Kinetic 2 is here for Windows, and it looks promising not only as a way of getting beginners into music making, but as a really good buy on soft synths for everyone else, as well — especially at US$80.

Cakewalk Kinetic is a groovebox / all-in-one looper and synth studio. I liked the first version: not necessarily the world’s most powerful software but nicely integrated, intuitive, and fun to play with. The target is definitely beginning users, particularly for DJs and electronica lovers, and if you’re a Windows user looking for a piece of entry level software, it’d be hard to go wrong with this app. Cakewalk also makes a full-fledged sequencer, Cakewalk Home Studio, but I find Kinetic more fun.

What interests me about this release is that this isn’t a bad toy to add to your studio even if you’ve got more high-powered software at your disposal, especially given the price: US$80 list, or for a limited time, $59 for Cakewalk customers ($39 for Kinetic 1 owners). Cakewalk has beefed up the soft synths in a big way. They’ve added presets from the Roland GrooveSynth line (101, 606, 808, 909, etc.), using the genuine sounds thanks to a deal with Roland. Better yet, they’ve included the superb PSYN II virtual analog synth from Project5 and SONAR. There’s also a drag-and-drop sampler, made more interesting with REX and OGG Vorbis file support, and a nice selection of effects. On its own, it might be limiting, but it has VST/DirectX plug-in support and ReWire, so it’s not hard to imagine plugging this into Ableton Live — ignore the simple groove interface for Live’s more capable rendition, and take advantage of the presets and analog synth Live lacks. And it’d be equally fun to add Kinetic to FL “Fruity Loops” Studio just to get synth overkill on the cheap. Don’t forget, Cakewalk also earns points for having serial number-only copy protection. They don’t seem to be going out of business because of that, either. (Cough, cough.)

Kinetic 2 Product Page

And, of course, QWERTY drum programming means this might be an enjoyable way to spend a plane flight.

In other news, means I need to update my book Real World Digital Audio, which includes a tutorial on the software as the app makes a pretty decent introduction to groovebox programming. I’ll make that update online; stay tuned. Incidentally, if it seems like I’m always being positive about software, here’s a hint: aside from the fact that I’m a software addict, I tend to skip over the stuff I don’t like. (Unless it makes me really mad, in which case you get a rant.)

  • Adrian Anders

    I tend to be the opposite Peter, as I usually focus on a software's fatal flaws, even if I otherwise really like the product.

    For instance, i've gotten in trouble at times with cakewalk by complaining about Sonar's still sucky plug-in support. Did you know that if you install too many VSTis into Sonar (or P5v.2) that your Cakewalk and some 3rd party DXis will start to disappear from your plug-in drop-down menu? The DXis aren't unintalled, rather cakewalk sequencers won't make them available for use for some reason. FLStudio can still find the missing plugs and use them alright however… I find this bug rather annoying, and a major hurdle to using cakewalk products, especially considering all the killer freebee VSTis out there. Recently, I've decided to stop using DXis entirely for this reason, as my 100s of VSTis mean much more to my music making that the half-dozen DXis that I have from cakewalk among others. I like a few of them, like PSYNII, but not enough to give up most of my wide range of VSTis that I have collected in order to use them in Sonar.

    On the other hand, my other favorite sequencer, FLStudio has a serious CPU usage problem. Less in version 6 than previous ones, but still when using SynthEdit made VSTi synths in FL the CPU meter goes off the charts with just a few key strikes. A royal pain in the ass when I'm trying to make an IDM track with some xoxos plugs.

    My point is that both are great programs, and both make me want to kick my screen in sometimes because of bugs that mostly only power-users will notice…hence they rarely get fixed. It's important for journalists, especially bloggers like you Peter to bring up these issues as often times this is the only way that these sorts of issues get fixed.

    Hell, it took many years of complaining by KVR members among others to have cakewalk finally include VST-midi support in their products. Gushing over the pluses helps nobody, especially the software company. A critical press helps make software better over time, more so than one that's always upbeat.

    That's what I think at least.

  • I'm not a SONAR or FLS power user, sadly . . . but these are major points. On the FLS CPU usage, I'm suspicious that these are SynthEdit plugs — do they only have issues in FLS? The DXi issue sounds frustrating; I'd like to talk more about that and see if we can't hunt that down. Part of the reason I'm enthusiastic about Kinetic is that I don't like an overwhelming number of plug-ins around, just because that's not how I work, but I do think people should be able to use as many as they want.

    As for the issue of how critical we should be when I write, I think these are all good points. As I think you know from my reviews, I don't hesitate to raise issues I find, assuming I find them. (Now, I haven't done as many full-out reviews on CDM — but I hope that will change soon.) I haven't run into this DXi/VSTi issue, but I haven't done as much heavy work in SONAR because it's not my primary host. I also haven't formally reviewed that product (partly because I don't know it as well as I'd like and at Keyboard people like Craig Anderton do know it very, very well).

    Previewing new gear and apps, I do try to figure out what the story of a product is, whether it merits closer examination. In a review, yes, we should be more critical, and I agree that we should be talking about the things that don't work — and every single music product has stuff that doesn't work, or doesn't work the way we'd like, so there's no reason to be shy about that.

    But I think the more important point is not that people see things more positively or negatively, but that we never see a product in exactly the same way. That goes both ways: I've been negative about some things only to find out from people using a product that they simply use it in a different way than I'd imagine. And I'm constantly learning from all the software you're enthusiastic about, Adrian.

    So I think blogs, while we're still figuring out how this format will work, promise two opportunities. One is to start more discussion, and let people immediately talk back when we write. The other is to deal with flaws (or strengths) on a more ongoing basis, since it's not always possible to cover (or find) everything in a single review.

    And I certainly think we should rant and rave liberally. After all, we feel pretty strongly about the way stuff works in our music.

  • Denis Ioffe

    Hey its my friends bday coming up and I am thinking about buying hm Kinetic 2… he has no music experience but always wanted to make music… is there any way to take the songs you create and put them on turntables and spin…can someone explain to me how this is done…is it possible or does this program not allow this… also if it is where is a good place to get a minimum dj setup?

  • Kinetic could be a lot of fun as a music-making tool for beginners. You wouldn't be able to use turntables, however. For a minimal DJ setup, I'd take a look at yesterday's M-Audio announcement of their new $100 DJ setup:

    torq MIXLAB

    No physical spinning/scratching (there's no real cheap solution for that), but it could still be a lot of fun and a decent start.

  • Ok people, listen up. You will be amazed at what you can do with Kinetic and Kinetic 2 if you have the least bit of an imagination. You can pull in Wav files and use them in your mix or create your own groove using a midi keyboard and convert it to a bass, drum, guitar or piano sound.. Also as far as scratching, after you have layed down a basic song you can use a midi turntable like Numark offers and overlay your scratch into it.

    It is not the tools that limit the artist, but only the imagination.


    Everett James

  • Hey, Everett, I hear you, for sure! And yes, there are many options for tools that can be used to make music. I certainly like Kinetic as an entry-level app; for the price, and because it's easier to understand than some other (otherwise wonderful) sub-$100 tools, definitely as far as Windows goes.

  • mick ball

    kinetic 2 does not run properly on vista i get this message when trying to save work."accesstoc:programfileskinetic 2pot luck.kinwasdenied. can anyone help me with this problem? thanks mick ball.

  • John

    Don't buy this program.

    It doesn't work on vista.