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I'm just wondering, which DAW or software is the best and cheapest for designing sound. I'm working in a studio, and we use Steinberg Nuendo on a PC. It's quite good and comfortable software. You can manipulate the events (volume, fades, you can process effects on each event), it can open lots of video formats... etc.. but it is too expensive.

I use a Mac at home, and have tried many different DAWs, but am still perplexed as to which is the best for running on a Mac.

Digital Performer is the best for music recording and writing, but not for designing sound, like Soundtrack Pro, but the last one is too similar to Cakewalk (now called Sonar Home Studio) to do professional work. Pro Tools is good, but it is too expencive to buy the HD system for a home studio.

And what about Logic Pro 9. Is it practical for sound design for films, or does it have some flaws when used for sound design work?

So anyway.....which DAW do you use? What other DAWs are available? I want to choose one, and start to learn... Can somebody tell me about other DAWs? Are there just these three (Nuendo,Logic Pro,Pro Tools) to use?

So the conclusion is that I need to learn and use 2 or more DAWs or sound manipulation software...

Thanks for everything "colleagues":)

Mac

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28 Answers 28

I use ProTools and have done since it was Sound Tools, back in 1991...

The first dozen films I worked on as a sound editor I used ProTools LE and then bought an HD system... I still use LE at home and the only reason I really need HD is due to supervising & needing to assemble all elements for run throughs/working in context. Anyone who tells you that you must have HD is probably a salesman or someone trying to protect their investment... Of course its nice to be able to handle 5.1 and play 192 tracks (I would actually like twice that number) but I could still do all my sound editing on an LE system... There are many ways of getting around limited track count and lack of 5.1 support...

But for film the most important deciding factor is what does the mix facility use

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I'm sure you're familiar, @tim prebble but for the others, Avid's in a lot of flux right now, and I'm no fanboy, but the addition of the Complete Production Toolkit (7.1 support now and 128 mono tracks) means I can step into something of a halfway point between LE and HD, which I think is pretty cool. –  Matt Tibbs Jul 22 '10 at 14:18
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I use both PT LE8 and Logic 9. Logic is extremely powerful, and right out of the box it has a lot of very useful and very flexible plugins and instruments. I would consider using it as my full time DAW if it wasn't so annoying to edit in. I'm slowly getting used to the editing workflow, but it is much slower and more cumbersome than PTLE. What I generally end up doing is editing in PT and exporting to Logic to mix. Then again, sometimes I stay in PT. Just depends on what plugins I need and how big my session is. PTLE is much more processor intensive on a Mac, so I can run MUCH bigger sessions in Logic (20-40 tracks more, depending on my plugin load) without too much trouble.

Logic is a great value for the price ($500). You get a pretty large royalty free library (music and SFX), which may be useful to some people (not as good as well known libraries). It also comes with a ton of great plugins, some other useful programs, etc... It's my second choice to PT

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+1 on Pro Tools 8 LE and Logic 9, though I don't do my mixing in Logic...just use it for the plug ins on occasion. –  Matt Tibbs Jul 22 '10 at 14:13
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The thing to realize, if you are new to digital audio workstations, is that they all do basically the same things. This same discussion comes up all the time with project studio owners and musicians. What it comes down to is pick one you like, and go with it, at least to start.

Most of the current DAW systems are highly evolved and have been continuously developed and improved for a decade or more. Unless you need to specifically share project files with another studio in a specific format, you can use any of these systems to make a movie, an album, or a video game.

That being said, ProTools seems to be pretty popular in the film world. ProTools is owned by Avid, and it shows. What I mean by that is that, like Avid, ProTools is more expensive for what you get, relies on more expensive proprietary hardware, and sort of got there first in the industry so a lot of people stuck with it. Continuing with this analogy, Final Cut Pro and all the other NLE systems can use most any suitable video hardware you can find, and many prefer the user interface of the other systems.

All of the other DAWs besides ProTools can work with any decent audio interfaces, but ProTools will essentially lock you into their hardware. I got 8 channels of 24/96 capability at a price point that would have gotten me 2 channels of 24/48 capability with ProTools.

I have nothing to urge either way, but just be aware of this distinction. When you buy ProTools, you're in it for the hardware and the software, and you're going to pay more. If you prefer the ProTools interface or need to advertise ProTools compatibility, this may be worth it to you. I have one friend who vastly prefers Nuendo, but keeps an old ProTools LE system around just so he can advertise ProTools and hope to convince them once they come in the door to just use OMF files and do the project on Nuendo.

