Case Study about DAWs (Query) - Only 4 questions help me! :)

Hello there! New user here! :smiley:
I am working on a case study at the University, the theme is “Free or Low cost DAWs for emergent studios.”
I need to get answers about 4 questions only, your help and experience is much appreciated.

Please answer for each question: Terrible, bad, good or excellent

Here’s the questions for Audacity:

How good is GUI (Graphic User Interface)?
How is easy of use?
Included effects quality is…?
Included virtual instruments (if available) quality?

That’s it! If you have experience with other low cost DAWs feel free to answer the same questions, will help me a lot!

Thank you all!

You will need to take some care with your definitions. Audacity is not usually classed as a “DAW”. Audacity is a “multi-track audio editor”, and as such has a different feature set from most “DAWs”.

For example:
Most DAWs support MIDI instruments - Audacity doesn’t.
Audacity applies effects immediately - most DAWs don’t.
Most DAWs have real-time effects - Audacity doesn’t.
Audacity updates the waveform view to show the modified waveform after applying an effect - most DAWs just show a graphic representation of the original unprocessed audio data.
Most DAWs are closed source and burdened by restrictive license terms, whereas Audacity is open source software licensed under the terms of GPL v2.
Most DAWs put much emphasis or signal routing and relatively little emphasis on sample level editing - Audacity has extensive sample level editing ability, but only basic signal routing.

Personally I use Ardour as my DAW and Audacity as my audio editor.

Good point Steve, Thank you. I am new to this and since I saw that Audacity suports many tracks I thought it also worked as a DAW but, now I see it has a different purpose.

Indeed many people do use it as their “digital audio workstation”, but I for the purposes of a case study it is probably quite important to appreciate that Audacity (as a multi-track audio editor) is designed against a somewhat different paradigm to most “DAWs”.

Everything Steve says is accurate, and a pretty succinct list.

Personally, I just switched to using Audacity as my “DAW” for most things, including tracking, mixing, and effects. So it can be done, especially if you’re dealing entirely with recorded sounds instead of plugin-generated sounds. I still use FL Studio to run plugins and export them as wavs to be edited and tracked in Audacity.

This right here is one of the main reasons I made the switch. I hate hate hate that you can’t see what’s REALLY happening to your sounds and samples in most DAWs (if people know of exceptions, please, let me know – I probably will start using some DAW again at some point).

This is the other major reason. I really got sick of just using sounds “out of the box.” Sure, you can “effect” things with plugin effects and stuff, but you can’t REALLY change the sound itself. It’s annoying. It is what it is, and you can only change it by fiddling with knobs, applying effects, setting up signal chains etc. The underlying sound itself is never really changed, just certain, limited things about how it comes across.

The last main reason, and probably the biggest one, is that I wanted to have the freedom NOT to quantize everything. In a free editing environment, I can create beats and sounds that have minor rhythmic variations that you just can’t do in a DAW (as far as I’m aware). Sure, some platforms allow you to “humanize” rhythms by adding little deviations from the target beat, and add some dynamic nuance, but I do not find them convincing, and you’re still pretty limited in what you can do. And even if they do sound “good,” you’re still kinda locked in to that way. I like being totally free, in a free editing environment like Audacity. Your imagination is the main limitation.

I’m curious about this, Steve. I can’t use it, because I’m on Windows, but I’m curious why you use Ardour. What does it have over the other “major” DAWs (Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, Reason etc) don’t have?

And what is your opinion on the best DAW for Windows, given what I said above? Free or not free (although free is better, if it’s a close call :wink:)

I use Linux.
Ardour runs natively on Linux, which few other DAWs do.

Also, I like the design philosophy. Ardour does not attempt to “do everything”. It is designed to handle recording, playback, signal routing (including real-time “insert” and “bus” effects), and just about everything else is left to plugins. This “modular” approach (doing one thing well and integrating with other applications that do other things) is a typical approach on Linux, and is very flexible. It allows configuring “the system” the way that you want it, using the components that suit your needs.

Steve, can you explain this a little more? I’m not totally clear on what signal routing means, and what types Audacity can do. And do you know a DAW that heavily emphasizes signal routing? I seem to think that Reason does, but that could just be my general lack of knowledge talking! And is signal routing essentially what you do in an analog/modular synth?

I will be in the market for a new DAW eventually (but I’ll still use Audacity heavily as my sound editor), so I’m trying to get a better grasp on what actually differentiates them, what features I care about, which ones I don’t etc.


Basically it is about managing where audio streams come from and where they go to (“route” as in going from one place to another).
This can include handling “insert effects”, “aux send and return” loops through other effects, possibly handling multiple inputs / outputs to / from a multi-channel sound card, monitor mixes, and so on.