Review: Tracktion Waveform

Waveform is the latest incarnation of the software formerly known as Tracktion – if you are an old hand think of Waveform as Tracktion 8. The Tracktion Corporation has a unique vision when it comes to their DAW and in a word that is focus. The aim is to produce a digital workstation totally focused on music production. So out of the box we can say if you are looking for live performance software or film scoring features then Waveform is probably not right for you. 

Musicians and music producers on the other hand – step right in. Focus is also the word that describes Tracktion’s vision for Waveform’s interface, which is a serious attempt to find innovative solutions to the challenge of presenting comprehensive control options without overwhelming the user with feature bloat and menu madness. And focus on the code means Waveform runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux and even allegedly a Raspberry Pi – seriously lean and nimble code.

I first came across Tracktion as a giveaway with a Mackie interface back in version 2 so stepping into version 8 is a radical shakeup for me. While for those who have followed the Tracktion journey Waveform will seem more like evolution. New in Waveform is the mixer panel – previously Tracktion offered mixing at the track ends i.e. in a vertical view but now we have a more conventional mix panel which can be resized or even detached and dragged onto another monitor. I like the fact that you don’t have faders as such but click anywhere under the fader ‘line’ and you effectively grab the control, nice.

Alongside the mixer panel – the midi editor is now able to be popped out and dragged to a second screen – which will be a boon to those who have struggled to make precise midi edits in previous versions of Tracktion. In fact Waveform comes loaded with features that aim to make music making easier, more flexible and more musical! Probably the best example is the pattern generator – with four basic patterns available: Arpeggio, Chords, Bassline and Melody. Pattern generation isn’t going to write you a hit record but it is going to save you a load of time and make things like transposition a damn sight easier. The pattern generator even offers statistical help in offering the most popular options to go with your chord progression so far.

It’s like having Benny from Axis of Awesome giving you chord advice every step of the way, it’s awesome. Talking of steps, Waveform has a comprehensive step sequencer with loads of options and you can programme it directly in the timeline for instant feedback and control. For a musical struggler like me Waveform helps me find a place to start and holds my hand from there – for you musical geniuses the start is all you might need.

I love the multiple synced browsers – if you have a collection of loops, homemade or otherwise, then you can open multiple browse windows which preview in sync with each other. And if you find say three or four separate loops that you want to add then a simple drag-and-drop delivers the whole batch to the time line in one operation. This is one of the features that prompts a ‘why didn’t I think of that before’ kind of response. It is obvious and simultaneously very clever and a big time saver.

If your vocals need a little help with tuning – and mine certainly do then you can take advantage of Waveform’s built in access to Melodyne Essential. For time stretching and warping you also get a big name process, in this case Zplane’s Elastique Pro. So there is plenty of the good stuff on board.

One feature that really marks out the ambition of Waveform is scripting. This isn’t a new feature but is one that sets Waveform aside as a power tool. In use scripting can be as simple or as complex as you like. Open the Keyboard Shortcuts editor in Settings and you can see every keyboard shortcut the system has to offer.

In this short review there’s a tonne of stuff I haven’t covered – comping, freezing, clip-based effects, ghost tracks and more. All in all Waveform is a bargain for music composition, it’s not trying to do everything – it is doing music-based stuff really well. With the widest platform availability and updates like this that add heavy weight features added to a ground breaking front end and a very very attractive price, I’d say Waveform should be gaining ‘tracktion’ in the DAW market in a big way.

Key Features:

  • Multi-browser to preview multiple audio samples at once
  • New MIDI composition tools
  • Supports all major plugin and loop varieties

RRP: £99,00 ($99,00)

Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television. Most recently, Alistair was assistant editor, BBC Radio Wales and has been helping the UN with broadcast operations in Juba.