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(a work in progress)

Dragon Does Digital

Well, I finally went out and did it.

After years of using nothing but analog (a series of TASCAM cassette multitrack recorders, from the Porta 03 to the 488 MkII), and even foolishly telling some of my friends how I'd "never mess with digital recording", I went out and did it anyway.

Why wasn't I interested before?

  • good sound cards were too limited in capabilities and very proprietary
  • good sound cards were too bloody expensive
  • heard too many stories about software problems and incompatibilities
  • didn't need digital recording and CDs just to make tapes for my friends
  • didn't want to spend a lot more money on recording...heck, I already spent a lot more than on my guitars and amps!

So why did I decide to join the binary side of the Force?

  • newer sound cards had more channels of I/O and standardization
  • sound card prices, like all other computer equipment, had come down
  • Cakewalk Audio 6 may have sucked, but Cakewalk 8 had been released
  • the ability to burn CDs for the car and for data storage helped the decision
  • this site was getting more important to me, and how relevant could it be without covering digital...and how could I really talk about digital recording without any real experience?

Choosing Equipment

After a great deal of research on the Web, including reading every review and page I could find (and believe me, I know how to find stuff!), I settled on the following equipment (usual disclaimer: what was right for me might be totally wrong for you):



  • Cakewalk Pro Audio Deluxe (now upgraded to Cakewalk Sonar XL) (this was a no-brainer because I was upgrading from Cakewalk 3 (more proof of how long I resisted digital!))
  • Soundtrek Jammer Pro (I've used this one for years also...it's not just a band in a box, it's a whole truckload of virtual musicians!)
  • PG Music PowerTracks Pro Audio (this was also an upgrade because I had an older version too)
  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge (you gotta have a good audio editor, and this is my best choice for the money)
  • Ahead Nero or Cakewalk Pyro for burning audio CDs.

One thing I learned from my research was that if you're serious about music on the computer, try to dedicate a computer just for music. This will let you optimize things for recording, and because you'll have far less software on the thing than if you used it for everything, much less likely to crash. I've found this was excellent advice, though obviously not everyone can afford to do this.
-- Dragon

More to Come!

Including software and hardware reviews of the above, how I work with it (and how I use the digital stuff with my older equipment), and a complete step-by-step guide...from recording to mixdown to burning CDs!

P.S. Even if you're a confirmed Cubase hound or Cakewalk hater, it turns out that the Cakewalk newsgroup is one of the best resources anywhere for learning about digital recording on computers (if you click the link and your news server doesn't carry it, try news.cakewalk.com or DejaNews). If I had found it just one week before I did, I would have not only saved myself tons of debugging problems, but also would have learned a few tricks of overclocking and the latest hard disk advice that might have gotten me a much bigger disk for the same money.

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