Few if any music production software titles have enjoyed the attention and hype that has surrounded Bitwig Studio for the last few years, with a huge amount of gossip and speculation doing the rounds, both online and direct from the lips of producers.
Normally a DAW takes many years and a huge amount of advertising to gain its reputation, but that has not been the case with Bitwig, which has attracted the sort of interest normally reserved for the top-tier titles such as Cubase, Logic, Ableton and the like — which is remarkable for something that has up till now been vapour-ware. Clearly something big is afoot, so makers and producers of music should pay close attention to what could be a possible game-changer.
Bitwig is the result of many years of hard toil by a team of developers whose core is made up of defectors from Ableton. So it is no surprise that Bitwig shares more than a few similarities with the latter, but the question remains: is Bitwig an Ableton rip-off or does it offer enough of its own innovations and features to stand on its own two feet and live up to the reputation that precedes it?
The short answer is yes. While there are undeniable similarities to Ableton Live, Bitwig has enough of its own features and flavours to make it stand apart from Ableton (or any other DAW software for that matter), including cross-platform compatibility which includes PC, Mac and Linux support, meaning Reaper has some serious competition in the Linux market.
Clearly aimed at the Ableton and Reason market base Bitwig is a fully self-contained Digital Audio Workstation that contains everything needed to create and finish a professional track, without needing to purchase extra plug-ins such as soft-synths or FX, thanks to the stunning array of instruments and effects on offer within the program.
Producers who have their favourite tools in the form of VST plug-ins won't need to leave these behind as unlike Reason, Bitwig have gone for an open platform approach that supports both 32 and 64-bit VST plug-ins and even has a ‘sandbox mode’ that ensures that when a plug-in crashes, Bitwig will stay operational without needing to restart the program or computer.
When it comes to Bitwig's workflow, Ableton users will feel immediately at home thanks to the two-window interface, with one window dedicated to mixing and clip launch duties and the other taking care of linear arrangement. An immediately noticeable improvement over the way Ableton handles workflow is that Bitwig enables both clip launch view and the arrangement view to be seen side by side in the same window, which is something that can only be done using two windows in Ableton.
While Ableton recently added dual monitor support, Bitwig again trumps this with the ability to use three monitors to create a truly professional workstation environment. The way Bitwig handles audio is also very similar to Ableton, along with similar instruments and effects which means that Ableton users will master this new software in no time.
And thanks to a well-designed interface that is very user-friendly newcomers to the music-making game will find themselves making music quick sharp.
Bitwig's user interface manages to strike a nice balance between the amount of controls and features on-screen and the use of pop-ups and extra windows to get to advanced parameters. While the user interface is somewhat busy, it isn't overwhelming and sections are logically laid-out, limiting the amount of time spent searching for tools and parameters as well as reducing the amount of mouse clicks and windows required to get various tasks done.
The layout of the user interface is highly customisable too and with a minimal amount of effort users can create the perfect workflow for their needs. As previously mentioned, the clip and arrange views are very similar to Ableton, with a good range of features and tools for fine-tuning at one's fingertips. Bitwig also comes with a huge range of goodies onboard, with over 50 instruments, effects and utilities just waiting to be tweaked.
The range of samples, FX and instruments offered are of a very high standard, and are more than capable of being used to create high-end recordings.
As a new piece of software Bitwig is something of an anomaly. Not only does it feel very slick and mature, it also has a reputation that usually takes years to come by.
The user interface is slick and the workflow is fast and fun, making it perfect for both new producers and seasoned professionals. And with such a reasonable price-tag, Bitwig is sure to find its way into countless studios in the coming months.
BUILD QUALITY 8
EASE OF USE 9
VALUE FOR MONEY 8.5
SOUND QUALITY 8
Ableton-style clip launch and arrange workflow, fantastically customisable user interface and a great selection of instrument, FX and clips.
Given Bitwig is at version 1.0, there are surprisingly few disappointments.
A brand-new DAW system that has created a huge buzz in the industry, even before its release, Bitwig is a fully-featured production workstation that is incredibly slick and bursting with fantastic features.
The analogue vs digital debate is dead
There is no point getting bogged down into debates over which is better, analogue or digital — use what is available and sounds best, and get on with making music!
Don't over-produce tracks
It is very easy to fall into the trap of over-producing tracks and sucking the life and soul out of them. Once something sounds good and moves you emotionally, move on to the next thing.
Be sparing with stereo tracks
Only use stereo tracks for instruments and samples that really need them, this will cut down on the clutter when mixing and make getting the stereo balance right easier.
Find your point of reference
Having a good selection of classic tracks to take to studios and live gigs will make adjusting your ears to new listening environments much quicker and easier.
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