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Is Garage Band a good investment for a home studio?

Are there any crippling limitations that would impact the quality of my productions?

For example, limited number of tracks, bad performance in common situations, lack of good plugins, bad MIDI editor...

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Yup. The way I look at it is, start with Garageband (it's much cheaper than the alternatives) and if you really feel the lack of things, then you know you need to upgrade. –  notthetup Mar 5 '11 at 17:08
    
+1, very valid question here IMO. –  Pelle ten Cate Mar 10 '11 at 14:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

That depends on your goals and ambitions. It will serve all your basic recording, mixing and production needs, and many, many bands and solo musicians are taking their first steps with home recording using Garage Band, or similar software packages on other platforms.

Basic operation: I spent many hours playing with a Fostex 4-track tape recorder when I was a kid. I wish I'd had the kind of power and flexibility Garage Band could have given me back then. I think the strongest appeal of Garage Band is that it is not just a watered down version of a feature-packed audio production software, but designed from the ground up to simple to use. I think most beginners will not feel limited by the options and features available in Garage Band. Like most other DAW-software, everything evolves around tracks in GarageBand. Each track has a horizontal lanes. Audio samples or MIDI notes are displayed as colored strips. The right side of each horizontal lane contains basic mixing controls--a fader, pan-pot, effects, as well as a VU-meter with digital clipping indication. Those controls can be automated.

Plugins: Both Logic and GarageBand use the Audio Unit plugin interface. I believe that means any Audio Unit plugin can be used with GarageBand, although I haven't actually tried that.

Recording: You can record up to eight tracks simultaneously with GarageBand to either four stereo tracks, eight mono tracks, or any combination in between.

Limitations: The mixing model implemented in GarageBand doesn't try to mimic a real-world mixer with sends and buses.

  • No effect send & return channels and no buses for grouping effects on multiple channels.
  • No effects on the master output.

Price: GarageBand only cost a fraction of the big DAW software packages.

You can find lots of other differences when you compare GarageBand with other DAW software, but the question again is, what do you need? What are your must-have features?

Given the low price, I would say give it a spin, see if it works for you.

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AU: I can confirm that, I'm using the AU version of Autotune with GB, as well as several other third-party AU plugins. Multiple takes: The program handles them just fine, you can even chop up a track and select different takes for different sections. –  neilfein Mar 5 '11 at 18:44
    
Thanks, I've update my answer regarding multiple takes –  Kim Burgaard Mar 5 '11 at 18:53
    
Last time I checked, you could put a limited number of effects on the master bus. –  Sam Greene Feb 1 '12 at 17:59

Absolutely. I use it on my laptop, when I'm traveling and away from my desktop and Logic Pro rig, and it's outstanding.

There are track limits, but they're generous and you can do things like bounce submixes to new projects to get around them. There's less features than Logic but honestly, most people getting started with computer-based recording and trying to do it on a budget, dont need those extra features.

I think it's brilliantly done software and, hey, it's included with your Mac so why not use it, right? When you're ready to step up to Logic everything you did on GB moves to Logic without much hassle.

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A few areas where GB falls short: There's currently MIDI output, no Windows equivalent to the program, and you can't use VST plugins. Other than those limitations, it's a great program; powerful and easy to learn. –  neilfein Mar 5 '11 at 17:07

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