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Timeline: DAWs and software sequencers

A brief chronology of DAWs and audio sequencers

Three decades have gone by since computers revolutionized music production. And the pace of the market is so high that a timeline of the different DAWs and sequencers that have come and gone throughout the years can come in very useful to have a good overview of this constantly evolving segment.

Apart from rediscovering some names that people under 20 might have never heard of, the idea behind this timeline is to provide an overview that allows you to better understand the current market. So, for instance, you will be able to appreciate the trailblazing character of Magix's Music Maker, which came out 11 years before Garageband and 5 years before Live.

Likewise, it's easy to tell how the history of audio sequencing rolled out in three different cycles: the '80s, when everybody's main concern was MIDI and pioneers like Steinberg, Emagic, MOTU, and Opcode set the foundations for today's software tools in terms usability and design. Then came the '90s and the digital audio revolution when the old guard updated its arsenal and smaller players came into play. And finally, from the 2000s onwards, which has seen the advent of some new players: from Ableton to Tracktion, Propellerhead, Cockos, and EnergyXT. Small software makers exploring new functional and usability approaches, sometimes completely breaking away from the canons established by the veterans.

Do note that we didn't include all versions of every software, only major releases (like a sequencer incorporating Direct-to-Disk of adopting VST, etc.).

Lastly, this timeline is not intended to be exhaustive or perfect, so you are more than welcome to use the comments below to suggest additions or changes in order to improve it.

Software from the '80s

1982

 fairlight page r

Page R (Fairlight CMI Series II)

 

     
1983
no image box

Steinberg Multitrack Recorder (C64)

 

     
1984
Steinberg Pro 16 1984 Disk 750px

 Steinberg Pro-16 (C-64)

 

no image box
Digidrums Sound Designer (Mac)
   
1985

 motuperformer

MOTU Performer (Mac)

 

c lab supertrack

C-Lab Supertrack 

   
1986
steinbergpro24

Steinberg Pro-24 (Atari)

 

midimac disk72
Opcode MIDIMAC (Mac)
   
1987

 Soundtracker23b

Soundtracker (Amiga)

 

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : 87 12 c lab creator

C-Lab Creator (Atari)

   
1988
clab notator30

C-Lab Notator (Atari)

 

     
1989
Digidesign Sound Tools

Digidesign Sound Tools (Mac)

 

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : octamed 4.00

OctaMED (Amiga)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : cubase10atari

Steinberg Cubase 1.0 (Atari)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : jun 1989 opcode visio large

Opcode Vision (Mac/PC)

Software from the '90s

1990
Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : studio vision

Opcode Studio Vision > Vision incorporates audio

fasttracker

Triton FastTracker (Amiga)

     
1991
cakewalk5 Twelve Tone Systems Cakewalk 1.0 (PC)
protools1

Digidesign Pro Tools

cubaseaudio

Steinberg Cubase Audio (Mac) > Cubase incorporates audio

 

 protrackers

Amiga Freelancers Pro Tracker (Amiga) 

 
1992

 amigasamplitude.JPG

Sek’d Samplitude (Amiga)

no image box

MOTU Digital Performer (Mac)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : no image box

Rythm'n Soft BigBoss 24 (Atari) 

   
1993
logic1

Emagic Notator Logic (Atari/Mac)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : no image box

RML Labs Saw (PC)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : no image box

 Rosegarden (Linux)

   
1994
magixmusicmaker

Magix Music Maker (PC)

 

logic25

Emagic Logic (audio) 1.7 (Mac) > Logic incorporates audio

     
1996
Cakewalk Pro Audio4

Cakewalk Pro Audio 4 (PC) > Cakewalk incorporates audio

cubasevst37

 Steinberg Cubase VST (Mac then PC)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : no image box

n-Track Studio (PC) 

   
1997
Fruityloops version1

Image-Line Fruity Loops (PC)

danceejay

Dance eJay (PC)

synthrilliumcooleditpro

Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro (PC)

 
jeskolaBuzz

Jeskola Buzz (PC)

 
Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : 1997 quartzaudiopro

Canam Computers Quartz Studio

1998
sonicfoundryacid

Sonic Foundry Acid (PC)

       
1999
protoools5

Digidesign Pro Tools 5 (Mac/PC) > Pro Tools incorporates MIDI 

       

Software from the 2000s

2000
reason1

Propellerhead Reason (Mac/PC)

steinbergnuendo152

Steinberg Nuendo (Mac/PC)

sonicsyndicateorion

Sonic Syndicate Orion (Puis Synapse Audio Orion)

 
 
2001
abletonlive1

 Ableton Live (Mac/PC)

cakewalksonar

Cakewalk Sonar

   
2002
raw material tracktion 1

Raw Material Software Tracktion (Mac/PC)

renoise1

Renoise (Linux/Mac/PC) 

   
2003
adobeaudition1

Adobe Audition (Mac/PC)

energyxt

EnergyXT (Mac/PC)

Cakewalk Project5

Cakewalk Project 5 (PC)

 
 
2004  
abletonlive4

Ableton Live 4 > Live incorporates MIDI

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : no image box

Zynewave Podium (PC)

arturia storm 3 5712

Arturia Storm

 
2005
garageband1

Apple GarageBand (Mac)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : reaper0 2

Cockos Reaper (PC)

   
2006
samplitudepro9

Magix Samplitude 9 pro (PC) > Samplitude incorporates MIDI

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : muse1win

MusE (Linux/PC)

Séquenceurs logiciels & STAN : ardour ardour 22577

Ardour (Linux) 

 
2009
presonusstudioone1

PreSonus Studio One (Mac/PC)

propellerhead record 2

Propellerhead Record (Mac/PC)

NImaschine1

Native Instruments Maschine (Mac/PC)

 
harrisonmixbus

 Harrison Mixbus (Linux/Mac/PC)

Software from the 2010s

2012
PropellerHead Reason 6 : PropellerHead Reason 6 (61666)

Propellerhead Reason 6 > Reason incorporates audio recording

 
2014
Bitwig Bitwig Studio: Bitwig principale

Bitwig Studio (Linux/Mac/PC)  

 

 

  • Rick Macdonald 4 posts
    Rick Macdonald
    New AFfiliate
    Posted on 11/04/2017 at 11:28:26
    How about pgmusic.com, creators of Power Tracks Pro Audio (audio & MIDI) and Band-in-a-Box since about 1988.
  • SysExJohn 7 posts
    SysExJohn
    New AFfiliate
    Posted on 11/12/2017 at 03:18:55
    Another one, that was used by quite a few programmers of Yamaha MU devices in the '90s was XGworks.

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