Lesser Known DAWs?

Hello! I’m new to the forum and just want to say real quick how cool it is to finally have a forum dedicated to an Aotearoa context for this sorta stuff. Big ups to the admins!

Anyways, I was wondering if anyone on here has any favourite DAWs/music software outside of Ableton/Logic/Reaper/FL/ProTools etc…? I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how there’s so many different ways and ideas and histories around how audio can be created with a computer, but so many of the tools I’m used to present this process in really similar ways (most of which tend to hark back to familiar analogue recording methods). So now I’m curious: what are your picks for music software that moves away from this?

~my pick~

Lately I’ve been exploring this DAW called Usine Hollyhock and, as I slowly get over the design/workflow of it being straight up weird, I’m beginning to find out that it can do most of the stuff I’ve always wanted other DAWs to do (multi-touch, max-style patching, interface building for live performance, “modular” workflows that aren’t arrangement-style etc…). It feels like an approach to computer music that’s a bit less dictated by the “digital tape machine” idea, but also doesn’t require you to get your hands dirty programming.


Also worth a mention - it’s “free” in the way reaper is “free” (which is to say, it’s not, but they’re not going to force you to pay) :wink:


I looked at HH a while back. I wasn’t looking for a DAW but a more media generator environment. I ended up using TouchDesigner.

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Tranzient is a VR based DAW, works with VST3’s only, but there is a workaround with the Kushview Elements vst to handle vst2 etc…
from my little dabble into it… Tranzient allows for multi user situation, so two people can interact and hear the same output mix simultaneously…
note: output only works with the native plugin within tranzient… so inserting your own VST doesnt produce audio on the second users side.

it has midi in… but no midi out… but again theres workarounds to get a midi out… by using the Bomes midi pro translators… so routing midi around can be done… even though i havent tried testing this out… Syncing etc can be done using the kushview elements Vst…

it has the usual step sequencing and some of the basic functionality of Daw…
the diffuculty in using Transient with a already existing setup is the annoyance of removing your headset and hand-controls to use your existing hardware…
VR does have video passthrough apps allowing you to see your real setup… but the handcontrollers are separate issue…
and admittedly you could use a leap-motion as a possible replacement for the handcontrollers getting in the way when interacting with your existing hardware while using video passthrough…

it would be a case of alot of tweaking and setup
edit: Tranzient is still in Beta stage i believe… so a work in progress

heres a user having setup some simple scheme for his VR setup

video from 2 years ago
but this is a good demostration of Tranzient during that stage of development

I’ve heard bits and pieces about touch designer but haven’t checked it out yet - mostly because I haven’t really delved into the visual side of things before. Looks interesting though!

This looks wild af. Talk about getting away from the tape machine paradigm haha. I’ve never used VR before so I’m not sure if I can really imagine what this would feel like to use but it definitely looks like a lot of fun. The tagline at the end of that vid actually does raise an interesting question though - how much is it a tool as opposed to a game? No judgements in either of those terms btw, and I guess it’s probably a spectrum, but I’m definitely curious about whether some of the workflow stuff you were talking about could affect how it gets used

in terms of multiplayer or multi-user across the net… it can be viewed as a game, in the sense that people are all playing together much like a band plays together…
but at the heart of tranzient, its essentially a tool… albeit a mix&mash tool
users have put forward idea’s to improve the experience and increase workflow, one in particular is the ability to be moved directly in front of a VST with a single button click, cos people found they were having to walk between VSTs etc… so if you can imagine a huge elaborate setup and how cumbersome it would be to walk between each VST position…
it is the small & simple things that can really help with workflow… in VR

i had put forward one suggestion using a user developed script called Radial Dial that can be used within reaper, this of course would be useful in a VR tranzient enviroment…


Oooh interesting! I’d never really thought about radial menus before, but I can see how they would solve problems in the VR space, and also how they’d help with the amount of options reaper gives you :rofl:

