Seeking an accessible digital audio work station for macOS

App Developer

Hello applevis user,,
I want to make a recording studio at my home. But the only computer device I have is macbook pro. I do not have an iMac, mac mini or mac pro. What macbook can work well? And what DAW applications can i use? Sorry if my english is bad. Because i use google translation. thanks.

Forum: 

#1 I'm a professional audio engineer. Let me help you.

Club AppleVis Member

Hi. First off, let me give you a more personal means of introducing myself than just my Applevis user name. My name is Chris, and I live in North Carolina, in the US.

First off, please don't apologize about your english. I understand exactly what you're needing. - It's quite OK! Smile.

Actually, a macbook pro will be just fine most likely. Do you know by chance what year this macbook was made? For example, late 2015, mid 2016, etc?

You've got several possibilities of things you could try. I guess that my first question to you would be, what are you wanting to record exactly? To be more specific on that question, what I mean is, do you want to record music, are you wanting to mix other people's music, are you wanting to do mainly spoken word, this will better help me understand how to best direct you in your investment.

This has been argued by some people, but I'm going to tell you based on me being in this field for over 15 years, ProTools, made by Avid, formerly made by Digidesign, is probably going to be your best bet. I fully understand that it is not the cheapest route to take, and that it is quite expensive, but trust me. In the long run, you'll be thanking me, I promise! The thing about ProTools is, it's completely industry standard. By what I mean is, if you go to any big time recording studio, I don't mean some little locally ran mom and pop's studio in the side of a randown barn outside someone's home. I mean, if you go to any major studio in the production field, like RCA, MCA, EMI, Motown, etc. I can pretty much 100% promise you, guaranteed, they'll be using some form of a ProTools rig setup. Now, to what extent they'll be using ProTools, I can't fully tell you that; it depends completely on the studio itself, but I can! tell you, like I said, they'll be most likely using it to some degree, if not entirely. What makes this so nice for you to have a working licensed copy of ProTools yourself is, let's say you record something at your home studio. You then, theoretically could then copy your ProTools session on to a USB thumb drive or the like, travel to a studio of your choice, give the engineer in the control room your flash drive, and he/she could plug it into a mac, pull up ProTools, as they'd most likely have it, being it's standard what most all studios these days use in the pro grade field, and could load up your session, then continue right where you left off at home. He/she could make tweaks, add things to the recording, take things away, edit the audio, mix and master the audio, etc. Then, he could resave the session, and you then could take the modifications home with you on that same drive, load it up in your DAW at home, and work as well.

There are other DAWS out there you could use. Garageband comes with the mac, however in my opinion, it's somewhat limited, and if you really want to be serious about this, I promsie you that most high end studios, if you tell them I want to use Garageband, they're gonna most likely laugh in your face. I wouldn't do so, but I know many who would. The other thing to consider is accessibility. Though Garageband and things like Logic Pro X are both accessible with Voiceover, please don't misunderstand me here, they're quite confusing in a lot of respects, especially for the beginner user of audio production software.

Avid has a very long time commitment to helping individuals and for keeping their products totally accessible. Again, Avid being the makers of ProTools.

You also can get Reaper. And actually, I'm not going to knock Reaper either. Reaper is a darn nice DAW both on Windows and on the mac, and actually is extremely easy to use! The only thing about Reaper that I'd say to you to keep in mind is, it's not exactly the most industry standard. It's becoming such in some studios, yes, but it's still not something that most studios are going to have. This being said, you're looking at about $700 for ProTools, as compared to $60 for Reaper. Though ProTools has no trial, Reaper does. ProTools does have a free version which is called ProTools First, but it is so stripped down it's almost not even worth it in my opinion. Not only that, I'm not sure if it's accessible or not. Last I heard, I don't think it was very much so, though I could be wrong on that, so please know I don't want to spread inaccurate info. I'm saying I don't think it is accessible, but I am willing to be proven wrong.

It's so stripped down though, even if it is accessible, I don't think it's going to really give you a good idea of what ProTools with the full fledged setup can do.

I also offer 1 on 1 Skype training on the use of ProTools.

Further there is a mailing list now of about 100 or so of us blind individuals, me included, who use ProTools professionally on a daily basis for a living. We'd love to have you join and ask any questions. Don't worry at all about your language barrier. I promise, you'd be welcomed with open arms. Absolutely you would!

To subscribe, send a blank e-mail with no subject and no body, making sure to delete any signatures you may have if any to:

PTAccess+subscribe@googlegroups.com

Notice the plus sign in the above address. That wasn't a typo. That was done very intentionally.

Once on the list, to post, send a message to:

PTAccess@googlegroups.com

Be sure to tell them that Chris Gilland recommended you join. Everyone there pretty much knows me by name.

