This could lead to some very long posts, but here goes anyways...

I got into a conversation with the guys at work about the old DAWs they used to use, what's changed, what they miss, and what's stayed the same. I thought it would be a good topic to put up for discussion.

So we've covered which DAW you currently use. What did you use before you found the latest and greatest? Do you miss anything about them? Are you happy they're in the rear view mirror of your life? Lets put some perspective on these new-fangled devices...

Here's my history:

PT Logo
(source: cornermusic.com)

I have a relatively long history with Pro Tools, going back to '95 when I was just a little whelp of an student/editor using a Pro Tools III Nubus (thank you, Tim) system with PT3 and Sound Designer II. I loved the concept that it was Mac-based and not a proprietary system costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I had been forced by employers into relationships with other systems, but always have had a PT system in one form or another on the side. I've owned Pro Tools Free, Pro Tools Mix Plus & Pro Tools LE and all have treated me well.

AMS Neve Logic 3 with AudioFile


If I could go back in time, I'd kick my own ass for ever trash-talking this machine. I just didn't know what I had my fingers on. Gear-wise the L3 was great, smooth faders, nice jog wheel. 4-band EQ, compressor, limiter & gate on every channel. I hated that screen, but not as much as the soft keys. DAW-wise the AudioFile felt like a huge leap backward from the Mix system I had at home. Again with the soft keys and that awful blue screen. It was early in my career that I had to sit down to learn it, and it taught me some valuable lessons like, "It's just a tool, what do they call it & where do they put it? You know how to do this." and thanks to its lack of waveform display "Stop mixing with your eyes, dummy."

The DSP PostStation

aka - The Enterprise

alt text

Built off the architecture of two ganged Yamaha 02R's, this DAW had very little going for it in terms of processing. But being that we had a direct line of communication to the developer, any new system feature we were looking for was only an email and a software update away. Which usually was delivered the next day! Two keys that I still miss are the un-top and un-tail. No need to pull out a region's end, just untail, scrub, and re-tail. And speaking of, what a scrub wheel! Nice and heavy, with a resolution that made you forget you were at 16-bit / 48k. With no other form of navigation in the editor other than the wheel and 4 arrow keys, I finally understood the benefit of keyboard shortcuts over mousing around. The "ergonomic" desk was a joke for my 6'1" frame, but the touch screen mix console (left) and video playback (right) worked great, until the screens died. I believe that the owner sold DSP to Fairlight in 2003(?), and went on to form SmartAV

  • just to be a trainspotter, PTIII was Nubus not PCI
    – user49
    Commented Aug 28, 2010 at 6:08
  • God, you're right @Tim. Thanks for the correction. Commented Aug 28, 2010 at 16:13
  • WOW! Love that picture. I want one, although mainly just to sit in front of while I watch Star Trek. Oh the joys of cheap old kit?
    – ianjpalmer
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 9:18
  • @ Steve Urban Remember when we all got the upgrade to the AMS Neve that allowed us to make wave files? Before that we used to have to play our session out to a DAT, take it to a Pro Tools LE in the duplication room, load it in realtime, top and tail it, and, then finally, export it as a wav and place it on an FTP for radio stations that were file based to retrieve. LOL....poor Neve L3. It did have great compressors and an awesome control surface. Commented May 20, 2011 at 12:56

17 Answers 17


What I am reading jibes with what I am feeling. What I dont miss is way bigger than what i do miss. In fact, I dont really miss anything - except Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold - for DOS. Best sequencer ever. But thats not a DAW.

Heres a few winners that I dont miss:

OMS (the early incarnations)

8/16 voice max

only 1 reverb/session

moving sessions to a new drive

SYNCING TO PIX USING SMPTE boxes (will it catch up in time or wont it)

Getting material to and from mac/pc

JAZ drives

Steenbecks/moviolas (I'm not that old. I started editing in the early 90's)

Life is great.


I started with Audacity, and never really got anywhere with it.

After that, I used Kristal Audio Engine and Angry Red Planet's Temper side by side, writing my midi in Temper and moving it into Kristal as audio files.