One question I have about Tranzient, and something I think you got to a bit in your last reply, is how much is it based on an IRL studio experience, and how much is “hyper-real”? (Can’t think of a better word rn sorry haha)

Its really a sequencer, dealing with blocks similar to that of launching clips in Maschine or Ableton…

…for studio work, no Tranzient definately not suited.
some thoughts re VR &studio enviroment
Will inside a VR enviroment be a suitable for carrying out studiowork… this will only occur when the mixing controls is directly interfaced with the DAW of choice & the Daw is integrated with a suitable VR interface…

as far as the tactile and precision control goes… a VR enviroment is a long way off in that regard

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Currently I’m almost 100% hardware based, mainly because I fell out of love with PC workstation ergonomics… VR/Tranzient and my improved code skills has got me interested again.

Hyperion looks cool - I guess like Reaktor (not VST3) you could set up big touch panels to control parameters? I’m more of a conductor (modulation) than a player anyway…

What other VST3 modular instruments are available/recommended?

touch panels…
in Tranzient you can use Vst’s vsti 2 or 3 using the kushview-elements application… the trouble of course is hand controllers behave differently to a mouse… and use a Line from your hand to the mouse cursor as the mouse-guide… this is clunky and fiddly… but usable

another aspect of VR is resizing windows… which is a big help when using hand controllers as a mouse-guide.

not entirely familiar with the physical modular stuff
as opposed to a PC software modular which is what my current setup is geared somewhat towards…
i only have NI’s Massive and voltage modular 2 lite basic or something like that…

i actually managed to score a couple of BCF2000’s and one BCR2000 from off of trademe for quite a bargain!! in each case i used the buynow option to secure it immediately!! LOL
these midi controllers are very useful, when using it in conjunction with a PC to route midi etc etc…
especially when using Massive or synths… The things i can do with the BCR2000 in terms of sound shaping is really neat when used to adjust parameters!!

took a little while to get my head around how midi works and is routed etc, as im only a couple of years into this Audio-scene… and learning alot of the tech and how they can work together…

my goals have evolved within 2 years from just making simple beats & tunes to mix old C64 Amiga music to sampling vocals to a daw for realtime mixing with Amiga mods etc… to having spoke to some old skool musicians with Amps/guitar/bass/drums/sax etc and knowing where my setup can be useful in their enviroment for either a basic recording session or live looping session using a DAW…

So currently im tinkering with a FCB1010 to integrate it as a looper/record/takes into a daw
together a budget recording setup, all the while learning as i go!!

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heres a another implementation of a vr music GAME(emphasis of game), in which the person in VR jams alongside some real musicians…
the video capture of the scene is using another app for greenscreen capture etc…
but it shows you the reality of jamming in VR with a not so serious VR game
the game is called electronauts…

i actually own this game, and messed around with it… but its definately not a serious Daw, rather a novel game for people to toy with pre-made sequences and sound

a recording of me messing around in the electronauts VR enviroment
It was after messing around with VR i began the journey into acquiring midi gear and the road to discovery :smiley:

A friend from years back uses Hollyhock and sent me this remix he did relatively recently, where he just fed the original track live through all of its processing. Both the original and the result are noise / drone kind of things, so no idea if they’re stylistically of interest, but, yeah, it certainly suggested to me you could manipulate a sound pretty thoroughly in Hollyhock.

(Original track for comparison purposes)

Having faffed around in AudioMulch for let’s call it 15 years I switched to Bitwig ~2 years ago and am really enjoying it. It’s more of a trad DAW than AudioMulch or either of those mentioned in this topic so far, which suits my relatively trad writing style. It’s multi-touch capable, very heavy on modulating anything by anything else, and I find it incredibly intuitive. It has the best contextual help I’ve seen in an application. (Yes, no qualifiers.)

I typically use it to build up a series of loops, parameters of which are being modulated in polymetric ways (which is a fancy way of saying different length loops), so that even when you leave things alone they are changing form over time.