We don't all clame to know everything over there, but we're willing to help. Certainly by far there are people on that list who know boatloads more than I know! A few people worth really really really mentionning who are notorious over there for being absolutely phenominal! are Slau, Kevin Reeves, Chuck Reichel, and Venni Pedola, just to name a few. I have nothing at all but absolutely incredibly good things to say about them, and I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for them!

I'd rather not give my e-mail out on this forum, mainly as a spam precaution, but if you'd like to DM me on Twitter, I'd be happy to talk more to you. My Twitter name is @blessed_sparrow.

http://www.twitter.com/blessed_sparrow

Finally, if you'd like to get ahold of me on Facebook, and talk, my profile is at:

http://www.facebook.com/chris28210

I'd be more than delighted to answer any questions you have.

God bless, and happy recording!

Chris.

#2 This brings up a question I've been meaning to ask now.

Hi.
I was wondering with ProTools, how pluguins were handled. I'm still a bit confused about if they'd be handled in the app, or if they weren't accessible plug-ins, I couldn't use them. Take SampleTank for IK multimedia. From opening their app, it is not accessible, but I am wondering if it would be as a plug-in. Thanks for your time.

#3 It depends on what you need to do

It highly depends on what you need. Garageband comes with every Mac and has many sounds if you are into midi instruments and loops. I don't own ProTools, but I know it is very accessible with VoiceOver. I wouldn't ignore Logic especially if you are into midi instruments and loops, but need more than what Garageband can provide. Reaper is quite accessible, but not without installing some third party scripts which makes it even more accessible. It's also much less expensive than Protools and Logic. There's also Amadeus Pro which works very nicely for editing audio. All of these should run reasonably well on a fairly recent MacBook Pro, depending on the specifications of the computer and the tasks you wish to accomplish.

#4 Question about PT, and singing Reaper's praises

Hi Chris, I'm not exactly professional, but I've been doing music creation and audio theatre sound design and mixing for several years now. I started on Sony Sound FOrge (boy what a mistake that was, trying to mix on a single-track editer), then audacity (better) and finally Reaper. I do love reaper - keeping in mind I'm on a PC and have some rudimentary vision to get past the inaccessible bits) but the thing about Reaper is it's almost ... too customizable. The learning curve is huge. That and the scripts I use with the PC seem to have been abandoned. I've been curious about Protools, even though I probably won't be able to afford it or a Mac any day soon. I was curious about its accessibility though. I understand from you and others that it works very well, but what about for things like automation envelopes I haven't run into a single DAW which handles automation accessibly.

#5 Protools with speech tutorials

On the ProTools with speech site, they list automation as one of the bullet points they discuss. I purchased the tutorial last summer and just went and found the section that talks about automation and it does seem possible. http://protoolswithspeech.com

#6 Let's start with the question by Mitchel:

Club AppleVis Member

OK, Mitchel, I'm just going to go down through all these comments in chronological order. So, we'll start with your question.

It really depends on the plugin. Most of the plugs that come stock with ProTools will work quite well straight out of the box, and these include things such as reverbs, delays, choruses, flangers, distortion, EQ, compression, etc. If you purchase, or download a free, either/or plugin, it might or might not, same as goes any software be accessible.

You brought up a very valid point about asking if these plugins were separate applications altogether or not. Again, this really depends heavily on the actual plugin. I'll give you a perfect example. There is a plugin I have by a company called Synthogy. Basically, it is a software virtual piano sample engine. You can load the plugin up within ProTools and use it there, but in addition to doing that, there is a stand-alone application which you can launch, which will do nothing more than let you play the various samples being triggered by midi events.

As for what determines if a plugin is accessible or not, the best way that I could answer this question is to say it like this: if the plugin has automatable parameters, then usually, yes, it will be at least somewhat accessible. To what extent, I just can't tell ya. It depends on the plugin.

Here's a little history for you...

Back when Digidesign was in existance and owned ProTools, before Avid took over, you had plugins made both 3rd party or not which were bassed on a format called Rtas, pronounced R tass.

Basically, these plugins usually 90% of the time worked out of the box. There was that other 10% yes, but it was rare. These plugins were written in a particular language. Now, by language, I'm speaking here of the programming language, not a speaking language of tongue.

The problem is, these plugin windows had to go somewhere within ProTools. Therefore, what Digidesign did, at that time was, they created what's known as a floating window. I won't go into much technicality of what floating windows are, as that's kind of irrellavent, but the point I want you to take from this is, you can't, from a developer's programming standpoint, just slap a window any old where, and say, boo'oom! There's your window. Hauigh! My name is plugin X. You have to somehow embed that plugin into a placeholder, if you will. You ask why the technical explanation of this. Trust me on this. I'm going somewhere with this, I swear. Just hear me out on this.

