co‑ordinates changes of tempo, meter and key. Conductor track elements can be edited graphically or, more usefully, in an event list.

Control Panel & Toolbar


What MOTU call the Control Panel is what everyone else refers to as DP3's transport window. This is the one window in DP3 that is impossible to close, and that's probably just as well, as it provides two simultaneous Sequence location readouts (chosen from Measures, Real Time, Frames and Samples) together with tempo, Project and Sequence information and buttons enabling or disabling functions such as Metronome, Count‑off, Memory Cycle (loop) and Auto Record (punch in/out). Clicking the tiny arrow symbol at the top right of the Control Panel's window opens up to three extra panels which give access to all of DP3's main editing windows, tempo control, and audio hardware settings. These panels can be individually hidden, or moved in relation to each other by clicking and dragging. The control panel also carries buttons for play, stop, zero‑return, pause, record and some basic locate functions.

The Control Panel's Position Bar can be used to quickly move around a Sequence, and there are dedicated fast (and slow) forward and reverse buttons. It's easy enough to move around between Markers (which can be dropped into and dragged within a Sequence) via a little pop‑up menu, but I still miss being able to define even just a few dedicated locate points and have single‑key access to them. Perhaps that's something for DP3.1...

One of the major new features introduced in DP3 is a Toolbar window. While a great deal of MIDI and audio editing can be accomplished without this even being open, it offers a variety of functions, some rather surprising, which to a large extent work in the same way for both MIDI and audio track data. Using the pointer tool, data can be selected, modified, moved and duplicated, while the pencil tool allows all kinds of data to be directly written into tracks.

Sequence Editor


One window where the new tools come into their own is the Sequence Editor, another first for Digital Performer. Previous versions of DP were often criticised for their fairly clunky and window‑intensive MIDI and audio editing procedures, and the inability to view or edit more than one MIDI track at a time in a single window, but the Sequence Editor changes all that. In fact it seems as though MOTU are, to a large extent, trying to make the Sequence Editor a more fundamentally usable 'arrange' window than the Tracks Overview, and moving more towards a Pro Tools‑inspired layout.

The Sequence Editor is now the only window in DP3 for audio editing, and it also carries a Conductor and a Movie track. Individual MIDI tracks each have a familiar 'piano roll' grid, with a little, zoomable keyboard at its left edge. MIDI controller data can be superimposed over the top of the note grid. Every track is individually resizable, so detailed, intensive editing of audio and MIDI tracks can be carried out here, and there are plenty of ways to manage the appearance of the Sequence Editor to maximise workflow. Every track has a level meter, and one or more pop‑up menus allow access to all track settings. Zoom pop‑ups on MIDI tracks increase the magnification of the keyboard and any associated MIDI events, while in audio tracks they give a more detailed view of low‑amplitude waveforms, allowing more precise editing with quiet material.

The Sequence Editor (and all other graphic‑based editing windows) offer a 'resolution grid': when this is turned on, all editing actions 'snap' to rhythmic positions in the bar. This works well, but sadly the only way to set the resolution grid to triplet note values is to specify them as a value in 'ticks' based on the current 'ticks per quarter note' setting. MOTU do say, however, that it will be possible to select triplets directly in DP3.1.

More Tools

DP3's surround panners include the sophisticated Auralizer (above) and the more basic Arc Panner (right).DP3's surround panners include the sophisticated Auralizer (above) and the more basic Arc Panner (right).

Returning to the Toolbar, the pencil tool really comes into its own when entering MIDI continuous data or audio automation data. The Toolbar carries a pop‑up menu which chooses the pencil or Reshape tools' 'draw modes': free, flat and straight options are available, along with a couple of different curves and a series of periodic waveforms. The Reshape tool gets a dedicated pop‑up which controls the way it affects existing data — Set overwrites it, while the Add, Scale and Limit options modify the values of existing data. No prizes for noticing that in this and other areas MOTU seem to have plundered features of Opcode's now‑defunct Vision sequencers.

The periodic waveforms are intriguing, and an obvious use for them in MIDI tracks is to create auto‑pans by setting up the pencil tool to draw sine waves with MIDI continuous controller 10 (pan) data. The phase, frequency, duty cycle and pulse width (or skew) of periodic waveforms can be changed on the fly using modifier keys, and amplitude is simply governed by the click‑and‑drag insertion process.

The remaining Toolbar tools are Zoom, Scrub (which can be used in MIDI as well as audio tracks), a Loop Insertion tool and finally a Rhythm Brush, which allows user‑defined rhythmic patterns to be 'painted' into the Drum Editor at a single stroke — potentially a great time‑saver when working with complex drum parts.

