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Logic, Cubase, Sonar:
Which Sequencer 
is Best? 

Page 3 Conclusion

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Page 3



Tweak's Overall Review  

1999 Overall

 Logic is slaying the competition with Logic Platinum 4. Audio plugins are the rage! Steinberg never did get out VST4.  Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 can't perform with effects plugins very well.

Jan 2000 Update:

As of Jan 2000 Logic is pushing the envelope with 4.1, having added hooks to Rewire, VST plugins  and their new software analog synth ES1 (available separately).  Cubase Windows is still at  rock stable 3.7 (4.0 is overdue). but has made big gains in the virtual synth department too with their LM-1 virtual drum machine, there own Virtual analog called Modele' and some new "audio warming Valve EQ" plugins (all available separately). 

Cakewalk is touting its WavePipe technology in Version 9, and rather than working in new external applications, seems to be focusing on improving the internal working of the program adding enhancements in graphics, smoothness and audio functionality. So Cubase and Logic are in a rumble in the schoolyard again while Cake tinkers with the engine in the backyard. Its a great time to be on any platfom!  

The day is over when one program can be expected to do it all.  The ultimate "winner" will be the manufacturer with open doors and lets you import/export to different applications simply and easily.  With all the virtual synths and plugins, professional wave editors, arpeggiators, groove boxs, not to mention digital mixers, lightpipes, multitracks, the chosen sequencer will cooperate with all the toys in the toybox.  Unless sequencer manufacturers do something to develop standards, they are essentially giving the ball to Microsoft to define. 

October 2000 Conclusion:   

Suffice it to say now, all three software makers have been busy improving their products.  Cakewalk is still at Pro Audio 9, Logic has released version 4.6 and VST has jumped from v 3.7 to 5.0, skipping v 4 entirely on the PC.  (Mac users did have a v 4).  The great thing is that none of these companies are just resting on their laurels, but are actively working hard to improve their products.  It's a wonderful thing for consumers as prices are low and software power is high. 

It's tempting to say a new user could not go wrong with any choice among these three, but still, the type of music you make, the professional demands of sharing files, the need to create web audio, integration with the ever growing number of software plugins, software synths and samplers not to mention the population of soundcards, keyboards and sound modules out there can sway the decision one way or another.   Before you make your choice, ask yourself these questions as you read through the comparisons:  What kind of product are you making?  Where is your studio going to be at 5 years from now? Are you hoping to score films, become an mp3 artist, make midifiles for games?  

March 2001 Conclusion :  

Cakewalk 9.0 Pro Audio.  Definite improvements in the overall handling to the program and I have been enjoying and I have learned a few things that I really like. Cake's MIDI FX are great, easy to use and versatile.  I really like it's arpeggiator and midi delay effects and they have one up on the other two here.  Its great to have a fine arpeggiator up and running in 2 seconds flat.   However, my main criticism of Cakewalk--too many key presses and too much mousing remains an issue for me.  They have also done little to improve their "Venetian Blind" look though arguably you can alter the default color and backgrounds more than any other seq.  

One major thing I am becoming aware of is that Cakewalk is the only software for which there is 3rd party support for persons with visual disabilities through a program called Cake Talking, that works through a popular speech interface.  Kudos to the Cake Makers for that.  Cakewalk clearly has the best customer support. Cake 9 is much better than previous versions.  Little things do add up.  Cakewalk is also staying out of the virtual synth arena it would appear, or are they?  Just announced is a new product called Sonar, which may spell the future for the  walkers with the great old Cake.  Cakewalk has all the big virtual synth players on line for Sonar, which will be using Direct X versions of these soft synths rather than VST2 versions   

Steinberg VST 5  Even though the company did not come through with an evaluation version, I have a few comments.  There has been awesome improvements in the overall look of the program. This was always a VST strength and now they are darn near untouchable, that is, if you like their look. (I do). It's sort of like sitting in a rocket ship and its awesome.  The VST mixer and automation is still ahead of the pack,  and there has been much work on the VST-instruments front. 

