For about ten years ago I had a discussion with a friend about finding the perfect workflow. Already then he was totally fed up with the clutter of traditional daws - Cubase specifically - and all he wanted was a way to combine the ease of use of old tape recorders with the possibility to do edits, overdubs and the occasional use of plugins.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about workflow and I've come to the conclusion that a perfect working environment has to give you both ease of use and as well as a certain amount of resistance/problems/limitations.
Let me just give you a few examples.
Native Instruments Maschine. A totally fantastic product. It combines the best of both worlds. Software and dedicated hardware. It hosts plugins. It has a built-in sample librarian. It's everything I want. Still - me and the Maschine aren't compatible with each other. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is no love flowing between us. It's like that gorgeous woman you've just started flirting with. She's sexy. She's intelligent. She got style. You really want to like her, but honestly - she's boring the hell out of you.
Fxpansion Geist. No dedicated controller. No tag-based sample librarian. No hosting for plugins. But it charms me every time I use it. We are extremely well tuned together and if it wasn't for Geist I wouldn't have been able to put together so much new material for my latest Bloatfield album. It just did what I wanted without any fuss.
Virus TI - fantastic features. VST integration. Huge amounts of power. No big love. I like the presets - whenever I try create presets myself, I always feel like doing something else. Like reading a book. Or stare at birds. I don't dig the oscillators. Nor the filters. Nor the LFOs.
Roland Juno 106. I can play with this thing forever. In a death-match between a Moog Voyager and a refurbished Juno I honestly can't tell which will come out alive. Both are seriously fantastic instruments.
My latest addition to my studio recently came in the form of an Elektron Octatrack. A common criticism among the haters goes along the lines of ' 1490 dollar for this? I can do this on my laptop/controller/cell phone/garden hose/etc'. But this is missing the point. There is a reason why certain equipment stays in your studio for years and others just pass through.
Mojo is not something you can measure in features, gigahertz, number of knobs. The more I think about it, the more I start to suspect that less features gets you closer to goodness. It provokes you to think in different ways.
Today we have everything we need to create anything we want. We are no longer confined with one option, floppy disks, insanely stupid operating systems or no more memory. The battle is now in the usability domain and how to shorten the distance between an idea and realizing it.