Hands-On Review:Mackie Tracktion 2
Mackie Tracktion 2
All your recording eggs in one basket
By Steve Bunch
Anyone who’s familiar with Tracktion will tell you that it’s the easiest pro recording and MIDI production software around, thanks to its cross-platform compatibility, simple user-interface, and streamlined controls. Thankfully, Mackie chose not to mess with a good thing by keeping everything that made Tracktion great, improving its functionality, adding a huge bundle of high-quality plug-ins, and perhaps best of all, retaining its value price tag.
Keep it simple!
For those of us who are new to computer recording, trying to dive right into a more elaborate piece of software can be a trying experience. It’s frustrating when you’re in the middle of a project and you find yourself asking, "Why didn’t they just make [insert function here] easier to understand?" Anything that disrupts the creative flow is bad, and the last thing that should do this is your software. With Tracktion, the focus is on the user, and making it as easy as possible to get your ideas down. Even power users of more complex recording applications will appreciate T2’s simplicity when it comes to sketching musical ideas quickly
The heart of Tracktion—and what makes it so enjoyable to use—is its straightforward, single-screen interface. By keeping all the technical and setup options off the main work area, I found that it’s much easier to stay in creative mode and complete projects more rapidly. Everything you need is right in front of you—arm tracks and set inputs using a simple drag-and-drop paradigm, or drop plug-in filters right next to the track you want affected. Anyone that’s spent some time with the original Tracktion will have no problem picking right up with T2, and newbies will find that spending a solid half-hour with the software should be enough to start laying down tracks.
The first time you start up T2, you’ll want to spend a few minutes personalizing it. T2 has a new color editor that lets you customize just about every foreground, background, button, and text field in the program. There are also some great preset schemes built in that provide a good starting point for finding the right colors for you. I found the setup screen to be much more straightforward than most applications, and once I had everything to my liking, it was time to start recording!
T2’s edit screen has clearly defined sections that organize things logically. On the left are the input settings. Drag the input icon to the track you wish to record on and you’re ready to lay down your first take. It really is that easy. The large center section displays all your audio and MIDI tracks. Click on the track you want to tweak, and the properties panel at the bottom gives you all the options you need. The center window is also where you can edit regions, draw fades, or create loops or samples from your recorded track. The right side is where you apply plug-ins. Want to add a plug-in effect to track 2? Just drag the effect into the box next to the track, and you’re done. There are no menus to sort through, just a simple, effective means to spicing up your tracks.
What’s in it for me?
You’re happy with Tracktion. It’s been your best friend during those late nights recording and mixing in front of the monitor’s glow. One of the major questions that always pops up when a software application is updated is, "Why should I upgrade?"
This is a good question to ask. I hate upgrades that involve little more than a new box or logo and updated graphics. Rest assured this is not the case with Tracktion 2. Mackie kept everything you love about Tracktion, made it more functional, and provided a slew of high-quality plug-ins and VST instruments from developers like IK Multimedia, LinPlug, Acuma Labs, reFX, and Raw Materials. Straight out of the box, you’ve got a full arsenal—from guitar, amp, and effects simulators to complete suites of synths, pianos, strings, and mixing and mastering tools.
Mackie has incorporated external sync support in T2. The software can send or receive MIDI clock and timecode data, making it better-equipped for working with external processors, recorders, or keyboards. Other key new features include QuickTime™ video support, so you can add dialogue, music, and sound effects to your video projects, and pristine 64-bit mixing capability. In fact, T2 boasts over 100 new features!
MIDI made easy
Vast improvements have been made with respect to MIDI functions. The line tool can be used to enter lines of notes, controller parameters, or velocity settings. Creating or editing long passages is as easy as point, drag, and click.
I’m not the best keyboard player on the planet, and this has been something I’ve grappled with when trying to add MIDI piano, for example, to a project. I would always end up frustrated, and decide to either leave the part out completely or settle on a less-than-perfect take.
Well, those days are over, thanks to T2’s step recording mode. Velocity and length controls can be assigned to your MIDI controller, or you can enter values manually. Once step recording is enabled, it’s as easy as setting the play cursor to where you want to begin, then popping each note in. The cursor advances automatically, so you can enter notes at your own pace. Chords? No problem. T2 recognizes them and inputs them correctly. And with all of the awesome VST instruments included with T2, your projects will be opened up to a world of new sonic possibilities. I’ve always tended to shy away from MIDI in general, but thanks to T2’s ease of use, I’ve now incorporated it into my recording repertoire.
The new MIDI Mapper makes it easy to get the most out of your MIDI controller, no matter its size. Assigning functions is as easy as selecting the one you want and manipulating your controller. T2 also has integrated support for Mackie Control Universal and Control C4 controllers, giving you even more command over your recording and mixing.
Powerful, affordable, and accessible
Tracktion 2 really takes the edge off digital recording. Instead of spending hours figuring out how the software functions, I was able to get the basics down in a short time and lay down tracks with ease. Mackie hasn’t sacrificed power by making T2 a friendlier way to digitally record either. Thanks to the loads of included VST plug-ins and instruments, and the fluent design of the program, enhancing tracks is a breeze. MIDI is no longer a time-consuming chore for those of us who are less experienced, and thanks to the step recording function, you don’t even need dazzling finger skills on the keyboard. T2 is perfect for both those looking to get their feet wet in digital recording without sacrificing functionality, as well as for more experienced users who will appreciate the uncomplicated interface and powerful built-in tools, as well as the value price tag.
Features & Specs:
- Available in both Windows and Mac formats
- Simple, clutter-free interface
- Unlimited tracks (depending on your computer’s CPU)
- Up to 192kHz sample rate support
- Supports all major file types
- Drag-and-drop audio editing
- Track freezing
- Enhanced external sync support
- MTC I/O, MIDI clock output, and MMC send/receive
- ReWire support
- VST/VSTi support
- MIDI step recording
- MIDI mapping for external controllers
- 64-bit mix engine
- Built-in sampler
- Full suite of name brand plug-ins
- QuickTime™ video support
- 64-bit mix engine for superb sound quality
PC System Requirements:
- Windows 2000/XP
- Pentium III or better processor
- 256MB RAM
Mac System Requirements:
- OS X 10.3 or higher
- 256MB RAM