REVIEW: SONAR Platinum by Cakewalk

Sonar Platinum by Cakewalk – pricing options include full purchase (appx $500) or select the membership model ($49/mo)

PROS: Flexible pricing options, plenty of virtual instruments and options, fairly easy to use.
CONS: Windows only.

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Recording software was divided in the past; professional grade that required high powered computers, and home versions that could record, but any actual editing or processing was limited. Cakewalk has a new version of their well-loved Sonar software out now that goes pro, while maintaining affordable pricing for home users.

Sonar now offers a new pricing setup; it can be purchased for about $500 outright, or on a monthly subscription plan. Buy it outright, and for the next year there’s free tech support and free updates. Go with the membership model of 12 monthly payments, and, once the cost of the software has been met, no more subscription fees. Miss or skip a month; it will still work, albeit in demo mode. The only downside is this is a Windows only platform. For the vast majority of DIY and home recorders out there, this is a serious drawback and consideration when weighing DAW options.

That said, there are unlimited audio, MIDI, and virtual tracks, making this a one-stop digital media production package. A solo artist has plenty of tools to create pretty much anything, with guitar options like Overloud’s TH2 amp and pedal simulations. There is also Sonar’s Strum Acoustic feature that can trigger a virtual acoustic background guitar accompaniment, as well as a handy notation feature that can transcribe in staff view, as well as tablature.

For recording real drums, and the problems that come with them, the drum replacer can really change things up, replacing sounds with Sonar’s Addictive Drums or Session drummer package. Virtual drums, basses and synths are also easily accessible, and thankfully don’t sound “boxed” or synthetic (see our article this month on adding presets to your mix for more on this topic).

Vocal-wise, there’s a sync feature that can take multiple vocal tracks and align them, which can transform a background vocal into something Queen would have given their right arms for back in the day.

On the mixing end of the spectrum, Nomad’s Factory Blue Tubes plug-ins are available to warm up a final mix. After mixing is done, the world of social media is also at your fingertips; the ability to post finished (or works in progress) to SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are available from within Sonar.

Considering the price, what’s included, and the ease of use, even for a novice it’s a steal. Getting another piece of recording software, and all the plug-ins and virtual instruments would be over three times the cost of Sonar Platinum! Cakewalk was pretty much the first home audio recording suite to be taken seriously (other than Pro Tools), and it’s expanded itself even further into the professional and home recorder worlds. And even with all of Sonar Platinum’s features and abilities, it doesn’t feel like the user could fall down the rabbit hole trying to find a solution to whatever audio problem could arise. The only problem is now creating music, and that’s a good problem to have.

Complete Digital Audio Workstation
Analog-style ProChannel Strip with 9 modules
Cutting-edge VocalSync vocal alignment tool
Addictive Drums 2 Producer Bundle
Cakewalk Drum Replacer with ARA integration
57 professional mixing and mastering effects
21 virtual instruments including Rapture and Dimension Pro

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