Using multiple DAWs at the same time with JACK on MS Windows

Hi all,

I thought I would share the following tip with you.

I own a number of DAWs and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been looking into combining their strengths by using more than one DAW at the same time. ReWire is perhaps the obvious choice when doing this, but what if one of the DAWs doesn’t have this capability? (I’m looking at you Bitwig).

On Linux, JACK can be used to achieve this, but what about on Windows? Renoise on Linux supports JACK out of the box, but it doesn’t support JACK on Windows.

Firstly, for synchronising the DAWs and sending MIDI notes, I use loopMIDI. I created a loopback device and I can use Renoise to send the MIDI clock and MIDI notes to a second DAW.

For the audio side, I investigated JACK on Windows by following the instructions here: Using JACK on Windows. It says

So any ASIO application will be able to use the JackRouter ASIO linker to connect to Jack, and Jack can then be used to route that audio to other applications connected to the Jack Audio Server, or out to the system sound device.

This sounded just like what I wanted. But after following the instructions I just couldn’t get it working.
Then after doing some research, I saw this post: JACK 1.9.16 doesn’t work on Win 10 #654. The author’s reply was

And yes, applications that do not speak JACK natively will not be able to talk to JACK anymore.

So that’s why I couldn’t get it working. It’s a bit unfortunate that this wasn’t explained in the JACK on Windows page.

Anyway, I downloaded an older version from here: https://github.com/jackaudio/jackaudio.github.com/releases. I chose JACK 2 Version 1.9.10.

After following the instructions above (Using JACK on Windows), I can now route audio between DAWs. For Renoise I chose the JackRouter ASIO driver, and I can send audio in to Renoise from another DAW by using a Line-In device and selecting the channel ‘In 1 & 2’.

By default, this set-up provides two stereo pairs of audio channels, but this can be increased by editing the following files as administrator

C:\Program Files (x86)\Jack\32bits\JackRouter.ini
C:\Program Files (x86)\Jack\64bits\JackRouter.ini

and increasing the input and output values inside the ‘IO’ section, from 4 to 32, say, which provides 16 stereo channels.

There is a small amount of latency created with doing this, but this can be worked around in the settings inside the DAWs.

I find this really interesting because it opens up many possibilities to use various DAWs at the same time, combining the strengths of each. It allows you to do various things such as, for example:

  • draft a piece in Renoise, using MIDI instruments to control Bitwig instruments
  • record the Renoise MIDI out into a clip inside Bitwig and use that to directly control the Bitwig instruments
  • use the Renoise sequencer for precise control of some instruments, while using the Bitwig sequencer for recording and playing back MIDI keyboard entry
  • use another DAW for effects or mastering (e.g. FL Studio)

I’m still experimenting with this but it looks like it can open up a lot of possibilities.

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If one of the DAWs in your collection is Reaper, you should try ReaASIO instead.

Much easier.

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Thank you!

Thanks for sharing the tip!

Would this allow running two instances of Renoise?
With both outputting sound just like two record players?

Well if you’re just outputting the sound of two Renoise instances to your speakers then you don’t need to use JACK. But you could probably use JACK to send the audio from two Renoise instances to another DAW, although I haven’t tried doing this. You would have to synchronise both instances of Renoise using virtual MIDI cables or ReWire.

Y not using rewire?

Bitwig doesn’t support it.

There are a bunch of other solutions instead. In some cases, Asio4all is a workaround. In some cases https://vb-audio.com/Cable/ is a workaround and in other cases https://ddmf.eu/virtual-audio-stream/ maybe the cure. Or try the veteran https://vac.muzychenko.net/en/
If you need midi in addition, there are a bunch of programs, too.