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If you truly want the ultimate in DAW, then you need SONAR 8.

Software Review: SONAR 8 Producer From Cakewalk

SONAR 8 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 also an expandable platform that can become the central hub of your recording studio.

What do you need to run SONAR 8?
• Windows XP (32-bit), Vista (32- and 64-bit), MAC OS X with Boot Camp
• Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz or higher; AMD Athlon XP 2800+ or higher
• 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
• 1024 x 768 with 16-bit color (1280 x 960, 24-bit color or higher recommended)
• 200 MB for core program (30 GB for full program and content)
• MIDI Interface
• Audio Interface
• Media Drives include DVD-ROM, DVD+/-R, or DVD+/- RW Drive (Dual Layer-capable drive required for installation of SONAR 8 Producer content)

SONAR 8SONAR is the flagship product of the Cakewalk line of integrated MIDI and digital audio sequencers for the Windows platform. It has a very complete feature set that allows you to compose and explore musical composition. You can edit music using musical notation 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.

You can also remix music by importing, modifying, editing and creating loops. SONAR gives you the ability to change tempo and keys for an entire project, and the Loop Explorer will let you preview a loop in a project's tempo and key before dragging it on to a track. You can also do game sound development for electronic games. By creating and reusing musical themes, you can associate your selections with game characters, locations, objects, and actions.

Of course there is sound production and engineering that will allow you to produce music CDs or master tapes. SONAR has multichannel recording capabilities so that you can capture studio or live performances track-by-track. SONAR is just as important for film and video scoring, publishing music on the internet, as well as web authoring of music.

There are two versions of this software, SONAR Studio and SONAR Producer. The version I am reviewing is SONAR Producer. Since everything in the Studio edition is in the producer version I will breakout the new features into two separate sections.

So what is new with SONAR 8 Studio?

• Loop Explorer 2.0 provides browse and preview of audio and MIDI groove clips and patterns. You can quickly drag and drop loops and patterns into the track view and MIDI groove clips and patterns can be previewed with the virtual instrument of your choice.

• Dedicated instrument track gives you a single track optimized for mono or stereo virtual synths which simplifies the process of working with virtual instruments. In the pursuit of offering users options in how they want to work, the multi-track method of using virtual instruments employed by previous versions of SONAR is still supported. In addition users can split and combine instrument tracks to/from discrete audio/MIDI tracks.

• Clip selection groups furthering SONAR's multitrack recording and take management capability. SONAR now automatically groups clips together across tracks after each recording pass — perfect for comping any multitrack ensemble performance — especially drum takes.

SONAR 8• Anytime recording while the SONAR transport is running or looping, users can now arm/unarm audio and MIDI tracks, punch in, punch out, and toggle between play and record.

• Solo mode with solo override New solo mode forces soloing to one track/bus at a time and prevents tracks and buses from being muted when other tracks/buses are soloed.

• Transport updates now includes True Rewind, Fast Forward and Pause Buttons, Audition Button, Improved Jog/Shuttle Heuristics, and optimizations for control surfaces and scrub performance.

• Control surface enhancements Show/Hide Tracks from Surface can follow either the Track View or Console View, obeying visible/hidden tracks, Control Surfaces MIDI port assignments retained/stored in SONAR, Real-World VST Parameter Values are now displayed.

So what is new with SONAR 8 Producer?

• Beatscape loop performance instrument Beatscape is the ultimate remixing instrument. You can combine audio clips from multiple recording sessions and use the 16 pads to sequence them live or into a SONAR track. Easily load key clips or loops from two separate projects, blend them together, and trigger one shot samples — all on the fly from Beatscape's up-front interface. Drag and drop audio directly from SONAR onto the Beatscape pads and its sync'd and ready to go. Use the built in browser to quickly load clips and loops from your collection of previously recorded material, or choose from the massive 4GB REX library of included beats, breaks and phrases in a multitude of genres ranging from house, drum n' bass, hip hop, techno, glitch, Latin, reggaeton, and more from the pros at Heatseekers and X-MiX.

• Dimension Pro SONAR now includes a full version of the acclaimed synthesizer that combines real instruments with advanced synthesis for endless sound possibilities. The underpinnings of Dimension Pro's creative possibilities is the powerful Cakewalk's Expression Engine providing several types of synthesis including multi-sample rendering, wavetable synthesis, waveguide synthesis, and REX playback and manipulation.

SONAR 8• TruePianos Amber VSTi module One of four modules that currently ship with the full version of TruePianos VSTi, the TruePianos Amber Module will provide SONAR users with world-class, playable piano sounds through its combination sampling, modeling, and synthesis sound design. TruePianos sounds and feels great, just like a real acoustic piano, with all the important characteristics: sympathetic resonance, inter-string harmonics, repedalling and more.

• TS 64 Transient Shaper is a powerful tool for sculpting the transient dynamics of any percussive based source material such as drums or guitars. The TS 64 Transient Shaper employs powerful envelope/transient-detection, linear-phase filtering, and gain-shaping to control the dynamics of individual transients of any sound with amplitude variation over time.

• TS 64 Tube Leveler is a line driver/leveling processor that employs advanced analog vacuum-tube circuit modeling algorithms that will add the unique qualities of tube color and warmth found in classic recordings to whatever source material it is applied.

• Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3 LE is built on the latest award-winning guitar amp modeler from Native Instruments: 3 amps and cabinets, 11 effects, tuner, metronome, and over 50 presets.

Keep in mind that SONAR 8 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. You will need to have the technical knowledge that goes in to mastering, mixing, looping, and sequencing audio to do this package justice.

While this latest version of SONAR comes with some flashy new features, it is more about enhancements that will enable you work smarter. What this means is that when it is all said and done, if you are using SONAR all the live long day you will be able to get your projects done faster and more efficiently, and this makes SONAR 8 worth the upgrade price alone.

Then you have the optimizations that have been added that reduce kernel usage, lower CPU usage, more efficient use of audio drivers, less GUI flicker, more responsive zoom, better meter performance, and improved thread scheduling. This means that you may not have to spend more on new equipment.

SONAR 8Then there are the features. Beatscape is a great new addition that is described as an instrument that is used to make new beats from loops and samples. You can give it any wav file and it will slice it and make it like a REX file. The Dimension Pro is now fully included with SONAR 8 as opposed to the LE version that was included in prior versions.

As if all this wasn't enough, then you have the TruePianos Amber module. This is the primo in virtual pianos. You have the TS-64 Transient shaper, the TL-64 Tube leveler, and the Guitar Rig LE. With all of this SONAR 8 is a must have upgrade. If you truly want the ultimate in DAW software, then you need SONAR 8.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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