So, Digidesign created these so-called floating windows to host the user interfaces of whatever plugin needs to be loaded. So, you'd load up the plugin. Then what behind the scenes would happen is, that floating window would be called/invoked. Then, the plugin itself would load inside of that floating window. In theory, this was fine, as the plugin usually would be written in the exact same coding language as the floating window. So, everything matched up.

Now, here comes along Avid. They, through updates to ProTools said, we want to do away with Rtas. It's just old legacy code that's out of date, quite frankly. So, now, we're going to go over to this new format for plugins called AAX. that's A, A, X. Don't get this confused with AU: which is an audio unit. Those are two totally different things.

The issue is, Digidesign never gave Avid that source code for the floating windows which the plugins should reside within. Therefore, Avid was kind of at a predicament. They now had to come up with a way to redesign that floating window, yet keep the back end low level interface the same. For this reason, they recoded that whole window from scratch.

Well, because of them doing this, what has happened is, a lot of plugins broke as far as accessibility goes as now the correct accessibility API's and hooks are no longer linked up correctly. They're no longer valid.

A good annalogy would be, think of someone designing an application in Microsoft visual basic, then trying to compile that code on something which only would support Swift. It ain't gonna happen.

When I say parameters in a plug that are automatable, what I mean by that is, simply that the values can be changed. I'm not speaking here of automation, although certainly, that could be done.

As long as a setting could be modified, all plugins, up above the content within that floating window have a popup button which allows the user to save the current state of the plugin to a preset. So, let's say you have a compressor. You've set your settings up like attack, release, threshold, etc. the way you like it. Rather than you now having to go back and manually each time set those configurations up again, you could just save it as a preset. Next time you open up that plugin, you'd call up that preset, and boom! all your settings now are dialed in correctly.

The reason that I mention presets is to say, what a lot of people have done is, they've had sighted people go through on these inaccessible plugins, set certain parameters, then save them as a custom preset. That plug I have from Synthogy, Ivory, is a great example. By default, the plugin is accessible with one major problem. The patch sample list where you select what piano modeler to use, like a Steinway concert hall, an Itallian grand, etc, is not accessible. This means, if you simply load up the plugin, then try to play, nothing will be heard. This is because you've not loaded a sample into the plugin. So, someone sighted went through and basically selected a concert grand, then saved that preset, and called it "Concert Grand Piano." So now, provided you have the custom presets, which I do, even though the plugin itself isn't totally accessible, you can use those presets to your advantage. You load the concert grand piano preset which was custom saved/made, and boom! There ya go! Arm your track, and play. Boom, there's your piano now loaded correctly and preconfigured for the best sound.

So, in conclusion, Mitchel, what I'm trying in all of this to say is, yes, plugins can be made accessible by means of custom presets, but they not all will be out of the box. It just depends.

#7 Now for Remy_C's question.

Club AppleVis Member

Hi Remy_C.

So, first of all, let's start with your comment about Reaper. This goes for both the mac, and for Windows, by the way, and either way I answer this question, it'll be rellavant to both platforms identically.

You said you're using a PC. This would make complete sense why you think the scripts are out of date. You'd not have this problem over on the mac, as I vbetcha I know what you're using, and they don't exist on the mac side.

Let me guess. You're probably using Reaper in combination with Rea Access, am I correct? If so, there's your whole problem, right there! Rea Access firstly never was ported over to the mac side of things. It only supported, key word here, supported, JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, and System Access. The thing is, that code has way long sense been abandened. There are far more up to date sollutions. Yes, you still will use Reaper, but what you actually need is something called Osara. That's O, S, as in sierra, A, R, A.

Basically, Osara works both on Windows with all those above screen readers mentioned, and in addition, it also works ported over to OSX on the mac, and actively is in development.

OK, as for automation in ProTools, I think it was you that asked this, forgive me, I'm a bit scatterbraned here, LOL! Yes. You have several types of automation. You have Read, which just reads the automation events written to a track. You then have write, which obviously writes the events. You have latch, and you have touch. Latch and touch are a bit tricky to explain, and mainly they're going to be used more if you have a physical control surface. I won't bore you with describing those, but, the over all idea is, you select the audio timeframe in your ruler, then select the track within the track list table of ProTools that you want the automation being written to. Yes, you can do envelopes. I won't cover that though. Basically though, you'd do that with an envelope plugin. Command+numpad 4 will let you select the types of automation to write, such as volume, plugin, panning, etc. When done, hit command+numpad 4 again to close the automation window.

