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Digidesign Session Multitrack Recording Software (part 1)

If you have a computer, a reasonably decent one, then you have a tool for recording audio, given the right software...

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If you have a computer, a reasonably decent one, then you have a tool for recording audio, given the right software. If you have an Apple Macintosh, then you will no doubt have noticed that there is a growing market in low-end - if the manufacturers will excuse the expression - software that will record two tracks and play back four on a Digidesign Audiomedia II equipped Mac, or play back eight or more tracks without a sound card on a suitable Power Macintosh. Potentially this is exciting stuff since if you have a Power Macintosh, all the audio capability is there inside your computer right now and all you need is the right software to access it. And take note of the price. When you have done that compare it to the cost of a eight track recorder such as an ADAT or even a Fostex R-8 analogue multitrack. The word ‘bargain’ springs to mind quite readily, even if you do have to sacrifice being able to record on more than two tracks at a time or be able to hook up eight separate outputs to a mixer to provide EQ or reverb.

Digidesign are very well known in the field of hard disk recording on the Mac. In fact they have pretty much written the book all by themselves and what they don’t know probably isn’t worth knowing. The professional audio world is smitten with their Protocols system which, fully expanded, can handle as many tracks with as many separate inputs and outputs as would satisfy the wildest dreams of the most demanding engineer. Protocols offers all the benefits of hard disk recording together with equalisation, reverb, compression, and a multitude of other facilities, provided either with the system or as ‘plug in’ extras. Those of us who can’t afford Protocols will own or aspire to Session 8, which is basically a cut down Protocols for the masses, or Sound Designer, which is reputed to be the most widely used stereo hard disk recording software worldwide. You would expect that when the gurus of Digidesign get around to meditating on the subject of low cost multitrack hard disk recording software, they ought to be able to come up with something pretty hot. They know all the tricks and they should be able to put them all into a package that will wow the pants off us and trash the opposition. But before your hand dips into your wallet, hang on a moment. What about product differentiation? What if Digidesign are frightened that low cost multitrack software will knock a dent into their Session 8 and even Protocols sales? Might they not consider cutting down on the feature set, making their new low cost product very obviously entry level? If this is so, then all it has to do is match the competition feature for feature and Digidesign can look forward to a healthy share of that market while not hurting their other sales. I say this to put my review of Session into its proper perspective. If I have some criticisms to make then it is not to say that Session isn’t a damn fine product, as I’m sure you will come to realise as you read on. But it doesn’t do everything I would want it to do and I suspect you might feel the same. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts...

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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