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Aww man, I wish I'd popped into this conversation earlier. I'm going to take some space here to advocate my favorite software.

I use Reaper for sound editing and design and Pro Tools for mixing. I used to be a hardcore Pro Tools enthusiast, but became very disillusioned with Avid (and before that, Digidesign)'s business priorities. My two big complaints are:

1) I can't rely on Avid to make Pro Tools into the software I need, ever. They do not listen to the needs of their consumers. Not enough.

2) Pro Tools is a "no" software. Want to wire Max/MSP into a track? Sorry, can't do that. Want to use some non-Avid/Digi interface? Sorry, can't do that. What about customizing the keyboard to do what I need it to? Nope. Pro Tools is wonderful when you're using it per Avid's prescription of how you should use it and what you should want out of your DAW. That's why I still use it for mixing. But if you want to think outside of the box... outside of their box, it's unrelentingly restrictive.

Reaper is a phenomenal sound design tool that is largely overlooked. IMHO, it's partly for their price and business model. Why would you trust software that costs little over a hundred bucks to be the centerpiece of your business? Why would you trust a company that permits unlimited and uncrippled trial use of their software?

But where Pro Tools tells me "no", Reaper is a "yes" machine. There's a learning curve, and it requires a time investment, but you can transform Reaper to be the customized DAW for the way you work.

I can build macros for how I use it. For me, I've got the arrow keys hooked up to a pitch shifter! I can have a temporary FX chain on any region. I can have 192khz 24bit audio files on the same track as 22.050khz 16 bit mono files. Or midi files. Or surround files. Or mp3s. Or timecode. I can assign an LFO to ANY property of ANY plugin. I can nest tracks within one another (and do away with the archaic digital busses and AUX tracks we've carried with us from the analog years!), or send audio directly to other tracks. I can chain two machines together and have one of them handle VST processing to lighten the load of the primary. If I want, I can use any I/O I have connected to my computer (and theoretically, my network). And if I want to use one device for ins, one device for outs, and one device for MIDI, Reaper doesn't try to stop me. It warns me! But it doesn't say "no".

If I'm a developer, I can create third party plugins for Reaper!

Best of all, Cockos (and the feature-building community around them) listens! There's a part of the forum devoted to feature requests. And whatever features are most popular will make it into an update. And if it won't, they'll tell you why not.

It's not perfect, of course. I don't like Reaper for mixing and the video support needs work, but I really can't advocate this DAW enough. The learning curve is definitely steep, as you have to rewire what you expect from a DAW. But man, does it pay off.

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So you use Reaper along with Pro Tools? Can you give an example of where you would want to play back an MP3 in it's MP3 form instead of simple upsampling it to Pro Tools? –  Utopia Aug 20 '10 at 17:49
    
I wont turn you to Pro Tools thats for sure. But I have used MaxMSP and Pro Tools - and now with PT9 you can use it with any interface/hardware. –  C3Sound Nov 20 '10 at 1:02
    
I def. had to +1 this since I'm a huge fan of Reaper. Same here, ex-hardcore PT user and always trying to get away from it whenever possible. I've been using Pro Tools since the mid-90's before LE and I'm just tired of Avid bullying me and telling me how I need to work. I understand why it's an industry standard, but they should def. be more flexible, support their users, try to at least keep up competitively feature-wise and stop saying "NO" to the customers that support them. The Automation LFO's are hands down my favorite feature. Everything you said above is completely true. –  Syndicate Synthetique Feb 16 '11 at 5:18
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Pro Tools 8 LE with the Complete Production Toolkit and Logic 8 for me.

Almost all of my work is feature work, so I am in Pro Tools 90% of the time. I use Logic for some of its plugs and synths, which are great! Crappy editor and work-flow though. I have to admit I need to put some time into the software still.

There are lost of great DAW's out there, but in post-audio almost 99% of all the work in town is done in Pro Tools. I know of one stage in LA using a Fairlight based system and one house that uses Nuendo and that's about it!

Music/Video Game production is still open to whatever DAW suits you best... Nick

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It's a challenge, investment-wise, deciding on having >1 DAW, as there is a lot of functional overlap and they can be pricey. But there's no harm in doing so, as each one is good at different things.

