At this point, you’ll know there’s a fair amount of love for BandLab in Light Audio Recording. But, it’s not the only online DAW. In this post we look at the Spotify-owned Soundtrap.
Although I really have achieved so much with BandLab, the time came when it just wasn’t enough.
While I was planning future light audio recoring projects, I became reacquainted with a song I wrote when I was 17. It was longer than the six minute limit BandLab had on their projects at the time. And, it I decided to use every single one of my guitars on it, so the 12 track limit would make it awkward.
It should be noted that they’ve since increased the limits on the number of tracks, and duration.
So, I went exploring other online DAWs. I tried a few, and frankly, Soundtrap was the only one that actually worked.
|Type of DAW?||Online, in-browser; also available as an app for mobile device|
|Maximum number of tracks?||I couldn’t find an answer anywhere; it seems to be just a case of “keep going until it lags”|
|Maximum track duration||I couldn’t find an answer anywhere; it seems to be just a case of “keep going until it lags”|
|Cost?||It’s freemium, which means you can use it for free, but they have four additional paid tiers with various extra|
|Plugins?||They have a pretty extensive range of built-in effects and processing – you can’t use your own VSTs, or third-party things you’d normally use|
|MIDI?||Yes, but I don’t really use MIDI, so I haven’t tried it|
As mentioned, Soundtrap is a tiered platform. I only use the free one, because we’re poor here at light audio recording. But, it’s worth taking a quick look at pricing and what you could get.
The following features are shared by all paid tiers:
- 150k+ sound effects from freesound.org
- Official Antares Auto-Tune
- Time restore – which just means you can go back to previously saved versions of your project
- Remote interviews – which means you can chat with people who aren’t even in the room with you; this is useful for podcasters, but seems like it could be applied to anything really
Apart from those features, here are the main points for each tier.
|Music Makers Premium||$9.99 monthly or $95.88 annually|
|Music Makers Supreme||$14.99 per month or $143.88 annually|
|Storytellers||$14.99 per month or $143.88 annually|
|Complete||$17.99 per month or $167.88 annually|
As can be seen, these tiers suggest Soundtrap is aimed more at electronic musicians who need a library of loops and instruments, as well as podcasters.
Soundtrap: in use
When I was starting recording the project I opted to use Soundtrap for, I was at my parents’ house. For a variety of reasons, I had to do my recording where there was no WiFi. Therefore, recording directly into Soundtrap wasn’t an option.
So, remember when I was recording stuff all over New York? Well, I had to employ the same techniques: recording on my phone, then uploading to Google Drive, then downloading from Google Drive, and importing it into Soundtrap.
What a faff!
Although I tolerated this given the nature of my circumstances, I looked forward to getting back to New York and recording directly to my Chromebook.
However, Soundtrap didn’t like my audio interface. So, I had to keep recording to my phone. Meh.
When I imported recordings to Soundtrap to start some rough mixes, I found it would get laggy and crap at a similar threshold to BandLab. Similarly to how I work in BandLab, I had to create projects for the various instrument sections.
Because of this, Soundtrap’s limits will depend entirely on your own tech.
- Firstly, internet quality: when you think about it, a DAW does an awful lot of work; so, an online DAW is trying to do it, with the addition of managing internet connection; so, the kinder you can be in that respect, the better
- Secondly, your computer: for example, although my Chromebook is as well-speced, it’s so old it doesn’t connect to 5 GHz WiFi
- Thirdly, your bandwidth: because of the *gestures broadly all around* right now, my wife and I are at home togethr all the time; so bandwidth is shared with Zoom calls and streaming… and it’s a bit much to load a heavy project like a nine minute song
Due to all of these, my Chromebook wasn’t actually cutting it – I had to borrow a more powerful computer that could get on our 5 GHz WiFi. Even then, it was touch and go sometimes, as can be seen in this video.
|It has a free tier: although it’s isnt the only free option in online DAWs, it’s always a great place to start an evaluation||You get what you pay for… maybe: as I have noted, the limit of Soundtrap seems to be the tech you use – will it improve if you part with cash for higher tiers?|
|Loops and instruments: so, good for electronic-oriented musicians||Fussy about audio interfaces on Chromebook: while I know Chromebooks aren’t widely used, or generally powerful enough for music production, it seems tight that they can’t make it universal|
|You can record a full track on it: however, if it doesn’t like you audio interface, it’s a faff!||The effects: they seem relatively simple to use; additionally, the option of getting legit Auto-Tune on your work is a good draw|
|User interface: although it’s not the prettiest, it’s fairly easy to navigate||Exporting: in order to get you to part with cash, you need to pay to export as a WAV file, which seems tight; however, from within the Studio, you can export individual tracks as a WAV, which is good for exporting stems; but, I can’t share my work with a nice embedded player|
|Numbers: while it has plenty of controls, there’s a notable and annoying lack of numberical values – so you’re eyeballing and earballing everything|
…Soundtrap got the job done, on this occasion that I was working on a long song.
But, it far from left me ditching BandLab just yet.
As I have noted in the table above, I can’t embed a player for you to listen here while you’re on this page. So, here’s a link that will take you to the Soundtrap website, where you can hear what I did.
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Finally, this is a music project, so we’re on Spotify – the playlist below starts with the most recent release and works backwards. So, feel free to follow us!
However, do remember that it takes 2,000 plays on Spotify to generate a single dollar, so it would take 6,000 plays to get a coffee…