THEN, when I got my first interface, I got a copy of Sonar LE and Live Lite -- I'm still using both of those, and I upgraded to Sonar Home Studio.


I did work experience when at Film School in 1990 with a guy who used Sound Tools (Sound Designer with stereo i/o) chasing LTC off video deck and in 1991 I went to work for him just as he bought a ProTools 442 interface - it shipped with ProDECK and ProEDIT which were supposed to talk to each other (ie record in ProDECK, switch to ProEDIT to edit) but they never worked.... Each time they shipped a new version we would test it as we were desperate to stop recording foley to multitrack reel to reel and eventually it became stable enough to use... Bought a Nubus 16 track PT TDM system a few years later... now own a 192 track PT HD2 system & a couple of LE systems = 20 years of coercing ProTools into shaping what I hear in my head!


My first sequencer was made by me but it was a simple frequency player made on assembly and pascal for a game I was programming when I was a kid. Serious sequencing: Started on Logic on windows PC, then got Nuendo, some months of using Radar24, Digital Performer and ProTools in various productions and then Sonar Producer, now I'm only using Reaper and never looking back again! :-P



  • Roland S-330 with Atari 1040st / cubase

  • Akai S1000 with Atari 1040st / cubase

  • Kurzwiel K-2000 with Cubase PC

  • AKAI S2000 with Logic PC

  • Fostex RD-8 ADAT tape machine with Fruity Loops PC

  • Yamaha SU-700

  • MPC2000XL

  • Reason


  • Sonic Solutions on a Nubus Mac

  • Sonicfoundry Acid on a PC

  • Emagic Logic for PC

  • Digidesign Protools Mix v5 software

  • Digital Performer 4

  • Avid Protools HD and v9 Software

I think I might have tried to emulate my favourite features / workflow from each of these system over the years. Now I'm mainly working in Protools as my main DAW with other tools for creative and technical specialties. I'm really stuck on using soft samplers and synths as my main creative tools I really don;t use ProTools for much more than MIDI and mixing.

Features I liked :

  • Live sample edit and send to K2000
  • Speed and ease of use with the SU-700 FX and sequencing
  • Chunks in DP
  • Unlinked play head and zoom in sonic solutions

My first job was at a recording studio with 6 rooms, each with a different DAW. And I had to know how to work each one! A daunting challenge, coming out of school with no real DAW training to speak of since we had focused mainly on analog technologies.

Three of the workstations were ones nobody has mentioned yet:

NED Synclavier alt text At $100,000 each in its heyday, it was an incredible, unrivaled machine, and many still feel that way today. Who can forget the 6 foot tower and 12" WORM drives? How about that 5 1/4" floppy?? When the black-and-white editing screen finally evolved into the color EditView software, it was a glimpse into what ProTools would eventually become.

Lexicon Opus

alt text
(source: free.fr)

It also came in a desktop version called the Opus-e. A great editing system for its time; one could become extremely fast on it after getting to know the surface. Looks a bit like an Icon, no?

SSL ScreenSound and Scenaria

alt text
(source: nonlinear.info)

A pen-based DAW, both of these were geared towards engineers versed in film sound and displayed the regions moving from the bottom to the top of the screen, as film would move on a flatbed/KEM.

So interesting…as I trolled the internet looking for images of these DAWs, I was shocked by how difficult it was. We're only about 10-15 years out from when these guys were the go-to tools in the industry and everybody had at least one. Now you can't even find a picture…go figure.