More On MIDI


Because of DP3's MIDI‑only heritage you'd expect its MIDI handling to be good — and it is. MOTU software ships with its own MIDI 'operating system', called FreeMIDI, which fulfils a very similar role to, and is completely compatible with, OMS. DP3 can easily slot into a system based around other software which uses only OMS, and as inter‑application MIDI is supported under both systems, using most stand‑alone software synths with DP3 is not a problem. MIDI device, channel and patch selection in DP3 is straightforward, since device names and associated patch lists are drawn from information in FreeMIDI or OMS configurations. Multiple MIDI channels can be recorded in one pass, and Device Groups can be created so that one track sends data to a number of devices. Sadly, though, there's nothing like Logic's track folders, and some way of visually separating groups of tracks in the Tracks Overview window especially would be very welcome.

There is, however, a large range of MIDI editing options available in DP3's Region menu. Many 'destructive' processes such as quantise and transpose are here, together with many more creative options. DP3 also offers a very powerful search facility, which can used to make precise selections within complex MIDI tracks.

Drum Editor

The MIDI Graphic Editor can edit multiple MIDI tracks within a single window.The MIDI Graphic Editor can edit multiple MIDI tracks within a single window.

As well as the Sequence Editor, DP3 has a few more windows dedicated to MIDI editing. The most complex of these is the Drum Editor, the idea of which is that multiple channels of primarily fixed‑pitch, non‑duration‑based MIDI parts (ie. drums!) are displayed simultaneously. MOTU have clearly tried to make this the perfect environment for drum part editing, providing lots of display options and even allowing different non‑destructive quantise settings to be applied to individual drums. Having said that, though, the Drum Editor can sometimes feel a little bit clumsy in use, and demands a lot of monitor area, both horizontally (to accommodate the rhythm grid) and vertically, especially when quantisation settings are displayed in the panel next to the window's Continuous Data Grid. It's worth mentioning, however, that the Drum Editor can be used for any MIDI track, and in conjunction with any other editing window, so you never have to designate a MIDI track specifically as a drum track, and different editing windows can be employed for different editing tasks.

QuickScribe is DP3's staff notation window. This is handy for printing out parts, or even scores, and whilst it's no Sibelius it is actually very easy to use and gives good quality print‑outs with nice layout and note spacing. You could use it for MIDI editing, too.

Soundbites & Audio Files

POLAR, the RAM‑based cyclical audio recording tool, is unique to Digital Performer.POLAR, the RAM‑based cyclical audio recording tool, is unique to Digital Performer.

Audio editing in DP3 revolves around Soundbites — the name given to the form in which audio appears in the Sequence Editor window. Soundbites are just pointers to bits of a 'parent' audio file, so it's possible, for example, to have a Sequence using hundreds of different soundbites which all reference just one parent audio file. The experience of working with audio in DP3 is not one of struggling with concepts of parent files, references and regions, though, and for the most part is astonishingly easy to get to grips with. Soundbites can be moved around in a track (or between tracks), duplicated, cut or extended in length, pitch‑shifted or time‑stretched, and in all cases the original audio file remains intact.

The Soundbites window is where all individual soundbites in a project can be auditioned, renamed, deleted, or dragged into an audio track. Information about soundbites is shown next to their name, and mini‑menu options allow, amongst other things, the sample rate or resolution of soundbites to be changed, and additional soundbites to be imported. DP3 can import AIFF, Sound Designer II, WAV and MP3 files and import audio from CDs, although any recording made within DP3 is stored as a Sound Designer II file. The Soundbites window also has a built‑in destructive waveform editor, which allows sections of soundbites' waveforms to be drawn in by hand to correct clipping and other digital glitches, for example. There are also facilities to create and edit loops within audio files, which can then be transferred to connected SCSI samplers via DP3's Samplers window. Although it's fully featured, I can't help thinking that the waveform editor still has some way to go before it's as intuitive in operation as most other features in DP3.

Audio Routing


Groups of inputs and outputs (or, for that matter, even a single input or output) are referred to as Audio Bundles in DP3‑speak. Simple bundles, such as a mono input or a stereo output pair, can be selected directly from input and output pop‑ups, but very complex bundles like those associated with surround channels have to be configured in the Audio Bundles window. Whilst the need for this window may not seem immediately obvious it actually provides a surprisingly simple and intuitive way of setting up and 'rewiring' complex internal and external routing setups with just a few mouse clicks. It certainly beats crawling around with a torch any day.

