Studio Instruments drum kit

Finding exotic software instruments is rarely a challenge. A lot of users stumble more quickly when it comes to the basics. Cakewalk has unveiled a new set of soft synths called Cakewalk Studio Instruments, and a number of things about it are immediately interesting:

It’s dirt cheap. US$49.99 for the whole package.

It focuses on a few basics. There are four modules: Drum Set, Bass Guitar, Electric Piano, or String Section.

It’s available via mass-market outlets. Music tech stuff only trickles into the mass market, as a rule. Cakewalk says you’ll be able to pick this thing up at Apple, CompUSA, Fry’s, Micro Center, J&R, and

It does phrases. There are included, pre-recorded phrases. Might be redundant in the age of GarageBand, but potentially useful to have.

It has a slick interface. The UI is pretty, provides lots of visual feedback (the bows on the strings even move), and puts controls where you’d expect them in the real world — so electric piano effects show up on a stompbox, for instance, rather than floating in softwareland.

Cakewalk Studio Instruments
Compatibility: Windows VST; Mac AU; Windows/Mac standalone
Platform: Windows XP/Vista/Vista x64, OS X 10.4.9, Mac Universal Binary

The idea isn’t new: Native Instruments had its “Xpress” line of lighter-weight instruments (including electric pianos), and M-Audio had similar selections like Key Rig. But the execution looks nice, especially for beginners. My only question is whether someone will want specifically electric piano, drum set, bass, and acoustic string but not other things — especially if they already have a decent instrument preset library and loops in something like GarageBand. And, while you won’t get the slick interfaces, spending a little more money may get you a deeper, richer sound set, even from Cakewalk. But for the beginner market at which it’s targeted, it’s certainly worth a look. I hope to try it once it ships.

The “trailer” doesn’t reveal much, but you can see the UI animation. This is definitely the opposite end of the spectrum as, say, the minimalism in Ableton Live’s interface, or the alien spacecraft controls of Logic Pro.

In other news: Cakewalk is definitely expanding its portfolio as a soft synth shop, much as Digidesign has done recently on the Pro Tools side (difference being Cakewalk’s stuff runs with other software).

  • It's definately right for the beginners market and the looks are sweet enough to make me want to try it. I wonder what the quality is like (~200MB download…) but for under $15 per instrument it seems a steal.

  • For $50 it's a steal. I went and bought them unheard. I still haven't figured out how to get my own patterns into the instrument yet, or how to trigger a specific pattern from Ableton Live. Certainly not earth-shattering in terms of quality, but I was looking for something simple and straightforward. I may write a mini-review on my blog when I've had more time to play with these.

    Ableton wierdness + straight and square Cakewalk Studio Instruments makes for quite a flexible setup without becoming too complex.

    The price is good. That's the dealmaker.

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  • Yes its aimed at the beginners market but I'd say that, depending on one's musical style, the sounds are all very useable at any level. I like the simplicity of it and it works fine with Cubase. I'm not sure that I'll use any of the preset patterns but I can see how thay would be useful for someone with little experience. Great value for money, it offers a lot without swallowing up gigabytes of hd space.

  • AA

    Getting 4 software instrument for PC & Mac for under $100 is special-considering that separate piano,strings,guitar and drum software instruments can cost well over $50.