I was just thinking about this, today -- we talk a lot about what DAW we use, and even why we should use them, but what do we actually NEED as sound designers?

DAWs, today, are largely built for musicians and composers, and we just kind of accept what we're given. Granted, that's like saying we need a Ferrari and we're given a Lamborghini -- we can't really complain, as it's similar enough we can deal with it.

But, if someone were to build a DAW from the ground up with sound design (and all things related to sound design like audio post production), what would have to be in it?

8 Answers 8


I don't know, maybe there is some analogs of my thoughts and my English is so bad.... but, nevertheless.

I personally want such thing, when the audio tracks in your DAW could be transformed in the keys of the midi-keyboard.

Let's say you have 10 tracks in your session. Each track contains some audio event. You just switch DAW in this magical “Track-to-MIDI” mode and now, when you press a certain key on midi-keyboard the DAW plays the sound which is placed on the linked track. The starting position of playback it is the beginning of the audio region or sync point (pro tools) or snap point (nuendo) of this region. You can play these linked events when your DAW is stopped or also in real time to the video. And of course events are being played with all inserted plugins. And then you don't need such intermediary as Kontakt or Shortcircuit (free analog of Kontakt). Because your DAW is already a great sampler.


Well, I might probably find more stuff the more I think of it, but right now there are a few things I can't live without (in no specific order);

  • Timestretch/Warp
  • Pitchshifter
  • Good surround panning
  • Automation capable plugin system in absolute realtime (though latency of course is acceptable to some extent)
  • Dynamic processing
  • Freehand waveform redraw
  • Good filters
  • Realistic though not necessarily naturalistic reverb
  • Possibility of outboard connection
  • Full (and working) AAF/OMF
  • Reliable timecode, SMPTE via both LTC and MTC without fuzz (the bad fuzz, that is)
  • A reliable and easy to configure video-system
  • Total reliability. Period
  • Logical, easily accessible design on interface, that doesn't just piss me off no matter how well I know it (still hate several early sequencers I had on my Atari before finding Pro 24, and later Cubase...)
  • As close to bit transparency as possible
  • Good Broadcast Wave-compatible file library software with meta-tagging and reading (MediaBay in Nuendo)

Of course the plugins, processors, reverb and filters don't really need to be bundled with the DAW as such (and the ones that are are a little too often not very good, like the filters in Nuendo), but at least a few useful ones for good measure's not too much to ask for I'd say.

I work much more with sources, extreme layering and microphone techniques than pure effects, so for me, personally, I most of all need high precision editing tools and "tamers", so to say. IE plugs like compressors, limiters, filters and gates to keep the material more contained and kept to the curb. Not to mention pitchshifters.

That was the bare essentials (of what I can think of right now), add to that Distortions, grainers, vocoders, physical modeling, external controllers, muxing, and every modulating and delay-based effect known to man (or woman ;-)), and you'll get me very happy!

Jeez, to think that I started out with a really early version of SAW (later SAW Pro, though not that much of a difference) with nothing more than simple editing and some non-realtime effects...


In no particular order.

  1. Multi-session tab view like FCP, we must also be able to copy and paste tracks with automation and plugins attached between the tabs.

  2. Crystal sync with no latency issues on mixdown or export, can be an inbuilt feature or a plugin that automatically calculates and renders it appropriately.

  3. I like the ability to define an ambience noise print as found in Soundtrack Pro, and add it onto a sound clip.

  4. Inbuilt conforming ability.

  5. Batch file naming function, or generally more complex file naming functions i.e. the ability to select multiple clips within the DAW and define part of the name and let the DAW handle the part number.

  6. Ability to decode non-linear editing software files without having to use a third party protocol like OMF and AAF. I want to be able to open up FCP, Avid, Premier and all the other popular software files and instantly ingest the needed files into the DAW.

  7. Background mixdown/bounce ability.

  8. Editing functions activated by 'gesturing' on a multi-touch interface.

  9. Don't know how useful it would be, but visually, it would be nice to have a meter that had image retention abilities, so that once you played out your mix, you can see a horizontal representation of where peaks and rms values are at.

I like to wish for the stars, so hopefully I get the moon. Ha...


-Drag a region and drop it on to another to instantly apply various attributes of the dropped file onto the dropee such as spectral data, volume, panning etc or simply consolidates them to a single new region.

-A way to take snapshots/memory locations of a selection across multiple tracks that include all the plugins on those tracks and their associated settings at that point in the timeline. This would allow you to make multiple variations of the same complex region assemblies and make all of the variations recallable. Then you could just make a copy of all the regions in the assembly dragging them adjacent to the previous one and begin making adjustments to the plugs and/or add or subtract plugs creating the new variation of the assembly and taking another snapshot. Rinse and repeat.


1 thing i use the hell out of is the integrated fx search engine inside nuendo. Easy to use, no app switching, search by various fields, sort by varous fields, limit search to only various types/classes/ of stuff (audio, plug-in preset, samples, etc). One of the biggest time savers around.

  • Effects like in FCP. Now I know this sounds a bit crazy, but hear (read) me out:

Drop the effect onto a clip or a track or a send-track, and adjust the dry/wet like you do with opacity and audio levels in FCP. I think that would've been nice for really fast applications. And if you double click the region/clip you get the advanced parameters for that effect. Much like Nuendo has now, only more concentrated on the clips.

  • More flexibility with automation, view-wise. I mean for instance in Nuendo when you want to edit panning on a specific clip, that automation data should have brackets around them so that I know when the clip starts and ends, even if I'm at 300% zoom level. Just a cosmetic change however, probably achievable and in Nuendo right now... I just haven't figured out how yet. And also I'd like to see you being able to let a clip (with waveform) take up a whole window and see the automation lines on there, so you can actually paint the sound. With layers. That'd be cool.

One thing that'd be REALLY cool:

  • Automatic dubs/Stems.

A folder track in Nuendo (or group in Protools) would have an audio track automatically assigned and that is only and always monitoring what your playing from that specific group. Much like destructive recording in Pro Tools. So that everytime you play a specific group, the DAW will record it for you while playing, no questions asked and extremely invisible. So when you're through listening to the movie, you have good to go and mix ready dubs. First DAW to get that, I'm buying it.


Asking one DAW application to do a wide variety of tasks well isn't practical. It is way more efficient to have multiple machines, OS's & applications to take a more modular approach and choose the best combination of tools for the job at hand. Some of the suggestions so far are interesting to read though.

  • It's not really about practicality -- this DAW isn't going to be made any time soon, if ever. Also, considering ProTools is the industry standard, I think we're already asking a single DAW to carry the load. Furthermore, it's hardly more efficient to have to shut down one program to fire up another, or move to a different computer all together just to access something on Windows, when it should be capable in the same box you're working in in the first place. Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 13:40
  • Hey dave not trying to argue, I understand now it's not a practical question. I've worked on a cluster of 3 machines for the past 5 years and I find it flows very smoothly using wide a variety of tools and OS's. I guess I'm sorta off-topic so I'll but out .. :)
    – studio13
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 14:53

Just see what Nuendo is doing. That's where it's (or should be) at.

Products like Reaper are also nice, where the developers are actually interested in implementing features that are requested (if they are well-argued ideas). Or they allow a range of customizations to be performed by the user or 3rd party developers (via a plug-in system / API).

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