Overview

For a long while now I was a die hard Pro Tools user with a growing amount of outboard gear and synthesizers. I would often use Ableton Live with the completely awesome Push 2 controller (special thanks to Elevation Productionz Grand Daddy Frost for expertly demonstrating how awesome Push 2 is with Live and convincing me to buy one way back) as a sketchpad where stems would eventually be exported to Pro Tools where they would be mixed, arranged, and further edited.

Due to some questionable price increases taken by AVID in mid-2019, I decided I was going to investigate the possibility of migrating to another DAW. For the past two months I have been using Digital Performer exclusively and have loved it.

In this review I’m going to go over the areas of MOTU’s Digital Performer 10 that I use as an electronic musician. Keep in mind, that I’m barely scratching the service so for a more in-depth view of MOTU’s amazing flagship software I would suggest looking at all of the amazing video tutorials by Groove3 as well as MOTU’s own DP User Guide. MOTU DP10 is an amazing DAW, you can call me a firm convert now.

Prices:

The prices for MOTU DP10 are very reasonable. Want to standardize on a specific version for a few years? I know tons of studios that have such software practices for purposes of stability, and unlike AVID, MOTU does not penalize you for not staying on top of their upgrade releases usually every 2 years.

Also of note are the multiple upgrade routes. If you’re looking to purchase DP10 for the first time, I’d consider looking at the Academic License if you’re in school or teach at a school. If that’s not the case, but you are moving away from a DAW after being floored away by the 30 day trial of DP10 like I was, check out the Competitive Upgrade in which you can send MOTU the license for one of their competitor’s DAWs. Also, if you previously purchased a MOTU audio interface like the amazing 828es 28×32 Thunderbolt / USB 2.0 Audio Interface then you likely have a license for the stripped down version of DP10 called AudioDesk. You can upgrade directly from AudioDesk to DP10 with a nice discount. Lastly, if you were an awesome MF’a and purchased a license to MOTU’s Performer (before it gained audio features and was renamed Digital Performer), you can upgrade from that as well! MOTU loves its customers, and it definitely shows in how they take care of them instead of taking advantage of them.

Full Version:
Upgrade Versions


Preflight Check List

So what do I consider requirements for a DAW replacement for Pro Tools? Let’s keep in mind that lots of different people use Pro Tools for different tasks. Some are post production houses, some are tracking studios, some are mixing studios, some are home project studios. Even in the sub-realm of home project studio there can exist a lot of variance and diversity when it comes to needs of the DAW.

I record electronic music so my needs are largely as follows:

  • Solid MIDI implementation with stable timing
  • MIDI scale transpose (I ain’t the best piano player in the world)
  • Outboard audio I/O setup with latency adjustment tool
  • Ability to use software plug-ins without a crash-heavy experience
  • Clear cut use of mono and stereo audio tracks
  • Mixer routing mimicking closely that of an analog mixer
  • Comprehensive hot-keys
  • Solid support for Midi Quest 12 Pro user-generated plugins
  • Ability to quickly route audio from one track to another
  • Ability to quickly implement sidechain compression and signal routing
  • Comprehensive swing/shuffle tools

Obviously, electronic musicians can and have used DAWs other than Pro Tools, DP and Ableton for years. Apple’s Logic Pro X (previously Emagic’s Logic) is wildly popular among electronic musicians working in many different genres. Logic Pro X has a lot going for it, but there are quirks that really flared up my OCD when using it. Things like not being able to seed AUX channels before assigning them from an track and setting up additional outputs from multitimbral software instruments such as Native Instruments Battery making them as AUX channels rather than audio channels.

