MIX Magazine: V-Studio 700 Brings Pro-Level DAW Control to Musicians

Pick up the latest issue of MIX Magazine to see an extensive review of the complete SONAR V-Studio 700 system. Engineer and MIX contributor, Tony Nunes, tests the SONAR V-Studio 700 in his home studio and during a commercial studio tracking session.

For testing purposes, Nunes interfaced the SONAR V-Studio 700 with a machine running a 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate operating system powered by 3GHz Intel Core Extreme CPU Q6850 with 4GB of RAM. He also installed the latest software and firmware updates to ensure that the system’s various parts would work at the greatest potential in each environment.

Read the full review to get a closer look at SONAR V-Studio 700’s control surface (V-700C), the I/O and Roland Fantom VS Synth (V-700R), and digital audio workstation (SONAR 8 Producer). Here’s a few of our favorite quotes from Nunes’ stellar review:

“The V-700C is a full blooded control surface that’s tightly integrated with SONAR. Top features include EQ and plug-in manipulation… The V-700C’s faders are a step above the rest with unique features such as Channel Branch mode and locking faders.”

“The V-700R is a solid 24-bit/192 kHz USB interface with a plethora of inputs and outputs that sound clean, detailed and unbiased… the expandable Roland Fantom VS Synth is attractive to keyboardists and saves CPU load.”

“Plug-in manipulation was a breeze with ACT, which brilliantly mapped SONAR’s TL-64 and VC-64 plug-ins to the Channel Strip control section. I also appreciated how quickly I could access all the different SONAR views from the Access Panel, while the T-Bar combined with SONAR’s X-Ray kept my plug-ins from cluttering up my screen’s real estate.”

ALSO Check out this cool interactive SONAR V-Studio 700 graphic!

Artist Impression: Producer & DJ Sharkey on V-Studio 100

Sharkey has performed and produced with such heavyweights as Eminem, Everlast, Mickey Petralia, Mario Caldato Jr., Jedi Mind Tricks, The Black Eyed Peas, and Wyclef Jean. His first solo album “Sharkey’s Machine” featured guest appearances by Cannibal Ox, The Pharcyde, Grand Puba of Brand Nubian and Cherrywine from Digable Planets.

2008’s Monster Maker with C-Rayz waltz was a critically acclaimed foray into the world of alternative hip hop.  In 2009 he’s set to release Dastardly with 2009 Grammy-nominated artist Kokayi.

Based in Maryland, but doing regular sessions in NYC, Nashville, and LA, not to mention DJ sets, we thought Sharkey might appreciate a sneak peek of the V-Studio 100…but we didn’t expect him to try to walk away with it.  Watch the video to hear his impressions and more.

Cakewalk’s Session Stories: 2008-2009

In an effort to simplify our blog and make it more accessible to our RSS subscribers, we are moving our ‘Sessions & Stories’ page as well as our “NAMM 2009 Page” to this main page of the site. Please excuse any discrepancies in code. From now on, all of Cakewalk’s artist stories and event content will be featured here on the main page. If you have not yet subscribed to our blog, grab our RSS feed now. New content is posted on a regular basis!

Jon Lee, an accomplished composer for feature film and tv, has been hard at work in Santa Monica, California scoring MyNetworkTV’s reality series’ Street Patrol and Jail. From the producers of the hit-series Cops, Street Patrol (airs Tuesday, 8-9pm) follows police officers on duty, responding to calls across the country. While, Jail (airs Tuesday, 9-10pm) shadows the lives of prison inmates incarcerated for serious crimes, across the USA. Lee is also credited for his work on the video game, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun (Sonic Fuel Music) and producing records for hip-hop artists across the country. Take a listen to the Street Patrol theme song and visit JonLeeMusic.net for more information.

