Wireless Audio and MIDI in SONAR

With the proliferation of Bluetooth enabled devices, IoT (internet of things), wireless technology is one of the hottest trends today with wide-reaching applications to audio, automotive, medical and other industries. Gibson R&D is actively involved with wireless technology both in the hardware and software space and a member of the Bluetooth SIG, responsible for the development and evolution of the Bluetooth specification. As a Gibson Brand, Cakewalk is committed to embracing the advantages of wireless technology. This year, we’re excited to integrate wireless MIDI technology into all versions of SONAR – our flagship recording, editing, and mixing software.

In the 2017.03 release of SONAR we worked closely with Microsoft to add support for Bluetooth LE MIDI devices via the new UWP MIDI API. In November of 2016, we added support for Microsoft’s new low-latency WASAPI shared mode API’s, which including support for Bluetooth audio devices via WASAPI. With these enhancements, SONAR now has built-in support for wireless audio and MIDI via Bluetooth.

In this blog post we’ll delve into some of the technical details behind some of the these features. Continue reading Wireless Audio and MIDI in SONAR

Windows 10 Creators Update: Your DAW is not a Game

This week Microsoft debuts its “Creators Update,” the second major update to Windows 10. You can read more about what’s in this update on the Microsoft blog.

While most of the features in this update don’t directly relate to DAW’s or music production, we were particularly intrigued with “Game Mode.” Microsoft indicates that Game Mode dedicates more GPU cycles and a set number of CPU threads to the game and prevents background processes from interfering with it. It sounds good on paper so we wondered how it might benefit a DAW like SONAR…

To check it out, Jon Sasor, Quality Assurance Engineer at Cakewalk, took on the task of doing some benchmarks to test performance in Game Mode with the latest version of SONAR. Jon performed the test on a brand new Dell PC (Intel® Core™ i7-6920HQ @ 2.90 GHz with 16GB RAM) and he compared audio playback performance with Game Mode on and off.

Continue reading Windows 10 Creators Update: Your DAW is not a Game

Bluetooth MIDI Is Here And Why It’s Important For You

A new way to enter MIDI

Greetings! My name is Mike Green, Music Product Specialist at Zivix, we make the jamstik+ portable SmartGuitar & PUC+ wireless MIDI link. I’m primarily a guitar player, and in my 15+ years of musical composition, MIDI has enabled me to write and record quickly. In full disclosure; I’m a lousy keyboardist. The jamstik+ and Bluetooth MIDI’s availability for Windows 10 has revolutionized what used to be a point-and-click endeavor. Now I can use virtual instruments in Cakewalk’s SONAR software controlled by the jamstik+ digital guitar so I can enter in data wirelessly via Bluetooth MIDI – using the guitar skills that come most naturally to me.

Tracking MIDI with the jamstik+ in SONAR Platinum

Jamstik+ & SONAR Platinum is a killer combo for the studio.

A hit with pro and amateur musicians, the jamstik feels like a traditional guitar neck and works with your favorite MIDI apps and DAWs.  Music notation, composition or accompaniment is easy with the Jamstik+ and Sonar Platinum Edition.

The jamstik+ is a great MIDI controller, and my favorite bundled virtual instruments in SONAR are:

  • Strum Session 2: This was an added bonus I did not expect, a built-in guitar modeller! Overall, I’m very impressed with the simple UI. There’s a plethora of modifiers to make your own presets with, and even a chord-finder as an added benefit. Make sure to take a listen to the short track I made featuring the “acoustic” preset (video is at the top of the blog post).
Using Strum Session’s Chord Finder with the jamstik+
  • Cakewalk Sound Center: This Soft-Synth includes a nice variety of tones.  There is a limit to what parameters you can tweak for each sound, but most of these sounds are good right off the bat.  

Make Sure Your PC is Bluetooth 4.0 Compatible.

With recent updates in the Windows 10 OS, SONAR’s DAW takes advantage of using Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (BLE) to connect Bluetooth enabled MIDI devices. Now, almost all operating systems have this capability, so the performance is only going to get better from here, and more controllers will start “Roli” ‘ing in (haha). Check the specs on your PC (look for Bluetooth in Device Manager) to see if your PC is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible. If not, you can always try various BLE Dongles like this one by Asus.

