Mackie Digs In with Tracktion
A wonderful entry-level into the world of DAW

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One of the big surprises at NAMM 2004 was Mackie's second foray into the software world with their distribution of the Raw Material application, "Tracktion." Mackie first broke software ground in last year's partnership with Universal Audio and their incredible UAD-1 hardware/software combination, offering powerful and professional effects processing on a hardware card.

Tracktion isn't a replacement audio editor for the Pro Tools, Vegas, Nuendo, or Sonar user. It's not audio software to beat your favorite CD ripper. It's not something you'd recommend to an engineer that has been working with DAW tools for many years. It is a tool every engineer definitely should try simply out of an eye for a refreshingly clean workspace. [an error occurred while processing this directive]However.....

Tracktion is a wonderful entry-level into the world of DAW without leaving users intimidated or bowled over by terms, interfaces, popup windows, or hidden functions. In classic Mackie style, this frill-free audio editor with a phenomenally clear workflow will inspire even the most inexperienced person to record and edit audio, and editing FAST. Everything is accessible in the Timeline window, nothing hidden beneath right clicks, submenus, popups, or other unrevealed gymnastics. Of course, audio quality is determined by hardware. If users possess a cheap sound card with poor converters, their sound will be poor. Using an Audigy, Echo, M-Audio or similar audio card, audio quality will be terrific.

Tracktion's built in Help popups make a users manual completely unnecessary. These popup help guides also contain sensible tips and tricks, some of which are fairly advanced, reminding even professionals of simple tasks. This is a screenshot of the entire workspace/timeline!

Tracktion features unlimited audio tracks, decent FX, and VST plugin capability. Tracktion also features huge icons pointing to input sources, output sources, FX, Volume, Panning, Metering, and a screaming loud helper/popup feature. (this can be disabled by clicking the Help button) Hovering the mouse over any aspect of the application immediately pops up not only a help file, but also tips and tricks related to that file.

Tracktion also is unique in that it supports MIDI files as well, ported to outputs whereever you'd like the audio to come from, be it a soft synth, sound card synth, or external device. While the MIDI functionality is basic, it's also Reason-ably complete. It's got ReWireŽ support for tools that can take advantage of it. For the price of the application this too is a huge yet welcome surprise. For the video editor, Tracktion is a great tool to download free midi files from the net, drop the files on the timeline, and start creating scores to your video project.

Installation of Tracktion was so simple and fast that I didn't think it had installed correctly. It took less than 10 seconds to install from CD, and when it had completed the install it seemed a little odd that the application didn't open, and I actually had to look to see that the installation was complete. In going to my Windows Start menu I could see the app, and opened it to check the install. It indeed had installed correctly, if not faster than any app I've seen in years. An "Install complete" dialog box would be very helpful here.

Recording with Tracktion is fast and easy. Simply point your cursor at the track you want to record on and push the Record button. Nothing to set up, nothing to assign, except the input and track. Assign an input with the monster red arrows, and an output is already selected by default unless you change it. Meters, Panning, and Volume are immediately visible and accessible. Volume/Panning are automatable. Audio can be slipped, trimmed, split, or stretched on the timeline, totally in real-time. Like most of the higher end software tools, you can 'freeze' a track. ("Freeze" is yet another marketing word for 'pre-render') At the NAMM show, Mackie was showing some basic communication with the Mackie Control Universal device, so I'd expect we'll soon see some improvements in the Tracktion application very soon. The download/shipping version does not currently support the controller. Mackie also promised we'll soon see a Linux version of the application as well, so there is indeed a nod to all the Linux fans out there. In fact, Tracktion seemed to be well suited for the Linux market, given it's light load on the system and resources.

Source: Copyright Douglas Spotted Eagle, Sundance Media Group

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