Seasoned composer, Doyle Donehoo, has produced music for a variety of award-winning computer games. Currently, he’s scoring Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (Relic Entertainment) with his DAW of choice, SONAR. A Cakewalk user since the DOS age, Donehoo’s PC-based studio has a master DAW rig, seven slave computers, and an endless array of sample-based instruments – his “Frankenstein” virtual orchestra. In a recent interview with Music4Games.com, Donehoo states that his musical influences range from the classical composers to today’s feature film and video game scores, including Marco Beltrami (Resident Evil, Max Payne, 3:10 to Yuma) and Bill Brown (Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, CSI:NY). Their dark, dramatic motifs are reflected in Donehoo’s latest score. Due out in early 2009, Dawn of War II shows what it’s like to “lead an elite strike force on a mission to save the galaxy.” Visit the Dawn of War II website to hear Donehoo in action and watch the game trailer.

Concert pianist, composer, and recording artist, Kevin Kern captures emotion with his warm, entrancing compositions. Born legally blind, Kern is aided in studio by SONAR’s accessibility and Dancing Dots’ assistive music technologies for the vision impaired. In conjunction with SONAR, Kern uses Cake Talking Scripts by the Academy of Music for the Blind’s Executive Director David Pinto and Freedom Scientific’s JAWS screen reader to produce his music. Kern uses SONAR’s Drum Map Manager to create special keyboard scripts for piano, strings, and other instruments, so he can hear his melodic ideas through the sounds of a live ensemble. Currently, Kern is celebrating the release of his new songbook entitled Imagination’s Light which contains all original compositions from his last album. Kern’s new album, Endless Blue Sky, will be available as a download and for purchase in stores on January 27, 2009.

DJ Russ Harris – remixer and owner of the Illinois-based mobile DJ company Show on the Road Productions – incorporates SONAR into the remixing classes and seminars he gives at DJ Expos across the country.  Each year, Harris attends Mobile Beat in Las Vegas (February) and DJ Times in Atlantic City (August).  Harris also uses SONAR on solo projects and is signed to the dance music label, EsNtion Silver.  Check out Harris’ MySpace for current projects and tracks.

Drum & Bass dynamic duo, Urban Assault, announce a new 12″ album featuring a remix of the dance-floor hit Crank with MC Skibadee and an original bonus track Easy Run Tingz (Easy Records). Urban Assault, better known as Scratch DJs / Producers Faust and Shortee, kept very busy in 2008. Visit their official website for details.

Stokes Audio, Recording & Post of Tarzana, CA.used SONAR 8 Producer to mix several feature-length films for CodeBlack Entertainment. The first in the series of films is set to release on December 23, 2008. Starring Master P and Katt Williams, ‘Internet Dating’ is about- you guessed it -a date setup by internet gone wrong! The second film, ‘Nite Tales’ (as seen on BET Halloween) will be released in January 2009. Hosted by Flavor Flav, it’s a ‘shockingly twisted’ double feature horror flick. More information on these films can be found here. Stokes Audio specializes in post production sound and video editing.

Continue reading Cakewalk’s Session Stories: 2008-2009

Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

Sometimes A Road Sings In the Mind of the Darkly Inclined
Composer, producer, remixer & musician Justin Lassen

By Randy Alberts

“For me it all started with Cakewalk, a keyboard, and a lot of free time,” laughs the globetrotting Justin Lassen, a one-of-a-kind visionary 27-year-old film, game and music soundtrack composer based in Southern California.

A designer, multi-instrumentalist and self-described “heavy Sonar guy,” to boot, Lassen is also one of the most creative composers, remixers and producers in the film, game and music industries today. He’s a talented film soundtrack remixer who recently reworked the score of Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train, a dark film take on the producer’s 1984 short story of a photographer tracking a serial killer, into a full length companion album to the movie. Lassen has also produced music remixes for Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Garbage, Linkin Park, Lenny Kravitz and Blue Man Group and he’s consulted on numerous game and technology projects for companies like Interplay, Novus Delta, Intel and, of course, Cakewalk.

