Cakewalk has a major upgrade to their flagship audio software, SONAR, not very long after the release of SONAR 5 last year:

Cakewalk SONAR 6 Producer Edition: New Feature Highlights []

The banner feature is a new “audio quantize” feature. All the major DAWs have been toying with various takes on beat-synced audio warping, not necessarily copying software like Ableton Live, but trying to appeal to those who use those techniques with something different. It makes sense, given that MIDI has long had this rhythmic flexibility. In the case of SONAR 6, the new features include non-destructive audio quantize, the ability to combine different tracks into a single groove, “audio beats to MIDI” conversion, “slip-stretch”, and tempo changes. Some of those are available elsewhere, but it sounds like Cakewalk has taken a unique approach to actual editing. Like Logic Pro, SONAR is also integrating high-quality stretching algorithms from iZotope Radius (with one important difference — Radius is an a la carte extra for Logic; here it’s included in the box).

There’s no one enormous feature or deluge of plug-ins, but taken together, lots of improvements add up to a big upgrade.

Among the workflow changes, I’m most interested in:

  1. “Dynamic” re-mapping of controllers — something I’ve long wanted, though I’ll have to test Cakewalk’s “Active Controller Technology” to know just how it works
  2. Fast zoom that keeps your place, with mouse wheel support
  3. Customizable interface and plug-in menus (with grouping)

And, of course, no DAW upgrade would be complete these days without some new plug-ins:

  1. VC-64 Vintage Channel modeled-analog channel strip with dual EQ and compressor stages, for warmth
  2. Session Drummer: Multisampled drums and patterns (not an automatic drummer as that might have sounded)
  3. Analyst spectrum analyzer

There’s also a new Synth Rack, though nothing is going to kill my buzz on racks from another upcoming version 6 upgrade — Ableton Live. Will be interested to see Cakewalk’s take, though.

Eye candy alert: here’s the full image, straight from the source:
Giant SONAR 6 Collage

SONAR remains the traditional DAW to beat on Windows, and this upgrade looks from a productivity perspective to be the major upgrade Cakewalk lovers were hoping for — it should convince some of those who passed on SONAR 5, because the combination of 5 and 6 is definitely reason to upgrade. More from our in-house SONAR experts when we can get them to sit down and write.

Best endorsement: GarageSpin is ready to make the leap from SONAR 3. (Hey, I know lots of users of older Cakewalk software; just a matter of new releases reaching critical mass as far as new features.)