As I plan to continue using Ableton Live 10 in both standalone mode for rough drafts and Rewire mode for immediately routable connections within my target DAW, the question then pops up: Why not just use Ableton Live as my main DAW? I’ve driven Ableton Live very far as a writing tool, but for me it’s a very poor mixing tool. I used to exclusively drive outboard MIDI instruments directly into an analog mixer all sequenced from a DAW and then recording the outputs of busses. If you’ve written electronic music in the 90s and 2000s, you probably have a good idea of where I’m headed with this. Ableton Live does not have a clear cut declaration of audio tracks as mono or stereo. I imagine this is due to making the experience easier for users, but it’s a nightmare for an electronic musician who also mixes their own music. For sure, you can have an effective mono audio channel by setting an input from an external source into the input of the audio channel, but as soon as you start adding plug-in effects that mono channel turns into a stereo channel. Much of this problem can be somewhat resolved with a plug-in like Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer Plug-In which lets you collapse and expand to and from mono based on a frequency band, but that’s a lot of plug-in processing power devoted to righting Ableton Live’s poor audio engine design. It also opens you up to needless phasing issues depending on instrument signals and plug-in effects being used.

After MOTU graciously offered to extend my trial period for Digital Performer 10 (I’ll now refer to it as DP10 for the rest of this article), I found myself on vacation with the fully functioning trial and MOTU’s expertly crafted manual and the urge to determine if this was the solution for me. It’s not one of the top DAWs you commonly hear mentioned, but like Pro Tools and Cubase it historically has had a presence since the very beginning of personal computer assisted music production and has maintained somewhat of a cabal of die hard users who hail from many different genres and workflows. From contemporary composers (Wendy Carlos), film score composers (Danny Elfman), rockstars (Geddy Lee), and electronic music artists (Autechre and The Crystal Method), it’s widely used by recognizable talents. And it’s very much like Pro Tools in that it exists as a fully featured DAW that is able to serve a large number of industries due in large part both to its historical development precense as well as its devoted parent company MOTU (Mark of the Unicon, an American company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts).


Workflow Transition

If you break down the core workflow components of any DAW, you’ll find that core features rarely seriously diverge from one another. Some DAWs might have more considerable features making workflow in these areas easier to operate, but they generally in 2019 boil down to the following areas:

  • Seperate types of tracks: MIDI, mono/stereo audio, AUX, group and sometimes VCA.
  • A MIDI piano roll interface: piano is on the left side with tools allowing you to drag and select, draw, move, quantize, and erase MIDI events
  • A method to control different attributes of MIDI other than notation: commonly shown as lanes within a MIDI track for editing velocity or any other MIDI CC numerical value as documented with your MIDI gear
  • SysEx recieve and send for maintaining and storing patch information for outboard MIDI gear
  • Mixing: a reproduction of analog mixing on the screen that allows for AUX tracks to receive a signal from audio tracks, a Master fader, groups to easily organize tracks (where as on analog mixers I used different colored markers on tape), and an area to assign, edit, and chain together insert effects
  • I/O routing tool: to send audio in and out of your audio interface


The GUI: Flexible And Expertly Designed

Some quick destop history: If you were a user of MOTU’s DP from long ago or someone that used MacOS on biege Macs before the return of Steve Jobs to Apple, you might remember some quirks of ancient and now abandoned Macintosh design, notably the sloppy overuse of modal windows. Back in the early MacOS classic days, windows would generally be split apart into seperate windows, but all children of a parent program. AOL users had a classic toolbar at the top of their screen but otherwise saw their desktop wallpaper below that because Mac apps then did not draw a parent window around them like Microsoft’s Windows did. Apple has much improved the concept and encouraged developers overtime to consolidate window groups where appropriate but leapfrogs the Windows approach by not drawing a parent window around these sub groups.

Old school DP! Respect!

The result is clear in a multitude of desktop applications in their contemporary macOS presentation versus the sloppy lame result of Microsoft Windows. Pro Tools is an obvious winner in this refinement of human user interface standards driven by Apple, in that the mixer, arrangement and piano roll windows can all exist in their seperate sub windows allowing maximum use of one’s screen while Windows users commonly ask forums and Facebook groups “how do I remove the ugly blue bars at the top of windows?” and “how to I use Pro Tools on dual screens?”.

The GUI: MOTU DP’s Consolidated Window

In any case, MOTU has expertly crafted not only an artfully designed updated user interface to comply with contemporary Apple HUI suggestions for consolidated windows, but also maximized this concept to its fullest potential with 1) its concepts of easily visibile and collapsible sidebars on the left and right sections of the screen and 2) multiple view controls within these areas containing 2 rows in the main body area, and 4 rows on the left and right sidebars each (all of which can be customized by going to Preferences and Settings > Display > Consolidated Window.

