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I have done very little in the way of production other than use GarageBand a little, but from what I've read, DAWs allow applications to be chained together. But how?

I had pictured they might expose virtual audio devices but that doesn't appear to be the case - is there an open standard or something?

Fundamentally is a DAW just "any software which can do audio processing" or is there more to it than that?

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    For host - plugin communication: VST, AU, RTAS. For host-host communication: ReWire. For inter-application for apps that don't have dedicated support: via virtual MIDI and audio ports or "virtual cables". Plus various open-source alternatives: ALSA, LADSPA, JACK. Between computers/workstations: hardware MIDI and audio. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 21 at 21:05
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Communication between apps in regards to music happens in two ways:

One way is to use a virtual midi device. In MAC it's built into the OS via Audio Midi Setup -> Midi Studio. In Windows it's via third party apps, "Virtual Midi" is one.

For example, sometimes I write algorithmic music apps in javascript (inside a browser like Chrome) and I want to listen to what I did in Logic. So I set up a virtual midi device on the Mac. and then set it as input in Logic, and I write to it via the browser. With midi you can either write to, or read from a virtual driver. So my Browser is sending information to the DAW that way. But you could do this between DAWs as well.

Another way is to send audio between two apps. This happens on a mac using SoundFlower for example (Blackhole that you mentioned in the comments is an alternative too). So you could be in a DAW and record audio from your computer, for example if you're watching youtube and you want to record the sound, or you want to record the sound from one DAW to another DAW.

So midi is if you want to send notes, or even commands between two midi enabled apps or hardware devices. Audio is if you just need the sound.

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  • So then if Mac has this built-in, what do 'virtual cable' products like github.com/ExistentialAudio/BlackHole do on top? – Mr. Boy Apr 22 at 10:05
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    @Mr.Boy see edits – user34288 Apr 22 at 12:46
  • I did not really understand @piiperi's comment but they seem to suggest some semi-standardised plugins exist which would let DAWs/apps talk directly without 'virtual cables' which are app-agnostic? It feels like that is the missing piece to your answer as a nice overview? – Mr. Boy Apr 23 at 9:40
  • @Mr.Boy I meant that acronym list as pointers so you could search for more information yourself. It's a good question and I can understand wanting to know how this stuff really works, but ... IMO any explanation would have to begin by at least trying to somehow introduce the technical concepts of interface and protocol. And then ... several pages later, it might turn out the whole perspective was wrong for you. :) Are you a programmer by any chance? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 23 at 19:10
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica I know what plugins are and interfaces and protocols so I'm asking at a high level how different apps pass information... a virtual device/cable means the apps don't need to know about each other, anything else means they must use some standard. But I'm not sure which it is – Mr. Boy Apr 24 at 11:21

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