Sonar Cakewalk is Windows-only DAW that includes everything you’ll need to create, record, mix, and master tracks from start to finish.
It’s been around in various incarnations for over a decade. Still, major changes are in the works with the current version, particularly how the program sells, is upgraded, and is supported in the future.
Here’s how it works
You can still buy Cakewalk Sonar outright and sign up for a monthly membership subscription. You can keep the software without making further payments if you keep your payments up for a full year. Monthly users receive software upgrades, tutorials, bonus content, and technical help every month. The program and any upgrades and add-ons published over the next year will be yours to retain if you pay for the entire package up front.
Cakewalk Sonar says it’s keeping an eye on consumer input, which will factor into future improvements and its internal strategy.
The pay-monthly system costs $599 for Cakewalk Sonar Platinum (the top-of-the-range edition we’re looking at here), compared to $499 for the upfront fee, so the latter is a better deal for those who can afford it.
After a year, you can renew your Platinum Membership for $199 upfront or $20 monthly, and your Artist and Professional Memberships for $49/$5 and $99/$10, respectively. It is reasonable and in keeping with what we’d expect to pay for updates if Sonar gives in the old way.
It’s also worth noting that Cakewalk Sonar no longer has a version number. Such terminology is no longer necessary, as it is now a continual evolution to which anyone can subscribe.
The new payment and delivery strategy include Cakewalk Command Center, a separate program for managing your account and downloading or immediately installing your sonar cakewalk software. It’s a breeze to use, and it significantly speeds up the 20GB+ Sonar Platinum bundle installation. To be clear, Cakewalk Sonar does not require Command Center to be operating to function; you utilize it when you need it. Cakewalk Sonar is making such a big fuss about its new payment/distribution mechanism that it’s easy to overlook that it’ll accompany a new version of Sonar. In actuality, there are three new versions: the entry-level Sonar Artist (previously Sonar X3), the mid-tier Sonar Professional (which replaces Sonar X3 Studio), and the top-tier Sonar Platinum (supplanting X3 Producer). We’re looking at Platinum here, but there are a lot of new features that are universal to all three.
Increasing the standard
Sonar Platinum appears to be the same as before, but a few new features stand out right away. The Control Bar, for example, can now be scrolled from side to side to reveal more of the functions you’ve chosen to display; the Gobbler module/feature removes entirely; the Control Bar modules can now resize manually or automatically, and a collapsed module can now be viewed in full by simply mousing over it. Of course, the full Control Bar can be crushed as well.
These are well-considered and well-implemented improvements that make Sonar a lot easier to use. The Mix Recall module, which controls Sonar’s novel ability to save and recall full mix configurations with a single click, is new to the Control Bar. With a checklist that incorporates Track controls, automation, effects, and more, you have some control over what information keeps. It’s simple and effective, and it’s great for comparing multiple mixtures.
One of the new Sonar by Cakewalk highlights is VocalSync (Platinum-only), which analyses your vocal (or any) tracks and quickly aligns them with any other track of your choice – think of it as Sonar’s version of Synchro Arts’ VocALign. The VocalSync Editor is as simple as it gets, with just one knob to regulate the alignment strength, a publish button, and a menu to choose your target track from. We’re happy to report that it performs admirably.
We don’t have time to go through all of the new features in-depth, but there are a few that deserve to mention. Now you can import and export audio in the high-resolution DSD format, and the effects rack now has dynamically expanded, scrollable sends and effects layering. Finally, XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums 2 Producer Bundle and a new ProChannel reverb are among the new bundled instruments and effects. At the same time, the Cakewalk website promises Platinum customers a drum replacer plugin shortly. Finally, Sonar is still a winner, ranking among the best Windows-compatible best daws. Despite a few unrepeatable problems during our testing, the new version is stable, powerful, and relatively simple. Cakewalk Sonar provides an incredible amount of power for the money, and now you have another way to get it. No matter how you get it, it’s still a wonderful deal.