"The Best Home Recording Software" guide

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Administrator Since: Apr 03, 2002

So, I noticed we had a thread like this that still shows up in search results that was started in something like 2005, and was quite outdated, so it got my thinking, why not create a new discussion to discuss what people are using these days, and what is available, and possibly take the aggregated information to make a newer article.

So, what are people using, these days? I am aware of the following titles still existing and being in high use for multitracking:

Reaper - $60 for a personal license - www.reaper.fm (I use it, great stuff)
Cakewalk Sonar X2 - $99 to $499 versions - www.cakewalk.com (have used it, very usable)
Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo - www.steinberg.com
Pro Tools 10 - www.avid.com
Pro Tools MP and SE (included and upgradable for M-Audio products)
Kristal Audio Engine - free - www.kreatives.org/kristal/ (have used it, pretty limited, no midi)
Multitrack Studio - $69 to $119 - www.multitrackstudio.com (have used it, very cool, very very cool)
Studio One Free - free - studioone.presonus.com/free/

There are also loads of shareware/nagware/cheapware/freeware type options out there, such as Multiquence and the like.

There are a few mastering type options as well:
Steinberg WaveLab
Sony Sound Forge

So, what else is out there?

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Since: Dec 04, 2007

Nov 16, 2012 04:10 pm

ImageLine's FL Studio is $99 for the Fruity Edition, but it's still kinda limited if you're doing a lot of audio work, and they don't include Edison in the lower-cost editions. It's great for working strictly with midi and VST/i plug-ins though.

Freeware plug-ins:

For reviews on various free plugs, this is a good site to check:

You can sometimes get "lite" free versions of popular sofware through the European version of CM, Beat magazine. www.maclife.de/beat/news very similar to what Computer Music does, but sometimes you don't have to buy a mag to get the software. Of course, you can also buy an edition of CM, and get the "CM" versions of some popular software. www.musicradar.com/computermusic

For instruments, I use a lot of different stuff that I've gathered up over the years. My favorites are:

Rayzoon's Jamstix 3: $99 www.rayzoon.com

Contralogic's RPS-1 drum machine: www.contralogic.com/vst-plugins/rps-1/ uses probability so the loops sound less like loops.

Rez and Rez3 are very good resonant mono-synths capable of some funky sounds. Rez3 is the next evolution from Rez/Rez2. Definitely worth checking out. www.ugoaudio.com/plug-ins/rez The other UGO instruments are good to look at too.

A few years ago, Noize2u pointed me to the GTG synths, and they are also very good sounding. www.gtgsynths.com/plugins.htm

Tube Ohm's Alpha-Ray: $7 to unlock FX otherwise free. www.tubeohm.com/TubeOhm/ALPHA-RAY-PIC.html

Tyrell Nexus 6: www.u-he.com/cms/tyrelln6 developed by Urs Heckman (Diva, Zebra, ACE, etc.) and Amazon.de

MauSynth has a very good punchy sound. rinki.net/pekka/mausynth/ but the interface can take some getting used to as far as what routes to where. The sound is up there with commercial plugs IMHO, though.

I also like the TAL plug-ins. Noisemaker has a good sound to me, and I used to like their Elec7ro synths. They also just released a new Juno-based synth for $40. kunz.corrupt.ch/products/tal-u-no-lx

I also like the free "lite" versions of all the major players. NI's Kontakt bundle, IK Multimedia's Sampletank, Eastwest put out a one-time bundle of orchestral instruments (I don't think you can get it anymore, though) Also Camel Audio's lite player version of Alchemy.

