The latest version of Ableton Live, Live 8 builds on the features and capabilities that have made Ableton Live one of the most popular DAWs for content creators. Ableton Live 8 can produce complex tracks without needing additional MIDI hardware (MIDI hardware controllers are supported though). New features in Live 8 include a reworked MIDI editor, a new groove engine, revamped warping, live looping, new effects and crossfades in the Arrangement View. For example, the improved groove engine dynamically influences the timing and velocity and volume of audio and MIDI tracks to create moods in your project. The Live 8 interface has been improved, as well, so whether you're working with live performances or sound production, you'll find the controls and features you need and you'll be able to use them in an intuitive, nonlinear flow. One of the favorite features of Ableton Live 8 is the ability to easily drag and drop effects and instruments. Mac OS and Windows. Ableton Live 8 is available for $449 as a download ($549 in a box), and if you want to get the complete Ableton Live 8 Suite, which adds a sound library, and 11 Ableton instruments, it goes for $699 as a download or $849 in a box. Contact: Ableton, www.ableton.com.
From Sweden, Propellerhead Reason is one of the most popular DAWs. The intuitive software is 64-bit, with music recording and production studio capabilities, as well as a large collection of sounds, instruments and mixing tools. The Reason interface looks like an instrument. There are buttons, faders and LEDs, and you can build your own rack as you work on a project. Flip the virtual rack over, and the back has the familiar look of cables and connectors, but virtual ones. You can make connections manually or let Reason do it for you automatically. Version 6 has new effects, including The Echo and The Pulverizer, which are a delay unit and a distortion unit, respectively. You can acquire and add other effects and instruments as your projects require. If you had been a user of Propellerhead Record, that software has been discontinued in favor of including all of its features in Reason 6 and Reason Essentials. On the topic of Reason Essentials, like the name implies, it's the essential features of Reason at an aggressive price. Mac OS and Windows. Estimated Street Price: $449 (Reason 6.5); $129 (Reason Essentials 1.5). Contact: Propellerhead Software, www.propellerheads.se.
Renoise is an inexpensive DAW that lets you record, edit, compose and render top-quality audio using their tracker-based system. There are a number of built-in processors, and Renoise supports a number of plug-in formats and virtual instruments. The tracker-based workflow shows the music from top to bottom in a grid known as a pattern. You arrange patterns as you build your tracks. This also makes it fast to edit. The latest version of Renoise, version 2.8, has 64-bit support across all platforms, and a plug-in bridge lets you use 32-bit plug-ins. With an emphasis on workflow enhancements, the tweaked Pattern matrix and sequencer make it easy to arrange your project. New tracks lay out fast, and the sequencer keeps everything neat on your screen. Track grouping lets you group related tracks and they can share common effects. You can collapse tracks and groups to keep large projects from becoming overwhelming as you work. It's now also possible to collapse tracks and groups, which can do wonders for the overview of large projects. Mac OS, Windows and Linux. Estimated Street Price: $75. Contact: Renoise, www.renoise.com.