Today Acoustica announced its new version of Mixcraft, Mixcraft 7.0. I’ve been a Mixcraft user for many years now, and decided to download the new version and see what it looked like.

Installation

The installation of Mixcraft 7.0 is very simple, download a small file from their website, execute it from your download folder and be patient. It will do it (almost) all by itself.

As soon as the installation is done, it is ready to go.

Frist things I’ve noticed, when comparing it to my version of Mixcraft (5.2).

  • Mixcraft changed the design of the DAW (they already did this in version 6 of course), and I’m sorry to say: it’s still not an improvement. It looks more ‘retro’, a wood-look in the mixer. You might like it, or not. There will be people who dislike designs like that so much that they will not use it at all and this is, for a commercial product, not a wise choice. Also, it has some serious problems but more about that later;
  • After starting up it asks if you want to import plugins. Yes! Of Course! I want the load of plugins imported and to be available! It also loads a demo song with 19 tracks and lots of effects. My computer (AMD A8-CPU, 8Gb or RAM, SSD Disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit) runs the demo track smoothly. Of course it should, its way above the minimum requirements. Mixcraft takes between 20-30% of the CPU resources playing the demo;
Forced scan doesn't work

Forced scan doesn’t work

So, time to load some tracks I’ve recorded with the previous version of Mixcraft. And here comes trouble..

  • after importing the VST plugins I thought it would have imported my existing plugins also. It didn’t. You have to manually search for them. But what’s worse: the re-scan option doesn’t find them either..!
  • I also hoped and expected the software to import the settings from previous versions. It doesn’t. So, if you have a system like me with two disks full of data finding some songs/projects back on it can take some time… (I had no idea what the exact path to the directory was where I had stored the project files..);
  • If you open up an existing project (from older versions) Mixcraft CAN NOT find the settings, the VST’s can’t be found (see above) and it doesn’t load the settings. You’ll get an error message stating something like “one or more effects could not be found” and “one or more instruments could not be loaded”. Despite the fact they are on the computer (for example, in my case it couldn’t find Expansion’s  BFD ECO Drums) .

I decided to restart the program, hoping this would fix it. It didn’t.

Working with Mixcraft 7.0

The screen (see the image) of the workspace is very dark and the icons are very small compared to Mixcraft 5.2. I also find them a lot less appealing. It just looks less good. The small icons, the dark background and the problems I’ve mentioned before doesn’t make me feel comfortable about upgrading. Especially if you’re older or color-blind the dark background might be a real issue.

The whole ‘look and feel’ reminds me of EnergyXT, a freebie I got with my USB-converter from Behringer. I upgraded to Mixcraft from Energy. Now I’m back in the same ugly “dark environment”?? Oh btw — Energy XT is a very cool small and easy to use DAW, that’s for sure. Here’s a video I did about it back in 2010 in case you’re interested. Behringer now includes other programs with the USB Audio interface. So if you want EnergyXT you can download the demo-version or buy it for only 39 euro.

So anyway — this is “back in time” as far as design is concerned if you ask me.

mx7-02

The dark workspace and small icons of Mixcraft 7.0

I wanted to give it a good test though and started clicking around. Never judge a book by the cover, they say!

  • One of the neat features of Mixcraft is the ‘undock’ option of the mixer/project-settings window (the screen at the bottom). As soon as you click on ‘un-dock’ it will un-dock. But if you click on ‘dock’ to put it back, it decides to dock at the top of the screen (see images). When you click on the project, mixer or library tab it will suddenly go back at the bottom of the screen. This should never happen. It happened time after time again so it’s a software error;
  • A feature I’ve been missing in Mixcraft 5.2 wasn’t fixed or added in 7.0. If you click on the fader for the volume and use the scroll-wheel on your mouse, the track-lenght will get longer or shorter. The fader should respond, if you ask me. You can change the scroll wheel’s action but I would expect, and hope for, the program to respond to this more intelligent. It still doesn’t;

mx7-03-undock1  mx7-03-undock2

Undocking (left) and ‘re’-docking (right). It doesn’t work as it should!

The mixer

The mixer screen is not very precise. Since the version 6.0 there have been additional knobs and features added to the mixer and it’s too much. The impression you get is that it has smaller volume indicators (but it doesn’t see the below screen comparison, the new version has even bigger ‘faders’).

Comparing the mixer screens. Version 7.0 (left) and version 5.2 (right)

Comparing the mixer screens. Version 7.0 (left) and version 5.2 (right)

Because of the additional knobs and options, it ‘feels’ smaller and for me it was less comfortable to work with, Too much on a small space. You can make it bigger, but that would hide some of the tracks above.

Track-colors

Midi tracks are displayed in blue. The pan and volume indicators (bullets) are, however, blue also. That’s a bad choice. You can’t see them very well and have to zoom in a lot on a track to be able to work with it.

The sound

A DAW is all about the sound, in the end. And as with every version of Mixcraft I’ve worked with so far, it’s got a very good sound quality. Nothing wrong about that! I don’t care about the video-editing, it’s all about the sound.

You can export to high quality mp3- and WAV-format, and that’s all I need. It does the job as expected.

New options?

Mixcraft has been keeping us Mixcraft users waiting for some time and on Facebook they’ve told their followers there would be some great new features. I would somehow have expected them to ‘jump off the screen’ to me 🙂 I don’t know how though. But they didn’t “jump off the screen” at all. In fact they’re more or less hidden or buried somewhere in the program.

I don’t need the new options though, and doubt if I ever will. But that’s a personal thing – I think many will need them or have been waiting for them for a long time, so that’s all well, .. pretty much personal taste and preferences.

The Verdict…

Compared to the 5.2 version I still don’t see much reason to upgrade. I’ve been recording and mixing several albums and other projects using version 5.2, and will continue to do so. Because I love working with Mixcraft, no doubt about that.

I hate to be negative and say this because I know they’ve put a lot of time and effort in this software but I don’t like version 7 at all. It has errors, it has installation issues (compared to other software programs where an upgrade or new version will import the settings of previous versions!) and on top of that it has an interface that’s not suitable for many people (dark backgrounds, blue-on-blue in midi tracks, small icons). The new features might be cool for those who want them or need them, but overall it’s a step back in time. Mainly because of the design.

For me upgrading is obviously a no-go. If you’re looking for a new DAW and don’t need to think about the settings of your previous projects or don’t mind the issues I’ve described above, Mixcraft 7 is a good choice.

In itself it’s worth a higher rating but I’m comparing it to what it was and so it’s a very low rating I’m giving it. I know this is not reasonable perhaps in the eyes of some of you. But I’ve got to compare it to something, as a reference, and the reference is the Mixcraft 5.2 version and my experience with many other DAW programs over the past twelve years. What made me especially give the low rating is the bad color use (blue on blue), the software errors and the fact that it doesn’t load the project settings from the older version correctly.

Rating2-3stars

> For more details see the Acoustica website