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SONAR remains one of the more powerful workstations on the Windows platform. It comes bundled with a wide range of plug-ins and other content providing a lot of value for the price.

New Software Spotlight: SONAR Platinum from Cakewalk

SONAR Platinum is the latest version of the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software from Cakewalk, Inc. It is a professional tool for authoring sound and music on personal computers. It is designed for musicians, composers, arrangers, audio and production engineers, multimedia and game developers, and, of course, recording engineers.

SONAR Platinum
SONAR Platinum

SONAR supports Wave, MP3, ACIDized waves, WMA, AIFF and other popular formats, providing all the tools you need to do professional-quality work rapidly and efficiently. Along with being an integrated MIDI and digital audio authoring software package, it is also an expandable platform that can become the central hub of your recording studio. Check out the system requirements page to see what do you need to run SONAR Platinum.

There are three flavors of SONAR: SONAR Artist, SONAR Professional, and the flagship product, SONAR Platinum. It has a very complete feature set that allows you to compose and explore musical composition. Here, I will be focusing in on Platinum.

One other thing to note: when you purchase a version of SONAR, it now comes with a 12-month membership program. This means that approximately once a month there will be new releases and added content. The features covered in this review cover the original release from January 2015 plus the additions for both February (Braintree) and March (Cambridge) 2015.

So what is new with SONAR Platinum?

• The SONAR Membership Program now includes regular updates throughout the year instead of users having to wait for a major new version. In fact SONAR no longer has version numbers; instead all releases are named after cities in Massachusetts. With membership you get all the updates, additional content, and free tech support every month. You have two ways to purchase SONAR: either pay a one-time fee and for the next 12 months receive updates, or pay a monthly fee for 12 months and receive updates as long as you continue to pay. After 12 months, if you no longer want to be a member, you keep what you have and are under no further obligation.

SONAR Platinum
VocalSync

VocalSync tightens vocals by aligning one part to another. It can also match dialog to picture, synchronize background vocals, and tighten doubled vocal parts. It lets you perfect your timing without having to move or split clips. You first specify a guide track, then you specify the audio that you want to align with the guide track. VocalSync then supplies the appropriate amount of stretching or compressing to match the timing.

Control Bar: Stack, scroll, minimize, and maximize any and all Control Bar modules for one-click access to your favorite tools. If the bar is collapsed you can hover your mouse over it to display its parameters.

Mix Recall provides you with the ability to save and switch to various mix scenes. With one click you can swap out effects, fader positions, or any parameter so that you can restore an original mix or create new remixes. You can also mix tracks specifically for radio, podcast, video, or MP3, and then bounce every version in a single export.

SONAR Platinum
Console View

Improved AudioSnap engine and tempo analysis features gives you rhythmic and tempo control over your audio. Through transient detection technology, the AudioSnap engine will automatically analyze all of the recorded and imported audio files for rhythmic content to determine where the beats are in the music. With this you can stretch a song from one tempo to another, sync your recordings to audio loops, tighten your drums, and convert them to MIDI.

Addictive Drums 2 is now included with SONAR. It is a very powerful and popular drum synth that can be heard on many hit songs and albums. You get the Addictive Drums 2 Producer bundle, which lets you choose any three ADpaks, any three MIDIpaks, and any three Kitpiece Paks (one of each for the Professional version of SONAR).

• The Onscreen Virtual Controller is where you can go if you do not have a MIDI controller. It provides a way for you to compose with all of your virtual instruments at any time using you mouse and keyboard. You can jump octaves and even adjust velocity without a touch screen. There is also a special keyboard for touch-enabled devices that snaps automatically to the screen resolution size.

Panipulator brings control right into your ProChanne so you can emulate what your song will sound like in a variety of environments. Sure, your song will sound great on a nice stereo, but what about in an elevator, in a doctor’s office, at a theme park, in mono? Panipulator has specialized sum, flip, dim, and polarity controls to let you easily experiment with different environments. It’s made by Boz Digital Labs.

