This would normally be a generic picture of an overview of the Track View or something, but… come on. Let’s just look at a step sequencer. (Yes, it looks similar to FL Studio’s step sequencer. But you get a decidedly SONAR-like workflow, which feels nothing like Fruity Loops. Whether that’s good news depends on how you feel about FL and SONAR.)

The tricky thing about introducing a new feature is that you almost immediately hear from users about other features that would go well with that feature. (There’s a children’s story that goes this way.) The folks at Cakewalk have done what I think is a pretty amazing job of working through a big feature list, and throwing in additional goodies users get without even asking. They’ve also listened to users and been thorough in fixing issues – some quite particular – in 8.5. The result is that SONAR 8.5.2 brings a mature version of some significantly-changed features, and an unusually significant amount of stuff for a “point” release. If 8.5 was beginning to feel like 9.0, 8.5.2 definitely does.

Flash back for a moment to SONAR 8.5 and updates, which made enough of an impact among die-hard Cakewalk lovers that we started to see bizarre fan videos about it. As previewed back in September, 8.5’s banner features were a step sequencer, an arpeggiator, a Matrix View grid for triggering MIDI and audio clips (yes, reminiscent of a program that rhymes with Sable Bun Drive), a new sampled drum instrument, AudioSnap for tuning the timing of audio, and nice new effects strips.

Matrix View, an ambitious new feature, was admittedly not entirely baked when it shipped, and saw a set of performance and functionality fixes with 8.5.1. But with 8.5.2, nearly all of those banner features get improved, with additional bonuses, to boot. Some of my favorites:

  • 70+ new impulses for the lovely Perfect Space convolution reverb
  • Swing individual arpeggiators
  • Combine Matrix View cells with probabilistic Step Sequencer patterns for some generative music-making
  • Drag cells from Matrix View into Track View – a bit like going from Ableton Live’s Session View to Arrange View, but in a more conventional DAW workflow

The full list of enhancements, tweaks, and fixes is utterly enormous. Now, of course, it would have been nice to see 8.5 ship with some of these issues, but I will say Cakewalk has shown some attention to detail and gotten quite a lot right. I’m finishing up a review of 8.5x based on the 8.5.2 version now. So, as I polish that off – any remaining questions you’d like answered?

Rather than just review the tool, as well, I’ve been working in my own material and with the folks at Cakewalk to share some tips, so stay tuned.

SONAR 8.5.2 Update Changelog
SONAR 8.5.1 Matrix View Update
8.5.2 Update on the Cakewalk Blog