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Tracktion Review - Part 1

(Please note that this review is of Tracktion version 1 - see the final page for what T2 gives you over T1.)

Tracktion start-up screenI have been messing about with recording music for more years than I care to remember. My first attempts were created by bouncing between two cassette decks and, as I'm sure you can imagine, the resultant quality was far from ideal. From there I progressed to a 4-track tape deck with the later addition of a Commodore PET playing drums, and then to MIDI via an Amiga running that old stalwart of a program, Music-X.

Music-X was simple and, unless you tried to push it too far, it did what it said on the tin. Ok, it could really only do MIDI, audio waves were beyond its capability (and, yes, I know it could play back 8-bit wave files but we were still several years away from reliable and cheap hard disk recording back then). An enforced shift from the Amiga to a PC in the mid-nineties meant that I had to look at what alternatives there were on that platform. I tried Cubase VST, then Cakewalk and even had a play with demos of Cubase SX, Sonar and Logic. However, I found that with all of these programs the software got in the way of the music. Nothing about those packages seemed to be as intuitive as I had been used to in Music-X. There were pop-up windows all over the place, endless drop-down menus with oodles of options, and countless ways of doing things. I found that I spent more time trying to get to grips with the software instead of creating the music. It's funny, but I always thought computers were about making things easier.

And then I discovered Tracktion. I read a review in Computer Music (issue 65), played with the demo on the magazine's cover disk, downloaded the latest demo from the Raw Material Software web site, and then, without further hesitation, bought it. Ok, so at £50, it didn't exactly cost as much as any of the others but that wasn't the real reason. The reason was that it had simplified all of those endless windows and menus into a hugely simple but well thought out interface that just left the user to get on with what they were interested in - making music.

Tracktion has been the labour of love of one programmer, Jules (Julian) Storer, who became frustrated with other 'normal' sequencers and started building his own. It is fast and intuitive and is now starting to challenge the big boys. The distribution for Tracktion is now handled by Mackie so that Jules can spend all of his time on improvements to Tracktion. There's also a very lively forum dedicated to it at K-v-R.