Connecting is easy

  1. Pair to Windows 10
  2. Open SONAR
  3. Enable your MIDI Device In/Out Check-boxes in Preferences
  4. Select your Soft-Synth
  5. Play!

Use the PUC+ To Connect Other MIDI Controllers via Bluetooth

I should also mention if you’re looking to connect an existing MIDI keyboard, check out the PUC+ Wireless MIDI interface. It’s an easy way to cut the cables from your rig (for your electronic drum-kits, keytar, or even syncing/switching effects on our DAW). After seeing more and more innovative controllers at Winter NAMM 2017, one thing is clear — BLE MIDI isn’t going away anytime soon.

Keep An Eye Out For More Bluetooth Instruments

With the rise of mobile music apps, we are seeing the need for cool controllers that fit the lifestyle of musicians. In Jordan Rudess’s tech talk at NAMM, he put a strong emphasis on tablets being expressive instruments—with one drawback: no tactile feedback on the glass.  This is where controllers like the Jamstik+ come into play. A portable, configurable controller in a guitaristic form-factor. Stay tuned for more from Zivix this year!

Learn more at jamstik.com

Zivix is currently running a promo deal with Cakewalk users for 10% off your order on jamstik.com – Make sure to enter discount code: SONAR10 at checkout!

A New Era For Cakewalk (an open letter from CTO Noel Borthwick)

Why we introduced Lifetime Updates

With the introduction of Lifetime Updates for SONAR Platinum, there have been many theories as to why Cakewalk would take such a bold move. For us it’s simple—it’s better for customers, it’s better for us, and we believe this way of doing business is the future, so we’re embracing it today.

Some history: In the past (pre 2015), we followed a more traditional annual upgrade cycle where we released a single version of SONAR each year. This model was flawed on many levels, both for developers and end users. As developers, we’re under extreme pressure to finish a product by a certain date to meet a revenue goal – often regardless of whether it’s ready or not.

SONAR-Platinum-Lifetime-Updates

Adding a lot of features to a product in a short cycle can create problems even skilled QA teams and beta testers won’t find. Furthermore, end users have to try and learn a huge amount of information at once—which is much less efficient than learning features at one’s own pace over time.

Rolling Updates: So we did away with annual versions of SONAR and decided to work on one version —continuously. We can make smaller incremental changes at a faster pace without disrupting the end user’s stability and workflow, as well as react more quickly to user requests. No more waiting until the next version to get problems resolved as is the case with many other products. We call this model “Rolling Updates” and as a developer and CTO of Cakewalk, I love it!

Rolling Updates also provides benefits beyond making new features available as soon as they’re ready. If something needs fixing or improving, we can just fix it and ship it without your having to wait a whole year. For example the Mix Recall, Patch Points, and Upsampling features all benefited from this interaction with end users. And doing features incrementally, in shorter time periods, promotes better stability and performance.

Although it’s never easy to do something disruptive in an industry that’s resistant to change (remember the outcry when Netflix decided to focus on streaming instead of DVDs?), the response has been decisive and positive. We didn’t want to end up like the record companies who refused to acknowledge the emergence of MP3s and digital media as a distribution model, and became almost irrelevant in the process.

Doing Rolling Updates for the past year-and-a-half has convinced us this approach is far superior to the huge yearly update—so much so, that for a limited time, we’ve made the bold decision to offer Lifetime Updates for SONAR Platinum, giving you all future SONAR updates for free.

Lifetime Updates shake up the mix even more, and offer a better way of doing business that benefits everyone. One great side effect is you get to help us improve SONAR during this process with your feedback and suggestions, creating a partnership with a common goal: You want to use the finest software in the world, and we want to create it.  That’s why we are doubling down by offering the opportunity to join us on this journey.

With SONAR Analytics now at our disposal, and a responsive feedback portal on its way, we’ll be monitoring your comments, feedback, and requests closely so we can respond quickly and ensure that your experience with SONAR is…awesome. At Cakewalk, we believe that there’s no better way to succeed than by having happy customers. It really is that simple.

SONAR OS X Alpha for Mac

OS X Compatibility Coming

What’s more, SONAR will soon be available to a brand new audience of music creators with our SONAR OS X Alpha, coming this Fall.

With Windows and Mac split almost evenly among musicians, it made no sense to ignore half the market—or ignore the numerous requests over the years from music creators who’ve wanted to experience SONAR’s superior workflow, audio quality, and tools on the Mac.

