Bitwig Studio Review
Bitwig is maybe one of the newest/coolest DAWs on the market right now! It seems like everybody is talking about it, and luckily enough, Bitwig and I have spent some quality time the last few days, getting to know each other, and yes, I’m about to tell you all the details you want to know… So, lets get started!
Getting started with it.
The installation process is as easy and painless as it can be. When Bitwig launches for the first time, it will ask you to specify your audio hardware I/O, will self-detect any controllers, and you can manually add any MIDI controller that’s not recognized automatically. Finally, it will ask you to download some extension packs (something that I strongly recommend you to do). After those three steps, which can actually be done any time under preferences, you are pretty much done with setup!
One great thing about Bitwig is that it’s actually two independent sequencers at once: A classic linear sequencer, and a non-linear sequencer, very much in the Ableton Live fashion, where you can launch audio and MIDI clips/loops and scenes in any combination you like. As Bitwig can have multiple projects opened in one document, you need to make sure that the audio engine for the specific project is turned on. Trust me, it happened to me, and it took me like five minutes to realize what was going on. On the top left corner, right next to the transport controls, you’ll find a Bitwig icon, make sure it’s orange, if not, click on it to turn the audio engine on, or you won’t be hearing anything at all.
Bitwig has three different views:
Arranger View, which is the view you will probably be working on most of the time. This is the linear sequencer, pretty much like most DAWs, but, with an option to trigger clips and scenes and record the performance for later edition. This is great to bring ideas down, record some jams or play live. In this view, the clip launcher is summoned by pressing ALT+L or with the tiny icons right at the left bottom of the sequencer window. The arranger view also lets you do all your automation work.
Mix view will be very familiar to you if you have ever used Ableton. You’ve got all the channel strips, with volume, pan, send level, mute, solo, arm for record, and of course you can add any effect or processor in any given order, you can even use hardware processors. Each channel strip also has slots for clips and loops. At the left of the first channel, you’ll find scene triggers, and to the right of the last channel, the master buss and effects return. Like in Ableton, when you create a drum machine, you can expand its view to set individual volumes, panorama, and effects send for kick drum, snare, hats, etc.
The third view is the Edit view which is pretty much self explicatory. Here, you can edit audio and midi files.
The native devices in Bitwig are really great, and some of them go beyond the obvious, which is really refreshing. In the Audio Fx department, you get two kinds of distortions, two compressors with a sidechain, plus a limiter, a gate, a transient shaper, three EQs, four filters, a leslie emulator, tremolo, ring mod, flanger, three different delays, reverb, and pitch shifter. I’d love to see an amp emulation and a phaser too… Maybe for some future update?
Containers, are essentially various devices working as one, either being audio or instruments.
Inside the Generators folder, you’ll find a much useful test tone to calibrate your system.
Bitwig’s Instruments pretty much cover all your needs, with a very versatile 2 OSC, multimode filter polysynth, a sampler, a drawbar organ emulation -which works great with the rotary fx-, a DX7 style four operator FM synth, and five synthesized drum voices: Clap, Hat, Kick, Snare, and Tom, each of this drum voices uses a specific synth voice, which can potentially have some other uses…
As Bitwig has a very flexible architecture, Modulators are a very refreshing thing to use, especially with audio fx. Here, we’ve got an LFO, an Audio Mod source, a Note Mod source, and a Step Mod source, which is essentially a 16 steps sequencer. All of these are great for some modular style inspiration…
Note Fx, is where you’ll find your arpeggiator, transposer, etc. Routers, let you interact with your hardware, being instruments or processors/effects.
Bitwig’s samples and clips are great tools, I mean, they sound great. You will also find some multi-sampled instruments, which sound awesome, especially for the pianos, Rhodes, wurlys, and marimbas. You can download this packs at any time.
Quantization is also very well thought letting you can add amounts of shuffle and accents to give some human touch to your music. The metronome has also some unique functions like the ability to play ticks between notes. You’ve got DSP and I/O metering and the counter always shows musical and real-time values. It can for sure send the clock to external hardware via MIDI. From the inspector, you can also do some clever things for each track, like make the looping double or half the time, reverse it, add shuffle and accent, and all of this in real-time while playing.
I’ve just scratched the surface, but, Bitwig is one of the best DAWs for musical purposes, you can do everything you need in just one place, from sketching ideas, to final mix and playing live, it can all be done here in a very intuitive way. If you work a lot in post-production or with video material, this won’t suit your needs. One thing I’d like to see is program change messages for external hardware and the ability to sync to an external master clock. Those are the only two things I’m missing, and hope they are added in a future update.
Review Update: Bitwig Studio received a new update in January 2015 and now includes several significant improvements and new features:
- Group Tracks — Consolidate and simplify your mix.
- Audition Browser — Browse, Audition, Insert, Swap
- Factory Content Update — Demo songs, amazing presets, and all-new sounds.
- Support for High-DPI and Retina Displays — Experience our next-generation user interface in brilliant detail.
Bitwig Studio is available for Mac and Windows priced at $399 USD / 299 EUR / £200.