Once your tracks are selected, you have them set to write, touch, or latch, you then perform in realtime whatever you want automated. Then once done, you just move the automation menus on each track back to read. This way you don't accidentally write over your events. There's a little more to it than that, but that's the basic idea. I use automation almost constantly! Yes, it works wonders!

#8 Regarding ProTools with Speech

Club AppleVis Member

Hi Carlos.

Don't get the wrong idea here. ProTools with Speech was, and still is, very good! I have nothing but good things about Matt and Rod to say! They both did an amazing bangup job on that tutorial, and I myself actually bought it back in the days, all 3 modules, recording, editing, and mixing. Unfortunately, a lot of the material in those tutorials is out of date. You have to remember that those were created back in the days of ProTools 10, maybe 11, but I'm thinking more 10. We're now up to PT 12.7 as far as I know. A lot has changed. Yes, these tutorials are great for just getting started, and I'd not discourage people from checking them out. I think they still are a very fantastic resource. So much so, I'd say, if it wasn't for them, I'd probably not be where I now am at to a large degree. I just want to set people's expectations correctly though to make sure all understand that they *were* working on an older version of PT, so some things they mention either might not be correct anymore, or, there may now be a more efficient way of doing things than there was back then. A great example of this is selecting tracks within the track list table. It used to be that you'd select the first track you need. Then, Command+shift+P would select tracks there above, and ctrl+shift+semicolon would select tracks contiguously there below. If you wanted to select non! contiguously, you'd have to hide all tracvks in between, then use those commands I just mentioned after doing so. Now, it's just a matter, interact with the table, VO+down arrow to the track you want to select, and hit VO+space on it which will toggle it between being selected or not. The other older method definitely still works, but, why? It's totally confusing, and frankly, is a really sloppy way of doing it! Back in the PT with speech days, we didn't have a choice. Now, we do. Also now with the advancement of the creation of FloTools, a lot can be done with keyboard shortcuts rather than having to VO all around the screen like before. For instance. You want a plugin on insert A of your first track, hit one command to focus on that first track, hit another command to open the insert popup for insert A on that particular track, select your plugin, and bam! You're done! No middle muck VOIng around the screen like before. I just don't want people getting the wrong inpression of those tutorials, nor of the current accessibility status of ProTools just based on what they here in those tutorials. Hopefully, that's fair enough. I'm not saying they're bad. They're not. They are actually excellent! I just want people to beware. I'ts kind a that buyer beware principle. Ya know what I'm sayin'?

#9 Free Pro Tools

Hi Chris,For the total beginner, at what point would you say that I would out-grow that version and be able to justify buying the full version? I'm a former pro musician, just getting back into 'getting my chops together wanting to lay down some tracks so as not to lose ideas for arrangements or compositions.

#10 Thanks for the answer

App Developer

Hello Chris, and a friend of the applevis forum. I want to introduce myself. My name is DharmaPutra. I come from Indonesia. I can not speak english, finally i use google translation. Once again forgive me if my question is hard to understand .. how to know macbook specification? I want to learn to make a song project, and learn to make midi. I want to be an aranger. But what should i do? And what proTules can be used? The software is very very expensive ...

#11 ProToolsWithSpeech tutorials.

App Developer

With all do respect to Chris's assertions regarding ProToolsWithSpeech tutorials. As one of the folks who worked to produce these tutorials, I would say that while it is in fact true that Pro Tools 12, has increased in accessibility 20 fold over previous versions, one thing we worked hard to do in our training was to not focus on limitations of previous versions and/or version specific methods for doing things. In other words these new features and fixes are in addition to the workflows we have established. We teach a workflow that has been extremely successful, and offers an emersion in to using PT with voiceover. Yes, there are some areas that you can approach differently, but overall, a vast majority of concepts are absolutely applicable. Also, even in those areas where things are different, sometimes knowing the older or different method for doing things allows for troubleshooting when things don't work as intended.
As far as keystrokes we teach not one of them that I can think of has been eliminated in PT 12.
We have considered updating the tutorials but in all honesty, when we considered the areas we would change, there is likely only a hand full of major things that we would want to focus on. With this in mind, considering the 3 months it took to produce 7 hours of training, and we both have full time jobs, as well as musical projects we work on the side, it has not been possible at this point.
Hope this helps.

#12 If I buy proTules for a

App Developer

If I buy proTules for a reasonably high price, then does the VST plugin have to be purchased separately?

#13 Thank you

I meant to respond to this along time ago. I am indeed using Reaaccess. I find it mostly works. I've heard of OSARA. When I tried it, I found it didn't work so well for me and I quickly changed back to Reaaccess. I'm thinking I need to give it another try though.