MOTU DP’s consolidated window options. Notice a distinct left, center, and right sections, as well as being able to see multiple tool views as rows within each section.

Important to note about any of the viewable tools within the rows of the left, center, and right sections of the consolidated window is that they can be torn off and viewed in its own window outside of the consolidated window. This means that if you want to keep the Mixing Board view on a completely seperate monitor, you’d just drag and drop that section’s shaded tool area and it’d appear there. Awesome stuff!

However, one quirk I had early on (that I’m making less and less as I’m more ingrained with DP’s workflow is when I have the Mixing Board in a seperate window on the second screen and I accidentally click on the Mixing Board from within the Consolidated Window; it would make the window on the second screen disappear. Obviously, it was a mistake on my part, but I do wish MOTU would make that easier for beginniners. Maybe they could remove the Mixing Board tab from view if it’s been dragged outside of the Consolidated Window and if it was closed purposefully the tab for viewing it would reappear there. Again, it’s a mistake on my part and I haven’t repeated it in several weeks, but I can’t help but feel that would put off new users.

The GUI: 4K/Retina support, Themes and Color Profiles

The world seems to be turned on its head every ten years with crazy developments in UI design that seem to really only fluctuate between skeuromorphic (or resembling physical interfaces) and flat (bland, plain, supposedly so as not to distract from a tool’s purpose). For every person that likes the flat design of a piece of software, you’ll find twenty very vocal people who will let you know they absolutely loathe it, and vice versa with skeuromorphic software user interfaces.

Me, personally I enjoy UI design as it was in the late 90s and early 2000s the most. They were brilliant and helped cold digital interfaces feel more warmly inviting and familiar at the same time. But to be fair I also recognize there are others out there who feel the need to look at flat soulless UI design, and somehow are able to look at themselves in the mirror and sleep at night despite having such a poor and horrible and stupid and idiotic opinion.

Obviously I’m being (50%) facetious here, but the point still stands that there is much consternation and resentment regarding the subject.

Luckily, MOTU feels the whole argument is moot, or rather, they have engineered their flagship software so that it’s largely a non-issue as DP10 really can please everyone with its theming implementation. A popular feature (also popular with the DAW Reaper) in DP is its theming engine which lets you view DP as you want to view it. There are several themes included with DP10 that you can try out (Preferences and Settings > Display > Themes) that range from contemporary and sleek (like the default theme ‘Nine’) to best of skeuromorphic (my preferred theme ‘Eight’) and even down to gnarish and ugly albeit completely skeuromorphic (like the theme ‘Savannah’).

Theme and UI element color chooser (Preferences and Settings > Display > Themes)

Even better is the (I’m imagining) unofficial support to modify existing themes and make them available from the GUI’s list of available themes. Maybe a color is bothering you but you generally like one theme the most. Just fire up a text editor to modify the xml files, name the folder to whatever you want your theme name to be and voila you have a custom theme, baby!

Not only UI elements, but you can just change Selection Color, Focus Color, Meter Color(s), and/or Clip Colors from the same interface you use to select your UI Theme. I really hope MOTU keeps providing support for these older themes in the future. While the new Nine theme is quite contemporary and beautiful, it strays a bit too generically grey for my tastes.

New to DP10 is official support for Hi DPI (Retina/4K/5K/etc) screens and the ability to scale the interface in increments to fit your screen and viewable space to its maximum and preferred potential by the user. I know some DAWs that struggle greatly with Hi DPI code modifications even if there is official support. Cubase while looking very pretty these days craws when redrawing its UI widgets due to presumably this support being added on later in development of the SX and beyond code base and not being completely optimized. DP feels lean, fast and mean on macOS. The Windows version does not yet have this Hi DPI support for DP10, but I imagine the fine folks at MOTU are working on it as this notification was in the release notes.

