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.

SONAR 2015: “Under the Hood” Enhancements and Fixes

What a Year…!

It’s been quite a year for all of us at Cakewalk. Not only did we build our most stable initial release of SONAR ever and fold in multiple features and workflow updates, but we also built the infrastructure for our new Membership program from the ground up. This framework lets us break out of the monolithic “waterfall” model of annual updates and do smaller but more frequent updates. This is very exciting for developers, because we can be more responsive and update our software without the previous release management overhead. Our users have wanted more frequent updates as well, so this is a major achievement for us.

The SONAR community has already noticed the tangible improvements in the performance and stability of our latest SONAR release. In this article I’ll cover some of the “under the hood” work that went into building the new SONAR. If you’re not familiar with the latest additions, you can get started by reading about all the new features here.

I’d also like to mention that this would not have been possible without your support. All of us at Cakewalk feel very fortunate to have such an active, engaged user base that inspires us to create continued improvements and enhancements. We are very excited about what’s planned for the year ahead, but meanwhile, here’s what we’ve been up to in the past year.

 

Cakewalk Command Center (C3)

Cakewalk Command Center implements and manages a “connected installer” workflow. It communicates with cakewalk.com to access a customers profile so it can identify and install owned products, as well as serve as a convenient launcher and update manager.  Presently, the C3 interface only lists newer “connected products” since those are the only ones it knows how to install and manage.

Although it’s not necessary to use C3 to download, install, and authorize products, it’s by far the simplest way to manage and install newer SONAR versions and updates. Although you can install and authorize products with a manual download and authorization process, we highly recommend installing C3 (it has a very small footprint), even if your computer doesn’t have a permanent internet connection.

The new download/install/authorization mechanism can handle a wide variety of user requirements, even for those who run their DAWs offline.

One-click install

The SONAR installers have been redesigned to be modular and small. One of our design goals was to have a new user go from download to running SONAR in under 5 minutes. As a result, with a moderately fast internet connection you can be up and running with SONAR Platinum literally with the click of the Install button. Gone are the days of waiting for long downloads and attended updates. Another nice touch is you don’t need to enter a serial number and authorization code manually. This is all automated by C3 when you install and run SONAR.

Rollback mechanism

Under the new membership model, features are available to members as soon as they’ve gone through final testing. C3 provides a convenient way to access new features, but also allows rolling back to prior versions Continue reading SONAR 2015: “Under the Hood” Enhancements and Fixes

DEVELOPER NOTES: SONAR X3 VST3 Internals

Introduction

SONAR X3 has numerous enhancements and updates to the VST engine, including rich support for the VST3 specification. This article is intended primarily for VST plugin developers to gain a better understanding of the features supported by SONAR and to write plugins that integrate better with SONAR. While the VST3 documentation covers typical information for plugin developers, it does not explain plugin to host integration in much detail. This article attempts to bridge that gap and explain some of the VST3 specific features are implemented in SONAR. Please also see this article that is more intended for end users.

Automatic VST2 to VST3 migration in SONAR

For plugin vendors who have a large base of VST2 plugins and wish to provide a smooth migration path to VST3, its recommended to implement support for automatic migration of a VST2 plugin saved in a prior project to its VST3 equivalent.

This capability will allow SONAR X3 to detect a compatible VST3 plugin while loading a project and automatically transition the VST 2.4 plugin to its compatible VST3 counterpart Continue reading DEVELOPER NOTES: SONAR X3 VST3 Internals

DEVELOPER NOTES – SONAR X3 QUADCURVE EQ (UI ENHANCEMENT)

Introduction

Since it first appeared in SONAR X1 Producer, the QuadCurve EQ has become my go to EQ. That’s saying something given the abundance of killer plugins in my collection (yes, like many of us, I own far too many plugins).

Maybe I’m just lazy, but I love the fact that it’s always there, ready to go on any track or bus at a moments notice. No need to wade through plugin menus – it’s already waiting patiently in the ProChannel.

And it’s no slouch either. There’s no trade-off for that convenience. The QuadCurve EQ is up there with the best of them.

But, as much as I love it, I admit I have, in the past, occasionally found myself reaching for one of the alternative plugins in my arsenal.

Why? The QuadCurve EQ user interface could be, well, a bit cramped. The small EQ plot is fine for quick adjustments, but not so great for fine-tuning. Metering is also important to me, which the QuadCurve EQ was lacking.

The good news? SONAR X3 Producer addresses these issues, and much more besides.

So what’s new?

See me!

First off, it’s easier on the eyes. The UI is cleaner, clearer, and you no longer need a magnifying glass to read the knob values!

Then there’s the EQ plot, or should that be “plots”? The small ProChannel plot is still there of course, and it’s as useful as ever, but now there’s a new secret weapon at your disposal…

…the QuadCurve EQ Zoom Window:

As you can see, it’s essentially a much larger EQ user interface which, among other benefits, provides a much finer degree of control.

I say ‘secret weapon’ because it may not be immediately obvious how to get to it Continue reading DEVELOPER NOTES – SONAR X3 QUADCURVE EQ (UI ENHANCEMENT)