Choosing The Right Audio Interface – Bundled DAW Software.
Bundled DAW software should not be the major factor in deciding which interface is right for you. It is however a factor to take in consideration since you will need such software to record and compose your masterpieces. If you are not a beginner and are already using a DAW, no problem. If your are satisfied, use what you’ve got. The included DAW is maybe a way to get a taste of what another DAW can do.
Mac users have already an entry level DAW to their disposal in the form of the free app Garageband. Garageband is more than adequate enough for the beginner and is a nice intro to Logic ProX. If you know how to use Garageband, you have a solid basis to start using Logic ProX. If you plan on using Logic Pro in the future, don’t waste your time learning another DAW, learn Garageband.
Windows does not feature a free DAW app. DAW’s can be (or are) expensive pieces of software. The price of the light versions of DAW’s is already in the ballpark of an entry level audio interface alone.
A suitable free DAW that comes free with your audio interface is therefore not to be frowned upon. Keep in mind that the versions of the software are “light” versions. Compared to the full versions these DAW’s are limited in different ways.
These limitations are sometimes not so severe that the DAW would be unusable. In other cases the limitations will leave you craving for the full version very fast. A “full” version will set you back a few hundred dollars…
So, how capable is the software that comes with your interface? This is an important question In the light of the cost of a full fledged DAW.
This article will give you an overview of the capabilities and limitations of the free DAW software that comes with your audio interface.
I will also give an overview of the audio interfaces the DAW’s are bundled with. Keep in mind that this can change overnight, depending on the alliances the audio interface brand have with the different software companies.
There is some logic behind these ties. Cakewalk Sonar is now owned by Roland, and Cakewalk interfaces which where made by Edirol, is now also in the hands of Roland…It comes at no surprise that Cubase is bundled with Steinberg interfaces (it’s the same brand). The same counts for Studio One that comes with Presonus interfaces…Ableton doesn’t make interfaces and is usually bundled with interface brands that don’t make their own DAW software…
Steinberg Cubase AI (AI7 as of this writing)
Loads of tracks!
The number of tracks you are able to record is vast compared to some other free DAW’s: 32 audio tracks, 48 midi tracks, and 16 instrument tracks. So this is not really a limiting factor. If you need more than this, you are already making huge projects…
Full audio and midi editing with piano roll and time stretching:
What I am missing the most is the midi event list for precise or bulk editing of midi data.
Good quality VST effects included:
All basic effects are there: EQ, reverbs, chorus, delays, flanging…A lot of Cubase users never feel the need to use 3rd party effects…
Basic VST sound library:
Included Halion Sonic rompler. I am not a great fan of the basic sound library. You get basses, drums, piano, strings, synth sounds etc…but the quality of the sounds is easily and by a large margin surpassed by the sound library of Garageband for example. Keep in mind that this is not a fair comparison since the included sound library of Garageband is the best free library bundled with any DAW in existence, only surpassed by expensive third party libraries. Not one of the listed DAW’s has such a vast and consistently good sounding library as Garageband.
Third party vast instruments and effects integration:
This is very important! If you are not satisfied with the sound of the included VST instruments (or effects), or you want to expand your sonic palette, this is entirely possible!
The license is tied to the computer it is first installed on. You should be able to move your Cubase AI license by buying a eLicencer USB stick and putting the license on the stick.
Cubase AI is a very capable DAW. It is in fact the most generous DAW (least crippled) you can have for free with an audio interface! it’s also a really well established brand for DAW’s. Steinberg invented the VST standard and the ASIO driver after all. So if it’s included with your purchase, you are in luck!
Cubase AI7 is bundled with the following interfaces:
Komplete Audio 6 (could not provide a direct link, sorry)
Zoom Tac-2R (Mac only. Thunderbolt interface!)