Here’s some examples of things I can imagine pulling together in 10 minutes each (the time is in coming up with the ideas!):

  • A 4-note arpeggio plays a 7-note long sequence that randomly changes speed against the master clock (e.g. from 8th notes to dotted 8ths to 4ths to 16ths) every time a new note plays on a bassline. The arpeggio is a phase distortion synth tuned to just intonation. When the volume of a separate audio track goes above a certain volume, the length of the sequence gets bumped out to 13 notes long, temporarily pushing the start point of the pattern to a new place against the master clock. When the cutoff of a separate synth line goes above a certain value, a wavefolder kicks in on the arpeggio causing the notes to … fold?

  • A wavetable synth riff echoes away using MIDI echoes (i.e. decreasing note velocities), but the echoes are changing pitch (constrained to a given scale if you like - maybe C major, E Lydian, a Javanese 7-note scale, etc.) and also changing speeds. Those two things are happening at different rates, perhaps controlled by other MIDI or audio events in the track, or by LFOs or by step sequences. Each new note of the synth cycles through its wavetable, but the speed at which that happens is being modulated by a step sequence that’s 11 16th-notes long. The amount that the step sequence changes the wavetable cycle speed is modulated by an LFO with a 50-bar duration. The relative velocity of each echo is also modulated by an LFO with a 49-bar duration (this LFO is a different shape and phase to the other one, of course).

  • A synth jam you’ve loaded as an audio file is played back as grains in a granular synth at 5% original speed. You’ve laid the file across a MIDI keyboard so the bottom note is the start of the file and the highest note is the end of it. The release rate of each note is controlled by [some MPE shit I don’t understand from your Roli Seaboard]. A highpass filter is rolling off the low end of each note, based on the volume of a kick drum on a different track. The results are going into a reverb unit that has a delay in its wet tank plus a pitch shifter, to create the classic shimmer effect.

  • [I personally hate this shit but] you’ve got a 2-bar beat and the crash cymbal at the start of the loop only plays every 16 bars, even though it’s a 2-bar loop. The hi-hats that are on-beat play 90% of the time and the hi-hats on the off-beats play 40% of the time. You’ve put in some bonus kick drums that randomly play back between 20-50% velocity to add ghost notes. A cowbell plays on the 2nd beat of the bar 80% of the time, and only if the cowbell doesn’t play, a ride cymbal plays on the and of the 3rd beat.

and on and on and on…

Oh and… you open your Ableton .als file and press play and it goes. (I believe - I hear it doesn’t deal well with AUs.)

Bitwig has also got a built in modular environment called The Grid, a bit like Reaktor, with two preset modes with different shortcuts for generating vs. processing sounds. And it can send and receive CV, sync with Eurorack (I don’t know what that means), send DC offsets, and so on and so on…

I quite like it.

PS. I’m happy to provide some examples of music my ambient duo has made, where I’m using it, and try to explain what features I’m using and how. I’ve got one published example of me using it solo which might actually be a better one… Not sure.


Wow, that was comprehensive!! I’ve looked into bitwig a little bit, but haven’t really considered it seriously before - will check it out in a bit more detail now, cos you really sold it!

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Also, that Hollyhock tune you’ve linked to is v much of interest stylistically! It’s really nice to see “real world” examples of people using HH - definitely gives me some inspiration :wink:


Hot off the press :sunglasses:
Open source, Python live coding



A friend sent me this a few days ago too - looks really cool!! Quite an extensive module list as well! Feels like a nice midway point between max and vcv!

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if you’re talking about the Erbium I’m definitely interested in more details of techniques used to create it. Solo release also works. I love Erbium btw.

DAWs - I’m also a huge Bitwig fan, I use Studio1 for working with audio a lot and for mix/mastering but Bitwig for anything creative and musical.
DAW alternative - experimenting with a computer-free setup based around an Elektron Octatrack just to hopefully stimulate some new ideas and lead me away from habitual behaviour. So far, it’s great fun, I love the box, I’m not at all sure if I will end up creating full tracks with it.

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Ah great, thanks. I’ll go check out the project files and see what there is to say!