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I am getting confused about the line of separation today with what a DAW can do and what it can't. Maybe it can do everything nowadays and more than the hardware, or just not as clean as hardware? It definitely seems cheaper!

Looking at the various equipment what are the pros cons?

It is a very general question, it doesn't need to have thorough answers. Maybe put the parts that are most relevant to you.

Best,

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3 Answers

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A DAW can more or less do everything except "be a physical thing that you can feel". Ten years ago - even five years ago - there was a noticeable difference in quality between software and hardware, but these days, the gap has more than closed.

One big pro of software is that, with one click, you can save everything - synth patches, sequences, etc - then open a new project file and start over. With hardware, you have to manage all your synth patches individually and such. It's definitely a hassle when compared to software, in that respect - especially given that most synths that would be worth owning are so old that they don't have built-in patch memory. :D

For the average musician, an all-software setup is adequate - even preferred. Now, some will argue that real synthesizers and FX units have a certain analouge warmth that is not reproducible with software, and this is true to an extent, but mostly with hardware FX units (IMO). There just isn't any beating a real valve or opto compressor for warmth, in my book... but I wouldn't worry about that to start out.

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Maybe it can do everything nowadays and more than the hardware, or just not as clean as hardware?

Not sure what you mean here, but if you're talking sound, digital is clean, precise, surgical, exact...all that. Some hardware can be the same, but the sought after hardware dulls things down a bit with distortion and other effects. So if you're going to use the DAW, you may find you need to compensate for that with mic choice, saturation plugins and eq. Some people love the ultra clean sound - and that's fine.

As kivetros mentioned, software can be easier to recall settings and managing your projects is definitely easier. But working with the software can be more challenging - finding that setting hidden in the menus - when you have no idea what it's even called can be rough. With hardware (aside from advanced synths and the like), you've got knobs and buttons which make operation simple. But then they do simple things - so it's appropriate. Maybe that's what you mean with clean - it's all laid in full sight, you're seeing the modules and the signal flow.

If you're absolutely not a computer person (probably not since you're here!) or don't need to spend any more time during the day - maybe the software isn't right for you. You can get a digital multi-track recorder for less than a computer, audio interface and software package from what I know.

On top of that, with a computer, you keep upgrading hardware, software and adding on plugins - the stuff can be a money pit, but I suppose it's also not mandatory to do so. It's just hard to resist with all the cool new stuff coming out all the time.

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They can do the same basic tasks.

A software DAW is just another recording tool, based on different technology, for doing the same basic job as hardware recording equipment.

Both software-based and all-hardware systems can record and edit audio information. Both let you modify an audio signal using effects and processing. Both of them can, at some level, handle all the major steps in most recording projects (tracking, editing, mixing, mastering, etc). But just like any task where there are multiple possible tools, it's down to preference and suitability for the task.

Software DAWs offer a lot of convenience because you can copy software, so you can do things like have as many tracks or copies of an effect as your computer can handle. But at the same time, they necessitate having a digital system, which means you have to deal with things like aliasing artifacts and sampling-buffer latency. Moreover, a lot of people prefer the sound of many hardware units, and while there exist software recreations of these units, they are by nature imitations and therefore approximations.

Nowadays it seems like it comes down to what you want to use and whether you think it suits your work.

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