Track­tion Wave­form 9

For­merly known as Track­tion, Wave­form is an un­der­dog DAW with a se­ri­ous fea­ture set. James Rus­sell gets you caught up

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Bought by Mackie and left in a desert of un­der­de­vel­op­ment, in 2013, Track­tion was re-ac­quired by its orig­i­nal own­ers, who got straight back to work on it. When the DAW hit ver­sion 8, it was given a name change, and now we’ve just reached ‘Wave­form’ 9. This lat­est ver­sion in­tro­duces a Chord Track, a Multi Sam­pler, some cus­tomis­able plugin ‘Fa­ce­plates’ and more pow­er­ful racks.

But for­get the new­est fea­tures for a mo­ment – we at FM have been guilty for a while of not pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to Wave­form (and Track­tion), and so this re­view serves as a real catch-up for all ver­sions. We’re ig­nor­ing po­ten­tial v8 up­graders and ask­ing an­other ques­tion: how good is Wave­form 9 to the new­comer?

Wave­form has a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing things. Some of its foibles and ec­cen­tric­i­ties will leave you not un­pleas­antly sur­prised over why no­body else does it like that, while some of its idio­syn­cra­sies might send you grop­ing for the stress ball. For ex­am­ple? Well, Wave­form’s au­dio ex­port is a rev­e­la­tion – the re­sul­tant au­dio is ‘pas­sively’ ren­dered in the back­ground while you’re tick­ing op­tions in the di­a­logue and be­fore you ac­tu­ally click Ren­der. Be­cause of that, when you do click Ren­der, the re­sult­ing file is of­ten ready im­me­di­ately. This is a per­fect use of pro­ces­sor re­sources at a time when they’d oth­er­wise not be used.

On the other hand, Wave­form’s in­ter­face can be clut­tered. Want to change tempo? You tried to drag where it says ‘BPM: 120’, didn’t you? Derp! In Wave­form, you’ve got to click that once, then set your tempo via an­other dial that ap­pears in the bot­tom panel. Once you know all the tricks, you’re golden, but the learn­ing curve takes some time to as­cend.

The rest of Wave­form’s in­ter­face may be pop­u­lated with text and text but­tons at first, but the in­stantly fa­mil­iar part to all pro­duc­ers is the time­line. Tracks are stacked from top to bot­tom as usual, but clev­erly, Wave­form makes no dis­tinc­tion as to the type of any given track – a track is a track. You can choose whether to have a mic in­put, a MIDI in­stru­ment, au­dio clips or the out­put of an­other track as any given track’s in­put. Ac­tu­ally, you can have four in­puts and choose all of them at the same time, and then save that con­fig­u­ra­tion as a pre­set to use again and again.

Down the right-hand side of the tracks is your mixer. Yes, we’re all used to faders run­ning from left to right, but al­most all DAWs give you ver­ti­cally stacked con­trol over gain, pan­ning and the like as well (ie for the ‘track’ as well as the ‘chan­nel’). Wave­form runs in­sert slots, lev­el­ling, pan­ning, me­ter­ing and mute/solo across ver­ti­cally down the strip on the right. Due to pub­lic de­mand, you can ac­cess a ‘proper’ un­dock­able mixer in Wave­form too, but it of­fers up no more func­tion­al­ity than Wave­form’s char­ac­ter­is­tic in-line mixer, next to the time­line.

Ac­tu­ally, the ‘de­vices’ you add into the slots are called ‘fil­ters’ in

Wave­form par­lance. You don’t even have to have the level/pan wid­get for a track if you don’t want to, although it loads by de­fault. An­other ge­nius thing about this sys­tem is that you can add many types of de­vice to do spe­cific tasks. For in­stance, you load ef­fects plug­ins in the ex­actly same chain and po­si­tion you’d load an in­stru­ment. You could also load an Aux Send 3 wid­get on one chan­nel, and an Aux Re­turn 3 wid­get on an­other, and then move th­ese wher­ever’s nec­es­sary – pre or post fader, for ex­am­ple. Sends and Re­turns in Track­tion, then, are ver­sa­tile and lim­it­less, although there’s far more menu div­ing than you might like to ac­tu­ally set them up.

Wave­form takes a mod­ern-day look at mod­u­la­tion. Sim­i­lar to Bitwig Stu­dio and Rea­son 10, Wave­form 9’s Mod­i­fiers (for­merly Track LFOs) are mod­u­la­tion sources hosted by Wave­form and as­signed to any plugin pa­ram­e­ters of your choos­ing, on any track. It’s a joy to set up one LFO, Break­point, Step Se­quence, En­ve­lope Fol­low­ing, Ran­dom or MIDI-con­trolled de­vice and see the hooked-up pa­ram­e­ters of sev­eral plug­ins move, au­to­ma­tion-style, with that mod­i­fier’s sig­nal. This sys­tem should have been used by main­stream DAWs for years.

Re­cently up­graded for ver­sion 9, Wave­form’s rack sys­tem lets you set up a col­lec­tion of plug­ins; then, as one uni­fied pro­ces­sor (or in­deed, in­stru­ment) – freely rout­ing the sig­nal path as you like, Reak­tor-style, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to split sig­nals – re­com­bine them, add sidechains, route MIDI, stack in­stru­ments and loads more. The re­sult is a re­mark­ably flex­i­ble – if frus­trat­ing to set up – sys­tem that opens up in­fi­nite doors.

For ev­ery­thing you’ll like in Wave­form, there’s some­thing you won’t. Plugin sort­ing and scan­ning is done on-de­mand rather than when the soft­ware opens, sav­ing you time some­times but on the flip­side ru­in­ing cre­ative flow when you’re look­ing for a re­cently in­stalled de­vice. It’s easy to sidechain, with a source se­lec­tor in the plugin win­dow’s top bar, if you’re rock­ing VST 3 plug­ins. On the other hand, me­ter­ing func­tion­al­ity in ei­ther mixer doesn’t feel foren­sic to the level that pro­duc­ers now de­mand.

Some­times in­fu­ri­at­ing, but cre­ative in spite of this, Wave­form 9 has a true per­son­al­ity, and would feel at home as a sec­ond DAW on any­one’s hard drive. FM VER­DICT 8.4 This is a true al­ter­na­tive – or com­ple­ment – to your cur­rent DAW, once you’re used to how it works. Ev­ery­one should try it

MOD­I­FIERS RACKS 2.0 IN-LINE MIXER The char­ac­ter­is­tic Track­tion mixer re­mains in W9. There’s also a ver­sion of it that re­calls other DAWs’ ap­proach, but be sure to give this way of work­ing a try Wave­form’s rack sys­tem lets you cre­ate com­plex cus­tom...

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