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In-depth Feature:  Cakewalk Sonar 3
Rob G writes: .

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The New Bus Architecture
Sonar 3.0 uses a new extremely flexible bus architecture. Each input bus can be routed to an bus or output channel, as well as supporting auxiliary outputs to other buses or output channels. Each bus itself can be similarly routed to other buses or output channels - allowing flexible creation of submixes, effects groups and other creative routing configurations. New buses can be created, pre- or post-fader, on the fly.

For each input or bus channel, the following features are supported:

Input echo toggle - available from the console or inspector - allowing monitoring live audio or MIDI on any number of tracks, or layering synths by echoing on multiple tracks.

An FX bin for inserts. Each track can have its own effects configuration. By routing to buses, effects can be shared between tracks in submixes. The entire FX bin for a track may be bypassed in a single operation for quick wet/dry comparisons. In the producer edition, up to four effect parameters may be individually assigned to the track strip for quick and convenient access without launching the plug-ins interface. Effects may be inserted on the fly.

Integrated 6-band parametric EQ (producer edition only) (part of the sonitus:fx bundle) with 5 filter types that can be individually selected, edited and automated for each band. These EQ had quite a reputation before their acquisition, and their integration into the bus architecture itself makes a compelling reason for the upgrade. A mini-plot displays the curve of these EQ's directly on the track strip.

For DirectX plug-ins, Cakewalk have implemented automatic plug-in delay compensation. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this did not extend to VST plug-ins - but this should be available as an update from their website when available.

As a final note, Cakewalk have implemented automatic feedback loop prevention - Sonar simply will not allow creating of bus routings that will create feedback loops.

As a global setting, Sonar 3.0 now supports specifying different sample rates for projects as supported by your sound card. Supported rates are: 11025 Hz, 22050 Hz, 44100 Hz, 48000 Hz, 88200, 96000, 176400 and 192000 Hz. Most sound cards will only support one sample rate at a time, and Sonar 3.0 will enforce this limitation. However, the sample rate of imported audio is automatically corrected to fit the project sample rate.

In summary, the changes under the cover are as far reaching as the more immediately noticeable interface changes. One feature that is lacking is the "freeze" facility available in other sequences - the same effect may, however, be achieved by using "Bounce to Tracks" to bounce one or more audio tracks to a single stereo or one or two mono tracks, preserving the volume, pan and effects for each constituent track. Once bounced, the original tracks may be archived - they remain in the project but are not included in playback - and may be unarchived to adjust the originals at a later a date.

VST Wrapper
Particularly welcome, to existing Sonar 2.0 users and especially users switching from other sequencers wishing to retain their plug-in collection, will be the inclusion of a VST-wrapper (coded for Cakewalk by FXpansion) in the box.

During installation, Sonar will attempt to locate and "import" VST plug-ins and effects so they may be used through its VST wrapper. Note that in some cases not all VST plug-ins will install successfully - several on my system indicated that they required VST as a host in order to run, but the majority made the transition fine.

If new VST effects are installed, the configuration program must be rerun to incorporate them into the set-up.

The VST wrapper worked well for all those effects installed, but unfortunately, on my system some of the VST plug-ins failed to work within either Sonar or VSampler, displaying messages such as this plug-in will not work with this host" or "this plug-in requires Cubase SX". This usually occurred with plug-ins distributed with Cubase, so it may be a deliberate limitation of the plug-ins, but it is important to be aware that not every VST plug-in will integrate smoothly.

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