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  Cakewalk Sonar 4 Production 9/10. Date Posted 09/06/2005.

Now in its fourth version Sonar is now established in the market as one of the rivals to Steinberg's Cubase range. It is a studio in box for audio production. It supports the MIDI and audio data. It also now supports video, so you can synchronise your audio to music videos etc. You can also mix surround sound projects. The Studio edition doesn't support these post production features. Setup was relatively quick. It took about 30 minutes to fiddle with Sonar's audio driver to get it to work on my sound card (Sony branded), having to switch to MME. However, if you have a more standard sound card such as an Audigy I expect this would be a lot quicker.

The new version has a new interface, but the general principals are pretty much the same. It comes complete with 3 DXi virtual instruments and with some audio plugins. The Production version that I'm reviewing comes with a massive number of audio plugins. My favourite has to be Lexicon Pantheon reverb plugin. It sounds really fantastic! It also has Prosoniq's MPEX time scaling algorithm, which is of excellent quality. It is often unnoticable that it's being used (within bounds).

The virtual instruments include TTS-1 a Roland GM sounds emulator, which is ok. But given you only get 3 virtual instruments, it's probably a good idea to get some others if you plan to use Sonar for music making. Another thing to note is that the virtual instruments and plugins are different to previous versions, so you might still be able to use older plugins. As I've mentioned in previous reviews, the great strength of virtual instruments (or soft synths) is that their outputs can be treated like audio files, plugins applied etc. When it comes to mixing down, it takes one button to render it all.

As in previous versions it supports ReWire, so it can be synced to external programs like Reason and Project5 (that both have lots of virtual instruments). Their outputs can then be channeled to Sonar's mixer. But doing this does take up a lot of CPU power. I found it a lot easier to use the bundled DXi instruments (from Project5) hosting them directly in Sonar! One problem I did find with Sonar is that once I closed windows (eg. for an audio plugin) I couldn't open them again without some irritation or reopening the application. The solution was to minimise windows. I haven't worked out whether this is me being clumsy or a bug! If it is a bug I hope it gets fixed soon.

In short Sonar is a great application. But it is slightly more tilted towards post production audio (just compare the number of audio plugins to virtual instrument plugins). In order to get the most out of it (for music creation) it is worth investing in another set of soft synths. But for post production mixing, you have everything you need.