Looking for Music Mixing & Midi Software

I’m currently playing with various Windows-based software to build songs using my midi controller.

My goal is to be able to build songs by myself using samples, loops, midi-based tracks and recording my voice / other instruments.

I got myself an M-Audio Oxygen49 midi controller a few months ago. Nice little piece of hardware.

I’ve been toying with various demo versions of software since then, planning to purchase when I am at least 90% convinced of my happiness with the software.

On the Mac platform, they have a nice piece of free software called ‘Garage Band’. I’ve never used or seen it, but I hear its quite good.

I’ve been searching for similar software for Windows – not necessarily free – that would allow me to take advantage of all the buttons and sliders of my Midi controller.

There’s one person I found on the lookout for such a product that keeps a blog about finding ‘Garage band for Windows’. His research is a good source of information.

So far, I’ve been considering various software and just can’t really decide.

Fruity Loops

I’ve been toying with FL for a while. It is very flexible and powerful.

The demo version comes with a collection of great synthetic instruments. I’ve kind of fallen in love with their Sytrus synth.

Besides that, the samples that comes with it are kind of bland and generic. Maybe the full version is more interesting. Can’t be sure.

One of the things that I love about it is its ability to bind just about any control in the software to the programmable keys of my midi controller. This is something I really like and that I have a hard time finding in other products.

However, I have not actually managed to find a real use for it… I’m still too much of a neophyte with all the mixers and effects to actually tweak the multiple settings – which I guess is where the binding to the keyboard comes in.

Sadly, for some reason, I can’t bind the ‘play’ and ‘record’ buttons on my keyboard, which would be a tremendous help.

I’ve been experimenting with its recording functions, but I keep getting weird delays with the keyboard and the sound. I’m guessing its because I have a crappy sound card. But I have doubts on that, as I don’t get these kind of problems with other software.

All in all, its pretty good. My hurdle comes with price.

The basic prices are reasonable, really. Especially considering that a purchase comes with lifetime of updates.

What annoys me is that most of what I love about the software doesn’t come with the basic version (100$). I loose Sytrus and all other advanced synth instruments, I loose recording of audio as well (wtf?).

The 150$ version has recording and audio editing enabled. That’s good. Sounds reasonable. But I won’t get my synths unless I extend an extra 150$. An that’s going over my budget line.

Of course, I could probably get along just fine without it and use other samples, soundfonds and VST intruments that can be found free or cheap around the net.

Still, it bugs me.

Mixcraft 4

I’ve just started playing with that one. Sadly, the demo lasts only 7 days, which is really not enough. I almost prefer FL’s demo – which has no limit, but does not allow you to save your work.

Anyway, it is a whole lot less expensive than FL. It is simpler and more intuitive – from what I hear, its pretty close to Garage Band.

The instruments that come with it sound decent enough to me.

Recording functions have been working fine. No odd delays with the midi.

So far, sounds like a clear winner – especially on a tight budget.

As far as I know, it doesn’t come with free lifetime upgrades, as FL does. But it has a decent price tag and, frankly, makes for an easier to understand business model. I mean, once everybody has FL, how will they afford to build new versions? Anyway. That’s besides the point.

Mixcraft4 is the first version to have midi. So while the pitch bend wheel works as expected, there’s no way to bind any of the keyboard controls to anything. I don’t know if they plan on doing anything on that front – I’ll probably drop them a line to see.

And that’s probably the only thing holding me back on this one at this point.

I’ve seen a bit of what Mixcraft can do. I think it fits my current skills.

However, I’ve been playing with FL for quite some time and I’ve got to learn the intricacies of the software. I feel it is much more advanced and that I could get frustrated with Mixcraft’s limitations fast enough.

One thing that I’m missing is all the automation recoding (and, as mentioned earlier, keyboard bindings).

Then again, that might be in a few years… Mixcraft has time to get better… and I have time to save for the big version of FL if that’s what I want at that point.

Jury’s still out.

Sony Acid Music Studio

The affordable version seems nice…. but for the same price, it lacks the automation you’ll find in FL.

The full version with automation and all the bells and whistle is just too expensive for a non-pro.

Oh, yeah, and I really like its interface…

Ableton Live

Sounds amazing. But I started with looking at the price and left the building. I’m not about to put 700$ on this. Except if it mows the lawn, shovels the snow in the drive way and changes diapers. Then I’d think about it.

Conclusion, for now…!!!

I’m alternating between Mixcraft and FruityLoops. When I’m on the verge to decide to go for Mixcraft, the lack of automation makes me think twice about skipping on FruityLoops.

Then, the higher cost of FL and my current dissatisfaction with the included samples brings me back to Mixcraft.

I guess I’ll keep experimenting with the demos…