Digital Audio Workstation [DAW]
- Alex U. Case
A digital audio workstation (DAW) comprises a combination of computer hardware and software used for the computer-based creation of recorded music through multitrack production. It typically consists of a multitrack recorder, a mixer, and a diversity of signal processors, such as faders, pan pots, equalizers, compressors, delays, and reverbs. The DAW unites within a desktop or laptop computer the full functionality that the analog recording studio offers across many separate components, including tape machines, mixing consoles, and effects devices.
While the DAW possesses all of the essential functional capabilities of a stand-alone recording studio entirely within the computer environment, it generally permits interfacing with additional tools. Third-party software called plug-ins may be incorporated into the DAW through industry standard protocols. This enables the DAW to leverage the features and qualities of different tools from a variety of software developers. On the one hand, audio interfaces possessing digital-to-analog converters enable the audio to leave the DAW platform and have the benefit of any available external, outboard analog signal processors. On the other hand, analog-to-digital converters return analog-processed audio back into the DAW. In this way, the DAW takes advantage of both new and legacy analog recording studio devices, providing the user the best of both worlds, analog and digital.
By digitally processing audio, the sound recorder can step away from a specialized world of proprietary analog devices and step into the broader market of computer-based digital signal processing. As a result, the recording studio is now easily and affordably available, and progress and innovations occur at the aggressive pace of the digital economy. Such democratization opens the field of sound recording to novice enthusiasts and musicians, while delivering differentiated results for the practiced audio engineer. Perhaps the most important feature of the DAW is that entirely new, previously unrealizable algorithms for processing sound are now possible, with new forms of audio creation and processing always on the horizon. The DAW-based multitrack production paradigm has had a major impact on how recorded music is created, who creates it, and the quality of the art that results.
- J. Eargle: Handbook of Sound Engineering (New York, 4/2006)
- K. Pohlmann: Principles of Digital Audio (New York, 6/2010)
- A.U. Case: Mix Smart—Pro Audio Tips for Your Multitrack Mix (Boston, 2011)