Recording or playing audio in DP3 requires the presence of at least one audio 'voice' track, which can be mono, stereo or in one of the six surround formats currently supported: Quad, LCRS, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 or 10.2. Input and output settings for audio tracks can be made in the Tracks Overview, Sequence Editor and Mixing Board windows using pop‑up menus. You don't have to have created a surround track to be able to mix in surround: as long as an appropriate surround output bundle has been created, it will be available as an output in all mono and stereo tracks. Unsurprisingly, though, you can't select a 5.1 output bundle (for example) for a Quad voice track. Similarly, a 5.1 surround track routed to a 5.1 output bundle displays a surround panner in the Mixing Board, but it has no 'puck'.

As well as voice tracks, DP3 also uses Aux tracks. It looks as though you can only create a mono Aux track in the Add Track mini‑menu options (available in Tracks Overview, Sequence Editor and Mixing Board windows), but Aux tracks configure themselves as necessary according to what's routed to them, and to where they themselves are routed. Aux tracks primarily act as a sort of 'conduit' for audio: they can, for instance, serve as input 'channel strips' carrying a compressor and gate before being routed, via one of DP3's internal busses, to a record‑enabled voice track. Or they can be used in a similar way to a conventional mixing desk's aux send and return, carrying a single software reverb plug‑in that is then available (again via busses) to all other tracks. Either way, you can't actually record into an Aux track.

The number of voice tracks and busses available in a project is set up in the Studio Configuration dialogue box, and the maximum number is largely dependent on the amount of free RAM available. MOTU provides some pre‑configured setups, but it's easy to change these, and this can be done mid‑project if necessary.

Mixing Board

DP3's Mixing Board is capable of showing MIDI and audio 'track strips' side‑by‑side, and in fact they appear very similar at first glance. But whereas MIDI tracks' level faders are sensibly calibrated in velocity values (from 0‑127), MOTU employs a quasi‑analogue calibration for audio track faders, such that an extra 6dB of boost is available above a nominal 0dB unity setting — this is a great touch. Audio tracks' sends also employ this quasi‑analogue approach to levels.

At the very top of DP3's Mixing Board lie insert slots for effects plug‑ins. It's possible to have up to 20 slots on each track (!), although the default of five is usually more than enough.

MIDI 'effects' include an Arpeggiator, real‑time non‑destructive Quantize and Groove Quantize, Humanize and Transpose functions, and Change Velocity, a sort of compressor/limiter/expander for MIDI velocity. The only obvious omission is an MIDI‑based auto‑pan plug‑in.

The MAS audio effects plug‑ins that ship with DP3 are, with virtually no exceptions, impressive and very usable. The pick of the crop are undoubtedly the three Masterworks plug‑ins: a very colourful multi‑band compressor, a look‑ahead limiter which works wonders maximising the level of an entire mix, and a very grown up look‑ahead gate with a variety of keying options and attack, hold and release controls that can be to used to radically reshape transients. Of DP3's three reverb plug‑ins, Plate is the most interesting, with flexible pre‑delay options and a fine range of sounds: eVerb is OK but not a patch on a half‑decent external unit, whilst Reverb is a lower‑quality plug‑in designed to not be too processor‑intensive. Echo is a good multi‑tap delay, whilst Delay is designed specifically with stereo delay effects in mind and is great for all sorts of image‑widening duties. Multimode Filter, which can be configured as a low‑pass, band‑pass, band‑reject or high‑pass design, performs all those trendy filter‑sweep effects with ease, and hints at its hardware heritage by having mock wooden end‑cheeks! PreAmp‑1 is a pretty good plug‑in for dirtying up sounds along the lines of guitar amp distortion, and all sorts of bizarre effects can be dreamt up with Sonic Modulator, which combines filter, crossover, pitch and delay effects that can be modulated by a bank of LFOs and an envelope generator. The standard parametric EQ and dynamics (compressor/limiter/expander/gate) plug‑ins are effective but, not surprisingly, aren't brimming over with character.

Many of DP3's MAS plug‑ins can have time‑based parameters linked to Sequence tempo so that, for example, pre‑delay times in the Plate reverb can be specified in note values rather than milliseconds. If the Sequence tempo changes, the delay time is automatically recalculated to accommodate it.

As well as operating in real time, all of DP3's audio effects can also be applied off‑line to soundbites. DP3 also has a Spectral Effects window for applying non‑real‑time pitch, formant and tempo changes to soundbites. This works particularly well on voices and monophonic instrumental parts, although pitch changes to more complex audio material are better carried out with the standard Transpose function. Time‑compression and expansion of soundbites can be done by graphically clicking and 'stretching' them in the Sequence Editor, and there are dedicated tools (accessed via menus) for time‑stretching rhythmic soundbites to fit a different Sequence tempo, for example.

