Windows 8 – A benchmark for music production applications

Windows 8 Background

There has been a large amount of interest and speculation about Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest OS scheduled for release in late 2012. Windows 8 is one of the most ambitious OS releases from Microsoft since Windows 95, and is the first OS that attempts to unify the desktop and mobile user experience with multitouch support baked in across the board. A lot of attention in the media has been devoted to the new user interface and the brand new application model called Metro aka WinRT.  Understandable, since changes to UI tend to attract the most attention in any software product.

After attending one of the Windows 8 developer camps and talking with some folk at Microsoft, we learned about some of the work done in Win8 to make the operating system scale better to devices with a smaller disk/memory/CPU footprint. This was done primarily to make Win8 perform more efficiently and with lower power requirements on mobile devices like tablets. I was curious if the effects of these changes would percolate through to the general OS and kernel level and benefit desktop applications as well. Continue reading Windows 8 – A benchmark for music production applications

SONAR X1 on Windows 8: What we learned from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Cakewalk support rep Dean ‘The New Guy’ Capper recently spent some time with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and SONAR X1 Producer Expanded.

SONAR X1 Console on Windows 8
SONAR X1 Console on Windows 8

Continue reading SONAR X1 on Windows 8: What we learned from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

How Windows 7 Will Effect Your Music Production?

borthwick2Cakewalk Chief Technical Officer Noel Borthwick, a noted expert on Windows platforms, covers crucial topics around the introduction of Windows 7, such as compatibility with Cakewalk products, issues in upgrading from Windows XP and related points of interest for PC users.

For an in-depth look at Windows 7 and how it might affect your use of Cakewalk products, check out Noel’s Q & A below. Also, see Peter Kirn’s article at Create Digital Music for more  insightful tips on Windows 7.

Continue reading How Windows 7 Will Effect Your Music Production?

SONAR 8.5: The Fine Print

borthwick2Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick has been hard at work creating this microscopic view of SONAR 8.5 for those of you who have expressed an interest in learning more about the internals of the new features. Throughout this post, Noel will uncover the new version from an engineering perspective. However, before we get started on the fine print, let’s  first clarify some facts and myths about SONAR 8.5.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? That which we call SONAR 9 by any other name would sound as sweet.” I guess Juliet was misinformed, based on the wild speculation and reaction to our announcement of SONAR 8.5. To ease the anxiety for the next release I will let you in on a secret – the next product release will be called: SONAR 1C21B83D-EDCE-41b7-BBEF-31F912E88B1D. We think that a 128 bit version number will dispel all ambiguity the next time around.

• The .5 release name for a major product reflects a change in our internal nomenclature for naming products, a business decision that was made after careful deliberation.
• Going forward this more accurately reflects our strategy of shipping products with high value for customers, while simultaneously planning for certain types of features whose depth may require a longer timeframe to develop and integrate.
• The 8.5 name is also indicative of the fact that 8.5 is available as an downloadable upgrade. i.e. unlike earlier versions it can upgrade an existing SONAR 8 install.
• Don’t be confused by the .5 in the name. 8.5 IS the next version of SONAR – It installs as a brand new version and lives alongside your existing SONAR 8 version just like any prior full release of SONAR.
• You can also simultaneously use 8.5 or an earlier 8.0 version just like any earlier full release of SONAR.
• If you purchased SONAR 8.5 as a downloadable upgrade, you must have SONAR 8 installed prior to installing SONAR 8.5. To reduce download size, the package doesn’t include all the content that you already have in your SONAR 8 install.
• You can also purchase a full set of 8.5 DVD’s even if you bought the download from our web store.
• If you bought the retail version of 8.5 from a store you already have the full 8.5 DVD set with all the content.
• There is no difference between an 8.0 install upgraded to 8.5 and a full retail 8.5 box install
• The depth of the new features and enhancements in 8.5 actually exceed what went into SONAR 8 coming from SONAR 7.

• The main SONAR 9 release was postponed and SONAR 8.5 is a patch or hotfix. Wrong – our maintenance releases are for compatibility and improvements only with the occasional bonus feature thrown in. We never add full blown features.
• A new version of SONAR is around the corner and 8.5 is an interim release. Wrong – We’re good, but not THAT good to be able to deliver a full new product just after shipping this one. Thanks for the compliment though!

