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  Cakewalk Project5 8/10. Date Posted 12/06/2003.

Project5 is a new product from Cakewalk. Essentially it is a bit like Propellerhead's Reason application. The idea of it is that it replaces hardware based synths. The main advantage is that it is significantly cheaper. Also it is a lot more convenient, since you can mix-down your whole song, with one button, all digitally! It has a couple of soft synths, brought together with it's own pattern manager where you can create MIDI data, either through piano roles or a analog-style sequencer. The idea is to run it alongside your ReWire based sequencer. I had trouble setting it up to output more than one track through Project5's, but that's probably more due to the fact that I do not tend to read the manual!

For a first release Project5, was quite stable, but there seemed to be one or two bugs, which will hopefully get fixed in a downloadable patch. I found that I could run several soft synths at once without stressing my processor too much (I was using a Pentium 4 2.53GHz though). Essentially the more memory, and processing power you have the more FX and instruments you can run at once. It is important to note that Project5 is designed to complement a sequencer such as Sonar, since Project5 does not have audio file support.

The great thing with Project5, is that each of it's soft synths are DXi instruments, so you can include them in your Sonar project without having to use ReWire. For me this was ideal, since I rarely used the pattern makers in Project5 (or indeed Reason), relying instead on Sonar's excellent MIDI capabilities.

The soft synths in Project5 were much better than I had expected. We have the DS864 sampler, which can emulate a huge array of instruments. There are many samples included, which sound very good. I was particularly impressed with the string sounds, which were very lush and quite realistic. The PSYN analog synth is also quite impressive. The range of sounds far eclipses those that you can find on applications like ReBirth. There are many ready made presets, but you are free to make your own sounds. I liked the sound of the pads. Two drum machines are included, the nPulse, which is an analog based device and also Velocity that uses wave files as samples. I generally do not analog based drum machines, but its inclusion is important for techno musicians. The accompanying CD includes numerous drums kits, as well as DS864 instruments. Another instrument of note, is the Spectral Transformer, that lets you add special effects to your audio.

There are many other effects you can add to your music, like studio reverb, EQ etc. however, for users of Sonar XL you probably already have enough effects like this to play with.

In conclusion, I like Project5. I cannot say whether it is better than Reason (since I have only used version 1), but I like the way that Cakewalk have separated the instruments in DXi versions so they can be used outside of Project5 (but I suspect this only works in Sonar??). Also the quality of the DS864 really stood out. If you use Project5 together with Sonar XL, I expect you will have all the power you need to create music.