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When it comes to digital audio, history is short and sweet. Approximately ten years after the advent of the computer-based digital audio workstation (DAW) and hard-disc recorder (HDR), the number of manufacturers for these products has more than quintupled, while the number of operating systems has multiplied a thousandfold. It is easy to categorize and differentiate products with few criteria: host system, I/O, bit stream, and of course, features, to name a few. The biggest drawing line is often the ability to edit (and sometimes literally re-draw) waveforms of digital audio. Scrubbing, zooming, crossfades, and other tools will vary from product to product.
But when it comes to paring down tools to use with theatrical sound design, one factor becomes more and more desirable: portability. Today's designers want a set of tools a single person can carry in a single trip, which they can pop into an overhead compartment on an airline, squeeze into a single rack case to ship, or pop in the back seat of a car. Because today's sound designer is on the go, tools are by necessity becoming more and more compact.
For the on-the-go designer, TCI has compiled the latest in the more affordable DAWs, with base systems costing under $20k. As we all know, some software-only systems cost as little as a couple of hundred bucks, while some film systems go up to well above a hundred grand. But application will decide what type of tool you …