  • Ha! Yeah, the Opus was what started the conversation at my office. They'd regale me with tales of pounding out a whole series of edits, then turning around to have a chat with the client while the Opus caught up. And apparently it had "the best" scrub wheel ever. I spent a couple of weekends with the Scenaria up at MPT in my early days. That vertical scroll took a minute, but it was great to learn something other than ProTools early on. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 12:54
  • We test-drove the Screensound --as well as an AMS Audiofile--before deciding to go with Sonic. I don't recall much about them because we only had them for a few days, though the pen was kinda cool. Thing that sucked about the pen was having to put it down all the time to make notes on the track sheet. I remember CRC in Chicago had Audiofiles and Audio Recording Unlimited had the Screensound. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 17:50
  • WOW...I totally forgot about the SSL Scenaria system I fought with at MPT. That was the first system where I mixed in surround and it had a crazy work around designed monitor matrix to do it as well. The memories.... Commented May 20, 2011 at 12:50

I'm not going to count Cakewalk...that was just a silly MIDI class in college. ;)

Really, my first introduction to DAWs was ProTools 4.x. With the particular studio I was interning at, it was almost more important to know how to link up and operate the ADAT machines than it was to know ProTools. But I did get to learn a lot about the ProTools system before I started grad school, which made my life there much easier. Of course, the school had Pro Tools 6, so there was a little bit of a jump to cover. Oddly enough, up until a little over a year ago, I had been using Pro Tools 5.1 at work for a long time. Odd sort of back and forth I've had with that.

I've also used a Fairlight MXF3+, which I had never even heard of before I was staring at it. It had no mixing capabilities that I'm aware of, the studio used Yamaha 02R-96's to handle that. That thing was AWESOME as far as editing went though. You could seriously fly using that thing. I know the Icon boards from Digi/Avid/whatever you want to call them now have incorporated a lot of similar features, and I really need to start learning them better.

As far as boards, I used to do live audio. So, I've lost count of the different makes and models I've played with over the years.


Ahhh... the memories... LOL

Let's see... I started with PT at PTIII - a stack of 4GB SCSI drives (my room sounded like an airplane hangar) and a 9600 I believe.

Before that I also used Digidesign Session 8, which was an early precursor to PT LE - The orignal "entry" system for folks who couldn't afford a full PT rig (a "bargain" at around $8k CAN)

SAW - The Software Audio workshop - 4-8 tracks on your PC with a standard soundcard AND realtime effects, back in the day of the 486...and cheap to boot. Very popular with Radio stations up here -a few still use it.

But my fondest memory is of the greatest DAW/Sequencer ever created - Opcode Studio Vision. I actually bought my first Mac just so I could use it (the PC version was beyond buggy). I still don't think anyone has made a better sequencer since... and I've tried most of them - damn you Gibson, damn you! :D

  • we used studio vision in college too. that program was indeed very cool.
    – Rene
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 20:08

I learned in college on Sound Designer II and in my last year our school got 2 full protools rigs (PT3 I think) and it was the coolest thing ever. We could book out the school studios at any time around the clock so I spent many all nighters playing with the gear, since the teachers had as much expirience on PT as the students did (little to none) we had to figure it all out for ourselves. Best way to learn in someways.

Then I got my first job in a studio that was using Sonic Solutions. The system had a de-noise algorithm light years ahead of anything else at the time (you can still get it as a plugin for PT I think) but was over the top complicated compared to PT at the time. Got to work on some criminal trials using the Sonic solutions to clean up undercover recordings by the police. Quickly the Sonic Solutions was replaced at the studio by PT and I have been working on it full time ever since.

Things I don't miss about Protools past:

-Only one level of undo

-No auto saving

-When you could only send a track to one output or Aux at a time

-No stereo tracks. Had to use two mono tracks pan them hard and then group the tracks to make them link to each other.

-Before instrument tracks came along midi was much more convoluted

-Having to shut down the computer everytime you wanted to change SCSI drives

Give me some time and I can come up with a bunch more I bet.


My first DAW (in 1993) was a 24-track Sonic Solutions system --the first one that large east of the Mississippi river. It ran on a Quadra 950. If I remember right we had four 4GB drives that each cost $2000 and were each the size of a football. The next four studios I worked at (including the current one), I got the job primarily because I was one of the few guys in town who knew how to use Sonic. The NoNoise software was fantastic, years ahead of its time as AzimuthAudio said above. I did some forensic audio as well, plus I cleaned up lots of old-time radio programs like The Shadow and Fibber McGee and Molly.

Around 2001 we moved to ProTools. Been on that ever since. At home I used Sonic Foundry's Vegas until I could afford a mac and ProTools LE.

