Hands-On Review:SONAR 5 Producer & Studio

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Powerful 64-bit studio software

By Park James




SONAR 5 Producer & Studio

Recent releases of Cakewalk’s flagship SONAR digital and MIDI program have added crucial features like surround sound, drag-and-drop audio files, freeze tracks, and loop-based composition. The folks at Cakewalk have apparently been working overtime to make sure that SONAR keeps its edge in giving musicians the latest in state-of-the-art creative tools and turbocharged performance potential.


Step up to 64-bit


SONAR 5 (for PC only) supports the new Windows X64 standard and reaps big benefits from the blinding speed, expanded dynamic range, and all-around performance enhancements that Windows X64 offers. Running Sonar’s native 64-bit version on Windows X64 includes the ability to access 128GB of physical RAM and up to 64 terabytes of virtual memory. This lets you fire up a staggering number of plug-ins, samples, and effects without glitches or dropouts.


All SONAR 5’s plug-ins, virtual instruments, and digital mixer are 64-bit as well. And Cakewalk’s new BitBridge technology keeps the door open to using 32-bit VST plug-ins, from all your favorites to those that haven’t yet been invented. Haven’t made the jump to a 64-bit PC platform yet? No problem—the native 32-bit version is also included on the SONAR 5 DVD.


Mix master


SONAR features the first end-to-end 64-bit double precision mix engine—and you can even use this feature on standard 32-bit Windows XP machines. Simply click the check box in the Audio Options dialog box called "64-bit Double Precision Engine." This exclusive feature gives you an extended dynamic range and higher quality summing than with traditional 32-bit mix engines.


The Bus and Synth Waveform Preview displays all the maximum peaks in each audio track, synth, or bus. This allows you to easily tweak the levels to maximize output and prevent clipping.


The digital mixer includes on-the-fly busing, great effects, and configurable pan and meters. The parameters of audio plug-ins and virtual instruments as well as volume, pan, plus effects sends are controllable with new freehand and tempo-synchronized envelope automation.


In the loop


SONAR 5 plunges into loop-based composition full-on. Fully compliant with ACID loops and slices, an abundance of cutting-edge tools make working with audio and MIDI loops easier and just plain more fun than ever before. And for all you REX file fans, Sonar 5 also fully supports REX files via RXP REX Player.

In creating a layered percussion track, I was able to loop individual tracks, quickly trying out different feels and instruments, and then select my favorite takes. Slice-based control of gain, pitch, and pan has been integrated into the loop construction window and further enhanced with envelope automation control.


Virtual instruments to the max


SONAR 5 Studio and Producer feature virtual instruments including Cakewalk TTS-1 GM2 sample player; the Roland GrooveSynth, packed with genuine Roland groove box and synth sounds; the Cyclone ACID-compatible groove sampler/loop editor; and the SFZ SoundFont sampler, a comprehensive sample arranger with effects.


The Producer adds the RXP REX Player, a tempo-synching drum machine and groove box, plus the PSYN II subtractive synth, and the Pentagon I vintage analog soft synths. These powerful, full-featured instruments give you an arsenal of cutting edge and retro synth sounds for your productions.


Plug-ins aplenty


The Producer version adds plug-ins targeting the power user such as Roland’s acclaimed V-Vocal vocal processor, Perfect Space Convolution Reverb, Sonitus: fx suite, Multiformat surround mixing, and much more.


The Perfect Space Convolution Reverb allows you to load impulse files with acoustic characteristics modeled after canyons, churches, clubs, studios, plus numerous models of respected high-end dedicated studio units. Additional signature reverbs may be downloaded from several online sources. These amazing reverbs can be fully customized by modifying parameters.


The Roland V-Vocal is a powerful, useful vocal processor, allowing you to adjust phrasing and dynamics, create harmonies, add vibrato, and fix bad notes. The V-Vocal effects are based on the VariPhrase technology found in Roland synths such as the V-Synth. For vocal harmonies, V-Vocal is the next best thing to bringing Manhattan Transfer or Crosby, Stills, and Nash into your studio! In addition, the high-end POW’r dithering option is available to compress or expand polyphonic digital audio.


Give me 5


Making music with a computer should be inspiring and fun. Too often it becomes something else. Working with SONAR 5 is big fun and then some. With its sleek integrated inline audio and MIDI editing capability, 64-bit precision audio engine, powerful virtual instruments and plug-ins, plus its tremendous feature set, Sonar 5 has everything you need to bring your most ambitious musical projects to fruition at the highest dynamic range possible!


Features & Specs:



SONAR 5 Studio:

  • Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks
  • Native DirectX, Dxi, VST, VSTi, MFX, and ReWire support
  • Double precision floating-point engine
  • Track folders
  • Freeze (tracks, FX, synths)
  • Clip-based effects & editing
  • Integrated inline effects & editing
  • Roland GrooveSynth
  • TTS-1 GM2 synth
  • Cyclone groove sampler
  • SFZ SoundFont sampler
  • Sonitus: fx Suite
  • Lexicon Pantheon Reverb

SONAR 5 Producer exclusives:

  • Sonitus Surround Compressor
  • RXP REX Player Groove Box
  • PSYN II subtractive synth
  • Pentagon I Analog synth
  • Roland V-Vocal VariPhrase technology
  • Perfect Space Convolution Reverb
  • POW’r dithering
  • MPEX 3 time scaling
  • Per-channel EQ and assignable FX controls
  • Multiformat surround mixing
  • SurroundBridge
  • Video thumbnail track