Friday , February 23 2024
With new features and a 64-bit engine, this is a must-have upgrade to Cakewalk's Digital Audio Workstation.

New Software Spotlight: SONAR X3 Producer from Cakewalk

SONAR X3 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, as well as recording engineers.


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 an expandable platform that can become the central hub of your recording studio. Check out the system requirements page to see what you need to run SONAR X3.

There are three flavors: SONAR X3, SONAR X3 Studio, and SONAR Producer, the flagship product. They have a very complete feature set that allows you to compose and explore musical composition. You can edit music using musical notion and guitar tablature. You can graphically draw tempo and volume changes as well as add lyrics to display on screen or to include with printed scores. I will be focusing in on Producer, but will highlight some features that are included with the other versions.

So what is new with SONAR X3 Producer?

Unlimited everything means that you now have the space for unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, unlimited FX, unlimited sends, and full VST support through the new 64-bit mix engine. That also means that there is unlimited everything in all three versions of SONAR X3.

Comping provides a better way to record and edit. This too is included in all three versions. Comping gives you the ability to work with multiple tracks at the same time. What this means is that you can record the same part over and over using the Comping record mode and speed editing workflow. Once you have your multiple tracks you can view them all and isolate out the sections along the waveform. You then can cycle through all of the takes and selecting the segment you want from each take and move on to the next section until you get the grouping that you want. You can then combine them all into one composited track.

VST enhancements provide fully integrated VST3 support across all versions of SONAR X3 giving you better plugin management, lower CPU drains, and more improved workspace. Since it is integrated into SONAR X3 browser, you can see your VST3 and VST2 plugins side by side. It also automatically scans for new VST plugins so that you don’t have to rescan.


A 64-bit audio engine means you have the power that you need and the memory available to create what you want. You can record up to 192 kHz with low latency monitoring and mix more reliably using sample-accurate plugin delay compensation. This is available in all versions of SONAR X3.


Melodyne Essential with ARA integration comes with both the Studio and Producer versions and provides superior pitch correction, time stretching, and audio-to-MIDI conversion at your command without having to purchase an add-on. By adding ARA support, Cakewalk was able to integrate Melodyne into SONAR’s Skylight interface so there is no waiting for data to transfer into the editor. To convert from audio to MIDI you just drag the audio clip to a MIDI track and Melodyne converts it.

Market directly to YouTube: This is a way to get social with your music without having to leave your DAW. SONAR X3 is integrated directly with YouTube’s publishing platform right from within the control bar so you don’t have to leave SONAR to share videos with your users.

Gobbler provides integrated saving and sharing on the web. You now can back up your projects anytime without having to leave SONAR, with 5GB of free storage on Gobbler’s cloud-based backup system. You can even share you work with your colleagues quickly and easily.

Custom track colors give you the ability to group tracks any way that you want. Put the drum tracks in red, the vocals in blue, the guitars in purple, or in any formation that gives you visual indication of what is where. The ProChannel modules will follow your custom track colors so that you can apply your favorite effects more efficiently.

QuadCurve EQ Zoom will let you boost, cut and produce visually. Through the use of a zoom panel and built-in spectral analyzer you can use both your eyes and your ears to sculpt your tracks and manage your EQ.

The Tape Emulator is another new addition to the ProChannel arsenal. With this module you can now provide the warming sound of an analog tape machine for an old-fashioned sound, or pair it with the Console Emulator to really recreate that pre-digital era sound.

Tone2 BiFilter2 provides true stereo architecture, giving you 47 filter types ranging from vintage analog to futuristic FM filtering. It comes with 100 presets, 8 distortion types, and an easy-to-use interface.

Nomad Factory Blue Tubes FX comes with the Studio and Producer versions and give you classic analog sounds for your digital studio. The studio mixing suite comes with 19 different dynamic, EQ, and effects processors. It is modeled after vintage gear.

Addictive Drums

Addictive Drums is a full version and comes with fast load times, a lot of flexibility, and professional-sounding drums. There are hundreds of presets and thousands of MIDI rhythms that were recorded by pro drummers.

Lounge Lizard Session gives you the sounds of the Rhodes electric piano right at your fingertips. The unit comes with many presets that you can fiddle with to your heart’s desire as well as many effects.

Strum Acoustic Session lets you experience the feel of an acoustic guitar right from your keyboard. It is modeled to let you strum and voice chords without ever having to pick up a guitar.

Strum Acoustic Session

Additional enhancements include over 100 little tweaks to benefit your SONAR X3 experience.

Keep in mind that SONAR X3 Producer is an incredibly complete and complex software package that is aimed at the professional and the sophisticated enthusiast who wants a product that is powerful, flexible, and very configurable. To do this product justice you will need to have the technical knowledge that goes in to mastering, mixing, looping, and sequencing audio.

SONAR X3 and Studio are scaled-down versions with fewer plugins, but they both give you plenty of power to work with. They would be great for those just starting out and wanting to learn, who can’t justify all of the bells and whistles. They will also work well for those who want to create their own music without having a studio. You can record your tracks and even use them for jamming by yourself.


I really like the fact that with the 64-bit engine you get “unlimited everything.” I also like the fact that that is provided in all versions of SONAR. This means that no matter your level or skill, you are not limited to what you can compose, only to how fancy you can get with it out of the box. This is even better if you are not one to use included plugins and would prefer to build your own custom system.

Also, the comping workflow is wonderful. You can work in sections recording five, six, ten renditions of (say) the first verse your song; then you select the first five seconds of take one, the next eight seconds of take three, the next 15 seconds of take two, seven more seconds of take one. They are all automatically composited to the main comping track for the perfect first 35 seconds. You can then move on to the first chorus. It doesn’t get any easier or better than that.

Those two items alone make SONAR X3 worth the upgrade/new purchase consideration. But the fact that you get a full version, not a “lite” or reduced version, of Addictive Drums really adds more value. Addictive Drums is very easy to use and comes with some really fabulous-sounding drum kits and well over 100 presets that were created by professional drummers, which makes this plugin…well really addictive. In fact I found myself playing around with it and coming up with some new song ideas.

Since you also have Melodyne Essential to correct vocal pitch, Strum Acoustic Session to give you acoustic guitar sounds, Lounge Lizard for classic keyboard sounds, and all the other features like color channels, this is a must-have upgrade. If you have been looking for a DAW, or looking to switch from another, then all I can say is: SONAR X3 is the best SONAR ever. I very highly recommend it.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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  1. Do not buy CW software. They leave their customers in the dust with buggy software. Google how many customers are unhappy about how we were left with broken software. X2 was never bug corrected and now we are left with something we cant use. OR PAY 150 for an upgrade. This is awful. I am taking my 150 dollars and going to cubase or pro tools. At least their forum isn’t filled with complaints about non-working features.

  2. Hi Michael! Agree with your review and ratings for Sonar X3, we liked it so much we gave it Best Product Award. In case you are interested here is our review:

  3. soanr x3 rocks