What I don't miss about computer audio in the early 90s? $27 blank CDs and computers that would freak out and burn you a coaster if you did anything else while the disc was burning.

  • I forgot about disc coasters actually being a stressful thing. You had to actually let the disc verify too because there was a good chance it would not pass. It was cool as hell to give friends mix CDs for there birthdays as if I was somekind of tech wizard. Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 17:57
  • No kidding about falling prices @Joe. I remember 3 of us in school pooling our cash to go to Costco to buy a bundle of three 1GB Jaz discs, because it brought the cost down to $90 a disc rather than $110. And then people threw them around in their backpacks and wondered why they failed all the time and had to buy more. lol. Commented Aug 28, 2010 at 16:17
  • 1
    Absolutely! I remember having discussions about how many CDs we could afford to burn, because for a whole band to have their own copies of, say, rough mixes was well over $100! Oh, man, Jaz discs. Funny you'd mention that--the director for the new show I'm designing just threw 2 Zip discs at me, saying "here are the cues we used last time--can you do anything with these?" So, more out of curiosity than anything else I'm looking around to see if anyone has a Zip drive that still works! Commented Aug 28, 2010 at 18:35

The first sequencer I met was the Steinberg Pro 24 on the Atari ST in 1987, which evolved into Cubase a couple of years later. Not a DAW, just a MIDI sequencer, so I guess it doesn't count.

In 1994 i did some work on a local radio station, which was my first real experience with audio editing, cutting reel-to-reel tape. Sometime in 94 we got a Digidesign Session 8 hard disc recording system, which in our case was PC based. 8 tracks straight up, no plugins except track EQ.

In 1995 I started in the film business on the WaveFrame, also 8 tracks. It needed dual scsi chains to pull the audio from the drives quickly enough. It did these realtime crossfades, where you didn't have to wait for the machine to render the fades, which took some time on other systems. It had an integrated mixer, which could be used for MS matrixing as well as some EQ'ing, it also had a time stretching tool, but that took quite a while... The best thing on the Waveframe was shuttling at very low speed, it had a really gritty sound. You could record that on to a DAT tape and then back into the Waveframe.

Later on I worked on a waveframe with 16 tracks, which actually meant two waveframe systems controlled by on computer. You could drag and drop the sound files freely on the first 8 tracks or on the last 8 tracks, but if you dragged them from tracks 1-8 to tracks 9-16, it would copy the files from one interface running its own set of SCSI discs to the other interface, also running its own set of SCSI discs. I believe the max track count on the Waveframe at that time was 24 tracks, still no plug-ins. Oh, almost forgot, you could make the playhead go from right to left instead of left to right.

While at film school I worked a bit on the Avid AudioVision, which had around 24 tracks and audiosuite plugins. It was like an Avid MediaComposer just focusing on audio. You could sort your audio files in bins and work with different sequences. Some people still miss this feature.

In 1997 I started working in Pro Tools, it was around version 3.1 or so. I believe it was fixed at 16 or 24 tracks. Suddenly there was the TDM bus with plugins and audiosuite plugins as well, it was quite confusing for me at first, but I have gotten used to it since then.... ;-)

In 2002 I bought a PC laptop, because I was a PC man and I wanted to install Pro Tools. It didn't work, however, because my laptop was incompatible with the Digidesign M-Box, so I had to install Nuendo instead. I did a little bit of work in Nuendo, but I never got used to it, so the next time I bought a computer I switched to Mac and Pro Tools.

Now I own a studio together with 5 other sound guys, we run 4 studios equipped with Pro Tools 9, from an HD3 over two HD native down to one regular Pro Tools 9 (used to be LE). I am running Pro Tools 8 LE on my MacBook Pro as well as Ableton Live Suite 8.