Like Colin and Georgi, I use ProTools LE and Logic. (I really like Soundtrack Pro for certain things, especially on my own projects where I'm in Final Cut and can round-trip from it to STP, but the workflow isn't as smooth.) Logic's virtual instruments are pretty amazing, especially for sound design. I struggled with Digital Performer for years and couldn't deal with its non-unified UI. Even Logic 7 was scary. With Logic 8 and 9, though, the UI matured a lot and I now find it the easiest DAW I've ever used. (My "DAW" was Metro, written by Carl Sagan's son(!), and Deck II, slaved together. Yikes.)

DAW-wise, I do think that ProTools' supremacy causes many to overlook alternative tools, just like Photoshop in the imaging market. That said, ProTools is really good at audio post of all flavors, and like Photoshop, its reputation is deserved.

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For sound design things, Pro Tools LE here. Also used Nuendo in the past in a friend's studio, but for me PT LE do the job very well and isn't so expensive. The next step would be to upgrade to HD, mostly because the limit of tracks and those sync/automation facilities, but I think I can wait a little more to do that (and also wait for money :P).

Why Pro Tools? For me is about the nice workflow I can achieve working there. I work faster in Pro Tools, both in the editing and mixing processes... and also love it's clean interface and of course, the compatibility with studios and that "industry standard" factor. I know other DAWs have lots of more features than Pro Tools, but I just don't need those. I can do whatever I want with PT, quick edit, quick mix and quick processing. What else might I need?

Plugins are not a problem here. Every plugin and tool I need is on RTAS so, I don't need second DAW for sound design things. In my electronic music side I use Ableton Live for production and Pro Tools for the mix. Live is better to create things in real time, loop things and process everything quickly. You know, "Live's style"

Btw, I still in love with PT 7.4 :P Do you?

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I am mainly using Ableton Live 8 with Reason 4 and Record 1 in Rewire mode. Ableton is superb for super fast sound design.

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I do the bulk of sound design elements in Ableton 7 with Reaktor and Kore for backup support. Ableton Sampler is an absolute joy to use. Although, I must say that using Pro-Tools e.g. for doing ADR is heaven. Labeling, organising and cueing recordings is super easy and this helps you get an edit DONE –  Kurt Human May 5 '10 at 17:30
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At least when Nuendo was in version 3 and cCubase was SX3, you could open Cubase sessions in Nuendo and vice versa, so it would probably be a good and cheap option for you.

I personally own and use Pro Tools LE. I can't afford and don't really need Pro Tools HD for the time being. The only thing I really miss from the HD version is the advanced automation stuff.

Pro Tools LE

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hmm....my friend work in the fox studio, and they use pro tools to. but he sad, just only the HD can use the RTAS plug ins real time, the smaller versions have a big latencie. what kind of advenced automations? –  bohitomi Mar 29 '10 at 10:55
    
What your friend means is that you can use TDM plug ins which can use time correction. Rtas plug ins cant use time correctcion. One automation feature that HD has that LE doesn't is that you can use preview mode, meaning that you can loop a selection in preview mode, which allows you to tweak every parameter (volume, pan, send levels, and plugin parameters, you have to turn what you want to automate on, on the automation window (apple+4) )without comiting to it. Then you can capture the values of the parameters you changed and "paste" them by using the punch button on the automation window :) –  Filipe Chagas Mar 29 '10 at 12:58
    
Continued: TDM plug ins are hosted in the HD accel cards, meaning they dont use your computer CPU, freeing it for other tasks. Disadvantage: TDM plug ins cost much more than Native plugs (Rtas, VST,Au) Why? I'm not completely sure about that, but what i've heard is that Digidesign charges the developers for Dev kits to program TDM plugins, again, that's what i've heard –  Filipe Chagas Mar 29 '10 at 12:59
    
@Filipe - I believe TDM plug-ins cost more to develop because they are difficult to code for the average programmer since it is a proprietary format then many are not familiar with, and becasue they are catering to a smaller market which means they have to charge more. –  bpert Aug 19 '10 at 15:31
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I use Nuendo 4 have been using its since Nuendo came out. I love it. I have not ran into anything that it cannot do that PT and others can. Its 2k you might find it cheaper other places, It works with many different IO's some are cheap some are very good. I actaully purchased Nuendo 2 on ebay years ago for 400.00 I upgraded to 4 when it came out for 200.00 with NEK, a steal. Thinking about going to 5, i have it at work, but have not really seen the need to yet at home. N5 has the advantage of HD video in timeline, it works ok, I have a blackmagic card for output to TV, Although I cannot impor MXF's directly into timeline, i use Calibrated to allow for import direct into Final Cut to marry my mixes to the video, Its been a pain working with video in Nuendo, only bc we use .MXF's in house. Still I love Nuendo. it works for me. BTW i run it on a MAc, I have several.

