Cakewalk SONAR 2 XL
Category: Products / pc software / midi/audio sequencer
Added: 08-Dec-02 | Author: admin
New price: 679.00 euros | S/H price: Not listed
Cakewalk SONAR 2 XLCAKEWALK SONAR XL - now at version 2, english Version, Audio - Midi sequencer. For the full review of SONAR see the basic 'SONAR' page via the 'related-products' link on the right-hand column. The XL version is simply a bigger package which includes added synths & audio plugins etc.
That's the shop basic spec's... But how does it differ this V2... Well, they sent us a review copy, we spent quite alot of time with it and it drew mixed conclusions.
SONAR 2 has added quite alot of excellent new features, most of them 'engine-based' - Now SONAR supports ASIO drivers whereas before it needed WDM & hence had to run on Windows 2000 or XP to get realtime low latency support.... Also SONAR2 supports full-on Rewire2 allowing total integration of REASON with full 64 channels appearing in SONAR2's mixer and arrangepage... Excellent stuff!... Other updates for SONAR2 include bringing hardware control support for controller mixers such as Mackie Control, Radikal SAC-2.2, CM Labs MotorMix and Tascam US-428, plus it has a Global Control panel with learn-mode to quickly integrate any MIDI-compatible control surface so you can use other controller surfaces not fully spec'd...
Other goodies in V2 include support for OMFI and Broadcast Wave files, providing cross-platform compatibility with OMFI host applications such as Pro Tools, Avid and Logic systems. Also we now have multiple outs supported for soft-synths, etc....AND... a new drum-map drum-editor... heh... Well, we spent alot of time campaigning for this feature... The old SONAR seriously lacked in drum-edit support, so the new SONAR2 add's a full-on drum-edit grid...
Also in SONAR2 XL there is now a change of 'included extras'... Tassman demo is gone, sample loops are gone (they were very 'songwriter' orientated anyways and not so great)... Now we have two superb free FX from SONIC TIMEWORKS... A great multiband compressor for mastering and a great EQ...
However.... despite all these updates which are great, we found some serious flaws which made us just tear out our hair when trying to use SONAR daily for work....
1. Audio glitching when working in Loop-Cycle mode - Yup!.... Making dance tracks (and any tracks frankly) requires often that you loop a section of a song and let it cycle round & round while you tweak that bassline or synth riff, or you might loop the last bar before the chorus in a rock track to work on a drum-roll part leading into a chorus.... Anyway, with SONAR you get a glitch when it loops back to the start... NOt so bad you might think?... But when working all day on these sorts of edits it becaomes really annoying, and to make matters worse, NO OTHER audio/midi sequencer does this!.. So it makes SONAR2 appear to be bugged/flawed.
Well that was the worst problem.... there are a few more.
2. Lack of arrange-page grid! & lack of proper SNAP control on music parts ('clips' Cakewalk call them) - These two glitches combined are HIGHLY irritating!.... First, in dance-music and other styles created using audio clips arranged into a song, you want to cut/copy and arrange your song... SONAR (and Cakewlak PA before it) has always had this wierd protocol where if for example you have a midi part with 4/4 kik drum playing a 'Four on the floor' kik pattern, SONAR will display this midi part as a a block ('Clip') which stretches visibly up to the LAST kik drum in the pattern....
All OTHER sequencers will show a 'full bar-length' block, inside which is the 1, 2, 3, 4, kik drum notes... SONAR displays a midi part 'Clip' on the arrange-page which is 4 BEATS long, ending at beat-4 where the last kik-drum appears... So SONAR shows a shortened midi part 'Clip' which doesnt stretch across a full-bar width!...
Ok you might say, I can use the 'Slip-Editing' in SONAR to simply drag that midi part 'Clip' edge to be a full bar-width....
Aha!... Yes you can, but then comes a new problem.... There seems to be no proper SNAP ability on the Arrange-page... You can drag that 'Clip' edge out so it appears to reach a full bar width... BUT... Zoom right in and check and you'll see actualy it does NOt snap to the proper bar length, but is a tad under or over in length.
