Rebranded Waveform by Tracktion, is this long-established alternative ready to become a mainstream DAW option?
Not everyone gels with one of the mainstream DAWs, and if you are prepared to look beyond the obvious, there are a number of well-established alternatives. One example is Tracktion. Since SOS reviewed version 6 of this cross-platform package — Windows, Mac OS and Linux are supported — in the August 2015 issue, it has continued to evolve, and the program itself is now known as Waveform, with Tracktion the overall brand.
When SOS last looked at Tracktion, it was already a well-specified DAW that offered an excellent range of audio and MIDI recording features, especially given its very modest price tag. It also scored highly for ease of use, with a logical, if unconventional, user interface built around a single-window concept and a left-to-right signal flow that, at the right of the window, culminated in a distinctive mixing environment. For those coming to Tracktion from another DAW environment, the absence of a conventional virtual mixer might have been considered a negative. However, as we will see in a moment, Waveform now offers something for everyone on this front.
Although VST support was included, the Tracktion 6 package lacked a starter collection of virtual instruments or effects plug-ins included, so users starting from scratch had to budget for third-party plug-ins to build a complete music production suite.
So, what's happened between Tracktion 6 and the arrival of Waveform 10? Well, name change aside, quite a bit. Perhaps the most significant change has been the addition of a more conventional Mixer view, giving users a choice of mixing approaches. The MIDI editing options have been improved, a MIDI Chord Player system has been added along with a MIDI Pattern Generator for creating chord performances, bass lines, melodies or arpeggios, and a new Chord Track feature allowing other tracks to follow a master set of chord changes. Perhaps the other highlight has been the introduction of the well-specified Multi-Sampler virtual instrument, which supports the SF2 format and also encourages you to create your own sample-based instruments — though, as yet, Tracktion don't seem to offer additional sound packs for purchase.
All of this functionality has been added along the way to the new Waveform 10 release and this, too, offers plenty of enhancements and new features. I'll focus on these new v10 features in this review, but one other earlier development that's worth noting is the revised pricing structure. Tracktion 6 cost just $60 but, as I've already mentioned, did not ship with much of a collection of plug-ins. Waveform 10's pricing now starts at $119 (with upgrades from $69) for the Basic edition, but there are also Standard ($259) and Extreme ($499) editions. Waveform itself is identical in each edition, and the differences lie in the range of additional plug-ins and virtual instruments that are included. There is also a flexible Custom Bundle option that lets you configure your own selection of additional content.
Waveform Basic includes Waveform itself, a flexible sample/synth-based instrument called Collective, the Subtractive virtual analogue synth, a mastering-oriented multiband compressor/EQ called Master Mix, a pack of loops, the Artisan Collection of 62 bread-and-butter effects plug-ins and bundled versions of Antares' Auto-Tune Access and Celemony's Melodyne Essential. Finally, the Waveform 10.2 update adds the Drum Sampler instrument, of which more later. So the base price is higher than it was with Tracktion 6, but Waveform 10 is now a much more self-contained package, with virtual instruments and effects included even in the Basic edition.