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Gotta add another +1 for Reaper as a sound design tool.

The guys that make Reaper are super fast about making big changes and additions to their software for an insanely reasonable price...and they unfortunately go widely overlooked.

AND THEY LISTEN TO THEIR USERBASE

I used to be a big protools guy, mainly because I used it in school and never really gave any other DAWs a fair shake, but as time went on I just felt like I was getting burned/gouged more and more by protools so I went looking for something better.

Started using reaper on my current game and I loved the crap out of it.

No more random -DAE 900022: User is wearing the wrong color pants errors.

Reaper works equally well on PC and Mac.

Reaper is insanely fast and snappy, it's incredibly lightweight so it can run on just about any system with no problems.

Reaper offers a free trial that is 100% functional and you can use it to evaluate as long as you want for free.

No reason not to check it out if your're in the market for something different.

www.reaper.fm

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its sounds like an AD. :DDD –  bohitomi Oct 10 '11 at 5:27
    
lol yeah, i promise it's not...i just feel the need to spread the word because of the fact that so few people know about it and it really is a pretty awesome DAW. –  TNaas Oct 10 '11 at 20:15
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Logic is brilliant for music composition, but lacks the immediacy of Pro Tools for sound editing. Logic Pro + Pro Tools LE here.

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Whoa, partner. I think you would do best to pick one first. Focus your energy. Learn it as well as you can. Rtm. Don't try to jump two hurdles in one leap.

After you grok your first tool, you will have a foundation of knowledge that will speed up the process of learning the next. (For example, your third spoken language will likely come easier than your second.)

IMHO, the benefits of Logic are the awesome soft synths and plug-ins. I don't use Pro Tools, but I imagine the benefits there are that you get to participate in conversations at the water cooler. (Kidding.) From the comments in this question, folks enjoy editing in Pro Tools. I hear over and over how solid it is. And like i joked, it is an industry standard. That is a benefit not to be overlooked.

I use a wave editor (Amadeus) to prepare my sound objects, and then assemble them in either Logic or Ableton, depending on the project.

Cheers.

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MtL's totally right. Over the years, you WILL want and need more than one tool. If you know or own no DAWs now, definitely pick the one that will interface the best for the kinds of projects you do (see Tim's post above) and learn that one inside and out. Then, repeat as needed. :-) –  NoiseJockey Mar 30 '10 at 22:28
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I was using Logic Express 8 then 9, lately I have been trying to adapt my working style to Ableton Live 8.1. It's not easy, that's for sure.

As a DAW I find several little annoyances with Live, particularly in the Arrangement window, and it's not nearly mature enough - for my working style, at least - to use as my main arrangement/composition tool.

However, as a sound design tool it's pretty fantastic. They have done a great job simplifying some things that others struggle with (using OSC with Live through Osculator is so much easier to configure than with Logic!), and it's really intuitive for designing sounds.

I think will probably use Logic Express 9 and Live 8.1 together via Rewire in the future. Rewire is great, and since these two apps sync so well, I could use Live to make sounds, then Logic to record the output from Live, before putting it into the Logic Arrangement window.

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I use Logic Pro 9, Soundtrack Pro and ProTools.

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Personally, I don't find traditional DAWs particularly inspiring for actual sound design. Could just be because of what my definition of sound design is or the way I work though. I think most DAWs are more useful for linear arrangement of complete pieces, and/or syncing those to video. If I had to pick some gems from the big DAWs, Logic's Sculpture and Space Designer are quite nice. And Ableton Live would probably be the one that is most conducive to experimentation and creative tinkering for me. Lots of great tools in there.

I rely far more upon standalone oddities or plugins for actual sound design though. Reaktor and MaxMSP get a lot of use from me. Plogue Bidule is another biggie. Camel Alchemy is becoming one of my primary workhorses, so in love with that thing. And 99% of the time I don't run any DAW at all and do nearly everything hosted within Audiomulch. It's a very "freeing" environment to work in. Awesome timeline and automation stuff. I use Reason a lot as well. Audiomulch, with all of my plugins and other odds and ends is sort of my poor man's Kyma. :)

For linear compositions that need to adhere to a timeline I use Ableton Live whenever possible, or Logic. Never touched ProTools. It looks and feels like Microsoft Office to me.

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another reaper fan boy here. I use pro tools at work, because that's what's set up, and it's quite frustrating how relatively cumbersome it is.