In addition to the Hi DPI support added in DP10, you can now scale the size of widgets up and down. This addresses a common complaint that for some users, widgets within the GUI were too small on modern displays. Personally, I find the contemporary emphasis that’s popular on adding white space to UIs to be a farce and I much prefer to have my display as information-dense as possible. It’s entirely possible with DP10 for me to run everything at native size in a single computer screen at 2048×1152 (non-Retina) on my Samsung 4K 28″ displays so I can dedicate the second display entirely to a Rewire device like Ableton Live, or multiple plug-ins I’m working with. Like the flat design vs. skeuromorphic debate, widget size/white space debates are largely negated by MOTU in DP10 by letting users decide for themselves what they prefer.

DP10’s new Scale feature allowing you to control the sizes of text and widgets

Lastly, the Track Colors feature is really excellent. You can have DP10 auto-increment colors to tracks as track elements are added, which I believe is default, but I prefer to have track colors be by their type. Firstly, because you can easily hide entire tracks and track folders with the Track Selector tool view so color coding different instruments to keep them organized is rendered rather null, and secondly because when I am dealing with an instrument I like to make clear which track of that instrument I’m working on (MIDI, audio, additional audio for multitimbral, outboard effects returns, etc). MOTU DP is a swiss army knife of options though, so you’re sure to find something that fits your fancy even if the defaults no not. There are many track color profiles available that ship with DP10, and they can be duplicated and modified to fit your heart’s content. I made a slight modification to the ‘Pastels 2’ profile called ‘AD Pastels 3’ where I changed a brown out for a green when displaying Audio Tracks.


MIDI: Bundles of Love

The most important part of any electronic musician’s workflow is MIDI. MIDI sends and receives data to and from a number of devices, anything from outboard synthesizers, outboard samplers, outboard effects, software synthesizers, software effects, pedal input triggering actions in a DAW like start Recording, etc. So I started there in my testing because a DAW can be great at audio but poor at MIDI, making it largely unusable for my type of workflow.

A lot of DAWs split up the concept of audio and MIDI configuration for your studio. This can be really confusing for some users. If track views universally show both audio and MIDI tracks in a project, then why wouldn’t you also configure these in the same consistent manner? MOTU’s approach to this for DP is called Bundles (hotkey: SHIFT + U), a well designed interface for controlling and administering Inputs, Outputs, Busses, Instruments, and MIDI Devices within a project.

DP Bundles interface (SHIFT + U)

From the Bundles MIDI Instruments interface you can assign and reassign MIDI input and outflow signals to devices. I’ve managed my devices in the macOS Audio/MIDI Setup utility for a while now and this lets me quickly identify them as well as quickly temporarily reroute them from within the project. This lets me test running parts through different gear easily when I’m trying to nail down a sound from an init patch. Sometimes when I’m working on my Roland JP-8080, I get the idea that hey, maybe this part would sound better through my Behringer DeepMind 12D. In DP, this is very simple to do.

MIDI: MIDI editor

MOTU DP10 MIDI editor view complete with piano roll and note value on MIDI event

MOTU’s DP has a long storied history as a MIDI sequencer. In the latest version, it’s clear that MOTU continues to retain its expert implementation making the DAW as a whole much more feature rich for everyone from beginners to seasoned electronic musicians.

One common complaint I’ve heard about DP is the lack of MIDI clips. MIDI clips, an option in virtually every other DAW on the market, are objects that appear commonly in a track view that contain MIDI events that can be easily dragged around and rearranged. They are usually set in length by a bar or any other number of arbitrary length definition. As someone coming directly from Pro Tools I can’t say I’m completely bothered by this missing ability. When composing music using MIDI outboard gear or software, I commonly have notes that are expected to say end on the upbeat of the last measure that continue on into the next measure. MIDI clips in other DAWs makes this very difficult to manage because you’re expected to either consolidate multiple MIDI clips of the same riff to include that elongated note being played between MIDI clip end and begin points or change your composition to avoid the problem.

Coming from a Pro Tools history, which has a generic Piano Roll editor that supports both clipped and un-clipped MIDI arrangements, I can’t say it’s a particularly big concern for me. For others I could definitely see this being confusing however, especially if someone were coming from a DAW that explicitly requires a MIDI clip before MIDI notation could be inputed (such as Logic Pro X or Ableton Live). For me, the I-Beam tool offered in MOTU’s DP10 (which is an event selection tool) offers me a real time, on-the-fly approach when I need to repeat a MIDI performance while composing.