Virtual synths are getting better and better since I last wrote and VST (which stands for Virtual Studio Technology by the way) is still in the lead with Emagic tenaciously on its heels. This is the area where the shakers and movers among sound designers and composers are.  If you want a killer new sound you can go to your bank of virtual synths to make it easily.  In this all important area, VST has the flag and is waving it out front of the pack.  Steinberg also has other recording products, Nuendo, which you can check out for yourself. Also noteworthy at this juncture is strong improvement in customer support, surprising for Steinberg, and a very good sign.  

Emagic Logic 4.6  Logic 4.5 saw big improvements in the audio engine, and Emagic has boldly ventured into the arena of surround sound.   In terms of sheer ease of artistic use and look and feel of quality, Logic remains the boss, the benchmark, the standard IMNSHO of course!  By supporting VST2 instruments in Logic, theoretically, at least, it should be able to run all the VST2 softsynths and gadgets, including Steinberg's.   Theory is close enough to reality to make people happy.  Notably, Emagic, rather than joining the party by making new VST2 instruments, is building them for exclusive use in Logic.  The Logic instruments, the ES1 synth and EXS 24 bit sampler, will only work in Logic. 

In other words, Emagic lets you play with Steinberg's toys but has been remiss about sharing its own toys, having decided to build them into Logic itself, as more of an "add-on" than a "plug-in".  News Flash: Uh oh, Emagic has announced it IS developing VST 2 instruments at the Music Messe happening today.  They are porting a playback version of the  EXS 24 Sampler to an VST2  version, have a new Vocoder, the EVO 20, a new improved virtual synth, the ES2, and have announced Logic 5.0 with improved automation. Here's a pic of the new Logic Control front end being developed with Mackie. Yet with all this innovation comes an unsightly blemish. "Official" Customer support has deteriorated below Steinberg's relying on users and dedicated employees rather than company forums. 

Summer 2002 Conclusions:

It's been a tough time for Logic Users recently. Emagic announced the fatal blow to PC users right about the same time Cubase SX was released.  Steinberg quickly responded by making a "half off" offer to Logic users who wanted to try SX. Does it make a lot of sense to continue to consider Logic as a contender?  There are still reasons to consider Logic on the PC, even though it's future on the PC platform is finite. It's midi handling is unsurpassed and has a great automation engine and mastering capabilities. Logic has reached a pinnacle of excellence with Logic 5 on the PC platform.  Makes it all the more tragic. If you have some hardware midi synths and want some superb audio plugins to process your art, Logic will satisfy like no other.  Read my review of Logic 5 for more. If you are into soft synths, plugins, and audio mastering, I think SX and Logic are very close.  One thing I will say though, is that Steinberg has really opened its doors to other software makers, particularly those of soft synths and samplers, like Native Instruments.

This is occurring while Emagic continues developing proprietary soft synth and samplers that only work in Logic. As I stated at the onset, no application can do it all, and IMO, they should not try, but rather give you a doorway. There is more info on how these two stack up in my review of Cubase SX   For now, some conclusions can be drawn.  If you want to use audio loops and drum beats, and that is the main way you work, you should look closely at Sonar. Read more on Sonar.  For all else audio, Cubase SX is the way to go.  The offline processing is a new development and is bound to shake up the field.  Cubase SX is now at the beginning of its development cycle, and Sonar which is maturing nicely.  Logic is at the end on the PC platform. So if you are just starting out, and have to stay on the PC platform, you should read the writing on the wall.

October 2003 Update

Cubase SX is about to go to version 2, a paid upgrade.  Cakewalk has just released Sonar 3.  Logic, now Mac only, is refining version 6.  Sonar has really fought back with a VST adapter, developing a "sister" application called Project 5  and making a new software mixer that rivals that in SX and Logic.  Its "groove clip" functions are ahead of the pack. Those using a loop style approach continue to benefit greatly by going Sonar.  Logic 6 has implemented the "freeze" function similar to Cubase's offline processing and now can time stretch loops with the mouse in the arrange. 

If one is on the Mac, Logic makes a lot of sense since Emagic is owned by Apple.  If one is still using Logic on the PC, let me just say the grass not only looks greener in other applications, it may actually be greener.  I never did upgrade to Cubase SX2 as I was going Mac and heard from too many reliable sources it was not doing well at all in OS X. I will give SX3 a shot.

