Could this be the incarnation that moves Tracktion into the big league?
Waveform is the latest DAW release from the Tracktion Corporation, drastically upgrading T7 with a new look and improved feel. Having reviewed many items in this product line, I can confidently state Waveform - which is available in Waveform Basic, Waveform+ and Waveforum Ultimate flavours - is the company's most innovative and exiting release yet. It's a major step in the right direction, and one that may well move Waveform into the big leagues of the DAW world.
The first update is a set of exciting tools to inspire music creation itself, even if you're not a classically trained musician.
The new MIDI pattern generator allows you to create interesting chord progressions that are in-key with your music, affording you a huge range of different ideas for new original material. This includes access to suitable suggestions for next chords based on what you have already played, and adding notes to change the sonority and voicing of chords, through to full pre-made progressions. This MIDI can then be further manipulated to generate appropriate basslines, arpeggios and melodies to compliment what you've already come up with. This is an outstanding tool if you're getting into music production for the first time.
Another neat touch is a new update to the loop auditioning feature that allows previews of multiple loops simultaneously. So all of the cool sample packs on your hard drive can be tried out side-by-side to give you an insight into which samples will be complimentary, with your chosen samples then batch-dropped onto your live track. This addition is incredibly simple, but interesting and powerful.
Mixer, DAW Essentials and Master Mix
For modern music productions, the final mix is important and can even be the defining factor of a record. Love or hate this state of electronic music, Tracktion have responded by updating the mixer to make it more intuitive, while simultaneously giving you more control over the quality of your sound. By giving you control of each channel's plug-ins and parameters all in one place that isn't the arrangement screen, Waveform allows you to begin to separate the two parts of the dance music process - the creative and the technical.
If you plump for the Waveform+ option, this is enhanced by the DAW Essentials collection that comes bundled with it. This includes an equaliser, dynamics processing, reverb, delays and a handful of other creative effects. This allows you to really craft your sound and build your plug-in collection. What's more, once installed the collection also appears in any other DAWs you may be using.
The Master Mix is an EQ, multi-band compressor and limiter all rolled into one, and is the final step for polishing your mix. The quality of processing here is impressive; however, my honest advice would be that a mastering engineer has years of experience, some incredible tools and an acoustically perfect room. So the Master Mix is a useful tool for creating rough masters to send out as demos, for instance, but will never take the place of a professional mastering engineer.
If you're thinking about upgrading from a previous version of Tracktion software and already know and enjoy the company's products, then you should consider updating to Waveform Ultimate. This comes with the addition of some wonderful extras such as BioTek, an interesting synth that creates rich, multi-layered and interesting sounds. If you're new to music production this allows you to create interesting sounds quickly and simply, while more seasoned producers will appreciate the ability to get under the hood and adjust and manipulate sounds to your liking. BioTek is fun to use, and while it may not take centre stage in my future productions, it will definitely be called upon for inspiration!
Tracktion’s improvements in Waveform are a wonderful step in the right direction, giving more power and new creative and technical tools to the end user. The ethos is that Waveform is for music production only, and doesn’t try to be a jack of all trades, which makes sense.
If that's the case, though, then the workflow needs to be intuitive and fast, and while Tracktion have made giant leaps in the right direction, the menus and the way that simple tasks are achieved can still feel a tad clumsy - though admittedly this won't be a problem for regular users. My advice is to take advantage of the 30-day free trial and see what's best for your needs. I doubt Waveform will become my sequencer of choice, but its interesting features and functions will be very interesting on those days when inspiration is slow to arrive.
Words: Matt Chapman
Review score: 4/5
Waveform is available now, priced $99 (£76*) for Waveform Basic, $150 (£116*) for Waveform+ or $200 ($156*) for Waveform Ultimate. Upgrade options for existing Tracktion users are also available - for full details, see Tracktion.com
*All currency conversions approximate but correct at time of posting