If you’ve been looking for a way to improve your home recording studio, you might have seen digital audio workstations or DAWs mentioned in magazines and catalogs. What is a DAW, and how can it work to make your recordings sound better?
A digital audio workstation consist of a ton of hardware designed to produce high quality recordings with a built in computer with a user interface to make these recordings easy. There’s also some sort of storage mechanism, usually a hard drive–while flash media models are available, hard drives provide a lot more data storage for a much smaller price, and contrary to popular belief, hard drives aren’t any more likely to fail than flash media.
The main advantage of a digital audio workstation is that everything’s contained in one neat little package; preamps, XLR and instrument ins, software, everything. When you buy a DAW, all you need is a microphone and you can begin making recordings right away. They’re often capable of handling ten or more input signals at a time, so they’re perfect for recording bands or any other situation where you might need a lot of microphones running. They’re also very portable. For a live recording, there’s really nothing simpler than a digital audio workstation. You plug it in, plug in your microphones, check your levels, and you’re ready to go.
However, there are some disadvantages to DAWs, too. If you’ve got a good PC and an awesome recording setup, you might not get much use from a digital audio workstation, and you might find their user interfaces to be too constricting, as most require you to spin knobs and press buttons rather than using a simple mouse and keyboard.
They can also be expensive. A high end DAW can cost several thousand dollars, which is a lot of money for any musician. If you’re investing that kind of money in a PC recording setup, you’ll get a PC that can do a whole lot of other cool stuff, but with a DAW, you’ve got a somewhat limited device.
Still, many people enjoy digital audio workstations, and some feel that they’re superior to a PC recording environment due to their simple design and ease of use. Some can even be plugged into a PC and integrated with a recording program, making them an awesome buy.
If you’re considering a DAW, be sure to play around with a few models to find out which brands that you prefer. Look for a model with a good amount of storage space, and don’t forget to pick up a few microphones with it. You’ll have a high quality system that’s instantly capable of making great recordings.
Do you use a digital audio workstation? Post in our comments section below.