For PC users who wonder if we will keep up the same pace of Windows development, the answer is an emphatic “yes”—we will never give up our lineage as a Windows-based DAW.

Since our announcement, I’ve received many e-mail’s from industry peers showing genuine excitement about SONAR on the Mac. In fact, having more people using SONAR will benefit Cakewalk long-term and improve the product as a whole. However we are still in the early stages of the Mac development project, so please be patient 🙂

All of this may seem too good to be true, and some people wonder if there’s a catch. But we’ve put a lot of thought into how we can make changes that benefit everyone. Cakewalk has experienced a major rejuvenation, and we want nothing more than to continue what has brought us to this point. We love the new Rolling Updates model, and even many users who resisted the idea at first have become converts after experiencing the many benefits.

Welcome to a better way to produce and experience music software, and thank you for joining us on this journey of innovation and excitement. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without you.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Noel Borthwick
CTO, Cakewalk

[Noel Borthwick started at Cakewalk 18 years ago and has actively contributed to SONAR development since its inception. He is also a jazz guitar player and a SONAR user.]

SONAR Facility, The Sound Foundation in Dallas gets global recognition with Ford Motors

Something inspiring is happening in the Dallas music scene, and Cakewalk is excited to be a part of it with SONAR Platinum. When Norman Matthew gets off the road from touring with his band Murder FM, or finishes up a major video or full length record, it’s not time to chill out.  In fact for him, that’s the time when he buckles down and digs into his “little side-thing” which is a major music operation called The Sound Foundation (TSF) in Dallas, TX.  Dallas has always been known to be a great music town, but Norman’s TSF has a great angle to its existence that resonates to the very core of his soul.  In fact just recently, TSF caught the eye of the Ford Motor Company who took notice of Norman and his operation and were so impressed, they featured the establishment on their “Good Works” series.

If you’re reading this article, I’m sure you are aware that the Major Label system has pretty much all but collapsed.  Look anywhere on the internet and you will find all the articles you can handle about how evil all the labels were, how they had this coming to them and how the lavish lifestyles of the greedy executives fostered this meltdown.  But what you may not know is that “back in the day,” a good piece of that excess cash folks paid down on an $18 CD that cost $1.76 to make went right back into a pool of starving artists (not directly of course).  It was called “Artist Development” and it helped pay and pave the way for many iconic artists who started out with the ole “Label Demo Deal.”

Continue reading SONAR Facility, The Sound Foundation in Dallas gets global recognition with Ford Motors

HOW The Duke Western USES SONAR TO CREATE MUSIC FOR DUCK DYNASTY (AND MORE)

Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases.  This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop.  Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity.  Huh?  This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject.  What could “another SONAR related activity” involve?  SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?

Featured Music Placements on Discovery Channel, History Channel, CBS, Bravo Network

Continue reading HOW The Duke Western USES SONAR TO CREATE MUSIC FOR DUCK DYNASTY (AND MORE)

SONAR Platinum vs. SONAR X3 Producer: Importing Audio

SONAR Platinum vs. SONAR X3 Producer Speed Importing Audio

A few weeks back, we released this video demonstrating the drastic speed improvement when inserting 100 blank audio tracks into the current edition of SONAR.

If you saw that video, you’ll recall that SONAR Platinum, in less than one second, accomplished what SONAR X3 took about 13 seconds to complete — a 2,600% improvement!

As we continue to make improvements to SONAR Platinum (and Artist & Professional as well) through Rolling Updates, we thought it might be fun to race SONAR Platinum against SONAR X3 Producer in their ability to import actual audio files.

The video below, complete with drag race audio, a rock n’ roll soundtrack, and a couple of millisecond-accurate stopwatches, places SONAR Platinum and SONAR X3 Producer side-by-side to see who is the real speed demon.

I’ll spoil it a little and tell you that SONAR Platinum is the winner here, but the illustrated difference in speed may truly shock you!

Note: If you liked the soundtrack, be sure to check out the Rock Guitar Anthems loop pack!

5 Major Speed Optimizations in Upcoming SONAR Kingston Update

SONAR Logo

As we work to perfect SONAR, we’ve focused not only on useful new features, but also improvements to the core program. This month, we targeted our efforts on streamlining SONAR in major ways that will help hobbyists and power users alike.

