Skip asked if switching to Mixcraft from another DAW like Ableton or FL Studio is a good idea.
A: The short answer is no!
Mixcraft, for those who don’t know, is the flagship music recording and production software of the Yosemite-based Acoustica Inc., which has actually been around since 1998.
I have been using this software since Version 5 around 2011, and here’s my verdict: if you already have and are familiar with one of the more popular DAWs, Mixcraft is not like a secretly amazing hidden indie jam. It’s best as an entry-level DAW for people looking to get into electronic music production but are intimidated by the steep price tags and complicated interfaces of more well-known software.
The answer in depth:
Priced at a mere $89.95, Mixcraft is one of the cheapest DAWs available. Pro Studio is about twice the price at $164.95, but unlike with most DAWs which come in multiple editions, the only difference here is the plugins that are bundled with the software, and both versions are fully functional.
(The limited version of Mixcraft is the separately advertised Home Studio for $49.99. You’re limited to 16 total tracks (no send/output/submix tracks) and can’t export to .mp3.)
Schools, teachers, and students of all stripes can get an educational discount from third party resellers, which docks Mixcraft 7’s price tag to $64.95 and Pro Studio’s to $99.95.
Little updates (e.g. 7 to 7.5, new build releases) are free, but big updates (e.g. 6 to 7) are not, and cost $29.95 for regular Mixcraft.
So Acoustica set out with one basic goal, and that was to make very human-friendly music software. And they succeeded! As “the musician’s DAW,” it is in fact very easy to use. They also have tutorials on their website.
The upside to not being the mega-corporation media industry standard software is that Acoustica’s customer relations are very transparent and personal, which is important for some people (as for me, I prefer avoiding customer service like the plague). There’s no extra fee for getting support, and they’ll usually respond to your ticket or forum post in a matter of days.
Mixcraft 7 comes with library access to over 7000 loops from various sources. These cover a wide spectrum of genres and can be browsed from inside the program. You can also import your own, but ain’t nobody got time for that. Not all the loops are great and I often prefer to use the stuff I pick up on Looperman or Samplephonics, but there are some decent ones and they add new stuff every so often, like the recent MVP Loops hip-hop collection.
Unlike some bigger-name DAWs, ordinary Mixcraft does not come packed with powerhouse plugins. I use reverb and chorus the program ships with, but for just about every other effect I’ve found a 3rd party plugin. Its best included instruments are the VB3 organ and Entangled Species/Journeys sound banks from AAS. Mixcraft Pro does have more effects, including the exclusive iZotope Mastering Essentials Suite.
Mixcraft supports 32- and 64-bit VST plugins. While the program is made for Windows it can supposedly be run in Bootcamp.
After you save your project for the first time, Mixcraft will start making automatic backups for it. This is a feature new to 7, and it will probably save your ass every so often. Your ass will need saving every so often due to the following issues:
Resource usage was pretty awful until 7.5, really. RAM, CPU… I didn’t even know what GPU was until I ran out of it!
I keep a running list of plugins that don’t work with Mixcraft which I have added to the Equipment page at the bottom. I don’t know why these plugins don’t work, but they will do anything from crashing the program immediately to freezing your computer to straight up not rendering in the final mix.
I have some older projects that just… deteriorate. Really slow to load up, playback causes the CPU to skyrocket… It’s much better now than it was before Mixcraft 7, where sometimes a file would get corrupted and crash the program if you tried to play it at all, so you’d just have to start over. I also had one where it deleted all but three instrument tracks on a finished song for no reason. Cry.
Bugs! Not enough to hinder music-making, but, you know… tiny hassles. Many of course improved in Mixcraft 7, but there used to be a clipping, clicking sort of noise during playback, for example. Another old problem which may still be the case is the rotary speaker on the VB3 organ (which again, comes packaged with the program). If you play any bit of the organ, the rotary speaker just… keep going, even when there’s no more instrument clips on the track, so you have to automate the track volume to 0 unless you want a surprise WUBBLEWUBBLEWUBBLE at the end of your song, which you don’t.
Oh, also if you work on something for a long time and decide to open a new project or even just close the program, it usually freezes and has to be forcefully shut down.
Mixcraft isn’t well known compared to many of its fellow DAWs, so you’ll hardly see it ever in online discussions, DAW-specific mixing tutorials, eligible software lists for crossgrading, etc. Also, the only pro I know who uses Mixcraft is plasterbrain! ;0
On that note, wouldn’t it be cool if I became the youth face of Mixcraft? They could send me neat swag and I could give away Mixcraft t-shirts and it would be awesome.
*looks at post*
UH, I mean, BUY MIXCRAFT! BUY IT NOW! BUY A MIXCRAFT FOR EVERY MIX YOU’VE EVER WANTED TO CRAFT!
Anyway thanks for your question, Skip!