Ableton Live Lite (version 9 at the moment)
Ableton Live is also around for quite some time and very popular (but not as long as Cubase). The workflow is very different from the “Cubase Way”. Working with the concept of clips (residing on vertically positioned tracks) which you can record and launch on the fly is a workflow that is more geared towards electronic music producers and Djays than traditional composers. There is a horizontal timeline view and it is entirely possible to compose and record a pop song or prog rock masterpiece with Ableton Live, but for such scenario it would not be my weapon of choice.
Auch, only 8 tracks (midi or audio). This is a major drawback and will make you want to upgrade or switch DAW’s very soon. It’s enough for the beginning producer or recording musician but limiting really fast.
Sounds and effects:
All basic effects are there, no worries. The included sound library is of not very large and mostly geared towards electronic music production.
Third party (VST) integration:
You CAN host third party effects and instruments, so you can expand with more sounds and effects. No worries on this side.
Basically a very capable and reputed DAW. The workflow is very different from more traditional DAW’s. The limited track count is a major drawback in the Lite version.
Ableton Live Lite is bundled with the following interfaces:
Presonus Studio One Artist (3)
Studio One is becoming an established name in the DAW universe. It’s ease of use and fast workflow are legendary. Studio One is the drag ‘n drop king. Composing and arranging follows the more traditional horizontal timeline paradigma.
Unlimited, only restricted by your computer’s capabilities. That’s very good!
Included sound library and effects:
Not bad at all. all basic effects are included and the included library is not small but the quality of the sounds varies greatly.
Third party VST integration:
And here comes the caveat! No VST or other 3rd party plugin integration in the Artist version!
This is where Presonus earns his money. To be able to host VSTi’s or VST’s you can do 2 things:
- Upgrade to the Professional version
- Buy the VST integration add-on
Both of which cost a considerable amount of money.
Studio One Artist is a very capable DAW that is only crippled in one aspect: 3rd party VST integration is “missing”. That is quit a nice business model: get you hoocked to the workflow and than make you wanting (needing) to upgrade by omitting one crucial feature. In this case a rather important feature if you don’t want to be locked-in to the included sounds.
Presonus Studio One is bundled with the following interfaces:
Acorn Master Keyboards (that’s not an interface, but still)
Cakewalk (Roland) Sonar LE
Cakewalk Sonar is a Windows only DAW. It has been around like forever and a very mature application. Again: beware, it’s Windows only!
Sonar LE is based on the same foundation as the flagship Sonar X3. Sonar is touch screen capable and optimized.
Recording is based on the same horizontal timeline paradigm we got accustomed to through the years. With Sonar X3 cakewalk introduced a “matrix” that works in a very similar way as the main view of Ableton Live, with clip triggering. This is a nice addition.
Very much alike Cubase AI. 32 audio tracks and 64 midi tracks. More than enough to get you starting and beyond. Above that Sonar LE is multi-input capable. This means that you can track a whole band with a multi-channel interface.
Bundled effects and sound banks/ synths:
It’s very strange, but my research on the subject did not reveal what instruments or effects are included (it’s not stated on their product page). This used to be different. I cannot imagine basic effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, compression would not be included. Not a word however on the included synths and sounds. This is very odd since cakewalk used to be very clear on this subject in the past.
3rd party plugin support:
Sonar LE fully supports the integration of 3rd party effects and VSTi’s. it even supports the VST3 standard. No worries here. Since cakewalk does not speak of the included sound banks or synths my guess is that you will be needing 3rd party sounds (like basic drums, basses and keys) very fast.
Very nice entry-level DAW. Not a lot missing except very unclear on the inclusion of the so much needed bread and butter sounds. Cakewalk offers very nice upgrade paths for registered users of their products.
Sonar X3 LE is bundled with the following interfaces:
Most Roland Interfaces (hey, Cakewalk is owned by Roland now)
This concludes this article about the Audio Interface bundled DAW software. I will update this article according to new findings and more research. This is a market that is constantly moving. It is at times not easy to find the right info and one has to carefully read product pages and tech specs to delve up the right info. I will keep digging to find the right info for you.
If you stumbled upon a mistake or want to add something, feel free to comment below.
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