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Most audio software mimics a "real" device; most notably, a mixing console. I find this makes things easy to learn and transfer, but is less optimal when using a mouse.

What audio software exists that uses alternative user interfaces? I'm mostly interested in DAWs or sequencers rather than plugins.

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Although I totally agree that a mouse is not the most ergonomic device to work on a virtual mixing board, this is merely a good reason to not use the mouse rather than not use a virtual mixing board. In the end, why would you ditch a paradigm that worked so well in the analog times? This is why DAW controllers with (motorized) faders are a possible solution to this problem. That said, have a look at the answer by Warrior Bob –  Pelle ten Cate Dec 10 '10 at 16:52
    
@Pelle ten Cate: just because the mixer paradigm worked so well in the analog times, that doesn't mean there exist no better options that may have been just impossible with analog technique. –  leftaroundabout Sep 9 '11 at 23:01
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6 Answers

I'm a big fan of Ableton Live which, while it still uses the tracks/mixer paradigm, doesn't really feel like it because of a "session view" feature which makes it feel more like a looping program than a traditional timeline-based DAW. While it still uses virtual knobs everywhere, it's quite easy to control most of its parameters with outboard MIDI controllers, which largely eliminates the mouse issue. It's perhaps not quite as un-traditional as you might be looking for, but it does move in that direction.

There's also Renoise which is like an evolution of the old demoscene trackers, where instead of recording sounds on a horizontal timeline (mimicing a tape machine), you program sounds in vertical tracks to control either sample or plugin behavior. It seems more a sequencer than a DAW. I haven't personally used this one.

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+1 for Renoise. Coming from a 16-bit micro background (Atari ST and Amiga), I'm much more comfortable with a tracker. –  Rob Cowell Mar 14 '11 at 11:38
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I'm a big fan of buttons. The more buttons I have, the more happy I'm.

I think it's impossible to reproduce the feeling of rotating, pressing, touching buttons on a screen, even a touch screen.

That's why I would recommend you to have a look at external midi controllers such as Axiom series from M-Audio or Akai APC40 that has been desiged for Ableton.

You will be able to use the power of computer audio and keep the power of the feeling of touching things ;)

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If you specifically are looking for mixing-capabilities, the Behringer BCR-2000 and BCF-2000 can get you either 8 motorized faders + 12 rotary knobs, or a lot of rotary knobs. USB, chainable and compatible with all well-known DAW software, at an unbeatable price. (No, I am not associated with Behringer in any way, and I don't like most of their products, but these things are rather cool.) –  Pelle ten Cate Dec 11 '10 at 17:09
    
I recently bought an M-Audio Oxygen 61. It has real knobs, faders and buttons, and was very inexpensive. –  Robert Harvey Dec 21 '10 at 16:31
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One of the most extreme examples is probably Ecasound, which uses the Unix command-line as its user interface.

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You can always control your DAW over MIDI, and then use any software or hardware for your interface that you want. That way, you don't lose any features or quality, but can get alternative control.

I wrote some software awhile back that enables me to use brainwaves to control Ableton Live, among other things, utilizing an OCZ NIA for the hardware. http://www.musatcha.com/software/MindMasterMIDI/

Of course, it would take a lot of practice (nearly impossible) with that before you could get really fine control for recording purposes. I mainly use it for tweaking effects, or spinning up the Leslie's on Native Instruments B4, so I don't have to take my hands away from the keyboard.

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Not a DAW, but well worth mentioning: Synplant

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Could you maybe add a line or two about what it is or why it's worth mentioning? –  Warrior Bob Apr 1 '11 at 14:15
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You can check energyXT <- its using typical DAW layout (horizontal), but is much more user friendly (and simpler) than most daws.

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