A quick roundup of three of our favourite online DAWs to give you an instant creativity injection! Whilst I wouldn’t say the future of music production is sharing, I will say without hesitation that those of you that do want to share and collaborate with others have never had it so good. We had a look at Melodo, a new cloud based sequence sharing plugin for your regular DAW last week; let’s look at three of our favourite online music studios and online DAWs that don’t require any downloading or installation and make sharing projects a snap!
Forewarning: These online apps may require Google Chrome to operate.
Audiotool is a beautiful looking app, with gorgeously realised versions of Roland’s iconic TR808 and 909 and its TB303. Add to that a Tenori-on styled synth, a complex, multi waveformed synth, and a drum sampler, and you have a pretty well featured little studio before you even start to get into effects (and there are plenty of stomp box styled effects units!). The interface is designed to be semi modular; lay out instruments and effects you want and feel free to patch them together as you see fit – including side chaining and other complex routing. It’s kind of like a tabletop version of Reason’s virtual rack, and gave me fond memories of Jeskola software’s amazing (but crash prone) Buzz virtual studio.
Audiotool supports MIDI in and a switchable low latency mode (I got 43ms, which isn’t too bad especially for a web app), as well as the option to use the internal sequencers on each of the machines or programme in note data and CC automation. On the downside there is a certain degree of form over function from the design, as whilst it looks gorgeous it can be a bit fiddly to navigate the virtual tabletop, and I couldn’t seem to get my computer keyboard to act as a pseudo musical keyboard.
Songstarter is an online looping and jamming tool. It’s nice and simple and there’s no complicated arrangement or note data to fiddle with: just record and go. There are twelve nice sounding instruments to get your hands on, and whilst none of them have any tweakable qualities there’s enough variety to help you to flesh something out. Being in beta at the moment goes some way to explaining Songstarter’s admittedly limited feature set, and all sharing – like all sound that’s recorded in the app – is restricted to audio renders only (no sharing a set of loops you’ve recorded).
My favourite feature in Songstarter is the jamming mode, that allows you to noodle away to your heart’s content and detects when you leave a gap between ideas and chops them up. From there you can tap tempo over the ditties you’ve created to turn them into loops and build upon them or simply export!
The desktop version of Songstarter has the potential for MIDI in, but the web app relies on your computer keyboard to input notes. It’s a great way to very quickly get an idea that strikes you on the move recorded with the minimum of hassle.
The GUI is extra simple to navigate (perhaps even the best of the three here today) and you can sequence and arrange notes to your heart’s content in Audio Sauna, but there’s no CC automation nor MIDI input. On the plus side you can save your tracks either as an audio render or a track to work on later or send to a friend.
Each of these three apps does something a little differently, and without direct audio recording none of them are strictly speaking DAWs either, more online music production studios. Some kind of amalgam of the three would make for an amazing app, but as it is there’s something for everyone here – and we’re testing alternatives with audio recording for a future post. My personal favourite is probably Audiotool, despite its ever so slightly finnicky interface (mainly down to the zooming/panning around the virtual tabletop) – but we want to hear your favourites and of course your top tips for all the apps we’ve missed out, so let us know below!