After much excitement and anticipation, new DAW (digital audio workstation) Bitwig Studio 1.0 was released to the public just over a month ago. Of course we were always going to take a closer look at it, but as this type of software is not exactly easy to get around, we decided to spend a little time with it before bringing you our review. We’ve done that now, and are now ready to give you our opinion on the “Ableton killer” DAW…
Ah yes, Ableton. Looking at some of the preview screenshots and videos, of course one could not help but see several similarities to Ableton Live, so we’ve drawn those comparisons here (not least because this reviewer is also a heavy user of Ableton Live 9). To be honest, we worried that Bitwig Studio might actually just turn out to be a copycat product. We were also worried about just how complete a 1.0 software could actually ever be compared to mature DAWs like Ableton, Logic, Cubase, FL Studio and so on, all of which have a long history and have grown immensely over the years. So let’s find out…
Having used it for a month, let us answer the second of the points above first: Yes, Bitwig Studio is complete. We did not find anything that would stop you from using Bitwig as your main DAW to produce music on; in fact, it does the job really well and is stuffed with production goodness. Of course as with any other software there are some things that Bitwig does especially well and some things that in our opinion other software still has still the edge on, but none of those are showstoppers to using Bitwig – and some of Bitwig’s strengths might even encourage you to adopt it as your main DAW right from the off.
We discuss several such features in the accompanying video (see below), so make sure to check it out if you are a producer and already know what you want from your DAW software; there, we list exactly all the features we liked and didn’t like, in detail.
So back to our first concern: Is Bitwig Studio just an Ableton Live copy? Well, it turns out that no, Bitwig Studio has its own take on things – and it’s a take we liked very much. Because ultimately, for us the outstanding thing about Bitwig Studio was not its comprehensive DAW features, rather the workflow it presents you with. Even though it is a fully packed DAW – the kind of software that to most newcomers would be a really intimidating thing – Bitwig makes it all as easy as and intuitive as a DAW could possibly be.
It uses many elements that are very easy for anyone familiar with basic computer use: Things like drag and drop, tabbed views, tabbed projects, easy to re-arrange views and excellent use of multiple monitors. For instance, having a session view and clip launcher view open on two monitors at the same time (yes, these are views you’ll also find in Ableton Live…) was a dream we were having for a long time – and Bitwig Studio is the first software that’s delivered on this.
Not only that, but some DAW makers seem notoriously slow to add features that sections of their user bases spend months or years screaming out for. Yet even as we write this article, updates to Bitwig Studio are on the way, and you can see by the changes being made that the company is really listening to its users. So another plus point is that the makers seem to be really in close touch with their community, which could again prove to be a real driving factor in the software’s success.
So to sum things up. Bitwig Studio is a fully featured DAW with outstanding new workflow possibilities, some features that really have an edge over the competition (we’ve mentioned a few, but also things like chaining and real-time rendering of Midi in audio tracks) – and also some parts, of course, where there is some room for improvement.
The fact that it is also available for Linux of course is something that you have to look at if you are a Linux user, as there is no real competition out there on that OS. We tested on Mac OSX however and it ran really stable and fast, but you do have to have Java installed.
So: Big thumbs up for Bitwig Studio 1.0. It is a fine software with some outstanding features and overall we really like it. Most excitingly, it appears it has the potential with further development to go from really good to absolutely awesome.
• You can check out the free demo version of Bitwig Studio here.
Have you tried Bitwig Studio? Are you tempted to do so? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!