I was watching this video of Adrock from Beastie Boys on how he switched from the SP-1200 to Reason. I'm wondering if this is generally the trend. People moving from hardware to software that is. Will computers/software replace everything or will there always be a need for dedicated music production based hardware?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Richard, ttw, Stinkfoot, Dom Apr 13 '18 at 18:45

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    The question in your title is on-topic because it's about an historical trend in music. But I'm not sure that the final question in the body of your post is on-topic. Would you change the final question to: "Is it possible for computers/software to eventually replace everything or will there always be a need for dedicated music production based hardware?" – jdjazz Apr 12 '18 at 20:14

I think we can confidently conclude that the answer is "Yes, no, and it depends".


Right now, Fruity Loops and Ableton Live are probably the most popular sampling and beat making technologies in the world, and they are both software packages. As hardware controllers like Ableton Push and NI Machine have become available, the workflow that one might be used to with a hardware sampler is now available in several software based sampling and beat making applications.


The above notwithstanding, dedicated hardware samplers and beat makers, like Elektron's Digitakt and Octatrack, have also risen in popularity in recent years. When it comes to live music production and DJ performances, many musicians are concerned about reliability problems with computers, so some prefer dedicated hardware tools. Major productions that use computers generally have at least two computers that are set up identically and there are entire product lines of audio interface systems that can automatically switch from the primary computer to the backup computer in the event of a failure. Artists with smaller budgets often prefer the higher perceived reliability of dedicated hardware.

It depends

That brings us to the issue of what we consider to be "production". The needs of a live show are very different from the needs of the recording production process. Computers and software based tools have dramatically changed both aspects of music production, and yet in some circles both aspects still rely heavily on hardware, even analog hardware. Skrillex created his Grammy-winning music entirely on a laptop using Pro Tools software, while Lady Gaga, The Foo Fighters, and Jack White are examples of big names who have recently recorded to analog tape.

Many other productions fall somewhere in between, perhaps being recorded digitally but mixed on an analog console with a mixture of digital and analog effects used, and some of the digital effects being software and others being hardware. The Analog Devices SHARC line of DSP processors has made possible dedicated digital music production hardware that sounds great and is very affordable, but they are also used to provided dedicated DSP for Universal Audio's line of UAD plug-ins.

And now we encounter one of the real challenges of answering this question: What counts as hardware and what counts as software? Obviously 100% analog tools would be considered hardware. But as digital "hardware" moves closer to being modular platforms that run customized versions of Linux, and the same dedicated DSP processors are both integrated into computer systems and dedicated to keyboards, guitar effect pedals, etc., the line between "hardware" and "software" has blurred a lot.


Yes, software (running on hardware though!) can do most things now. Possibly all things. Having said that, Music Production (I guess we're talking about 'beats' and the like, not working with live performances) is as riddled with hype as any other artistic pursuit. Some producers like to keep the 'magic' alive by using vintage hardware. I don't suppose this will ever quite go away.

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    Analog and vintage are of course not necessarily the same things. In any event, if we can't allow for magic in art, what is left? – David Bowling Apr 13 '18 at 14:06

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