The Living Thing / Notebooks : Audio software

DU68, Bandung

A list of things, for my own reference, that I have used or wish to try using, in order to make sound come out of my computer.

See also composition for the structure of the harmony/melody/bassline and all the non-DSP stuff.

DAWS and trackers of note

Reaper, Renoise, Sunvox, Non, bitwig. Renoise is actually incredible. Highly recommended for its well-designed scripting interface (using Lua) and consistent design quirk. Not open-source, but cross-platform and cheap. Non looks interestingly designed and if I want my project to work on Raspberry Pi, it fits the bill… Sunvox is also a contender there. blue is the weird quirky DAW for csound.

However, let’s deal with the gorilla in this room.


The default all-purpose stage-n-studio tool.

Full of irritating limitations, but then the competitors are historically full of even more, even more irritating, irritating limitations. It is scriptable, in an half arsed sort of way. That irritation can be soothed by certain hacks. See Ableton live.

Also the rather improved sibling…


A derivative of Ableton live that attempts to remove the irritations and bloat and address certain long-standing annoyances. It’s cheaper and in fact pretty good, if you can live without all the fancy Ableton libraries. I think I can. See Bitwig.


DAW-optimized Dropbox workalikes.


Izotope Rx
noise-removal-focused. Expensive but very useful; as such, my primary go-to tool.
general-purpose, open source. Free and has a bunch of surprisingly deep functionality behind the clunky interface.
The only one written by a Fields medallist.


See transcoding.


See “patchers” in audio software frameworks.

DJing software

see DJing.

Libraries, frameworks, musical-domain-specific-languages

See audio frameworks

Sundry synthesizers


Modern versions of Logic and Ableton have convolution reverbs built in too.

Other Plugins


Don’t judge me. See composition.

Audio routers

Jack and Soundflower route audio out of horribly limited software into differently limited software, giving you flexibility at the cost of confusion. Using audio effects software to effect audio synthesis software doesn’t sound like rocket science but turns out to be tedious. Jack on OSX has the only working version hidden deep in the github bug reports as opposed to the normal download page, indicating that development on this project has partially stalled. Soundflower is inflexible and periodically unmaintained despite intermittent commercial backing. Fragility hell in these free options is avoided somewhat by loopback, a rather expensive commercial competitor. Maybe owners Rogue Amoeba will use that funding to keep maintaining their product, having fucked up soundflower on their own watch? But should I reward that behaviour by buying a license?


KXStudio, the latest open-source-y sound OS. (There have been so many, and so many crushed dreams) See also Ubuntu studio, which will probably win by default, as Ubuntu is the de facto standard for random OS forks.