Sequoia 12 Digital Audio Workstation review

Sequoia is a heavyweight DAW. The packaging is professional, the features are professional
— the manual is a book. Yes, a proper bound book. Then there’s the ten installation DVDs.
Yes, ten. One for the software, nine for the Independence Sample library and one for the
Pro-X suite extra content pack. Eleven DVDs. That’s more than the director’s cut of Das
Boot with all the extras, but is it as good?

Seq12_1
While many DAWs started as sequencers and gradually added audio, Sequoia made the
journey the other way. Starting in audio world and gradually adding more and more and
more midi/music making features till now in Version 12 you get a full version of Independence
by Yellowtools (now owned by Magix) and hence the 60Gb install of instruments and what
have you. Though that isn’t the biggest news in version 12, which is that Sequoia is now 64
bit. ‘Why do I care?’, I hear you cry. Well the answer is memory. A 32 bit OS can address
only 4 Gigabytes of memory and what with your video card and a load of other nonsense
eating chunks of your 32 bit space, Windows is probably only going to give you 3.5 of your 4
gigabytes of memory. So if you want to play around with an orchestra of virtual instruments
(hang on didn’t I just install an orchestra full of virtual instruments?) then the way forward
is a 64 bit OS and a 64 bit version of your favourite DAW. Not forgetting of course 64 bit
versions of your favourite plugins. Magix aren’t exactly leading the way here as Logic and
Nuendo and Sonar and Reaper have already made the jump to 64 bit. However ProTools
is still 32 bit until the arrival of PT 11. Which raises the other question — ‘what happens
to my plugins?’. Well if you enjoy schadenfreude just type ‘PT11, TDM, RTAS and AAX’
into Google — heck you can even sign the petition. And then you’ll understand why Magix
are keen to fly the flag for their bidirectional bridging of your 32/64bit plugins. Working
in 64 bit you can bridge in your 32bit plugins, but should you have a problem you can run
the 32 bit version of Sequoia and bridge in your 64bit plugins. I fired up Sequoia in 64 bit
and starting with some iZotope 32 bit plugins and gave the bridge a whirl. It worked fine
with every thing I had to hand. Of course there are a million plugins, so other outcomes are
available.
Having done with bits then there’s loudness. Pardon? In the words of Ted Nugent, ‘If
it’s too loud, your DAW probably hasn’t got an ITU 1770 compliant loudness plug in.’ Ah,
those were the days, well now Sequoia has comprehensive loudness metering to EBU R128
standard and I think if you fiddle with it you can meter to ATSC A/85 for our US users.
They’ve also included an oversampled peak meter to catch those naughty peaks that happen
between samples. And using the integrating loudness meter is jolly interesting, and this is all
part of a revamp that includes presets for metering to Din/Nordic/BBC or EBU standards.
What is jolly good fun is that inside the file mananger you can ask Sequoia to calculate the
loudness of files offline, and (assuming it is a BWAV) Sequoia can then write the loudness
information into the meta data chunk of the file. So the B-52s Dance This Mess Around
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as found on my hard drive integrated over the whole file -17.0 LUFS, true peak -1.9 dB,
maxmomentary -11.7 LUFS. In radio and tv that’s info to die for. No more excuses.
If you’ve been following the Sequoia upgrade path then the interface has changed little,
but turn over a few stones in version 12 and there’s some interesting stuff going on. Spectral
editing has been beefed up with better control in multi track mixes. And if you are a control
freak then you’ll enjoy the macro functionality, I think this has been a long time coming
— didn’t Cool Edit have macros a long time ago? Anyway better late than never, now
you can combine unfeasibly complicated strings of commands and assign them to button
combinations you will never remember. That’s my idea of a good night in.
One of my favourite new features is vca groups. Each channel can be assigned to a ‘vca’
group and then when the vca master fader for that group is adjusted all the faders in that
group will exhibit a most fetching ‘ghost’ appearance, indicating they are being faded up or
down as part of a vca operation. Easy to use, very quick to select and totally handy.
There are some new video recording options that I didn’t pay much attention to as I don’t
have a video capture card. Well I have an older Pinnacle card but fun it is not. What is
a lot more fun is the new ‘timecode’ track feature allowing a track to be dedicated to time
code. Using the signal generator you can then create a time code file of any duration and
start time with a range of options including drop and non drop frame rates. This ‘object’
then sits in the timecode track and can be displayed in the time window rather than your
standard location time. As it’s an object you can save and recall it whenever you like. In
fact as it’s a track object you can eq it and apply effects to it — but only a sick person would
do that. It’s not a fool proof system — sometimes if you park the play cursor in just the
wrong place your timecode disappears, but a click of the mouse seems to get back on track
if you excuse the pun.
Talking of tracks you can now nominate one of your tracks to display a tempo automation
curve allowing you to graphically edit the tempo of your project. This is addition to the
standard time stretching functions available for individual objects including Elastic audio
automation.
And this is the problem with reviewing such a mature piece of software, by the time you
have enumerated all the new functionality there’s not much room left for the basic stuff that
might interest someone on another platform. I love Sequoia for the foundational stuff it does
right in areas like editing. A proper crossfade editor, source and destination editing coupled
with three and four point edits, play over range previews for range edits. And then there’s
the power of the engine, playback while recording for instance is not something you find
on every DAW. The revolving tracks are genius and I really like the simplicity of the new
essentialFX suite.
If you are seeking the pure Zen tonality of the sound of one bell ringing, look away,
Sequoia 12 isn’t for you. On the other hand if you’re the sort of person who when presented
with a lifetimes supply of bells asks, ‘and where are the whistles?’, then check out Sequoia
12. King of Bells and Whistles.
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