Glenn Reynolds' Army of Davids meme is all about empowering individuals with powerful computing tools. And nowhere is that trend more obvious than the audio world, where potent software packages essentially put a recording studio into any home that wants one.
Cakewalk's latest update to their flagship Sonar Producer Edition recording program, which brings it up to version number six, combines a variety of powerful new features, and consolidates several recent upgrades to the program.
Getting Into The ACT
One of the most intriguing new features in Sonar 6 is called ACT, Cakewalk's neologistic acronym for Active Controller Technology. Since so many home recordists and project studios also contain MIDI synthesizers with control surfaces like knobs and sliders, it's natural to want to use them to control Sonar as well. For example, my M-Audio keyboard contains (in addition to its 88 piano keys) 24 knobs; nine sliding faders; a number pad; and the same play, stop, record, rewind and fast-forward buttons that a cassette deck has. Plus a myriad of individual pushbuttons. That's a lot of controls, and it would provide enormous flexibility were it used with Sonar. For example, come time to record a synthesizer solo on the keyboard, Sonar could be engaged via the keyboard's play button, and then when it's time to punch in a new part, the record button pressed, and then afterwards, when it's time to hear how the new overdub sounds, the rewind button, all from the keyboard.
Another advantage of using physical control surfaces is during mixdown. As Craig Anderton noted in his exceptional Sonar 3: Mixing & Mastering book a couple of years ago, for the first several decades of commercial music, virtually all commercial audio mixes were done on traditional mixing boards with their banks of faders and balance knobs. Thus, the mixing board became an instrument itself, as the engineer played the faders and knobs in time with the music, subtly adding additional dynamics to an otherwise static mix. But in the past decade or so, when hard disk recording programs replaced that style of mixing with on-screen automation, a lot of those dynamics disappeared. Reintroducing physical control surfaces into the mixing process should go far towards reintroducing dynamics to mixing.