Anyway, this is un-acceptable for a pro-sequencer in our opinion.... We feel SONAR should snap properly to a pre-defined 'SNAP' value...
Add to this the total lack of any arrange-page grid to work to, and yu can see the potential problems that could arrise when trying to perform simple affairs like laying 8 blocks ('Clips') of midi data end-to-end in a row... with NO grid to guide you visualy as to WHERE you are dragging those blocks, and with actual blocks of midi data ('Clips') which do NOT size properly to exact fixed-width lengths, and NO ability to choose a SNAP value by which midi & audio 'Clips' will SNAP to when being dragged around in size/length...... Well, it's time consuming and annoying when trying to work fast and worst of all, when trying to work while viewing an arrangement zoomed-OUT....
When composing an arrangement made of 'Clips', (audio & midi parts/blocks on screen), you need to work zoomed-out, so you can see everything in some context.... So you mostly work zoomed out quite a way so at least a full verse and chorus section are all visible on-screen.... In this resolution, editing these lengths becomes very hit & miss & tiresome.
So in conclusion, we felt it wasnt best to write a full-on review of SONAR2... Everyone knows the updates... There's plenty of info on the www, and everyone can get a demo to se what's what.
On the upside, the new audio engine works a treat.... We get fantastic low latency using Hoontech and other ASIO/WDM drivers allowing realtime monitoring effects to be added to in-coming audio, and alowing realtime s/w synth playing - That all works great!
Rewire2 protocol means REASON also integrates superbly... and the new PROJECT5 also works a treat... everything else including the new drum-map works great, although we'd also like as an update to see HIGHER resolutions added to the drum-map grid as available default buttons, and another bug is that while working in drum-map edit, if you zoom-OUT too far, you can no longer see the velocity-adjuster 'ladders' which each note has... thus when working in drum-map edit, if you zoom OUT to far, you can no longer edit velocity easily *sigh*
But all in all...?.. we feel SONAR is ALMOST there.... SNOAR arrived 2 years ago and was a HUGE update... No, it was way MORE than an update to Cakewalk Pro-Audio... So we were very enthusiastic about SONAR when released... At the time it brought features which thrashed VST & LOGIC...
Now these programmes have had THEIR updates, and SONAR still offers superb stuff, competing VERY well, and beating both their competitors in many areas....
We feel if Cakewalk can just sort out these issues which are VERY important, then this will be THE sequencer of choice!
SONAR 3 is now looming on the horizon at todays date I add this update (aug' 2003), and looks superb from the limited screenshots we've seen.... Apparently the 'glitch' on loop-cycle is fixed... We suspected this would be done as 'The man from Cakewalk' who opos into the Dancetech forums from time to time hinted as much by saying: "Project5 does NOT have this glitch, so it's something we can change in SONAR"
So.. To sum-up SONAR 2 ?
I feel SONAR 2 added some excellent updates bringing it that step closer to be the top-dog in the pack... It's a great sequencer don't get me wrong... BUT here at DT studio we found the glitch and the other issues listed above too irritating for our daily grind of work... If SONAR 3 can sort out these issues then it will be truly a 'DANCE' sequencer.... In all fairness to Cakewalk, they are not really supported much for dance music by users and have a lower European user-base, with higher users in USA/North America... The sequencer tends to be aimed MORE therefore at American songwriter midi/audio users and proper studio's wanting to run a full-on digital multitrack... with it's supported 64 i/o's in this context, YES, SONAR is superb for using in that way, but tends therefore to overlook the more hobbyist midi & audio dance/pop makers.
I think SONAR 3 will unify the two... Fingers crossed eh!... Logic has gone to Mac only.. SX seems caught up in an interminable bug-fixing excercise... SONAR 3 could blow them away if they get it right!
So ... SONAR 2?..... A GREAT 'pro' multitrack s/w with superb soft-synth use, and all the midi editing featires and controller editing you want... It just needs those last few specialist tweaks for making dance music-makers 100% happy!
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Total stars: 12 | Total votes: 3