I started to use Garageband at the start of 2016. I had wanted to get back into home recording and my wife had a 2013 iMac that she used infrequently and kindly donated to the cause. I thought that Garageband was fantastic. I still do. After a year or so I took the step of upgrading to Logic Pro X. The upgrade cost £200, and whilst I did not have the skillset to unlock and utilise all that Logic had to offer, I felt it was money well spent.
The problem was not Logic, it was the iMac. Seven years old and no doubt creaking under the weight of the numerous new projects I had created, it ran slowly. As well as that, I had been a Windows user for many years and struggled to adapt to the MacOS: Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave… I downloaded a prompt sheet of Mac commands but still felt as though I was having to create in a different language. Learning the language of Logic seemed far more straightforward than learning the language of iMac.
The third problem contributed to the second problem: because the iMac was a stationary desktop, it stayed located in the studio. This meant that I would have to be in the studio in order to learn. Tutorial videos are all well and good – but with home recording, as with many subjects, there is no substitute for learning by doing. I wanted to be able to experiment with Logic and get to grips with the MacOS whilst sitting in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, or on the train. I have a short concentration span at the best of times and was simply unable to summon the discipline required to sit still for extended periods of time.
The one piece of advice I would give to any aspiring creative is to learn to love the process. And if you can’t love it then at least enjoy it. And if you can’t enjoy it then perhaps that particular discipline isn’t for you, unless you are truly gifted or have a burning desire to pursue it. I was simply unable to work in a productive manner and started to hate the process. I would enter the cabin, turn on the iMac and it would take ten minutes for Logic to load. Sometimes the keyboard or mouse would require a battery change, often there were innumerable updates. I felt drained of enthusiasm by the time it took to get ready to actually record.
This situation continued for month and I did very little recording as a result. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed that the only option was to buy a MacBook but they were so expensive and I still felt far more proficient on Windows than on MacOS. The solution was to change DAW. But I could now navigate Logic fairly confidently and it seemed a terrible waste to start using something new after I had paid for Logic.
I downloaded Pro Tools First, the free version with limited functionality. I could always upgrade if I connected with it, even if it did seem quite expensive. I also found the subscription model slightly confusing. I wanted to love Pro Tools in the same way that I had always wanted to love Martin acoustic guitars – but I had never played a Martin which had captivated me.
I didn’t connect with Pro Tools. After Logic it seemed dull and uninspiring. I am sure that is not the case and, in all honesty, I played around with it for less than an hour before abandoning ship. I glanced briefly at other DAWs. My friend Rob recommended Reaper. As an Atari St obsessed child of the ’80s, Cubase appealed for nostalgic appeal. Cubase was also the DAW of choice in ‘The Laboratory’ (also known as Highfield Street Studios) in Liverpool where I worked as a tape op in the mid-’90s.
Several months passed with no more recording, and I started thinking about buying a MacBook again. But I couldn’t afford to and I didn’t really want to. Truth be told, I started to resent Logic for handcuffing me to Apple, or perhaps that should be vice versa. Just in case you’re wondering, I have two iPhones and an iPad so I am not allergic to Apple by any stretch of the imagination.
The search for a new DAW began again.
I read a few reviews on the internet. PreSonus Studio One had a number of favourable reviews, a couple of which caught my eye. I went to the PreSonus website and downloaded Prime, ‘the fully functioning free version’ of Studio One. I decided to play around and record a couple of tracks. If I liked it I could upgrade to one of the other packages. I recorded a track of me playing acoustic guitar and singing. I just used the inbuilt mic on my DELL laptop. At that point I was more interested in user experience than sound. I added a couple of FX and was intrigued to see that was done via drag and drop. I liked what I saw, took my laptop to the cabin and connected it to my Focusrite interface. I recorded a couple of acoustic tracks using an SM58 and Rode NT1 and listened back on headphones and Yamaha monitors. It sounded great. I added some reverb and compression.
I was sold and decided to upgrade immediately. I looked at the bronze, silver and gold packages on the PreSonus website: Prime, Artist and Professional. Prime was free. Artist cost £85.20. Professional cost £344.40. Hmm. Artist was affordable whereas Professional cost almost twice as much Logic had done. Then I saw another package ‘Sphere’, PreSonus Sphere membership benefits included licenses for the complete collection of PreSonus’ software for recording, mixing, scoring, and producing, including Studio One® Professional, Notion, every single PreSonus add-on for both applications, plus dozens of sample and loop libraries. The price? £150.27 a year or £13.62 a month. Whilst I preferred the idea of actually owning the product as opposed to renting, £13.62 a month seemed more than reasonable for everything that was included in the Sphere package. I could rent Sphere for a couple of months, cancelling my subscription at anytime if I wished to do so. That was three months ago and I haven’t looked back since.