October 2004 Update 

Time marches on. Early in 2004, Logic had a major update from Logic 6 to Logic Pro6, which bundled in all of its software instruments and processors that used to be add-ons.  It also practically doubled the price. This move separated Logic from other sequencers that assume you will be using 3rd party plugins. As of this writing Cubase, Sonar and logic have just annonced new upgrades. I'll be running all three applications as soon as I get them all and I'll be back with conclusions.  I can say now after having read up on the applications that major improvements are here. 

On the PC platform it used to be easy to decide between Sonar and Cubase. Sonar had loops and Cubase had better audio features, like freeze and offline processing.  Now the really big differences have almost vanished! GUI, MIDI implementation and user preferences make a difference. Regarding features, we have more features than most will be able to comprehend. 

A key issue now is stability--Can the applications go all day without crashing? The issue here is with 3rd party plugins. That's what I'll be focusing on. 

Summer 2005 Update  

Let's be critical for a moment.  In my use of all 3 sequencers they have one thing in common.  They all crash--a lot.  With about the same regularity they always did, though they each appear to have stable periods after the first update to a major number upgrade.  I fell certain that at least half the crashes are due to poor plugin code from 3rd party companies.  Apple appears to be doing something about it yet I can't say I have seen dramatic improvement. 

Yet at the same time, the feature set on today's sequencers is mind-boggling.  Making music is so easy its cheating if you use pre-made performances in audio loops.  Yet for the truly creative and adventurous musician, the sky has never been brighter. 

Summer 2007 Update

The absence of Logic 8 has just about become a serious issue in itself.  In the meantime, I can only conclude that their are good things going on at Cakewalk.  Every release they push their product into new areas that users want.  Why is it that of all the 3 sequencer makers out there I get the feeling that only one manufacturer is actually listening? 


Fall 2007 Update

Logic 8 has arrived in a new bundle called Logic Studio.  The price is slashed in half and Soundtrack Pro II is included.  Now we know why they made us wait.  Logic is back at the top of the class in nearly every category.  On the PC, Sonar 6 is just released.  Cubase sits at version 4.  Ableton Live just made version 6.  Nothing can compare to Logic at the $500 price point.  Sonar, perhaps, comes the closest, but it has a way to go to catch up


Winter 2009 Update

Cubase is at 5; Logic is at 9; Sonar at 8.5

All 3 are working on ways to let you warp and mutate audio. Each platform has had success here. Each is also making things easier for newbies with ready to use templates.   My opinion is that Logic hangs on to its lead from including all the plugins and softsynths.  Cubase is way behind, mired in issues and including very little in terms of VSTis. To their credit they have included a Vari audio processor and their Loop mash utility.  Sonar is roaring to the front with incredible included synths, processors, and content.  While Logic may be ahaead for now, they ought to be looking out their rear view mirror at Sonar, who is not that far behind. 



Tweak Says the winner is:


large product imageLogic Studio



In the Last Analysis...


No one can tell you which is right for you.  It no longer depends as much on what kind of files you are making, how much or what type of gear you are interfacing.  Much depends on your preferences in GUIs, workflow, choice of computer platform, whether you plan to use 3rd party software instruments and effects or you want them bundled in.

Yet competition aside, the bottom line is music, YOUR MUSIC, and if you find you can't groove with it, move to another product that lets you do what YOU want.  A software package only succeeds if you can make the music of your dreams.  And let us never forget that some of the best music and most money making music made in the last 50 years was made on a 4 track reel to reel tape recorder.    

This article will always be under construction......

All the Best,

Rich the TweakMeister

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 Sequencers and DAWS Index
Review of Cubase 5
Logic Studio 9
Pro Tools LE 8.1
Logic Studio 8
Review of Sonar
Review of Reason
Reason (1st review)
Ableton Live
Logic Pro 7
Logic Pro 6
Logic Platinum 6
Logic Platinum 5
Digital Performer
Sony's Acid
Vintage Sequencers
Early History of Logic
Mac vs PC for Music?
Project 5
Sequencer City!
Cubase SX (original)
Cubase SX3
Using a Mac Pro as your DAW
Using Notebooks as your DAW
Which Sequencer is Best?
MIDI Time Code and Sync Issues
Custom Bank Select Methods in Logic
Write a Sonar Instrument Definition File
Sequencers Price List
zZounds Sequencer Store



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