On the CDM Grubby Hands Radar, we’re able to track what new stuff is getting into people’s hands. I mean, I know how much you guys enjoy reading the Harmony Central press release, but if you like using the stuff even better, we want to know when that box will arrive.

SONAR 5, the latest from the folks at Cakewalk, is here, says Eric Richmond:

“I think this is one of the best, if not the best update that Sonar has had. It really does fufill that “Logic”-like promise of having top-notch effects, instruments and sequencing all in one package. Aside from all the new goodies, the workflow enhancements are insane, tons of little things I’ve wanted for years.

Apparently Ron Kuper is going to be giving a talk at AES about 64-bit computing/mixing etc. Should be pretty cool!

For more on what’s new in SONAR, see my previous report. This is where I’d normally slam the Red Sox, Cakewalk being in Boston and especially with the big Yankees series coming up this weekend, but, uh, I’m too nervous. Plus I hear they may ban me from their party at the AES show next week if I say too much. Anyhoo, check out the PSYNII instrument added to the new version:

Grubby Hands Report — Vintage Edition! In other news, I just got my copy of Way Out Ware’s TimewARP ARP emulator. Watch for our upcoming ARP blowout — and email me if you have access to an original ARP 2600.

  • atomic_afro

    In all honesty, there is very little that has changed from the previous version. The value for the upgrade comes mostly from the V-Vocal and Pentagon I instruments as well as the Perfect Space convolution reverb. If you're a Sonar 4 user who already has Melodyne or Auto-tune, a decent analogish softsynth, and a convolution reverb (like Voxengo Pristine Space) the upgrade is just not worth the $179.

    Features/workflow wise it's pretty much the same beast. The workflow "enhancements" really don't make the process much faster, and in fact it's often easier just to use the separate piano roll view than the one integrated in the sequencer.

    I find it funny that Cakewalk has seen fit to throw in tons of different plugs (some mediocre, some decent), and not really bother in making a few comprehensive ones. For instance, they added the RXP REX player, which to be honest is a pretty lame attempt when compared to modern slicers like Dicer and Reflex. I ask, why didn't Cakewalk bother to improve their Cyclone DXi (because, let's face it, it's showing its age) with REX support and other modern slicer features rather than make another crappy slicer that many of us don't need? The answer: It's their "new" complex where they never improve their plugs but just snowball you with their wide range.

    I feel as if they should have waited a year, made some significant improvements to workflow/features, modernize their existing plugs, and then release a truly "new" Sonar. This feels like a rehashing of last year’s model. It’s still a great program for sure, but for those thinking of upgrading I would recommend waiting a year until they produce hopefully a really neat upgrade that’s worth the 179 bones.


  • admin

    That's a big question among developers, whether to release updates more or less often. Someone complains either way, though I'll admit users usually prefer bigger, spaced-out upgrades to upgrades every year. About 1.5-2 years seems to be a good interval for most people.

    When it comes to adding instruments and effects, it's all about whether you want those built in or are happy with what you have. I was critical of DP, for instance, for lack of these very synths. Cubase looks even poorer in the synth and effect department. So for some people, this could be a good upgrade (as, clearly it is for Eric). For others, Afro, you're totally right — you'll want to check the feature list before upgrading to see if it's right for you. Especially when $179 will buy some mean soft synths, etc. Or, uh, pay the electric bill.


  • Guest

    atomic_afro, I couldn't disagree more, the workflow enhancements are amazing. I'm not sure how you use Sonar, but for me this rev is a absolute Godsend. Track Templates alone is almost worth the upgrade price.

    Add in
    -streamlining of multiple takes within track
    -the ability to preview the waveforms in busses/synths!
    -the ability to line up midi to the audio in the same
    -the ability to select multiple tracks simply by clicking and dragging
    -the ability to setup quick groups for those times where you have unison synths that need to stay in unison
    -vst integration under the hood
    -automation data in the piano roll itself (so you can compare it to the audio direct)

    I'm not saying that this Sonar update should do something for you, but just want to provide a counterpoint for people who may be reading these comments and deciding whether or not to upgrade..

    Another major thing is that the 'gapless' engine was supposed to be the cornerstone of Sonar5, but they added it to Sonar4.0.3 at the behest of the users.

  • admin

    I'm interested that the issue of in-line editing came up. I like in-line MIDI editing in multitrack views . . . Jim Aikin, for instance, doesn't. Seems to be a matter of some debate.

    I do like the idea of automation in piano roll lanes, though, in the opposite direction. For those of us who like to create wild patterns with automation. . .

  • Guest

    I also disagree with AA. Even basic MIDI editing workflow is lightyears ahead of Sonar 4 – you can adjust individual note velocities by clicking above the note, preview pitch changes while using the select tool, lengthen multiple notes at once, etc. They're all subtle changes that make workflow dramatically better. The powerful envelope editing options (with the pencil and LFO tools) also improve basic tasks. Then there's the radically improved engine, track presets, clip effects… I could go on and on; even disregarding all the extra plugins (which I agree, are secondary to core workflow), I would hate to go back to Sonar 4. Isn't that the measure of a good upgrade?

  • atomic_afro

    Personally, I just don't think it's a HUGE update like 3->4 was. I was just expecting a little bit more, and was sort of dissapointed. Sure there ARE workflow enhancements, but let's face it, it really isn't that much different, and many of these features should have been included with Sonar 4.

    When it comes to upgrading, I enjoy it when a product adds something totally new and amazing for the workflow or features. V-Vocal fits the bill, but for those who already have something similar there really isn't that amazing "must-buy" quality.