Hang on, I thought BandLab was all about Cakewalk? Well, it is, partly. Before BandLab picked up Cakewalk they already had their own completely free DAW. The reason why it’s still around in light of all this Cakewalk business is because it’s a bit different. BandLab (the software) is an online DAW built for collaboration and social fraternizing.
Sounds like fun but it’s also a pretty decent piece of recording software. But the best feature is that it’s all online and runs in your browser and so it doesn’t matter which computer or platform you use, you can pick up your project where you left off. So you can do a bit of recording at home, and then mix on your phone on the way to using a computer at school or work, and then do some more tweaking on your mom’s MacBook. It’s completely platform agnostic.
And the feature list is ridiculous. It comes with 120 professionally-crafted virtual instruments, amp models for guitar and bass, guitar and vocal effects processing and real-time automatic pitch correction. You get access to over 2,000 royalty free loops, drum pattern editors, MIDI sequencing and loop triggering.
You can record audio directly into BandLab or upload audio from another DAW. And when your project is done, BandLab offers free algorithmic mastering, which means a computer does it rather than a human. But even so, you get a pretty finished product at the end.
The collaboration side is also very interesting. When you’re not chatting to other musicians and Producers you can invite them to contribute to your project. Grant them access and they can add tracks, edits or mixes for some truly collaborative creativity without having to Dropbox files anywhere. It’s all saved in unlimited space in the Cloud. Unlimited tracks, unlimited projects, unlimited collaboration.
Ok, it’s not Pro Tools. You’re not dealing with complex synchronization or hardware synthesizers. The audio connection and monitoring to an online DAW are going to be problematic in terms of latency. But the recording, sequencing, editing, and mixing are all there, and the ease of collaboration makes BandLab a very interesting and sociable experience.
Pros & Cons
- Runs online so you can access it from anywhere
- Decent selection of instruments and effects
- Needs an internet connection
- Can’t monitor through the software
- Won’t be able to run hardware synths in sync due to high latency