MOTU Digital Performer 9 – DP9 diversity and DAWs

I recently jumped into the deep end of MOTU world and I’m writing this as a small down payment against reviews of MOTUs M64 and 624 AVB-TSN interfaces. But at that the same time I had a chance to look at MOTU’s venerable yet still controversial DAW Digital Performer 9. I say venerable because Digital Performer has been around a long time. I say controversial because even a casual look at the internet’s outpouring on the subject is awash with passionate, passionate advocacy and at the same time a stream of people who are not so much haters of DP9 but baffled by it!

It seems that Digital Performer is a bit of a Marmite product – DP9 is loved insanely by many but perplexes others to a point of frustration if not anger. At the risk of stuffing too many things into one article I want to try and explore a little the diversity of the DAW market and indeed celebrate it too.

Forgive me some gross simplification but the DAW market probably scores pretty highly on diversity. Yes there is the gorilla of Pro Tools – threatening to eat everyone’s lunch – and indeed everyone. But it is still unremarkable to have your project on Logic or Cubase or Nuendo or Studio One or Pyramix or Sadie or Sequoia or Reaper or Digital Performer – depending on the particular area of the industry you are working in. And for all I know Sonar, Bitwig and maybe Tracks if your project is just recording. And forgive me if I have left your favourite off the list.

Now contrast that with the world of office type stuff – yes there are products hanging on to niches like script writing or university dissertations but Word has laid waste to most of the competitors. Or think Excel – there may be flourishing commercial competition but I haven’t seen it. I think it would be terrible if the DAW world was reduced to such a desert of options. And I am sad when excellent software like Soundscape say reaches the end of the line. And mostly because less products means less diversity, less innovation and of course less choice.

What’s in the (tool) box?

A little bit of context – in editing I would probably boot Wavelab first, though I’m very much looking forward to the new version of Acon’s Acoustica and on the Mac Rogue Amoeba’s Fission is great fun for hack and go operations. But for really, really serious editing – it would be Sadie, Pyramix or Sequoia, and probably in that order. For me a crossfade editor is what makes professional editing professional. I think Nuendo has one – but I haven’t seen Nuendo since version 3.

Sequoia I maybe know best, it has an audio engine that feels like no other in terms of brute efficiency (I’m one step behind on version 12 – 13 is out there) and has more options than a Subway of Subways. I also enjoy Studio One V3 – I just like it, we hit it off together in a way that Cubase and I haven’t so far. Which is a shame because people I know and respect swear Cubase is the thing. Protools – there is a copy in the house (11 or 12 I think) – but I never use it – just out of some misplaced sense of pride.

Starting out with DP9

I am still a DP9 novice – green as grass. Having dived in when I first go the interfaces – I can kind of see what might rub the nay-sayers up the wrong way. What is this tracks view why is it so limiting? Ah the sequence view – that’s what I need – why is everything so dark? – different skin – that’s much better. What is a soundbyte and where have my clips/files gone? Ah, a soundbyte is a file, or clip or whatever you call it. More research required into DP9.
Diversity if you take it seriously entails some hard work. But I do love diversity.

I love it a lot, consider my text workflow. Currently write in Scrivener, compile from Markdown to Latex, process in TexStudio, print from PdfDroplet. It is insane and if someone asked – how do I write a letter to my Aunt Jane. I would not start my answer with, ‘first install MikTex.’ Word would be much more appropriate. And therefore most of the flames in DAW wars are irrelevant. First question – what do you want to do? Second question – what else do you want to do? Third question – anything else you want to do?

And just because software behaves differently doesn’t mean it is bad. What if MOTU are on to something. And I mention that because their audio interfaces are unique in championing AVB-TSN. And they are definitely on to something there. So I start the DP9 research.

I look at the manual – – seems very comprehensive – 996 pages – very comprehensive, what nearly a thousand pages!  There must be an easier way! So I watch a Youtube clip about Digital Performer and film scoring –  – and I can see exactly why film guys love this – but the video is over 40 minutes long. I read some forums and I take in the familiar words of wisdom. RTFM.  Easier said than done for this brute of a book. But I love diversity and so I have decided – I’m going to set aside my pride and RTFM, all of it, and report back. It’s going to take a while but in the mean time I can work on the interface reviews, if you can’t wait – check out the Audio Media version which is here.

Comments 3

  1. I am a DP user… for more than 20 years! …and i can still open sessions I did in 1997 without a hitch. When I tell that to Logic or ProTools users they gasp…but it’s true! If you used DP plugs back then they all come up as they were! … pretty cool right? how does your DAW fare in this regard?

    Yes there is some nomenclature that is different … what we call Soundbites you might call Clips or ….something else….same thing… get over the naming please

    Yes there are many different windows….for different purposes. .. and that is not without some criticisms either.

    The thing is though that DP is stable as anything… it seems to be used for live show sequencing as the DAW of choice

    Once you spend time with it….you will find you can do just about anything…. and possibly in a more elegant way than you’re used to…. long-term users constantly open up new perspectives on how to do the same thing but from a different angle… you really can mould it into your own workflow

    Import key bindings from other DAWS .. that you are familiar with…it’s all configurable.

    Dig into the Commands (key bindings) and it is incredible what you can specify any key to do for you…. the detail doesn’t compare to Logic for example…and ProTools locks you absolutely to their key bindings

    I’d love to hear the rest of your review as you have started with a fresh mind. I hope you make DP a tool you configure how you wish and find ever-smarter and efficient ways to get the job done.

    For me it has been rock solid, logical and productive in all circumstances and I have yet to feel enticed by another DAW. But I am yet to be nominated for a Grammy so YMMV ( :

    I hope to hear your follow up

    If I can help in any way don’t hesitate to ask … DP users tend to be die-hard … some old-schoolers a bit cantankerous even… there’re many reasons we love it so much… I hope you find happiness too


    i am biased

    my only gripe until recently was the time/pitch engine which was clearly not up to th ebest available….until Dp introduced DP 9.5 using Aynaptique engine for this…. and we were all expecting an IRCAM engine… wow! The new one is totally stunning IMHO!

  2. Post

    Hi Rupert – thanks for your thoughtful and considered comments. First off the bat I have to apologise – I haven’t made my way through the manual. In my defence I’ve been reviewing Waveform and Sound Forge Audio Studio. And I have Sound Forge Pro and Rogue Amoeba Audio Hijack on the shelf waiting. And having acquired a Preonus 16R there is Universal Control to get to grips with.
    However I did boot up DP9 recently and started making some progress, it will take a while. And to be honest more and more I harken to the seductive call of Studio One. But don’t give up on me yet – I certainly haven’t given up on Digital Performer.

    The question about opening ‘legacy’ projects is a good one. The other side of the coin of course is speed of development. Since I reviewed Waveform 8 – not only have they released 9 but also 9.1 and 9.1.1! Now just adding up the numbers doesn’t mean much but there can be an advantage in being last to the race! Cleaner and more modern code for starters. And seeing everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses.

    I think tools are great but just as great cameras don’t mean great pictures – great DAWs don’t mean great mixes. They help of course, and I haven’t been nominated for a Grammy either!

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