It can be incredibly frustrating when a DAW decides to crash on you in a session but it’s not the end of the world, well, that’s not entirely true is it? If your DAW flaked out on you if you were recording the perfect vocal take then you would be forgiven for shouting some expletives at your computer but what happens to the audio, more specifically the audio file being written to disk if your DAW crashed during record? We didn’t know so we decided to find out.
In this test we recreated two common types of crash while recording to an audio track in 3 popular DAWs to find if our precious takes were safe if the worst were to happen.
The two types of DAW crash that we’ve recreated are:
DAW Crash: While in record we force quit the DAW to simulate a software crash.
Computer Power Failure: While in record we simply pull the power plug on the computer to recreate a full studio power failure.
Pro Tools Crash Test
After performing a force quit of Pro Tools during record I reopened the session. The audio track I recorded to was still there as I saved the session prior to hitting record. The audio file though wasn’t in the timeline or clip list but it was safe in the session’s root audio folder.
Pro Tools Studio Power Cut
Same results occurred here. While the audio was not present in the Pro Tools timeline or clip list the raw audio was at least safe in the root session folder’s audio file.
In both cases a simple drag & drop of the audio file from the audio folder into the Pro Tools timeline restored my recording though this action alone wouldn’t be able to put the audio on the exact part of the timeline, to ensure the audio was imported to it’s original start point the audio would need to have some meta data.. I performed both test again to find out if the audio file’s would remember the meta data for spotting audio in Pro Tools.
I set Pro Tools into spot mode from the top left, dragged the audio across and luckily the audio original time stamp was present in the file. After selecting this from the spot dialog menu and clicking OK the audio was back in Pro Tools exactly where I started the recordings from.
Logic Pro X Crash Test
After force quitting Logic Pro X while recording audio, I was quickly able to find the audio file in it’s expected location on the hard drive. Within the Audio Files folder that is auto-created within Logic’s Project folder. The project folder itself is auto created when saving in the Folders format.
Relaunching the project, I was, not unexpectedly, prompted with Logic’s Auto Save function, asking whether I wanted to open the auto-saved version of the project. Auto-Save is Logic’s attempt at opening the project in as close to the exact state it was in at the time of the crash as possible; as opposed to the state of the project at the last full Save command.
In the autosaved version, the audio file in question was nowhere to be found, either in the Tracks Area or the Project Audio Browser. Knowing it was on the hard drive, bringing it into the project was a simple matter of importing it in one of the various possible ways. Once placed on the track, attempting to use the Move to Original Record Position function yielded no results. I repeated the test, recording to WAV and AIF formats. Neither responded to this command. So both files, it seems, had no time stamp information contained within their file headers.
Logic Pro X Studio Power Cut
Cutting the power to my Mac yielded similar results. Upon rebooting, the audio file was visible in the Finder. However, it didn’t seem to have its header information that identified it as an audio file intact. When attempting to audition it from the Finder, it just came up as a generic document instead of as an audio file with a play button. Fortunately, though I was able to import it into the Logic Project, and work with it as expected. Placing it in the timeline was no problem, although, as with the crash test, there was no time stamp embedded. Tapping on it with the space bar in the Finder after that resulted in the expected audio file behaviour.
Studio One Crash Test
After force quitting Studio One while recording when I reopened the Song the audio file was missing, it was also missing from the Pool.
However, on examination of the Media Folder within the Song folder the audio was there and dragging it into the timeline it was as recorded until the moment I hit Force Quit. Furthermore, I wanted to check and see if the metadata for the audio file was intact, this is easily tested by using the Move To Origin option in the File menu, this option will place the audio file in the exact sample accurate position it was originally recorded. The audio file moved to the correct position.
Studio One Studio Power Cut
Cutting the power to my Mac yielded far less straightforward results.
On reopening the Studio One Song the wav file was missing and as I hoped it was found in the Media Folder of the song. However, the file would not re-import into Studio One and on trying to play it in the Apple Mac Finder I had no playback. Using several third party applications such as VLC, Audacity and Switch gave no success in recovering the audio data.
However, to be thorough I decided to try the test a second time, this time the file was found in the Media Folder as expected and I when I dragged it into the Studio One timeline it played the audio as expected. I also tried the test to check the metadata was intact and that worked too.
So in summary, when it comes to power cuts you may not be able to recover the audio. If you want to try and minimise any loss should a power cut happen then in Preferences/Locations/User Data you can set Auto Save Documents to be more often than 5 minutes apart.
This test just goes to show that your audio would be safe if the worst were to happen in terms of a computer crash or power cut during that all important recording. Each DAW performed ever so slightly differently but we found the similarity here of locating your files was to look through the root session folder for the audio. May this also be a lesson to those who don’t name tracks before recording. If you record to tracks named “Audio” then good luck finding your audio, you have been warned.