Effects: (making your stuff sound better.....or worse...sometimes)

I'm a big fan of bootsy's effects plugs. I use his stuff in just about everything I work on. varietyofsound.wordpress.com/ The ones I use the most are BootsyEQmkII, BaxterEQ, EpicVerb, and Density Mk2/3,

Kjhaerus Classic series: I used to use these a ton before bootsy's stuff started coming out. I still use the compressor from time to time if I need to use a bit more traditional compression. You can grab the bundle here: www.acoustica.com/plugins/vst-directx.htm

TC Electronic's M30 reverb: I use this one quite a bit as well.
I got it when they had the free campaign, but it's $30 to get it. www.tcelectronic.com/freetcreverb.asp

I use amp sims quite often as well. Acme Bar Gig has some nice simulators, and FrettedSynth always had good stuff too. www.acmebargig.com/

Wurr Audio has the infamous GreenMachineMkII amp sim, which I use pretty often. www.greenmachine.pwuq.de/...g/Download.html

Another plug I often use as a kind of secret weapon to beef up various sounds, is Came Audio's Camel Crusher (free)

Voxengo has a few good freebies. Sometimes I use SPAN for spectrum analysis, and sometimes I use a light touch of Stereo Touch to give a sense of a wider field. www.voxengo.com/group/free-vst-plugins/

There are a couple limiters I like to use: First is A.O.M. Invisible Limiter: aom-factory.jp/products-p...isible-limiter/ I have an older version which was free at the time, and looks nothing like this.

I also have LookAhead Limiter. www.savioursofsoul.de/Chr...ookaheadLimiter

Other good looking limiters that I have not tried yet can be found on this blog: bedroomproducersblog.com/...-vstau-plugins/

I think that about sums up what I use most of the time. I mean, sure, I could list EVERYTHING, but I'd be typing for days. :P

bace135 in the house tonight!
Since: Jan 28, 2003

Nov 17, 2012 07:23 pm

Wow, nice set of links guys. I downloaded some of the GTG synths and played around with them on Reaper (first time really using Reaper). Very cool stuff, made a nice little dance pop loop. Using midi in the multitrack environment really makes things alot easier. I might have to think about using Reaper more often.

My usual tools for making music are Adobe Audition for multitracking and wave editing. www.adobe.com/products/audition.html

And Reason for sequencing, sampling. www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Nov 18, 2012 01:27 am

Yeah, reaper is awesome for what it does. There are a couple features I really wish it had, like wave tracing or redrawing or whatever. That would come in really handy for eliminating pops/clicks caused by disconnects in the waveforms. Right now, I try my best to zoom in really close, split the offending spot, and crossfade it to try to smooth it out and "reconnect" it. It seems to work for the most part.

Plosives are a bit easier, just highlight, split the time selection, and pull the top of the track down to kill the plosive in that split. (if you mousehover near the corners of the tracks, you'll see the pointer icon change to indicate dragging the track, or creating a fade-in/out, and a vertical up/down arrow at the top of the track to pull the level down in a particular spot (if you split it)

I find being able to do that to be very intuitive, and it feels natural to me.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Nov 18, 2012 07:55 am

coolo, Reaper is awesome, I have been using it for a few months, I love it. At first I found MIDI weird, but once I "got it", I find it awesome as well.

Well, this thread wasn't my intent to get into instruments (yet) but in that regard, I really like the now-free Green Machine II for guitar modelling, very, very cool software amp modeler, love it, even has a couple bass models, but I have a couple bass modeling plugs, Helian being the main...maybe I'll write a second article about instruments, right now I think I have a decent base to start a multitracking article...thanks for the help, I had forgotten about Audition!

J-bot, you are the king of softsynths and such, any way you could assemble something in article form for the synths and plugs if you have time? If not, that's fine I can get to it eventually.

bace135 in the house tonight!
Since: Jan 28, 2003

Nov 18, 2012 12:15 pm

The main selling point for me with Audition is that it has the wav editor built in. I find this to be extremely useful, and I'm using the wav editor constantly to clean up recorded files.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Nov 18, 2012 11:24 pm

Yeah, I've got some free time until someone else calls me for another recording gig, or I get the overdubs from KTB to finish that project up.

What do you have in mind for the article? Just like, a listing or review? I think the bedroom producer's blog does a pretty good job of that, and it is better structured/searchable than something I could write.

