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Digidesign Session Multitrack Recording Software (part 1)

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If you have a computer, a reasonably decent one, then you have a tool for recording
audio, given the right software. If you have an Apple Macintosh, then you will
no doubt have noticed that there is a growing market in low-end – if the manufacturers
will excuse the expression – software that will record two tracks and play back
four on a Digidesign Audiomedia II equipped Mac, or play back eight or more
tracks without a sound card on a suitable Power Macintosh. Potentially this
is exciting stuff since if you have a Power Macintosh, all the audio capability
is there inside your computer right now and all you need is the right software
to access it. And take note of the price. When you have done that compare it
to the cost of a eight track recorder such as an ADAT or even a Fostex R-8 analogue
multitrack. The word ‘bargain’ springs to mind quite readily, even
if you do have to sacrifice being able to record on more than two tracks at
a time or be able to hook up eight separate outputs to a mixer to provide EQ
or reverb.

Digidesign are very well known in the field of hard disk recording on the Mac.
In fact they have pretty much written the book all by themselves and what they
don’t know probably isn’t worth knowing. The professional audio world
is smitten with their Protocols system which, fully expanded, can handle as
many tracks with as many separate inputs and outputs as would satisfy the wildest
dreams of the most demanding engineer. Protocols offers all the benefits of
hard disk recording together with equalisation, reverb, compression, and a multitude
of other facilities, provided either with the system or as ‘plug in’
extras. Those of us who can’t afford Protocols will own or aspire to Session
8, which is basically a cut down Protocols for the masses, or Sound Designer,
which is reputed to be the most widely used stereo hard disk recording software
worldwide. You would expect that when the gurus of Digidesign get around to
meditating on the subject of low cost multitrack hard disk recording software,
they ought to be able to come up with something pretty hot. They know all the
tricks and they should be able to put them all into a package that will wow
the pants off us and trash the opposition. But before your hand dips into your
wallet, hang on a moment. What about product differentiation? What if Digidesign
are frightened that low cost multitrack software will knock a dent into their
Session 8 and even Protocols sales? Might they not consider cutting down on
the feature set, making their new low cost product very obviously entry level?
If this is so, then all it has to do is match the competition feature for feature
and Digidesign can look forward to a healthy share of that market while not
hurting their other sales. I say this to put my review of Session into its proper
perspective. If I have some criticisms to make then it is not to say that Session
isn’t a damn fine product, as I’m sure you will come to realise as
you read on. But it doesn’t do everything I would want it to do and I suspect
you might feel the same. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts…

David Mellor

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David Mellor