Digital Performer 4
You can edit both audio and MIDI at a macro level using the Tracks window; the more-detailed Sequence Editor can be used for cutting-&-pasting to create arrangements. Whether you prefer list or graphical editing, writing a conventional score or programming beats, fine-tuning single MIDI events, or moving entire sections around, Digital Performer has an editor to suit. For more-detailed, sample-accurate audio editing, DP4 offers a Waveform Editor. For MIDI editing, you can choose from the Graphic Editor, Event List, Drum Editor, or QuickScribe notation editor. As with Logic Platinum, DP4 has a Freeze Selected Tracks command. You can think of this as a temporary bounce: it creates a new track that contains a recording of the entire original track, complete with all real-time effects applied. The newly frozen track ‘steals' the voice of the original track, whose voice assignment is then set to None - so you only hear the frozen track play back, and the original track no longer uses CPU resources. Of course, you can always unfreeze the track, make changes to the original, and refreeze it. You can also freeze virtual-instrument MIDI tracks, along with their corresponding aux return track. After a MIDI/aux track-freeze operation, you can disable the original MIDI and aux-track play-enable buttons to free-up CPU resources. DP4 shares many common tools and commands that you may be familiar with from Cubase or Pro Tools. For example, the Tools palette includes an I-beam cursor for selections, a Mute Soundbite tool, and a scissors tool to let you split soundbites, Cubase-style. The Edit menu commands include Heal Separation, which rejoins split soundbites, and Trim Start/End, which does exactly what it says on the tin. But don't worry too much if you make a mistake - DP4 now has unlimited undo/redo, and an Undo History window. It can now also automatically convert audio files to the correct sample rate, format, and tempo. So, for example, you can drag-&-drop Recycle 2 REX or Acid files into your project, and they will automatically snap to your project's tempo. DP4 can also import or export complete multitrack projects from or to Pro Tools via DigiTranslator and OMF. And the editing and transport modes have been enhanced and rationalized to correspond to the conventions used in Pro Tools - which all makes a lot of sense now that Pro Tools is so popular. In many ways, DP4 is the ideal choice as a software front-end to the Pro Tools HD hardware - especially for MIDI-intensive recording sessions. Unfortunately, as it won't work with Digidesign hardware yet, you'll have to be patient if you want to use it in this way. Cubase SX and Nuendo aren't compatible with TDM hardware, so the only other choice would be Logic Platinum. Logic suffers from an ageing and often-confusing user-interface, while Digital Performer's user-interface just gets better and better. However, Cubase and Nuendo are both stiff competition - especially if you aren't using Digidesign hardware.
Digital Performer 4 makes a good choice if you're working to picture, and support for surround sound is excellent. There are four panner plug-ins, for instance, and each audio track can be assigned to any surround-sound format - from LCRS up to 10.2. If you are working on dance music, you'll appreciate DP4's ReWire 2 support that lets you sequence the sound modules in Reason using Digital Performer tracks, then bring the audio from Reason into DP4's mixer. To sum up, DP4 has features to suit just about any type of project, and competes well with its rivals. Mike Collins