Do DAW’s Sound Different?

I’ve been a long time user of Cakewalk Music software for my main DAW, going all the way back to the 1990s and Cakewalk Pro Audio 5.  While experimenting with other DAWs over the years, I’ve always come back to Cakewalk due in part to my familiarity with it.  I’ve kept up with the upgrades to most every new version, only skipping a couple when money was tight..  I now have the lifetime updates to Cakewalk SONAR Producer, and use it for almost all of my projects, tracking and mixing… until very recently…

I recently tried Harrison Mixbus when I saw a great deal on it on one of the music forums.  This was the crack dealer, enticing me to try it out.  Then today I received an invitation to buy their top of the line DAW, Mixbus 32C.  It boasts a lot of small improvements over the entry level Mixbus, including more detailed emulation of the channels strips, 4-band EQ on each channel, and a host of other improvements.

To try it out I exported all of the raw tracks of a project I recently mixed in SONAR and imported them into Mixbus 32C.  These were the raw unprocessed tracks, save for a little bit of compression I used on the bass and vocals on the way in.  I haven’t yet tried recording a full project in Mixbus, but I did redo the vocal track on this session because I had recorded it a bit too aggressively and had a bit of a peak that distorted on my original track.  I probably need to just learn the shortcuts for recording in Mixbus, but at this point I can see myself doing a lot of tracking in SONAR due to my familiarity with it, and then mixing it in Harrison, just for the sound.

And, about the sound; I could describe the difference, but words don’t translate well.  I probably kept the Mixbus mix a bit simpler, with only a few basic effects on each track.  most of the EQ and compression was done using the built in channel strips, save for a FabFilter Pro Q 2 strapped across the master bus to do a little bit of Mid-side EQing of the final two-bus out.  Rather than talk on about my thoughts on the two mixes here they are:

Cakewalk SONAR Producer

Harrison Mixbus 32C

Conclusions?

Well, admittedly, this was not an apples to apples comparison, as the mix with SONAR was done using a lot of different plugins, and it was done in admittedly random manor. (Lot’s of experimentation that really failed in some cases.)  The Mixbus mix was done in just a couple of hours or less, and I really tried to keep things simple.  Very little effects were used, and I didn’t even use all 12 of the Mixbus channels.  I experimented with the sidechain feature to bring the guitars down a hair when the vocals come in, and to duck the delay on the lead vocals, but overall a simple mix just to see what this thing sounds like.  I kinda like the results, and the Mixbus console is fun to play around with.  What do you think?

Mixbus Console

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