Digital Performer 4.5 full review
Digital Performer, the film composer’s favourite Audio/MIDI sequencer, reached version 4.5 in time to start off the new year by issuing a fresh challenge to the likes of Logic Pro and Cubase SX. Although it has never enjoyed the more widespread popularity of its rivals here in Europe, it was the leading software in this genre over in the US at several times in the past. In fact, it is the oldest sequencer among the ‘big 5’ currently vying for the top spot, having first been introduced as far back as 1985.
Perhaps the most obvious new feature is the Consolidated Window. This presents the Track List, Sequence Editor, Mixing Board, Waveform Editor and other windows all together in one large window with tabs across the top to let you select various combinations of these. This is a unique approach to managing the growing number of windows that DP 4.5, like Logic and Cubase, expects you to cope with – and it works well. DP’s QuickScribe window has also been enhanced in several ways, the most interesting being the new Film Cues view. This lets film composers view cue points with respect to beats on the timeline along with their SMPTE timecode and beat locations. DP 4.5 also makes it easy to work with virtual instruments. When you add a dedicated Instrument track, you choose from the list of installed virtual instruments and DP automatically inserts this instrument onto the new track.
DP 4.5 has new beat-detection and tempo-analysis features that can analyze any audio that contains rhythmic music to figure out where the beats are. It can then quantize or apply a groove to the audio – using time-stretching rather than beat slicing. DP 4.5 also has an Adjust Beats feature that adjusts the position of a beat by dragging it in the time ruler. DP 4.5 extends this feature by letting you drag beats in the part of the Sequence Editor that displays MIDI and audio data by dragging on the display grid directly – making this even more intuitive in operation.
In recent versions, MOTU has added features aimed at pop/dance music to help it to compete more effectively. Now it’s aligned even more closely with Pro Tools, and particularly with the TDM hardware with which DP 4.5 interfaces extremely effectively.
DP 4.5 is much better at this than Logic Pro, for example, and allows you to use any type of Pro Tools plug-ins including TDM, HTDM, RTAS and AudioSuite. You cannot use DP 4.5’s MAS plug-ins while using the DAE to interface with the TDM hardware (although you can output audio via this hardware using MOTU’s MAS interface). And DP 4.5 doesn’t yet support TDM’s surround mixing features, although you can mix for surround using MAS.