  • +1 on the AudioVision bins, @Morten. There's a request on ideascale for Region Folders (protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Folders-in-the-Region-List/…). Not quite the same, but I'd certainly take it! Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 13:02
  • The waveframe is that bug blue refrigerator looking thing with the 5.5 inch floppy discs stuck to the side of it, right? We used to put our coffee on one of those things before we entered the core so we wouldn't accidentally spill on anything important. LOL. I do actually still know a dude who works on AVID Audiovision...he is a skilled man. Commented May 20, 2011 at 12:54

What? Nobody started from a mod tracker?

Here goes:

ModEdit (4ch) > Scream Tracker (16ch) > Impulse Tracker (64ch) > Logic 4.7, 5, 7, 8; PTLE8 > now Logic 9, PT 9


Cool Edit > Cool Edit Pro > Sound Studio > now back to Adobe Audition on the Mac.

Trivia thing about old-school trackers -> there were no effects - no EQ, compression, etc. Those were all "do it yourself" - from elementary stuff like flanging and delay, to the more interesting fake reverb, sound stretching and shuffle-tempo-delays (Logic only got one with Delay Designer). Great for reverse-engineering sound techniques, and the compact (self-contained) format was practically open-source..

Tragic ending, to arrive at Pro Tools after all this, but hey... (::wink::)


Actually PT III systems came in nubus and PCI variations. My first rig was a refurb PT III PCI based system with 1 xIO card and 1x DSP card and a Miromotion DC30 for outboard video - all that housed in a might G3 300MHz computer. I started earning a living driving the DSP poststation however, great system. Super fast for cutting promos and ads.


FastTracker II FTW! Then I moved on Cakewalk -> Cubasis and then the born of virtual instruments with Cubase VST. I started programming my own sounds over ten years ago with a Yamaha DX-21, Seer System's Reality and Retro AS-1. Amazing stuff! Discovering and learning synthesis by myself was really a kind of magic. I really got into a dark tunnel when I discovered modular synthesizers such as SynC, SynthEdit and so on (passing through the 'infamous' Kurzweil VAST Engine) until Reaktor, which still my fav in software synthesizers. Back to DAWs I moved to Apple Logic Pro on 2005 and Ableton Live 6 in 2006. This couple still my actual setup. I tried to use ProTools LE some year ago, with an MBOX 2 but the poor quality of the soundcard let me take the decision to park PT for a while. Now that digidesign detached their software from the hardware I may try PT again :)



Let's see, after tape it was the NED Post Pro and the Studer Dyaxis. Then SSL Screensound, AMS Audiofile, ProTools 4 thru 6 and now Nuendo 5.x. With some PT's 8 thrown in when needed. I have fond memories of the Screensound but for speed it was the AMS Audiofile, once you got used to it you could fly on the edits!



First digital audio experience was coding single audio events in BASIC on a TI99. First exposure to ProTools was v2. First "serious" sequencer and DAW combo for music was Jeremy Sagan's Metro sequencer slaved to Deck v2. Switched to MOTU Digital Performer and then to Apple Logic, wrapping all the way back to ProTools again after 10 years. Quite a journey.


I started recording simple beats with keyboard riffs when I was 9 years old (1982) on an old cassette recorder. My cousin would create most of the beats with different sticks, books, and dumbell weights while I played the riffs with a toy keyboard that allowed for two octaves and three keys to be played at once.

Years later, after not recording anything, I started working with two track 1/4 inch tape at WBAI in New York City. I learned to edit pretty well on tape. After a while I purchased my first setup: Sony DAT Man and a Fostex Model 20. Soon after I traded in the DAT Man for an HHB PDR 1000 (no timecode), and bumped up to Cubase VST (1997).

I worked in radio some time later where I ran a Sony Vegas system for a few years. Very fast edit suite. I also ran an Akai hard disk edit system that was very smooth and reliable; I just don't remember the model number. Spent time with Cool Edit Pro and Acid, Reason, etc.

I wound up moving into Pro Tools LE for a while, then went back to Steinberg when they released Nuendo Version 1. I currently run Nuendo in a small 5.1 setup at my home production suite, but I use Metacorder and a Sound Devices 744T when mixing dialogue for television and film. I also have Nuendo running on my location cart system for special situations.

The love of spending more money on more gear!

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