Interviewed by Playboy, Mix, EQ, GearWire, PC Gamer and other arts and trade mags and sites, Lassen’s a darling of the computer-generated graphics art world, as well. A rare musical subject for numerous CGI trade magazines such as Post, It’s Art, The Escapist and CG Society Magazine, he literally can translate the inspiring, hauntingly beautiful visual art he sees into his own musical performances, arrangements and remixes. It’s a phenomenon of the senses called ‘synaesthesia’ he’s personally well acquainted with: Seeing sound, hearing scents, touching words, smelling colors. If the set and setting are just right, what Justin views through his irises can literally become real-time music from his fingertips.

“I’m a visual artist, designer and programmer,” he adds, “who just finds music much more fulfilling.”

Smells Like A Symphony, Tastes Like Sonar 7

Lassen, who happened to be Cakewalk’s Featured Artist of The Week for August 25, 2008, released his own CD, And Now We See But Through A Glass Darkly, in 2003 to acclaim from leading international CG artists, film, game and music professionals. This disc of his own uniquely composed and produced dark chamber symphonic suites has already reached 5.5 million copies in circulation. His debut CG release in 2006 of Synaesthesia then melded Justin’s two worlds of “beautiful dark symphonic” music and CG artwork again to critical peer praise, and earlier this year while in Europe he wrapped up the final release: Synaesthesia Encore, a new collection of pieces that musically addresses Justin’s own personal experiences with the phenomenon.

“Synaesthesia is something that has taken quite a hold of me over pretty much my entire musical career and life,” explains Lassen. “I have had some of my best compositional and performance moments in these types of situations, where I can actually feel an image playing the song right before my ears, completely and naturally. When I see visual work like this that really inspires me in this way, my fingers begin to play music very magically.“

Remarkable. Much to his liking, Justin’s successful role in creating the remixed soundtrack CD for Barker’s wide-released Midnight Meat Train is now attracting interest from other film, music and game audio producers, as well. An always-on, busy musician, remixer and symphonic arranger who travels for his music extensively and just returned from an exhaustive trip across the EU and back to his home studio in California, nothing would please the affable Lassen more than to score more symphonies and movie soundtracks for a living.

“I use Sonar 7’s notation features to clean up my arrangement ideas for orchestra, choir or other performers I might bring into a given session,” says Lassen about his go-to laptop DAW.

“I recall this one time in Paris when I was asked by Intel to do the soundtrack for a new high-tech game for a new platform. There was a pretty tight schedule of just three weeks, and I didn’t have a lot of gear to experiment with. So, I just used FL Studio on a laptop to jot down some ideas that later I would evolve and finish up back in L.A. and Phoenix. I then took those sketches and beats and brought them into Sonar and added many of the orchestral and electronic elements, as well as tracking all the guitars and vocals and doing the final mixing and mastering. I then cleaned it all up and converted the files over to OGG format, for the Unreal Engine 3 the game uses, all quite easily and well before my deadline.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

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*

Enjoy!

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: http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/SONAR/English/benchmark.asp

Continue reading SONAR 8: The Fine Print

Studio Spotlight: Sun Studio

SONAR at Sun Studio: The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Chief Engineer James Lott and Assistant Engineer Matt Ross-Spang

By Randy Alberts

“Our clients love what we do for them here with SONAR,” says James Lott, chief engineer for over 20 years at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. “It sounds great and we’ve been using it for a long, long time. But most of all they trust us and how we’re using SONAR to record them. When we tell a band ‘OK, you can move on to the next song now,’ they trust us completely.”

Spoken on behalf of Sun Studio—the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the country’s only National Historic Landmark with a digital audio workstation in the tour—Lott’s professional trust in Cakewalk’s SONAR shouts volumes.

“Like a good horse,” he adds with a laugh, “when something in a studio runs as fast as SONAR and does everything you tell it to, then you’re gonna ride that horse a long, long way.”

Tracking History Then & Now

The sheer history of music behind Sun Studio, since Sam Phillips first built it in 1950, deserves far more space than this story allows- to give it proper justice.

Those who visit Memphis, especially musicians and engineers, would not want to miss taking one of the studio’s daily tours to learn more about the studio’s historic past.