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I use Pro Tools 9 at Home and Pro Tools 9 HD at work. For designing sounds themselves I prefer to use Synthesizer and Sampler plug-ins within Pro Tools, and then layer the sounds within the Pro Tools session.

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Reaper. I have both Pro Tools and Reaper. Pro Tools is the standard in the industry, but I use Reaper when possible (which is most of the time). That's because I can do my post work twice as fast, and we all know that time is money..

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I love Digital Performer! I use DP for music AND sound design. I completed the sound design for a TV show for MTV and many other projects including ADR, foley, mixing and sound mastering for TV and film without problems with this software.

I know this DAW isn't so popular in the sound side, but I absolutely recommend giving it a try.

However, your DAW of choice will come for a mix of COMFORT/CONVENTION/HABIT/PERFORMANCE. We need to think again over the marketing behind the brands and choose a DAW which fulfill our needs.

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it might seems unusual, but i use ACID Pro for most of tasks - its ultimate sample manipulation DAW. Im a more than 5-6 years of experience user and its difficult to switch to any other software. But im diggin Cubase 5 now along with my work in Acid.

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Pro Tools HD here, but that is because I used to do a lot of music recording and wanted the stability, the TDM plug-ins, delay compensation, etc. Now that I am doing more sound design, Pro Tools LE would be sufficient. Although I certainly don't mind having the extra juice.

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I like logic, it has such a happy feeling where as Pro Tools gives me a very professional feeling.
My drawback to Logic 9 is the lack of a perfect bouncing algorithm. When I bounce something either internally or through a bounce, it loses a quality. Pro Tools' bounce algorithm is pretty flawless to me so far and that brings me to the overall sound quality which is the best of the DAWS that I have layed my PAWS on. Logic to my ears has a muffled almost simulated analog sound to it. I first noticed this when I was creating a flyby out of a jet and some other things. No matter how I bounced it, I lost definition, clarity, speed, punch, accuracy of the sound file compared to the original even though subtle, it is enough to want me to stay away from it. Logic 9 does have it's GUI plusses though.

Cubase I have noticed a serious lack of customer support. I bought the academic version of Cubase 5 a year ago and it worked for awhile on my PC. As soon as I tried to install it on my new MacPro it would crash when I opened it and the patch wouldn't recognize that Cubase was even installed on my computer. I sent numerous support request tickets and all were ignored.

Editing is great on Pro Tools and the GUI/HUI look and feel is easy on the eyes.

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If you're only designing sounds, I find that Logic, Live and Reason do a better job than Pro Tools out of the box. But for syncing sound up to picture and cutting sounds together, I can't stand to work with a DAW other than Pro Tools.

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N U E N D O .

-I love it. Media Bay and it's Automation features are really handy. I'll be upgrading to N5 as soon as my custom Rain Ion is in.

When I was an apprentice, the music studio I was in used Magix Sequoia. It was an amazingly efficiant program for recording, editing, and mixing. Especially editing, I loved it and it sounded great. I never got a chance to work with video in it however.

My friend is scoring his film on Logic Pro 9, I've seen him work and it looks efficient and sounds good too.

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I use Logic 8 Express and the cheapest version of Ableton Live 8. Logic is extremly powerful for that price, but it is pretty annoying for timestretching, thats why I use Live. you can easily do halfspeeds and even shift the lenght over time. Sometimes I do the timestretch stuff in Ableton and route it via ReWire into Logic to do the mix and effects. One last word about Logic: it is perfect for that price. But it still has some pretty annoying bugs, but as I said...the express version is 199€=)

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I'm a huge Fairlight fan.

I have been a Fairlight user for 14 years. I am using their latest Crystal Core (CC-1) audio production technology with Xynergi and Pyxis for video, all integrated into one powerful system.

I will soon upgrade my system to 64bit - Windows7. Can't wait!

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I use Sonar Home Studio, which I occasionally ReWire with Live. The thing that's weird about Sonar is you can't compose AND do sound design in the same project, because tempo changes mess everything else up (it locks the samples to beat and measure, and not real time), but if you can learn to work around that, all is fine.

Also, I have Sony Vegas Movie Studio to downgrade videos for easier import into Sonar. Then I just export an audio file and put it all back together in Vegas.

UPDATE Oct. 2011: I just moved up to Sonar X1 Producer. It's taking some getting used to, but it still feels, largely, like Sonar.

Also, the thing about not being able to compose and design I mentioned above... that was just me not understanding things. I've learned quite a bit since then.

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