Custom Amps: from country to metal, bass to funk, classic rock to futuristic, there are 16 new drag-and-drop amps that are not based on existing amps, but are idealized amps that live in the virtual world.

Pattern Tool: this new tool that lives in your Smart Tool palate and gives you the ability to paint MIDI loops and patterns across the Piano Roll and Track View. No more cutting and pasting; now you can just paint the pattern.

Control Center is where you get your updates and content downloads. It has all of your purchased products and is tied to your Cakewalk user account.

Audio Import/Export enhancements let you import and export Ogg Vorbis, RF64, and over 20 other audio formats for compatibility with the very latest audio formats as well as legacy formats.

Les Paul Gold Top expansion pack brings you 50 individual note samples from a 1957 re-issue Gold Top neck pickup. Then it packages them into 30 programs that go from standard guitars to virtual 12-strings to keyboard voicings as well. The samples are un-looped and presented as naturally as possible.

Anderton Collection “Phasor Constructor” is an FX chain designed for manual control as well as for SONAR’s automation waveform drawing feature. There is a Timbre control that changes the relationship of peaks and notches for the 4 or 8 stage modes as well as other features not found in other phase shifters, like “Motion” and “Tame Peaks” controls.

SONAR Platinum
REMATRIX SOLO

REmatrix Solo Big Room Pack (32 mono and 16 stereo files) and Small Room Pack (52 mono and 26 stereo files) sample the main rooms at the legendary NYC studio. Use these to take an instrument that is taken direct (such as electronic drums) and add room sound and ambience for feeling.

ProChannel module from Boz Digital Labs adds the Bark of Dog plugin to SONAR. It has been adapted to the ProChannel format and can be used to make voice, bass, kick, piano, and more come alive with a deep but “mudless” low end. Think late-night FM DJ voice or a Barry White kind of smooth.

Craig Anderton Acoustic Guitar Presets allow you to make your acoustic guitar sound great. Although these are optimized for Gibson Acoustic models (with three presets for each of five guitars – J-15, J-29, J-35, J-45, and J-200) all of which include piezo pickups, they can work well with other acoustic guitars also. The three presets are Rhythm Natural, Articulated, and Big and Bright.

Craig Anderton Acoustic Piezo CA-X Amp Sim is an amplifier that compensates for deficiencies of piezo pickups to bring out the true beauty of your acoustic guitar. This is best used by acoustic guitars without built-in EQ. It can also be used for clean and defined electric guitar sounds as well, especially when used with neck humbucker pickups.

Craig Anderton Acoustic VoxTools: this multieffects tool is like a rack of 500-series modules. It has six effects: distortion, cylon, megaphone, de-plosive, vibrato, and automatic double-tracking. You can also use some of these in combination for interesting sounds.

Hardgroove Bass Loop Library is a new loop library created by Public Enemy bass player and producer Brian Hardgroove. These are based in R&B but can easily be used in rock and other genres of music.

Hardgroove Steinberger Rapture Expansion Pack is a Rapture expansion pack based on the Hardgroove sounds. It features his signature bass sound as well as eight other presets.

Other enhancements include FX Stacking, Expandable Sends, MIDI enhancements, PRV enhancements, VST enhancements, and Direct Stream Digital.

SONAR Platinum
EQ

SONAR remains one of the more powerful workstations on the Windows platform. It comes bundled with a wide range of plug-ins and other content providing a lot of value for the price. Unlike much software out there that comes as a subscription, SONAR comes with a membership which means that you get a year’s worth of updates, but you can keep what you have if you choose to opt out in the end.

The features that I provided here include those in the initial release plus the February and March releases that keep making SONAR better. I found a lot of great new features, like the improvements to the interface as a whole and the speed enhancements. The new Command Center makes keeping up with the upgrades very easy. Other improvements make the workflow within the UI drastically better.

When you add in features like Addictive Drums 2, REmatrix Solo, VocalSync, Mix Recall and all of the other features that come with SONAR as well as the fact that for the next 12 months you will continue to gain improvements and additional features, this becomes a very worthy upgrade and so I can very highly recommend SONAR Platinum .

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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