By Joanne Coppers
Hello music lovers!
In this blog post, I am going to be attempting to answer some questions I get asked quite a bit. “What version of Band-in-a-Box should I buy? Should I choose the entry-level Pro version or should you go all out and buy the Audiophile Edition? Should I buy the Mac or the PC version? What add-ons should I buy?”
The quick answer is “it depends!”
It is important to note that, unlike other tiered pricing software packages, both the Band-in-a-Box and RealBand program functionality is identical for all the different price points. The main difference between the various versions is in the other “content” delivered alongside these two programs. I can summarise the content differences as follows:
The difference between the PRO, MegaPak, and UltraPAK is in the number of styles, instruments, and loops that PG Music delivers with your purchase. The PRO version is a 15-gigabyte installation, the MegaPak is 25 gigabytes, and the UltraPAK is well over 120 gigabytes. That will give you some idea about the differences between the various versions.
The UltraPAK Plus comes with everything in the UltraPAK version as well as additional songs and lessons.
The AudioPhile version comes with songs and lessons and also has high-quality WAV versions of all the RealTracks
The OminPAK version is the full set of music creation and productivity software. It includes PowerTracks (which is PG Music’s premium DAW) as well as other music creation software, documentaries, and trivia. It is quite literally the whole hog, barn, and field.
So you can see that this is going to be a personal decision and one that I can only guide you on.
If you have a limited budget and music making is your hobby, or if you only want to experiment with BIAB before making a more significant decision, or if you want to use the program to practice your guitar playing then you should consider the PRO or MegaPak version.
I use the UltraPak and highly recommend this version if you have the funds to invest. The UltraPak is an excellent choice if you want to perform with your backing tracks. It is also suitable if you would like to record and release radio-ready songs. If you are a songwriter and like to experiment with a variety of styles that you would not usually try then the UltaPak will provide you with plenty of material from which to choose.
If you are an earnest music student or are a professional musician and want to use BIAB to take your musicianship to the next level, then the UltaPAK Plus would suit you. (I am not personally at this level…yet)
If you are a studio owner and professional producer who is charging other people to create radio-ready songs for them, then the AudioPhile Edition or the OmniPAK would be the one for you. (Maybe in my next life…)
Please note; these are only suggestions. What I can say is that having access to all the styles, instruments and loops in BIAB has given me such freedom, growth, and opportunities in my own musical life that it has been well worth the initial investment.
If you purchase only the PRO or MegaPak versions you may get frustrated because you don’t have access to all the styles and RealTracks that people are waxing lyrical about on the PG Music forum. I offer free downloads of SGU files here and I have found that people will often comment that the song “sounds different” on their computer to how my sample MP3s sound. This is because these folk have not purchased a style that I used for a demo song and they often end up slightly disappointed with the product.
Mac vs. PC
It may seem like a simple suggestion, but you should think carefully about whether to buy the Mac or PC version of BIAB. Even if you have a Mac computer and do all your other work in a Mac environment, you may want to consider purchasing the PC BIAB version.
The first reason is that PG Music originally developed BIAB as a Windows product. It was born in the MS-DOS era. Users of the Mac version often complain that the Mac version seems to be the second-class citizen when it comes to upgrades. For example, the Mac version of BIAB 2018 only came out in July 2018 whereas the Windows version came out in December 2017 already. PG Music appears to have been following this release pattern for quite a few years. If you are one of those ultra-keen people who love upgrades and you purchase the Mac version, then you may get slightly frustrated waiting for the latest version of BIAB to come out.
Secondly, BIAB for the Mac does not come with RealBand. That means that if you are a Mac user and are planning to record and release radio-ready songs you are almost certainly going to have to choose and invest in another DAW. However, there are many well priced and even free DAWs that you can choose.
You can install the windows version of BIAB on an NFS – New Technology File System – formatted partition on your Mac. Here is a link to PG Music’s FAQ on this.
If you buy your version of BIAB from the PG Music website, you will be offered various add-ons. Here is my take on these.
Xtra Styles: These Xtra styles consist of exciting and unorthodox combinations of existing RealTracks. For example the exotic sounding, “Baffin Old Canadian Fiddle Waltz” is described as follows: “This Canadian folk waltz features a fiddle soloist. Joining in are strumming acoustic guitar, tenor banjo, acoustic bass, and ethnic waltz drums”. Isn’t that just wonderful? Doesn’t it make you want to write an old Canadian waltz? I am sure you can guess that I would highly recommend that you purchase at least some of these Xtra styles. They will provide you with hours of entertainment. Please note: The Xtra styles use pre-existing RealTracks so if you purchased the PRO or MegaPAK version you may not get full value from the Xtra styles.
JBridge: This is a plugin for use within RealBand that allows you to use third party 64-bit plugins. You would only require JBridge if you are going to use RealBand as your DAW. Please note: the use of RealBand or any other DAW is outside the scope of this eBook. Suffice it to say the RealBand is a “32-bit DAW,” and many modern third-party plugins are “64-bit plugins.” JBridge will allow you to use these plugins within RealBand. I do use this add-on since I use RealBand as my DAW.
PGMusic Key chain. Come on… support your favorite music production software company by buying a key chain.
If you want a detailed step-by-step guide on how to make and perform with Band-in-a-Box backing tracks, have a look at my eBook “Band-in-a-Box 101: A beginners guide to making and performing with Band-in-a-Box backing tracks”