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Review of Cakewalk's
Project 5

by Rich the Tweak

Cakewalk calls it's Project 5 "a complete software synthesizer workstation".  providing everything they need to experiment, create, and perform music using integrated sequencers, software synths, samplers, audio and MIDI effects, and audio looping tools.  When it was introduced, I had to wonder, isn't that what Sonar does--why the redundancy?  Indeed, there are not that many things one can do with Project 5 that you can't do in Sonar, if you are really a whiz at using it to the max. The joy is in the GUI.  What Project 5 offers is its graphic user interface which allows you to focus on your audio loops and soft synths in great detail and with great control. You also get some very nice soft synths, samplers, drum interfaces and effects.  Once they are installed on your system, you can use them in Sonar too. 

Project 5 works with Sonar in Rewire, but you can also use it stand alone.  It's got plenty to play with all by itself.  And most importantly, Project 5 is fun.  Lets clear up a few things.  First off all, you can't use it to sequencer your external synths.  Project 5 is like Reason in this way, it does not send MIDI data outside of itself.  So turn off the Triton and Motif, you won't be using them (except for the keyboard input) with P5.  You don't even need a keyboard.  You can use P5 entirely by mouse alone if you want. Though you can record real time midi sequences from your keyboard if you want and quantize as you expect, but the sound generator will always be something inside Project 5.  You also, like Reason, cannot record audio in Project 5.  You can import audio files made with other software and tweak them to death if you want.  


Fun to use
Combines acidized loops with softsynths in an easy to use interface
Nice soft synth, sampler and drum generators
Great pattern making facility
Runs VSTi's and DXi's on your system
Bugs exist running some 3rd party plugins
Requires a fast computer for maximum enjoyment
Cakewalk PROJECT5 Soft Synth Workstation
Imagine a complete software synthesizer workstation that places no limits on your music. A flexible, expandable studio environment that engages your creativity, inspiring new musical ideas through its seamless integration of instruments and tools.
more info at





Compared to Reason I think P5 is a shade better.   Why?  One reason really, you can bring in any DXi or VSTi and use it in P5 just as easily as you play a P5 softsynth.  That's a huge reason (sic) right there.  If you have a lot of Native Instruments softsynths, for example, you will be very pleased to find you can use them all in P5, including the "heavies" like Reaktor Session and Kontakt.  My Spectrasonics Atmosphere works, as do all my Plugins, including Waves, Sonic Foundry stuff.  You can't use any of  those in Reason.

Another area where P5 shines is with audio loops.  It reminds me a bit of the Ableton live here.  You can put different loops on the same track (unlike ACID, which makes you create a track per loop) so they share the same effects bus.  I really like that feature.  P5 blows Acid 4 away big time; it blows the Ableton Live away too because it can use soft synths and has editors and loop wise, it shatters Reason's Dr. Rex.  Reason does have better sounding synths and has a great mixer and the patchbay.  The P5 is not going to touch those. But when you add in Absynth, Reaktor, the Pro53 and others you may already have, one can argue their Project 5 rules with a vengeance. 

But here comes a little rain.  Its not as quick and nimble as the Ableton live, and not a rock solid as Reason, naturally, as it is dealing with plugons and softsynths that are not its own.  That requires horsepower. Those considering Project 5 should read the system requirements.   I'll tell you right now, when you add softsynths and plugins in any sequencer, you have to make sure you have the processor speed to handle it.  Cakewalk recommends a Pentium 4 on Win XP at 1.7 ghz.  I have it working fine on my AMD 1.4 ghz machine.  But when I add the 7th or 8th softsynth with effects running full tilt, it starts to get a little squirly.  I kind of expected that given I am way below the stated recommendation. 

Project 5, like all software, has bugs.  I managed to crash it after about an hour.  It seems not to like every plugin in the book.  As of this writing I am using the updated version 1.1.  


Supplied Soft Synths

PSYN Virtual Analog Synth a full-featured subtractive synthesizer, 64-note polyphony

DS864 Digital Sampler  Support for Akai S5000/6000, Kurzweil, Sound Fonts 2, WAV, AIF and proprietary sample formats.  If you have lots of soundfont banks you will like it that you can load 1000s of presets in a single sampler. 

VELOCITY Drum Sampler  Works sort of like a cross between Battery and Reason's re-drum.  Supports WAV, AIF, and LM4.  I like.

nPULSE Drum Synthesizer  An analog style, tweakable drum box

Cyclone DXi Groove Sampler  Sort of like a software MPC2000, with assignable pads, just the thing for hip hop.

All good stuff, fun, useful, and automatable by mouse or MIDI.  However, Project 5 does not implement control surfaces as of this writing. 

Using Patterns

With e P-Seq pattern editor you can make and save a variety of sequences.  Like the Reason Matrix, you can make drum patterns, arpeggios, complex melodic leads or all the trance basslines you can imagine.  Most cool about this is you can save these patterns to a library where they are available for other songs.  So as you work with Project 5, your experience gets richer, being able to use these snippets from the "pattern bin" where they fit, with different sound generators.  Tweak says: Very cool!  Even for the most jaded sequencer-maniac.  Also the pattern sequencer is different from the Piano roll editor in Sonar. Left and right mouse buttons work and its pretty easy to do controller mapping

Project 5 works great in a 2 monitor setup.  Even with 2 monitors, I want more room to see more stuff. 

Summing Up.

Did I mention that Project 5 is fun to use?  It is, and there is a bad thing about that.  I'm probably not going to use Acid for a while, and it will be rare when I want to use Reason or the Ableton Live.  The fun is simply this:  You make a little bassline, toss in some loops, tweak a few things, add a drum kit, throw in a few beautiful Spectrasonics pads, do a solo in Reaktor session, comp with a Pro 53 and process your tracks and Mix with Waves plugins.  Then export it or rewire it to Sonar 3 or Cubase SX and add your vocals, midi synths and modules and tweak it down again.  Whoa, dude.  Get the picture?  I have.  Its a winner.

Tweak's Articles on Software

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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