MIDI clips from other DAWs are fairly limiting to me, I much prefer editing and composing MIDI directly on the tracks Piano Roll which can be viewed simultaneously in the MIDI edit view along with the Tracks overview on the top and bottom sections of the main middle consolidated window view.

MIDI (and Audio): Clips

However, MOTU seems to be making some effort to be more approachable specifically to electronic musicians with the addition of DP10’s new Clips view. These are not traditional MIDI clips found in most linear DAW workflows, but instead mimic the Session View in Ableton Live which operates more like a cue-able MIDI clip player. While this is not a perfect replacement for MIDI event clips, it does show that MOTU does see some inherent value in MIDI clips as a generic idea and might provide additional resources in the future for those seeking something similar with more arrangement-focused workflows. Additionally these Clips can encompass not just MIDI, but audio Clips and effect modulation and automation.

I’ve never written music using this manner because it doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but I recognize that it’s become incredibly popular with Ableton Live users (and even users of other DAWs) who utilize Ableton Live in its original design as a live performance tool. With MOTU’s interest in this market (you wouldn’t believe the number of concerts that are conducted using Digital Performer, even before the new Clips view), I look forward to MOTU’s plans in the future. The more adoption, especially among electronic artists, the better it will be for everyone.

DP10’s new Clips view supporting clips of MIDI, audio and event effect automation.

MIDI: Drum editor

MOTU DP10 Drum editor view

The Drum editor is amazing coming from Pro Tools. The ability to comment meta data per note reminds me a lot of how Ableton Live will load the names of drum samples from its Drum Rack instrument into a specialized MIDI view that limits the available notes shown to those that have samples triggerable by them. But like in many areas of DP, it transcends the abilities of other DAWs allowing for more flexibility and better management. You can modify Velocity data below and trigger the drum samples like a step sequencer. I’ve used a similar tool in Cubase before, but I found that MOTU’s DP10 is a much easier experience to work with. If nothing else the use of triangles to signify events in Cubase gets pretty confusing when you’re alternating 16th note hihats across 4 samples. The squares in DP10 are much easier to visually identify and grab and move around.

MIDI: effects

Pretty much every DAW has jumped on and capitalized on the concept of MIDI effects and MOTU really leads the way as far as I’m concerned. It offers the following MIDI effects:

  • Arpeggiator
  • Change Duration
  • Change Velocity
  • DeFlam
  • Echo
  • Groove Quantize
  • Humanize
  • Invert Pitch
  • Quantize
  • Reassign Continuous Data
  • Remove Duplicates
  • Time Shift
  • Transpose
Available MIDI effects in DP10. Gotta love Transpose, Arpeggiator and both Quantize options!

The following are MIDI effects I use on a frequent basis:

Transpose – If you’re like me, you may not be terribly good at playing piano or knowing exactly which keys are in the scale you’re using. For years, DAWs and plug-ins have been available to help aid users in this area. This works by taking the C Major scale (all white keys) and transposing them to a different key/scale. The result is that when you’re playing on your MIDI controller keyboard or pad interface with this MIDI plugin enabled, if you just use the white keys you’ll always be in tune and won’t play a note that’s not in the scale you’re using in your composition. While similar solutions exist within Logic Pro X and Cubase, DP10 goes a step further and allows you to define your own custom scales. That’s a bit beyond what I’m capable of, but I know classically trained musicians and students of music theory love this.

The Transpose MIDI plugin in DP10

Groove Quantize – I don’t know what happened between the mid-2000s and now, but electronic music overall seems to have gone through a profound de-evolution when it comes to rhythm. Previously building on the amazing swing values generated by devices such as Akai’s MPC 3000, 2000XL, and 2000 machines, electronic music of the 90s and going on for about a decade had amazing grooves that made the fact the rhythms were programmed digitally an attribute rather than a detriment. Unforunately at some point this seems to have fallen out of style. Not in this studio! I record parts from my MPC Live and Ableton Live with MPC Swing profiles all the time. Not only does DP10 come with a great assortment of available grooves to quantize MIDI events to, you can also import your own.