So let’s cut to the chase shall we? There are several classes of new features in SONAR 8.5. I will try and focus on the pieces that are not covered in our marketing copy since by now you are already familiar with most of that.
You can read more about SONAR 8.5’s big features here if you are still catching up.

Disclaimer: The information below may be subject to errors and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of 8.5 features. It may be edited from time to time. You have been warned – nauseatingly geeky details follow. Stop reading now if this is objectionable to you 🙂

Continue reading SONAR 8.5: The Fine Print

The Fine Print III: Sidechaining in SONAR

The term ‘sidechaining’ refers to the manipulation of one signal by another where signal B (typically referred to a key input) effects signal A (primary input). Sidechaining is most often found in compressors, limiters and gates. Examples of sidechaining include ducking, voiceover, de-essing and pumping. For more information, check out this article on the Basics of Sidechaining.

Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick discusses the implementation of Sidechaining in SONAR is his latest Fine Print article. Since version 7, SONAR has supported side-chaining for both VST and DX plug-ins in all of its applications. This article describes how SONAR communicates with side-chain capable VST and DX plug-ins as well as how SONAR can be used as a guide to write a side-chain capable plug-in of your own.

Getting Technical: Optimizing SONAR 8 for Vista

With the help of Cakewalk’s Engineering Department, Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn delves inside the mechanics of SONAR 8. Visit Create Digital Music to learn how SONAR 8 will hold its own in Windows Vista.

Cakewalk’s Noel Borthwick explains, “SONAR 8 introduces several, crucial enhancements for communications with audio devices in Windows Vista, including support for WASAPI (a new audio standard in Windows Vista and future OS), MMCSS task profile support, and WaveRT streaming.”

To view the complete list of enhancements made to the latest version of SONAR, take a look at the posting below.

SONAR 8: The Fine Print

Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick sheds some light on the features “under the hood” in SONAR 8.

*Note that this list is not a substitute for the official feature list & other features already documented in the SONAR 8 manual. Rather it is a list culled from Cakewalk’s Engineering Department*


Performance optimizations:

Although every version of SONAR we shipped in the past had some degree of optimization work, SONAR 8 is the first version of SONAR to which we applied the same engineering process to performance optimizations as we do with other more user visible features. i.e. we established goals, built a specification for the optimizations, split up the work into milestones and tracked the progress of these tasks just as we do for other features. To make testing more deterministic, we devised various internal profiling tools in order to track and measure changes in performance across a variety of hardware platforms on XP as well as Vista.

Systems tested included brand new cutting edge platforms from Intel and AMD as well as earlier generation machines.

We split up this work into the following classes of performance enhancements for SONAR 8:

1. CPU and kernel level optimizations – use less of your CPU to do the same amount of work

2. User Interface optimizations – faster drawing, scrolling, zooming

3. Driver level optimizations – more efficient access to drivers, minimizing driver state transitions

4. Vista OS specific optimizations – Better use of MMCSS thread priorities, support for custom MMCSS task profiles, new WASAPI support

5. Audio engine optimizations – optimize “hotspots” in our bussing, streaming and mixing code

As a result of all these changes, SONAR 8 has the following benefits:

– greatly minimized kernel usage. This helps provide more “kernel bandwidth” to drivers who need it the most. More kernel bandwidth translates into less potential for audio glitches.

– Lower CPU usage – translates to better performance at low latency

– More efficient use of audio drivers – esp with ASIO drivers

– Better performance on Windows Vista esp X64. Many of the complaints of Vista performance as compared to XP have been solved with SONAR 8. X64 low latency performance should now be on par with X86.

– Faster application launch

– Less flicker in GUI. Track view splitters no longer flicker when resizing.

– More responsive zoom and scroll with large projects. Zooming with wave files now uses 1/2 the RAM with 24-bit or less stereo or mono files used.

– Better meter performance.

– Improved thread scheduling by insuring threads are properly distributed on processors.

This link shows the overall benefits of SONAR 8 as compared to SONAR 7:

Continue reading SONAR 8: The Fine Print