For the upcoming SONAR Kingston update, CTO Noel Borthwick ran a few benchmark tests to compare, apples-to-apples, exactly how much better SONAR is performing now versus SONAR X3. In every case, the SONAR Kingston update showed marked improvements over SONAR X3 to perform the most common tasks.

SONAR Kingston Benchmarks
*Tests performed on a Haswell Core i7 5960X with 16 GB RAM running 64-bit Windows 8.1

Want to feel the effects of this progress for yourself? Upgrade or try SONAR free today.

SONAR is officially supported on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.

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5 Ways SONAR’s Rolling Updates Are Working For You

With the introduction of the new SONAR last January, we also introduced a new delivery model we call Rolling Updates. Essentially, when you purchase an upgrade to SONAR Artist/Professional/Platinum, you receive 12 months of SONAR updates free. Each month, you receive an update (or sometimes more) which can include anything from fixes to new features and tools, add-ons, additional content, tutorials, and more. Once the initial 12 month period is up, you can renew for an additional 12 months and continue to receive updates, or keep everything you own up to this point. Lots of folks were skeptical at first about these Rolling Updates, but since their introduction, they’ve proven their worth. Here’s how:

5) Faster Learning Curves

When we were releasing a version every year or so, you’d receive a whole boatload of new features all at once – which was pretty cool, except you suddenly had tons of totally new features you had to learn to use. These game-changing new features were often designed to speed up your workflow and make your life a little easier, but investing the time to learn how all the new things worked could be overwhelming.

With Rolling Updates, you can now ease into all these new features. Instead of piling on 10-20 new tools, we’re introducing them in bite-sized pieces so you can take them in one or two at a time. This allows you to get a real feel for how they work before diving into something new, and has less impact on your workflow.

Continue reading 5 Ways SONAR’s Rolling Updates Are Working For You

What Windows 10 Means for Music Creators

Windows 10 is here, and our trusted code-commanders have been working closely with Microsoft to ensure an enhanced experience for our valued Cakewalk community.  Our benchmark testing has shown the new operating system to be very efficient with a lighter footprint.  In general, Windows 10 has outperformed Windows 8 in all of our tests in terms of performance and efficiency.  Subjectively speaking, the “look and feel” of this free upgrade is a much welcomed improvement over the “Metro” landscape of the previous operating system.  But what does this mean for music creators?

1.)    More responsive: Out of the gate people will notice a much snappier operating system.  The tweaks Microsoft made to the kernel and other parts of the OS in general have given it a responsive overhaul.

2.)    Upgrade ease:  Moving into Windows 10 is a very quick and easy upgrade.

3.)    Unified OS:  The best elements of Win 7, Win 8, and Win 8.1 have been combined into a streamlined experience with Win 10.  Store Apps and Desktop Apps seamlessly run side by side for a smooth universal experience.

4.)    New MIDI API available across all devices:  The new API allows multi-client access to single MIDI hardware and new jitter-free operation.  Microsoft worked hard on bringing this all together for better MIDI implementation.

5.)    Enhancements to the kernel: Microsoft has made changes in the multimedia scheduler and kernel components to minimize spikes – this can make a big difference in low-latency streaming apps like SONAR.

6.)    FLAC and ALAC Support:  Windows 10 has native support for these two codecs.  Both “Apple Lossless Audio Codec” and FLAC  could mean great things for Windows audio moving forward.

7.)    Much faster boot-time:  A lower footprint in memory combined with some new optimization techniques will get you up and running and making music faster than ever.

8.)    Runs smoother on older machines:  The lower memory footprint and optimization tweaks will also allow Win 10 to run more efficiently on older machines.  This is great news for Wn 7 users who never upgraded to Win 8.

9.)    Lower Latency:  15ms lower roundtrip latency using WASAPI (shared mode).

10.)  Core isolation: Drivers and applications can now isolate and dedicate low latency audio processing to a single CPU core.  This can minimize the effect of DPC latency spiking from networking, Bluetooth, or other DPC spiking processes by preventing interruptions to audio processing.

At Cakewalk, we are dedicated to staying on the forefront of technology.  Our CTO (featured below) and his team worked closely with Microsoft to make sure our products run smoothly on Windows 10.  We are very excited about this free update, and highly recommend it to our customers. Try SONAR with Windows 10 today for the ultimate music creation experience.