MPC3000-MPC60 Groove Quantize percentage options for MIDI tracks, this is *required* for good music in my humble opinion which isn’t wrong like those that disagree with me on this point.

To add a MIDI effect from the MIDI tab, bring up a MIDI track in your MIDI tool view by click on its tab and then double click on the MIDI effect slot you wish to place it on (you can move slots by pressing the up and down arrors). Alternatively, you can double click on an effect slot from the Mixing Board tab just like you would an audio effect. These effects are live as you record from a MIDI device.

MIDI: A note on MIDI routing

Previously in Pro Tools, I would use the real-time MIDI properties window to set groove and relied on the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol plugin to handle Transpose and Arpeggiation duties. When I first was demoing DP10 out, I noticed that there seems to be less flexability when it comes to MIDI routing between MIDI tracks and devices within DP. However, upon reading the manual and realizing much of these options were already present natively in DP through MOTU’s own MIDI plug-ins, I found that I no longer required the more advanced MIDI routing I had in Pro Tools and Ableton. So, not a huge problem, but it was not a straightforward migration to DP for me with regard to live modifications to MIDI data.

MIDI: Automation

MOTU DP’s intesively deep MIDI implementation continues as I found myself needed to record and tweak automations of MIDI CC values to nail down performances. Generally when I write a synthesizer part, I do so focusing first on notes and quantization getting done first and then move on to knob value automation. If you’ve recorded with synthesizers over MIDI and audio before, you’ll know that in addition to just the notes you sequence you can also modify things such as a synthesizer’s oscillator options and its filter’s resonance and cutoff options. Many DAWs have adopted a lane based approach to this where on a track view you can show additional lanes of a track with specific MIDI CC (the knob values) being altered and controlled.

I won’t lie, I would say Ableton Live’s implementation of automation is perhaps the most approachable, but Live also suffers from a lack of SysEx support (an extension of the MIDI protocol usually found working in conjunction with vendors doing expanded feature support to MIDI). DP10’s is what I would call the most prolific if Live’s is the most approachable. All MIDI devices have CC values which correspond to that device’s parameters, and these can be easily defined within a lane that can be toggled to show or hide by clicking the arrow key as pointed out in the photo.

Red arrow indicating where to click to show/hide lanes. Common MIDI CC values can be assigned here, or they can be defined by click on “Other Controller…” and inputting the CC value desired.

Audio Production & Mixing

Reverse mirroring the history of Pro Tools which was first a digital audio sequencer that later gained a MIDI implementation, MOTU’s DP originally started life as a program named Performer which was solely dedicated to sequencing MIDI and it later gained digital audio features and was renamed Digital Performer. Both programs benefits from a long history of design and continuous revision and refinement.

Of course, MOTU’s DP wipes the floor with Pro Tools with regard to its MIDI implementation, so how well does it do with audio?

I’m working on another article going into detail about my methods of electronic music production I’ve learned over the years, so this part of the review will be light compared to the MIDI portion. However, I can say without a doubt that for an artist composing and recording, DP10 is just as capable as Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Cubase.

The great part about contemporary implementations of digital audio software is that they all strive to mimc working on an analog mixing console as closely as possible, except for areas where software shortcuts in design provide a larger benefit instead of maintaining that analog mixer workflow. Even better, working with audio between DP, Pro Tools, and Cubase is largely the same core workflow: you have tracks that are either audio or MIDI (or a combination of the two like instrument tracks), you have AUX tracks that other tracks can be routed to in parallel to feed multiple signals into a single effect like reverbs or delays, and you have inserts which can be applied to individual audio channels or a bus of multiple channels or the master fader.

DP maintains this replication of workflow and does it quite well. I have used the default plug-in format of AU (the same used by Logic Pro X), and have found working with audio is a very stable experience.

Unlike, say, Ableton Live that has a murky definition of audio channels (are they mono, are they stereo, do they change when a plug-in effect is added?), being able to work with mono and stereo signals makes it 1) much easier to mix without running into possible phase issues of attempting to collapse a stereo signal to mono and 2) makes it easier to run your project out to an analog mixer console for final mixdown and processing.

Functionally I would say if you predominately work with audio and not MIDI, you’ll find a very smooth transition to DP from any other DAW that takes this analog console replication approach to digital audio in their DAW offering.

