Digital Audio Workstation Qualification Process for Cakewalk DAW Labs
Our Digital Audio Workstation testing and review process for inclusion in the Cakewalk DAW Labs page begins by assessing
the “out-of-box” experience: We approach set up and usage as would one of our customers
. If you'd like to know which DAWs on our pages feature a tweaked installation of Windows, look for the phrase
"Audio Optimized OS" listed next to each system in both the Desktops and Laptops pages.
Before any Cakewalk software is installed, initial considerations revolve around:
- shipment quality
- ease of setup
- completeness of the package including instructions, documentation, and additional hardware
- apparent build quality or fit and finish.
Once the system is set up, we inspect its performance customizations. This largely involves any changes to the Windows OS, but also includes the effectiveness of the computer’s design while it is running. Any DAW should be relatively quiet and cool. Because most audio hardware and software are happiest when Windows is entirely dedicated to their needs, a reasonable amount of customization to the OS is expected. Basically any part of Windows that may conflict with music production, or consume valuable resources should be disabled or minimized as much as possible. For example most visual effects in XP are not necessary and often require more resources to run than is appropriate in a DAW. Also, by default there are many more processes configured to run in Windows than is desirable, and those should be reduced as well. We make a brief assessment of the customizations, and then evaluate their effectiveness by running our programs.
Thus begins the actual testing phase. If Cakewalk software is not already installed, we’ll load one of our programs and install any necessary hardware. We load up a large test project and work with it for a while in order to test all of the major functions of our application: Audio and midi recording on multiple tracks, soft synth sequencing, mixing, effects processing, and automation. We then use USB midi and audio devices, Firewire interfaces, and PCI cards to verify the connections function properly. Specific performance features we look for are:
- low latency operation
- CPU efficiency
- hard drive throughput
- machine noise levels
- overall system responsiveness
The review is concluded when we’ve finished testing major PC music and sound scenarios. If all performance expectations are met, it becomes a recommended DAW for Cakewalk customers, and is added to our DAW Labs page.