This review is a followup of our 2011 review of n-Track Studio v.6.
As our review found v.6 already quite robust, albeit with a few hard to graps features, it was interesting to see what the overhaul did to the functionality and feel of the software.
Here is the list of what is new in version 8:
- Step Sequencer
- Multi-take Recording Mode
- Improved Audio Engine Performance
- Updated GUI
- Beat Doctor
- Custom Envelope Shapes
- Audio Part Widgets
- REX File support
- Songtree integration
- Flexible time
- Fully Customizable Toolbar
Installation requires a simple and quick product registration and a relatively small (roughly 80mb) download from the company's site. N-Track allows Studio 8 to be installed on 2 separate computers, while the Studio 8 EX version can be installed on 5 machines. The user can choose between a 32 and 64 bit version, depending on the type of 3rd party effects that one wishes to load. I opted for the 32bit version as I still have a lot of 32bit software, both freeware and paid versions.
Right away the interface felt smoother and the audio editing options, which in version 6 were hard to work with, now are more responsive and have a feel similar to Reaper. There are some new effects, especially notable to me as a guitarist is the nTube. This is essentially a vst guitar amplifier plugin, which when paired with some cabinet impulse responses (IRs) loaded in the freeware 3rd party NadIR plugin produced quite pleasant results. For the most part, the new version of n-Track behaved closer to what I'd expect from a typical DAW and I had a much more pleasant time getting around the controls and working on music. The Multi-take Recording Mode offered easier guitar editing functionality, which is a godsend when comping lead takes.
I experienced a few glitches, mainly with Amplitube and EZDrummer. Amplitube got weird when a second track was added, it started dropping the plugin sound from the first track and couldn't play both simultaneously. EZDrummer wouldn't start at beat 1:1:000 (at the beginning of a song) and missed producing sound on the first downbeat, when moved over to the next bar, it played fine. At the same time, when the midi file was piped through the built in drum Drums instrument, it managed to produce sound on that same spot. It is possible that the issue was with my somewhat older versions of Amplitube and EZDrummer, as of now they have moved up a version. I didn't experience similar glitches while running LePou and other freeware amp vsts.
There were also some strange visual rendering issues, when a bright yellow track color was selected the mixer window displayed its text in white, which is almost unreadable, while the track window displayed it in black, which contrasted well with the color. N-Track has a GUI skinning feature where the user can modify the GUI. Since I am not very good at this I tried picking some of the other skin themes but the mixer view continued to display the name of the channel in white. I am sure that with further investigation, this could be resolved by creating a custom skin. It is also worth mentioning here that n-Track offers fully customizable "skins", so unlike some of its competitors, you won't have to be locked in a particular dark or light theme, but can choose your own view options.
Songtree integration was probably the most fun new feature to come to version 8. For those that are not familiar with it, Songtree is a free crowd-sourcing music website built and maintained by the team behind n-Track. It integrates seamlessly into n-Track and one can easily start, join and collaborate on projects from within the DAW. So in essence, you are a click away from a world-wide community of talent. At the moment, Songtree projects are all under Creative Commons license, and I personally would like to see more robust licensing options, something akin to Kompoz.
Another new feature, the Step Sequencer offers a drum grid on which one can create and load patterns and string them together, creating very quick and easy to edit drum and instrument parts. Another particular feature that managed to impress me again, is the n-Track Drums instrument. In version 8 it gets an overhaul, adding some extra features that gives more layers of realism and control of the sounds.
N-Track Studio 8 is a worthy update of an otherwise good platform, and for the price of admission, it is a great app that can create a project from start to finish.