Who remembers playing pokémon on the Gameboy? When I first played it, a few minutes into the game I was hit with one of the biggest dilemmas of my childhood: who to choose as my first pokémon?!
Each has their own characteristics, abilities etc, but in the grand scheme of things all have the same job: to help you progress through the game.
In a way, choosing a software for music production is similar to that childhood conundrum, they all serve a common purpose, to enable you to transfer your creativity from mind to music.
Each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and coupled with our own predispositions, we will choose the one we are inexplicably drawn to.
But unlike the pokémon game, instead of a choice of three, you are faced with a much larger offer to start your journey through digital music creation.
Acoustica is throwing their hat into the ring of DAWs to begin your musical journey with the introduction of “Mixcraft 8”.
Upon opening, I did my usual of looking through the menus, trying to find my way around without opening the manual.
It takes all of about 20 minutes to be very familiar with where everything that you would want for a full-scale production/recording session is.
I was quite surprised how intuitive all the options were laid out. I picked one of the demo tracks, “defining moment” to showcase to me what Mixcraft 8 can do.
Upon opening the full session, I am greeted with a plethora of options that honestly, I did not expect a DAW for such a low price tag to have.
Submix options, multi-timbral instrument outputs, as well a great bussing and routing capabilities are all at a single click of the mouse, and not hidden behind a maze of drop-down menus.
But, behind the ease of use, there lies a powerhouse of options that I am only discovering by doing what most users don’t dare to dream of doing: reading the manual.
The MIDI editor, at first glance, looks like a stereotypical piano roll until you delve deeper.
There is a step editor that will allow you to create potent musical patterns in the time it would take to boil a kettle, as well as all midi being committed to a printable score.
There is a performance panel that allows you to create tracks using midi and audio clips which looks and feels very similar to one of a more expensive competitor’s performance view.
It is like Mixcraft incorporated the best elements on the market today into a versatile, extremely affordable bundle.
Speaking of bundle, you are not left wanting for effects, instruments or sounds either.
The pro bundle (which at 179 dollars, is criminally cheap) comes with 56 audio effects, 21 virtual instruments, and Celemony’s Melodyne Essentials.
The virtual instruments have serious sonic capabilities, my favorites are the “Renegade Analog Monster” made by g-sonique and the “ME80 version 2” made by Memorymoon.
To buy these two synths alone would be a third of the cost of the entire Mixcraft bundle.
Mixcraft 8 has another feature which, coupled with its ease of use, would put in the forefront of my mind to be used for an educational purpose: The ability to search and download straight from www.freesound.org.
In my time spent as a music technology student, most of my practical assignments involved some sound art/electro-acoustic aspect of composition.
The use of freesound.org was critical to these compositions as the nature of the recordings found there opened avenues of more Avant-garde creation that might evade those of a more traditional music writing background.
This masterful stroke of genius by Acoustica is one of the most innovative additions to a DAW that I have seen in recent time.
Instead of losing momentum, opening a browser, logging in, looking through text, choosing the format, etc, etc, you have the option to preview the searched for sound and put it directly into the arrangement.
The Mixcraft help manual also covers in detail Freesounds’ creative commons license terms for how you can use the samples in productions.
From opening up a new project, every option I wanted to open to test this program was exactly where I expected it to be, no searching needed.
Honestly, the only time I had to refer to the manual was to see if there was anything I missed (which there was a lot of actually) through my blind use.
Mixcraft 8 has found its way onto my studio machine for teaching purposes as even though it has everything you would need and more from a complete professional DAW, its workflow and layout is head and shoulders ahead of the game for new producers.
Yes, some people might be blinded by the lights of other DAWs that do look more space age, but I can guarantee that they would not be out of the block as fast as they would with Mixcraft.
There is an Irish saying: “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.” Well on the banister of music production, Mixcraft is a banister made of Teflon.
Price & Availability
Depending on your needs, Mixcraft is available in two versions:
Mixcraft 8 Recording Studio ($89)
Complete “recording-studio-in-a-box” with unlimited MIDI and audio tracks. 28 pro audio effects, and 15 virtual instruments, including the super easy-to-use Alpha and Omni Sampler instruments.
Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio ($179)
With over $1250 worth of plug-ins, 56 pro audio effects and 21 virtual instruments, including the superlative Pianissimo Grand Piano and Celemony’s Melodyne Essentials, Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio offers unparalleled mixing and mastering power.
Note that Mixcraft will only run on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8, or 10 (32 or 64 bit).