Facilities exist for real‑time and faster than real‑time audio bounce to disk, and if necessary, groups of audio tracks can be routed through one or more Master Faders, which are ideal places for final mix limiting and EQ, and can also be used to do the inevitable end‑of‑song fade‑out with the minimum of fuss.


Automation is perhaps DP3's single strongest feature. What makes it so good is that almost any Mixing Board or plug‑in parameter can be automated, including MIDI volume and pan, simply by setting a track's automation status to 'record' and then moving on‑screen knobs or sliders whilst a Sequence plays back. Automation data can also be entered by drawing lines, curves, breakpoints, and ramps into tracks in the Sequence Editor — no separate tracks are needed for automation. When a Sequence is played back, automated controls such as level faders move in real time to reflect their changing values. And where automation is used on multiple tracks (audio and/or MIDI) the Sequence Editor can provide an overview of what's going on and gives very quick access to automation editing. Without doubt this is a very impressive aspect of DP3.


Although the majority of users may never need to use it, surround‑sound support in DP3 is superbly implemented. As I mentioned before, it's not only possible to work with multi‑channel surround tracks, but mono and stereo tracks can use surround panners to position their outputs in a surround mix.

MOTU provides four different surround panners, each offering different functions, and new panners (including third‑party offerings) can be added to DP3 as they become available. Perhaps the most straightforward is ArcPanner, which represents the signal being panned as a 'puck on a dartboard', with a surrounding ring‑like display giving a visual indication of 'spread' around the speakers. n‑Panner fulfils a similar role, although it provides much more sophisticated control over the way stereo signals are routed into a surround mix, offering five different modes for controlling relative placement and imaging of left and right channels. TriPan to some extent recreates the 'workaround' used to pan in surround using conventional stereo‑buss mixing desks, and also allows signals to be guided along paths between front and rear speakers. Finally, Auralizer combines surround panning with reverb, Doppler and psychoacoustic effects (and a very funky animated interface) to provide what might be described as surround panning on steroids. Some astonishing effects can be created using this panner, including the impression of acoustic environments far larger than the listening room in which your surround speakers are located, but it does use up quite a bit of processor power.

Some of the provided MAS plug‑ins are specifically designed to help with surround‑sound work. The most useful is an automatic surround monitoring calibration plug‑in, and there's also Bass Manager, which specifically controls the level and frequency content of the subwoofer signal in all '.1' or '.2' surround setups. Many 'standard' plug‑ins also come in 'surround' editions, perhaps the most interesting of which is the surround version of the Delay plug‑in, which can 'bounce' a signal around the speakers (in patterns based on rhythmic values, if required) in extraordinarily complex ways. This is definitely one to experiment with — it even has a Panic button in case you overdo it a bit with the feedback control!

As befits a sequencer with this level of surround support, DP3 is also well geared up to handle a variety of AV work. There's a Movie window which plays alongside a Sequence and also keeps track with locate functions including scrubbing, so it's fairly easy to 'spot' sound effects in audio or MIDI tracks to video. The Sequence Editor has a Movie track, and the Markers window offers sophisticated Find Tempo functions to match bars, beats and tempos to specified hits in the video track. DP3 offers a wide range of timecode and synchronisation options, full support of MMC and MTC and integrates with Synchro Arts' Vocalign ADR system. Whilst this was not available for review I did see DP3 and Vocalign in action some months ago, and as expected it worked very well.

Top Performer?

There's an awful lot to like about DP3, not least the fact that in three weeks of intensive use it only crashed twice — and both of those crashes occurred while I was using freeware VST plug‑ins in Cycling 74's Pluggo VST shell (see box for more details).

It's also refreshing to use software that is so easy to get to grips with. For example, recording to an audio track in DP3 seems almost too easy, requiring only the selection of an input and the record‑enabling of the track. Even setting up complex signal routing involving busses, Aux tracks and incorporating external analogue and digital equipment, is straightforward. Just about every function can be assigned a keyboard shortcut, and in a cheeky move on MOTU's part, sets of keyboard shortcuts from Logic, Cubase and Pro Tools (amongst others) can be imported to DP3 in one go.

