CAKEWALK SONAR 4 PRODUCER EDITION
Feb 1, 2005 12:00 PM, BY JASON BLUM
Cakewalk is one of the great success stories in the music-software business. With so much talk about Steinberg Cubase and Apple Logic these days, it’s easy to forget that this Boston-based company released some of the most successful PC-based sequencers ever, supplying music software to more than a million customers for nearly two decades. In fact, my very first PC-based sequencer was a Cakewalk product: Cakewalk 4.0 for DOS, an old text-based dinosaur that I ran on a 33MHz PC back in 1993.
Of course, an ancient DOS sequencer doesn’t seem all that impressive when you stack it against today’s studio-in-a-box behemoths, but the point is that Cakewalk has been around the block, and the company knows a thing or two about making music with computers — a reputation it has cemented with its latest flagship sequencer, Sonar 4. This new version includes a host of new features that make a great sequencer even better, offering work-flow improvements like enhanced key bindings and meter ballistics as well as major technology updates like track folders and the innovative SurroundBridge effects linker.
When I cracked open the Sonar box, I was pleased to see a huge printed manual inside. Hard-copy manuals are a rare beast in these days of PDF files and online help systems, and one look at Sonar’s manual explains why the box is so heavy: It’s a massive 704-page tome that covers operating Sonar in great detail, and it does so in such a clear and concise fashion that it’s a wonder Cakewalk doesn’t charge extra for it.
The Sonar manual offers remarkable depth while remaining easy to understand and simple to navigate. If you’re not the sort who’s prone to crack open a three-pound book when you run into trouble, that’s okay because Sonar includes an online help file that’s a word-for-word replica of the printed material with some extra content not included in the book. The help file is broken down into the same chapters and sections and includes a comprehensive index and search utility that will put the answers to your toughest questions at your fingertips.
Sonar ships with two CDs: the install disc and a DVD of extra content. The setup is quite straightforward and doesn’t require any special dongles or online registration. If you have any VST plug-ins on your system, the installer will ask if you want to configure them for use in Sonar, but beyond that, the installation is a hands-off affair.
If you’ve ever used any of Cakewalk’s previous sequencers, chances are, you’ll feel right at home working with Sonar. I even recognized some of Sonar’s icons and menu options as stylistic holdovers from Cakewalk 3.0 for Windows! A few of Sonar’s tools, like Big Time and Piano Roll, are still recognizable from legacy Cakewalk products.