- Great DAW value! Review by Benjamin
The new interface for me was a little bit of a shock - I was used to Sonar 8.5 with its tons of buttons everywhere and icons all over the place, and in a way I was spoiled because I didn't have to learn keyboard shortcuts. Sonar X1 rewards people who learn keyboard shortcuts with a very powerful and very fast workflow. When you get it, you get a shortcut cheat-sheet and you should tape it to your monitor or something, as once you learn it you will fly through the program with ease. The bad news is that compared to 8.5, everything is BIGGIE-SIZED. If you have a 1920x1080 display, you're fine. If you have multiple monitors, you're fine because you can dock stuff on the second screen and Sonar doesn't mind. The multi-dock i sreally awesome for that sort of thing, and it has a quick-hide shortcut. But if you have a single display less than 1080p, get used to scrolling.
The included audio edit tools will do everything you ever needed. AudioSnap is a great tool, though I don't use it the way they 'want" you to - i.e. quantizing audio - I prefer to move certain things by hand and largely leave the performance alone. The good news is that you can do both - and you can do both together. Move stuff around by hand in some places and quantize in others. And the rendering tools are great - once you're done with your edits just "bounce" it to a clip and it'll do all the offlin rendering and save your CPU.
Included are a ton of instruments. Some of them you may never use (Cakewalk TTS1 general MIDI synth, only good for downloading MIDI nonsense from the internet and playing it back) and some of it is great. Z3TA+, Dimension Pro, and Session Drummer 3 are standouts. You can do everything you need with those 3, and Groove Synth and Rapture LE allow you to get different takes on stuff as well. Beatscape is fun for a large loop library, and bring in your own .rex files.
It's pretty light on your CPU and RAM, all things considered, and the x64 version means you can load entire huge multi-gigabyte sessions into RAM and never run out of room, even if you have 32GB or 64GB of RAM. Great compatibility with ASIO interfaces as well as plug-and-play MIDI stuff. Map any old control surface using ACT, which I have never seen in another software - no specialized controllers required if you don't mind the manual effort involved. (Posted on 4/12/12)
- Seems better with X1b patch Review by Senor Awesome
With X1 everything is different. The interface has been streamlined and is not at all intimidating, as I found the older Sonar UIs at first. Seemingly everything is mapped to a keyboard shortcut, which is great. There aren't as many customizable UI features, but the stock UI is pretty attractive and functional. Cakewalk is long known for their MIDI implementation, which plays so very well with external keyboards and synth modules, and that's still true today.
At first it was very "crashy" and unstable, but that seems to be mostly ironed out in X1b. I actually went back to 8.5 for a bit, and eventually when the X1b patch came out I went back and I've not had one crash or hiccup since then.
There are some really great additional features that Producer gives you over Studio - the Pro Channel strip is great. Compressor, EQ, and other effects all right on the strip, and plenty of flexibility. I would go so far as to suggest that some of the other plugins like the Sonitus:fx included in the install are obsolete. Pro Channel sounds great. Also, Matrix View is still there from 8.5 Producer, which lets you use the program in live settings triggering loops and beats. And Session Drummer 3 is also included, which has alot of samples from high-end kits, and has a pretty decent mixer and multiple outputs included so you can use other plugins on the audio.
Dimension Pro is still included but it's starting to sound old. Compare it to Kontakt and you can see why people pay for Native Instruments. Dimension has been around since like 2005 or 2006, and it's still using the same samples, and the layering of those samples isn't very good. It's good enough if you don't have any other ROMpler, but I would not jump from Sonar X1 Studio to Sonar X1 Producer and expect Dimension Pro alone to be worth it. You jump to Producer for the other items I talked about. (Posted on 3/5/11)