Cakewalk SONAR Review

Cakewalk Sonar series at a glance
Cakewalk Sonar Pro 9 Yes No
Price $599
Free Trial x
Third Party FX x
Film Scoring x
OSx x
PC x
iOS x
Android x

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Cakewalk Sonar, a DAW best summed up as affordable, robust and holds true to its developer’s name; so easy to use, it’s a…cakewalk. First arriving on the scene in 2009 (developed by the Roland Corporation who acquired Cakewalk in 2008 and later resold the line to Gibson Guitar Corporation in 2013) provides all the tools necessary for you to record, mix and master a song or album. Over the last 8 years, Sonar has introduced recording engineers, old and new alike, a viable option to the industry leaders.

1. The Price Point

At the time of this article four different versions are available for direct download, each offering its own uniqueness and flavor, at a cost for everyone.

The lowest on the Cakewalk DAW totem pole introduces Sonar Home Studio for $49. At this price it comes stocked with enough tools to record a small project, but pales in comparison to the others in this list (more on that later). Nonetheless, if you’re a singer-songwriter or just getting your feet wet in the audio pond, Home Studio will get you used to, at the very least, the basics of recording.

The next choice is Sonar Artist and this is where the options for recording and creating really start to take shape. It’s going to run you $99, but you’d probably be better off going with this for an extra fifty bucks rather than Home Studio since it’s capabilities are much more extensive.

Those of you looking to step up your game and get serious without totally breaking the bank is where Sonar Professional comes in. At $199 you’re going to get a ton of more options and won’t be dealing with the shortcomings of Home Studio and Artist.

Sonar Platinum, how else do I put it…this thing is a gargantuan, but you don’t have to pay a monumental fee to get it. This is Sonar at its highest level, all the stops pulled, and can be all yours for $499. A demo is also available with no time limit, but you won’t be able to save or export any of your projects; Head over to Cakewalk.com to try before you buy.

2. Capabilities and Features

At every level in the Sonar family, you’re going to have access to create songs/entire albums start to finish. Though your options are a little skimpier with the Home Studio and Artist editions, you’ll still be able to track, mix and master professional quality recordings.

Cakewalk designed some really amazing features into Sonar, like their own take on audio-to-MIDI conversion, utilizing Melodyne’s engine to operate, which rivals Ableton Live’s unique approach to this concept and leads me to my next point. Melodyne 4 Essential, a variation of the full Melodyne (the industry standard for pitch correction) is included in its FX armory with Professional and Platinum, so go spend $99 on something else; a free demo of Melodyne 4 Essential comes with Artist!

One of the most interesting features I came across is Vocal Sync a tool designed to process vocal doubles and harmonies by shifting and manipulating the audio to line up with a designated reference track. You can basically compare this to using time stretching plug-ins in other DAWs to accomplish the same thing except Vocal Sync makes it painfully easy to dial in. If you want access to this fine piece of FX software, you’ll be strong armed into choosing Sonar Platinum.

  • Here’s what you get in all four variations of Sonar:
  • Easy Audio & MIDI Setup
  • Adaptable Interface with Lenses
  • Intelligent Mastering with LANDR
  • Studio Instruments Drums, Bass, Strings and Electric Piano
  • Essential Suite & Classic Creative Suite, includes a variety of Compressors, EQ, Flangers, Wahs, etc
  • 8 Style Dial FX-knobs for processing audio with a single user interface

Home Studio, comes with these core features:

  • 8 stereo I/O, 64 tracks to work with and 8 busses
  • Mix Strip
  • 5 virtual instruments and 27 FX Plug-ins
  • Periodic Updates

Artist comes with these core features:

  • Unlimited stereo I/O, tracks and busses
  • Mix Strip
  • 12 virtual instruments and 28 FX Plug-ins
  • Free demo of Melodyne
  • Monthly Updates

Professional comes with these core features:

  • Unlimited stereo I/O, tracks and busses
  • Unlimited Patch Points and Aux Tracks
  • 19 virtual instruments and 56 FX Plug-ins and 5 ProChannel Modules
  • Surround Mixing
  • Melodyne Essential
  • Monthly Updates

Platinum comes with these core features:

  • Unlimited stereo I/O, tracks and busses
  • Unlimited Patch Points and Aux Tracks
  • 23 virtual instruments and 69 FX Plug-ins and 11 ProChannel Modules
  • Surround Mixing
  • Drum Replacer
  • Vocal Sync
  • Melodyne Essential
  • Monthly Updates

3. What Sets It Apart

What sets it apart? Oh jeez, I don’t know, maybe the fact that it comes with built in intelligent mastering by LANDR! Go ahead LANDR scoffers, give your best high-brow, the fact remains that LANDR is normally a paid service and you get it with Cakewalk for FREE! This is the first time ever a DAW has been integrated with automated mastering. If you’re not familiar with LANDR, it is a software equipped with algorithms for “sophisticated machine learning” and a “highly-adaptable artificial intelligence engine” that masters a song immediately, tailored to the style of music it’s mastering, without over-compressing or slamming it through a limiter; the source of its genius stemming from the techniques of professional mastering engineers. LANDR is supplied in all four versions of Sonar, so no matter which you choose, you’re taken care of.

Conclusion

Taking into consideration Sonar can do everything start to finish without necessarily needing to buy third-party plugins for mastering, makes it very hard to pass up. Additionally, it comes with Melodyne which is a HUGE plus. This DAW is powerful and more than capable of allowing the user to coax out whatever it is they’re looking for and certainly doesn’t receive the credit or limelight it deserves.