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The History of Digital Audio Workstation

Originating from the early 1980s, DAW or digital audio workstation, which includes music production software, was originally called tape-less, computer-based systems such as Synclavier New England digital and Fairlight hard drives used for media storage. Initial DAWs are not only designed to play back the sound samples created but also to record, edit and playback digital audio tracks. They are also quite expensive. The main feature of DAWs is the ability to freely manipulate and play recorded sounds. The user interface of each system is very different because the designer has no previous example to refer. This makes the user quite an intense learning curve especially for serious production or audio for image applications. Currently, most DAWs, particularly DAWs for computers, have editing, playback capabilities, and MIDI recording.

With the extinction and replacement of early DAWs with much cheaper keyboards “workstation” the term “DAW” has evolved and now refers to a “virtual studio” software program, generally composed of a combination of multitrack audio and MIDI software, host computers and audio interface hardware – the latter includes an audio-to-digital (ADC) and/or digital-to-analog (DAC) converter signal converter, and sometimes a DSP system for external audio processing externally from the host computer’s own processing.

While most homes with computers and multitrack editing software can function a bit as DAW, this term generally refers to computer systems that have professional and high-quality external audio software ADC-DAC hardware, usually with multiple discrete audio inputs and outputs. This professional audio quality interface offers functional or sonic advantages when compared to a consumer soundcard, especially by typically having a lower latency (ie time between voice input and hearing played back by the DAW). In addition to having a high-end sound card, most DAWs also require large amounts of RAM, fast CPU (s) and free hard drive space. Some modern DAWs, to keep minimal residual/background noise in the audio monitoring environment, also feature power supply which is fanless, hard disk enclosure that can suppress noise and really quiet/passive system coolers and CPU.