capsule review

Digital Performer 4.52

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Digital Performer 4.52 has a significant edge over its competitors, Logic Pro 7.01 and Cubase SX 3.01: without sacrificing any audio and MIDI-editing power, it’s the easiest to use of these three programs. DP’s new integrated window presents a series of tabs—similar to those in Apple’s Safari Web browser—that allow you to quickly switch between different views of your work. You can drag-and-drop sidebars to view and edit your work without opening extra windows and dialog boxes - this is a huge timesaver.

Like Cubase, DP has improved pitch-independent time slicing and stretching of recorded audio. Its Beat Detection Engine works much like Cubase’s Warp features, allowing you to drag a slider to detect transients in audio. Unlike Cubase, DP can recognize the beat markers in Apple Loops and Sony’s Acid-format loops. (Cubase recognizes Acid loops’ tempo information, but not individual beat slices.) DP doesn’t have the visual tempo-track dragging feature that Cubase has, but I found DP’s time-mapping features a bit more sophisticated, especially when integrated with existing marker controls for video production.

DP is the undisputed champ on any platform when it comes to matching sound and music to video. Version 4.52 widens DP’s lead with the addition of DV output and the ability to display film or video cues on a separate stave when creating notation.

DP also has broader hardware support, with full latency compensation (which Apple has promised to deliver in Logic Pro 7.1, but which was unavailable at press time), and new, deeper DAE support for Digidesign systems. Owners of Digidesign systems will find full support not only for TDM, but also for RTAS and even AudioSuite plug-ins, giving DP broader DAE support than is available in Logic Pro.

There are countless little productivity enhancements in DP, too, from the ability to navigate any interface element with the scroll wheel, to easier-to-use Instrument tracks for soft synths, to plug-ins that only use CPU power when they’re actively processing audio.

DP’s one major downside is that it’s lacking in bundled plug-ins. DP has some profoundly pro effects, including a brilliant new EQ processor, but it lacks the breadth of effects and tools included in Logic. It also fails to include any instruments—which is too bad, given the quality of MOTU’s $295 MX4 synth and $395 Mach Five sampler. Given that DP’s street price is around half of Logic’s, you may prefer to buy only the plug-ins you need, giving you more flexibility (instruments in Cubase and Logic can’t be used in other hosts). But if your toolkit requires a multitude of synths and effects, the a la carte option could wind up costing a lot more than Logic. You’ll want to compare options like buying both DP and Reason (or other instruments) to buying Logic Pro alone, based on what tools you need in your work.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

MOTU’s obsessive level of detail to ensure DP’s ease of use and to include so many time-saving features makes it a great choice both for users just getting started and pros wanting a digital audio workstation that will make them as efficient as possible.

[ Peter Kirn is a composer, musician, and educator. He teaches computer music at Hunter College of the City University of New York and runs the daily music-technology blog]

Digital Performer 4.5’s ingenious Consolidated Window makes managing multiple windows a thing of the past: everything can be kept at a glance, even on a small monitor.
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