Elvis recorded his first two songs at Sun Studio in 1953 for $3.25, when it was still called Memphis Recording Service. Before Elvis, there was Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats who recorded the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll single, Rocket 88, at Sun, originally composed by Ike Turner.

James Lott, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Matt Ross Spang. Clement worked at Sun as an engineer. Known for works with Johny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many other Nashville greats.

With all the history within the studio’s walls—the same cozy 25×20 live room, tight vocal booth, tiny control room, and tiled front office where the original studio manager, Marion Keisker, sat in for the absent Phillips’ to record Elvis’ first songs—Sun is one of the top, most vibrant studios in the world today.

Recently, Lott used SONAR to track, edit, and mix projects for Liz Phair, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5 and Bowling for Soup. Tom Petty, a tape devotee, also recorded some new tunes at Sun with the studio’s prized MCI 24-track machine. Another recent SONAR session at Sun involved Amy LaVere, an Americana music composer and vocalist who expertly plays an upright acoustic bass far taller than she. Billy Bob Thornton’s band too, was due in for another Sun session shortly after our interview with Lott.

“The vibe of this place, this sort of ‘welcome homey’ kind of feel, is really what brings people back here all the time,” says Lott.

“Billy Bob is a longtime friend of Sun, in here for the fourth or fifth time now, and it’s his birthday, too. He told us that he wanted to come celebrate and to make some music up in here. It’s very old school here: not much has changed from the old days. There’s the same floor tiles, control room, front office, and even old lamps from the ’50s hanging from the ceiling. Even Marion’s front desk is still here, the same one she was sitting at when Elvis first walked in the door. Besides our staff and the gear we use, it’s the original vintage vibe of this place that keeps ‘em comin’ back.”

Continue reading Studio Spotlight: Sun Studio

Artist Spotlight: Malik Williams

Wearing the Many Hats of a Busy Synthesist

Songwriter, engineer, actor, and film & t.v. music producer Malik Williams

By Randy Alberts

If some commercial jingle writers’ first gigs were in garage bands, fewer still of those went on to also write and produce music for film, reality t.v., the Web and hip-hop, pop, dance, rap, R&B and rock artists. It takes a lot of control room savvy and musical chops to wear that many hats. But from this even smaller group of first-call music and audio professionals, there may be just one—Malik Williams—who can say they’ve written a song for a movie in which they’ve also starred.

“Yeah, I’m a real Hollywood kind of guy,” jokes the 41-year-old Williams, a Bostonian since birth who values his role as father and family man over his Sunset Boulevard connections. “What I mean is that I feel real comfortable in front of the camera doing these bit parts. It’s not really something that I’m pursuing as a career. I’ve just stumbled upon this acting thing, but so far it’s been a positive stumble.”

Malik Williams plays a convincing cop with Donnie Brasco star Robert Miano on the set of Boston Girls

Malik’s song contribution and bit part as a cop in Boston Girls, a “dark horror comedy” film released this year, are two recent entries to an impressive credits list. His unique balance of old and new school music writing and production skills have been tapped for a host of song and album (Charlotte Church, Bobby Brown, Elton John, Mya, Britney Spears, Danity Kane, Tyrese, Earth Wind & Fire), feature film (Sony Pictures, Miramax, Disney, Lionsgate, Stage 6 Films) and television (CBS, ABC, MTV, VH1, TruTV, Showtime, HBO, E!, Bravo) productions. If you’ve seen Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Tila Tequila’s A Shot At Love, Pimp My Ride, Cribs and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew or happened upon some of his various ad spots running on numerous channels, chances are you’ve heard some of Malik’s music, too.

“When you think of all the types of projects I work on—film, t.v. shows, ad jingles and hip-hop, pop and rap albums,” says Williams, “you’ll see my music and audio production tastes are all over the place.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Malik Williams

Cakewalk: Celebrating 20 Years

Cakewalk celebrates 20 years in the music software industry! Employees, partners, and supporters take a look back on past experiences working with Cakewalk and it’s products; sharing fond memories and hopes for the future. An entertaining eye-opener of who and what’s brewing behind the scenes at Cakewalk.

Click here to see the video.