Waveform – A Built-In Waveform Audio Editor

A huge benefit to working in DP that isn’t nearly as well developed in those other vendor’s offerings however is the inclusion of a built in audio editor, appropriately named Waveform and is accessible from the center window space’s tab selection.

From the Waveform view tab in DP, you can apply any one or more of your plug-in effects (AU, VST2, VST3, and MOTU’s own MAS format) by first loading the audio you want in Waveform’s tab and then going to Audio > Apply Plug-In and then choose the effect you want to apply.

A critique I have of Waveform compared to alternatives from other vendors with dedicated audio editors like MAGIX’s Sound Forge, is that there’s no way to hear what the effect will sound like before you apply it. In this regard, it reminds me of working with my AKAI S5000 sampler.

DP10’s Waveform editor and Apply Plug-In dialog

That said, it’s definitely functional for things like increasing gain of an already recorded audio part, or reversing audio.

Bundles, Inputs & Outputs (Bundles Is Awesome)

All DAWs that deal with your audio interface’s input and output channels largely handle the idea in the same way: you have inputs that you assign and give names or keep the ones auto-generated by either the DAW software or what the audio interface driver reports as the name. What can I say but I/O management is a dream, though that’s really the case in all DAWs.

A useful feature I would put forth as far as I/O management is to have the selected I/O name and audio device assignment be color coded to show activitity on that I/O port to help identify channel numbering issues that might pop up for some users. Ableton Live has this feature on every track within its sequencer and have the time I don’t even have to look at the name on my patchbay when routing audio to my outboard gear. Otherwise, it’s pretty comprehensive routing and nothing you couldn’t overcome by creating a template with the interfaces pre-named. An example is my Presonus Quantum interface. It gets reported with 32 outputs simply named 1-32. This is somewhat misleading as some of these outputs aren’t like the other analog outputs, one pair is my S/PDIF and two other pairs are the dual headphone out jacks. This makes identifying my pair of Behringer ADAT I/O mic preamps kind of hard to identify. This is different behavior from Pro Tools in that it was auto populated with more detailed naming reported presumably by the audio interface’s class compliant driver with the S/PDIF and headphone ports clearly identified.

That said, I suggest if you’re using a patch bay and want to identify the ports within DP10, to open up a software synth and just create a sine wave or some persistent mono audio signal and listen for them. I didn’t have to go quite as far using Presonus’s UniversalControl software to monitor the inputs as they came in and testing them. Just make a template if you’re managing a large number of I/O and you’ll be fine.

The number of Insert and AUX Sends per channel on the mixer can be increased or reduced as needed by clicking on the down arrow on the Mixing Board view (in the upper right corner) and clicking on “Set Number of Effect Inserts” and “Set Number of Sends”

How to increase Insert and AUX Sends in MOTU DP from the Mixing Board

Things I Didn’t Cover

Obviously, it would be impossible to review all DP10 has to offer even in the admittedly long review I’ve written. However, these are the areas where I needed to learn to transition 90% of my DAW workflow from Pro Tools in the realm of being an electronic musician.

There are loads I specifically didn’t cover either because they’re out of my element or use case (like the QuickScribe music notation editor view that gives AVID’s Sibelius a run for its money) or because they’re inherent and unique to an advanced DP workflow that doesn’t cover my use case (like the whole case of Soundbites and Chunks). The latter is definitely something you’ll want to wrap your head around if you decide to adopt DP as your DAW of choice, but it’s not a huge learning curve.

In Closing

MOTU Digital Performer 10 is a very solid offering that has made the transition away from AVID’s Pro Tools easy, cheaper, and more fun than ever. It’s incredibly stable unlike other DAWs I’ve used in the past and its ability to sync with my Akai MPC Live and its Rewire mode letting me use Ableton Live with my Push2 controller make DP10 my no-brainer central hub of a DAW.

I can say that MOTU makes solid products. Having used their MIDI Express offerings for years, I can tell you that my next audio interface will be from them as well. They’ve made a customer for life!

Be sure to subscribe to MOTU’s social media as they’re always posting small videos showing professional tool tips that will save you time.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10