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SX3 vs. Sonar 4

It's upgrade time in the land of sequencers, the core software that makes our computer-based home studios work.  The top 2 PC sequencers are slugging it out to earn your continued allegiance and support.  I will have these soon at the TweakLab.  Here's some of my thoughts at this juncture.  Note these lists are of new features.  To read about the already existing features go the the software maker's website.

Cubase SX3 Sonar 4 (studio)

Top-10 new features of Cubase SX3

Steinberg Cubase SX Recording Software (Macintosh and Windows)
Cubase SX 3.0 is the next generation of one of the world's most popular sequencers. Tweak: Steinberg makes the only cross-platform sequencers now. 

Steinberg site

  • Audio Warp: Realtime Time Stretching and Pitch Shifting offer extensive new audio editing and processing capabilities, including ACID® File support: loops automatically adopt a project’s tempo; audio files can follow tempo changes in realtime.
    Tweak: Wow! Acid support in SX.  Steinberg cuts into the one truly unique feature Sonar had
  • Intuitive Play Order Track for pattern-based arranging adds a new level of creative music editing. Divide your song into sections, and then re-arrange it on the fly. Compare alternative versions of your song and then convert them back into a linear form for mixdown and mastering.

  • New Inplace Editor supports ultra-fast direct MIDI event editing from within the project page. Edit MIDI events in context with audio or video.  Tweak: I love this one

  • New MIDI Device Maps / Panels support direct access to external MIDI hardware with user-definable graphic editing panels. Import VST Mixer Maps or create your own editing panels, even for the Track Inspector or the mixer’s channel strip.

  • User-definable Workspaces (window layouts) help organizing your desktop. Create and save a separate workspace for each step of the production process. Switch Workspaces on the fly, as if working on multiple computers or monitors.  Tweak: Cutting into Logic's "screenset" idea here--definitely a good thing

  • Studio Connections “Total Recall” support (optional integration of Yamaha’s Studio Manager 2). The first step into a new dimension of software/hardware integration. This modular editing system builds a powerful bridge between the virtual and physical studio. Opening a project can recall an entire studio setup within seconds.

  • External FX Plugins allow for direct integration of external hardware effects processors into the VST audio mixer. Use your favorite outboard gear just like plugins – including automatic delay compensation.

  • Extended Freeze function for virtual instruments and audio tracks with added flexibility and improved performance. Freeze virtual instruments with or without insert effects. Then automatically unload the instrument to free up RAM. Freeze audio tracks with insert effects to free up even more CPU performance.

  • New part-based Volume Envelopes for direct control of dynamics. Fix level problems on the fly without wasting automation tracks. Then move events with their volume envelopes.

  • User-definable Color Coding for tracks and VST mixer channels provides more clarity and better orientation – especially in complex projects.


New features in Sonar 4

Cakewalk SONAR Studio (Windows)
Tweak:  Superb sequencer for PCs with full featured MIDI and Audio integration.  Version 4 is better than ever. 

Cakewalk Site

There are over 100 new features and enhancements in SONAR 4. Here are some of the key new features:

  • Track Folders with the ability to edit the Track Folder Composite Clip
    Tweak: Powerful feature for arranging

  • Loop record into layers or individual tracks
    Tweak: This feature will dramatically aid coming up with the ideal track from several attempts and also should help with beat making.

  • Enhanced comping and editing features: nudge, clip muting, partial-clip muting, auto-crop tool with cross-fade mode, audition selection, isolate

  • Group editing (simultaneous multi-clip): slip edits, loop-rolling, fade drawing

  • Loop construction enhancements: slice-based envelope control of gain, pitch, pan; slice preview; auto-loop

  • Freeze tracks, effects, and synths; edit, arrange, and convert frozen data into groove clips; unload samplers from memory Tweak: Sonar catches up to SX and Logic on this score.  Remember it was SX that introduced this feature to the world.

  • Scalable Navigator view to quickly navigate and size viewable area of projects

  • Configurable Pan law (six stereo panning laws supported)  Tweak: Cool! This will help Sonar's mixer more effectively pan like a high end mixing console

  • Professional Metering (peak, RMS, peak and RMS, pre-fader, post-fader, and pre-fader post effects) with configurable ballistics  Tweak: Welcome change

  • Key Binding enhancements: presets; templates to mimic keyboard assignments of other DAW programs  Tweak: this will make my life easier

  • TTS-1 multitimbral, multi-out GM2 synthesizer with authentic Roland® sounds

  • Full control over file export parameters, now with useful and customizable presets

  • Windows Media Audio 9 (WMA), WMA9 Pro 5.1, and WMA9 lossless encoding and decoding

  • Open support for external command-line encoders: surround, LAME, Ogg Vorbis, Monkey's Audio, etc.

  • Supports QuickTime, Windows Media Video with 5.1 Surround Sound, and AVI with 5.1 Surround Sound

  • Busable Audio Metronome

  • Full-control over color settings

  • Optimized audio engine performance

  • Export buses and tracks into a composite mixdown, or as individual files


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