Buzz’s Blog: On Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web

Dec 10 2011   1:54AM GMT

More on sound editing: DAWs vs. wave editors

Roger King Roger King Profile: Roger King

Editing Sound.

We’re in a series of postings relating to editing sound.


See the previous postings on  cleaning audio, selecting an audio editor, and a couple of basic audio editing principles.  We have also looked at the interface to a popular audio editor, Amadeus Pro, and at basic editing in Amadeus Pro. We looked at a free audio editor, Audacity, and how one of its effects can be used to remove noise.  Most recently, we looked at the way that VST and AU plugins add power to sound editors.

Today, we look at a common question.

What is the difference between a DAW and a wave editor?

The products we have looked at so far are generally called audio editors or wave editors. These include Amadeus, Wavelab, Peak, Sound Forge, and Sound Studio.  See the links above.

Highly multitrack.

A Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW) is generally a far more complicated program.  A wave (or audio) editor usually can only handle one or two tracks of recordings, while a DAW might support ten or twenty or more tracks.

Non-destructive editing.

Wave editors are used (usually) to perform what is called destructive editing.

This is a term that is used with regard to a wide variety of media applications, and quite frankly, “non-destructive” editing tends to sound better to the average person.  Apple Aperture is a photo editor and manager that supports non-destructive editing, in that you can apply powerful effects to an image without risk of destroying the original image.

DAWs support non-destructive editing because the goal of a DAW is to support the sophisticated mixing of pre-existing sound tracks, as well as the application of special effects to sound tracks.  But a wave editor is used to make raw recordings and edit them into the sorts of useful tracks that might be imported into a DAW.

Special effects, software instruments, and MIDI.

We’ll look at these things in the next in this series of blog postings relating to audio editing.

But to wrap things up, here is a screenshot of a very popular DAW, Cubase, the same folks who make the WaveLab wave editor we have previously discussed:

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