As for a "getting started" guide, I've written a basic one which I have up on my site:




They don't really cover the amp simulator, effects or soft-synth territory though. But I suppose I could write up a personal list of recommended plugs, and maybe their basic features or why I like them. It would be a good piece to add to my tips/tricks section of my site as well, I think.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Nov 19, 2012 05:10 am

I started the multitracking article last night, what I am doing is basically a list of the common ones, a little guise as to what criteria to use to choose for a newbie that may not even yet understand it all and some quick points of any major features that are missing from various packages, such as your comment about reaper not having wave redraw or the fact Kristal Audio engine not having midi at all...which may or may not matter to some. No in depth reviews or other such opinion pieces, just matter of fact info.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Nov 19, 2012 01:53 pm

I'm a cheapo... but also have the most genuine respect for open source software developers. There's no eye-candy in these apps, but they do what you want them to do and have all the plugins you could possibly need! Recorded our first album with them...... the 2nd in the works as I speak (only this time with better mic'ing techniques and room setup).

Ardour GTK2 - Free Mixing

Jamin - Free Mastering

Mixbus v2 - $200 Add-on with a ton of enhancements that compliment Ardour.

Hydrogen Drums

Since: Feb 07, 2005

Nov 19, 2012 09:38 pm

For tracking I don't think I would use anything other than my Roland V-Studio. Never ever crashes and that is the one thing that was most important to me for tracking. Nothing kills the mood quicker than.... "ooops my system just locked up. Can we do it again from the top?"

For mixing... SonarX1. Ideally with dual monitors. 2nd Best.... Adobe Audition.

Mastering.... Har-bal

...IMO and Coles Notes version

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Nov 20, 2012 10:38 am

Har-Bal! Amen, brutha!

Lovin Hippie's Linux additions :-)

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Nov 25, 2012 04:12 pm

I'll get to work on the software/plug-in guide soon. Well, once I figure out how I want to structure and write it anyway. I'd like to make it a little more interesting than "just another plug-in list" since I might post it on my own site with the other guides. :D

Speaking of guides, I just finished a draft of a mixing guide I've had on my back burner. I don't try to go into super detail, but touch on the basic and more common aspects of mixing music. It is listed on my site up on the tips and tricks menu. I broke the material up into Workflow, EQing, Pan/Position, Audio Editing, Effects, and Closing.

I tried to touch on the more common issues you might come across in a raw recording. It's not a guide on how to get a good mix, but rather a guide of things to keep in mind and maybe keep an ear out for while working on a mix.


EDIT: Okay, I have a very rough draft of the plug-ins guide up on my site.

I still need to add in links to the plug-ins. (I'll link most to their KVR pages, but some will go straight to the developer pages) I'll get around to adding links hopefully before I leave for the Xmas trip. :)

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Dec 04, 2012 08:10 am

I got my article out there, short but sweet, and informative...it's linked on the front page, hopefully folks will find it a good start and maybe provide some good info to either make a choice or start a good forum discussion.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Dec 10, 2012 02:37 pm

I came across this bit just now. Now, I'm not a mastering guy, but these plugs looked like they are at least worth looking at. I'll probably give them a look myself. Maybe they'll help me "finalize" stuff I work on for the locals. :P


Also, some of the TRacks plugs have become free:


It looks like they are going with the custom shop model very similar to Amplitube, but with some freebies available with the download.

Edit Correction: Okay, on the TRacks custom shop thing, it looks like the only free module included is a parametric EQ, their "Classic EQ" better than nothing I guess, hah. And I guess the extra metering/scope/analyzer are nice for some people.

So, between the two I mentioned, I think the TerryWest MHorse plugin is the more versatile freebie.

Hobbyist musician,pro recorder
Since: May 15, 2007

Dec 16, 2012 05:28 pm

LSAMP, an ancient and abandonware program that disappeared after someone bought out the original developer (lanasoft). After much futile searching I finally found the program again, but darned if I can find the usage tips (a web page someone put up to tell how to use it)...I have the program if anyone wants it but I don't have a web page anywhere so I uploaded it to this link, but it will only be up until 12-23-12. It's basically an eq unit and two compressors with gain.


Since: Apr 03, 2002

Dec 19, 2012 05:12 am

So, are those plugins? What standard? VST? Might be worth giving them a shot.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Jan 09, 2013 06:41 am

I finally updated the list on my site with links to the plug-ins. Copy/Pasting into this box seems to kill the links behind the text, though. :/

But if anyone wants to see the list, it's here, links and all:

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