Some criticism aimed at Digital Performer in the past has been centred on the relatively high number of windows that can be used to accomplish various tasks. It's true that Digital Performer does have a lot of windows, but it could also be argued that the wide choice of windows and the corresponding number of approaches that can be employed to achieve the same ultimate goal allows individual users to establish working methods that best suit them. In any case, DP3 has a user‑configurable Window Sets feature that helps enormously to keep things neat and tidy. Personally, I rather like the way that DP3 can take on a variety of appearances, and I've been glad of the flexibility when editing two‑track classical material one day and surround‑mixing a 50‑track theatre sound‑design project the next.

Of course, there are a few niggles. Not being able to simultaneously view different takes in a single track is irritating, and makes comping an unnecessarily fiddly process. Also, the lack of triplet note values in edit grid resolution pop‑ups is annoying, although as I mentioned earlier, it should be rectified with the release of DP3.1.

All things considered, though, DP3 is a superb sequencer, which is easy to use, great sounding, and more than capable of handling anything thrown at it. It looks like Digital Performer has finally come of age.

Graphic Editor

Another DP3 window used for editing MIDI tracks is the Graphic Editor. This offers exactly the same editing features available to MIDI tracks in the Sequence Editor, except that here multiple tracks are displayed simultaneously in just one note grid, so by assigning different data display colours to each MIDI track the Graphic Editor can be used to view and accurately edit complex MIDI arrangements. It's also an ideal environment to undertake complex controller data editing using one of DP3's three continuous data display modes, known as Points, Bars and Lines. Whereas Points and Bars modes show all individual events, Lines mode makes continuous data appear much more like the automation data used in DP3's audio tracks. The greatest clarity is always offered by Points and Bars mode, but Lines offers a very intuitive way of viewing and editing multiple controller events.


One truly great feature of DP3 is POLAR — the Performance Oriented Loop Audio Recorder. POLAR is a loop‑based phrase recorder that works within the DP3 environment but, to some extent, feels more like a separate application. Because it records audio into RAM it can play back a loop the instant it has been recorded, giving an astonishing level of feedback, and allowing layers of audio (backing vocals, for example) or multiple alternate takes of a single phrase (like a guitar solo) to be laid down in no time at all. Recordings in RAM can later be 'printed' to disk and incorporated into a sequence.

Hardware Control Surfaces

MOTU don't make any dedicated hardware control surfaces for DP3, but both the Mackie HUI and the SAC2K by Radikal Technologies can be used with DP3 and offer full control over most of its functions. Cheaper (but still quite cheerful) alternatives include the Tascam US428 and Contour's Shuttle Pro edit controller — this ships with a Digital Performer profile, and can also be used with a variety of other Mac applications.

Third‑party Software Support

There's a huge amount of support for DP3 amongst third‑party developers. Plug‑ins available in MAS format include Antares' Auto‑Tune and Microphone Modeler, the entire Bomb Factory range (including their LA2A, Fairchild 660 and 1176 compressors), and Metric Halo's Channel Strip EQ and compression. All of the Native Instruments range of software synths now come with MAS and FreeMIDI drivers, and DP3 works perfectly with both Rebirth and Reason by Propellerhead, using their ReWire technology.

DP3 can also use most current VST plug‑ins by running them under a MAS/VST 'shell'. Options include Cycling 74's Pluggo, VST Wrapper by Audioease, and the FX Machine that comes as part of TC Works' Spark audio editing software.

Finally, special mention needs to be made of Altiverb by Audioease. This is a true convolving reverb plug‑in with surround capabilities, and easily bears comparison with pricey hardware units by Sony and Yamaha. At the time of writing Altiverb runs only on the MAS platform (and only on G4s), and sounds absolutely glorious!

Test Spec

  • Blue and white Mac G3 with XLR8 450MHz G4 processor upgrade and 256Mb RAM, running Mac OS 9.04.
  • Maxtor 45Gb 7200rpm internal IDE audio drive.
  • MOTU Fastlane USB MIDI interface.
  • MOTU 2408 MkII audio interface.


  • A complete, professional audio and MIDI sequencing solution that turns its hand equally well to AV and post‑production work.
  • Superb audio implementation with unsurpassed automation and a fine set of bundled plug‑ins.
  • State‑of‑the‑art, open‑architecture surround support.
  • Extensive support from third‑party developers.


  • No simultaneous display of multiple takes, and relatively sluggish scrolling and screen redraws at higher processor loads.
  • Rhythmic editing grids lack triplet note values in the current version.
  • Needs a fast Mac, preferably a multi‑processor model, and a large monitor for best performance.


DP3 is a lovely bit of software, and one of the most comprehensive sequencing environments currently available. It excels in all areas of music production and could easily form the heart of many different kinds of professional and project studios.