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  Cakewalk Sonar 3 Producer Edition 9/10. Date Posted 12/01/2004.

Sonar has been released in its 3rd version. Essentially Sonar is Cakewalk's answer to Cubase. It allows you mix computer generated MIDI instruments with real audio such as vocals. The special thing about Sonar 3 is the huge number of ways it lets you accomplish it, and the number of built in plugins.

I have been a regular user of Sonar, and upon first looks, the new version has a far more polished interface. As in the previous version you have a multitude of plugins to add effects to audio, such as echo etc. There are also soft synths (basically computer generated instruments) such as Virtual Sound Canvas, Cyclone (a special sampler), DreamStation (303 style synth) and several others. The Production version adds on this by giving you professional reverb courtesy of Lexicon. There is also the Ultrafunk fx:Sonitus suite, which is quite expensive to buy on its own. You also have more control over the effects and the way they are automated. But by far my favourite extra, is the VSampler 3.0 soft synth. It includes with it an absolutely fantastic virtual piano. You cannot tell the difference between a properly made MIDI track played through that and a real piano! Unsurprisingly the sound samples for these take up several gigabytes. As in previous versions of Sonar, you can configure it to work alongside ReWire based soft synths such as Reason and Cakewalk's own Project5. Unlike the previous versions of Sonar you can also use VST Plugins (Cubase's choice), with an included adapter plugin. This might prove tempting for current Cubase users, who wish to switch to Sonar.

All these effects and virtual instruments are quite CPU intensive. However, I was very happy to see that they are not too processor hungry. I was able to run one track playing the virtual piano, with about six effects (including reverb, which is one often one of the most CPU demanding effects) using just 20% of my CPU (2.53 GHz Pentium 4). Obviously the more powerful your computer is, the more effects it can cope with.

The Sonar 3 Production edition is very good. The extras are excellent, especially the virtual piano. However, it would have been very nice indeed, if Cakewalk had also included their Project5 soft synth as part of the deal, since 450 pounds is a lot of money to pay for this software, nearly double the Studio Edition (269 pounds), even given the number of plugins that are included. Some users may prefer to buy the Studio Edition and Project5, rather than the Production Edition. For current users of Sonar 1 and 2 there are a couple of upgrade offers.