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What are DAW's

i no ther digital audio workstations but what exactly is it? is it like Cubase or something?


Pro Audio Guest Sat, 08/19/2006 - 12:47
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a system designed to record, edit, and play back digital audio. A key feature of DAWs is the ability to freely manipulate recorded sounds, much like a word processor manipulates typed words.

The term "DAW" simply refers to a general combination of audio multitrack software and high-quality audio hardware — the latter being a specialized audio converter unit which performs some variety of both analog to digital (ADC) and digital to analog (DAC) converters. For example a digital 8-track system could have eight discrete inputs, and a certain number of outputs — perhaps only stereo output for playback and monitoring.

Because "tracks" are symbolic in the digital medium, multitrack systems could have only a pair of mono inputs and outputs — the discrete audio inputs and outputs provide for simultaneous multitracking capability, whereas limited inputs require audio mixing or later overdubbing.

A professional DAC performs the same function as a common sound card, but is generally an external and sometimes rackmounted unit which offers the advantage of far less noise, higher recorded resolution, and better dynamic range, when compared with its consumer cousin.

While almost any home computer with multitrack and editing software can function somewhat as a DAW, the term generally refers to more powerful systems which at minimum have high-quality external ADC-DAC hardware, and some usable audio software, some of which is commercial such as Logic Pro, Pro Tools, CubaseSX, SONAR, and Digital Performer, some of which is free software such as Audacity or Ardour.

DAWs generally come in two varieties:

Computer-based DAWs consist of three components: a computer, an ADC-DAC, and digital audio editor software. The computer acts as a host for the sound card and software and provides processing power for audio editing. The sound card acts as an audio interface, typically converting analog audio signals into digital form, and may also assist in processing audio. The software controls the two hardware components and provides a user interface to allow for recording and editing. Many radio stations in the U.S. prefer using computer-based DAWs over integrated DAWs. Pro Tools, SONAR, and Adobe Audition (formerly known as Cool Edit) are widely used commercial PC-based DAWs. Stand alone audio editors such as Sound Forge are also used.

Integrated DAWs consist of a mixing console, control surface, and digital interface in one device. Integrated DAWs were more popular before personal computers became powerful enough to run DAW software. As computer power increased and price decreased, the popularity of the costly integrated systems dropped.


Guy Cefalu

Sonica Audio Labs