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  • I said we'd close out this review with testing Sonar 7 on 64-bit Vista, but although we still need to cover some additional aspects of Sonar 7 (the export and delivery enhancements, for example, and some of the "smaller" updates), I wanted to move up the Vista aspect a bit in the review because I'm finding it pretty interesting.

    First, the basics. I'm running Vista Ultimate in 64-bit mode on a PC Audio Labs computer with dual quad-core Intel 3.0 GHz processors and 8GB of RAM. In other words, if this was a car, it would be a Lamborghini. However, the graphics card is a Matrox triple-head, which is great for audio but is not deemed sufficient to run Aero (the Vista feature that gives fancy, glassy graphics). In fact, solely because of the audio card, this computer scores a "1" on Microsoft's "Windows experience" scale of wonderfulness. No matter; I'm more interested in performance than the Windows experience, and the Matrox performs very well. Besides, once you've used multiple monitors, you don't want to go back.

    Second, about Vista. It has not been a smashing success the way XP was, and I doubt that its sales (and the number of people upgrading) have met Microsoft's expectations. This is both understandable and unfortunate. Understandable because XP has proven itself to be a reliable, sturdy system with a huge amount of hardware and software support. And, Microsoft didn't help matters by releasing several versions of Vista with varying capabilities (not to mention 32- and 64-bit versions), thus confusing the marketplace, and pricing the software relatively high. Nor did they fully manage to communicate what advantages Vista offers over XP, which I believe in some ways is due to the "moving target" nature of Vista: What it was promised to do several years ago falls short of what we actually have in our hands. As one example, the whole premise that Vista would have a database-driven file system that would radically change how we find and manage files turned out to be unattainable for now. The reality we're left with is a search system that just barely manages to catch up to the Mac's spotlight function, and even then, doesn't organize the search results as elegantly as the Mac.

    The unfortunate aspect is that Vista doesn't deserve the way it's been dismissed. Although some of it reeks of "Mac envy" (Sidebar is just like the Mac widgets), overall I find it a cleaner, more developed (albeit initially more confusing) system than XP. The built-in speech recognition capabilities are excellent, the search function is at the very least a big improvement over XP, the system is much more secure (I actually felt okay hooking my music computer up to the net), and some of the consumer-oriented aspects--being able to make movies, DVDs, and organize photos--are convenient. Stability is as good on this initial release as it was with XP, if not better. Furthermore, you know Microsoft isn't going to go down without a fight. When the service packs start arriving, and there's more support, people will feel more comfortable with Vista.

    But what's of real interest here is the 64-bit aspect, MMCSS, and WaveRT-all of which hold great promise for the future for pro audio, even though that potential is not yet realized. At present, 64-bit computing represents a transitional point, and transitions are never easy (just ask the Mac fans who endured the switch from System 9 to OS X, and from PPC to Intel--yet despite the difficulty of the transition, I don't think anyone would want to go back to the way it was). 64-bit Vista requires 64-bit processors and drivers designed specifically for 64 bits. I certainly didn't like seeing my beloved Creamware SCOPE system become useless in a 64-bit world, nor did I like not being able to use the Line 6 KB37 interface (a very, very cool songwriting tool)--sorry, 32-bit Vista only.

    However, support is on the way...here's what I experienced.
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    • The first thing I needed was an audio interface. Having found MOTU's interfaces to be rock-solid in the past, and having had good luck with the MOTU Ultralite on both XP and Mac, I downloaded the Vista 64 bit drivers. But while the Ultralite showed up in the control panel sounds, device manager, and Sonar, and everything seemed to be in order, I couldn't get an output from Sonar or Windows Media Player. I'm assuming it's pilot error of some kind (I thought maybe it was the FireWire chip set, but it's a TI set as recommended by MOTU) but rather than pursue it, I thought I'd move on.

      Next up: The E-Mu 1820m. E-Mu has beta 64-bit drivers on their site, and they work very well. The PatchMix DSP runs under a 32-bit shell, but it's functioning well, too. And I must say, it was a kick plugging a mic into it and using the speech recognition function to control Sonar. Both ASIO and WDM worked surprisingly well, given the beta nature of the drivers; although some users report problems with ASIO under Vista 64, and think WDM works better, I was able to get fairly reliable latencies around 2-3 ms with ASIO. I throttled back to 10 ms for security's sake and Sonar has performed very reliably.

      PreSonus has real, signed, ready-for-prime-time drivers for the FireBox and other PreSonus products, so I installed the FireBox drivers. This required a firmware update, but in typical PreSonus fashion, they've made the updating process painless and obvious. Both ASIO and WDM were solid, although there were two WDM quirks: I couldn't get latencies under 12 ms, and Sonar defaulted to the wrong stream so my initial tests gave nasty, spiky, unuseable audio. The fix is simple-go Options > Audio > Driver Profiles tab, and change stream to 32-bit PCM, left-justified.

      One advantage to WDM is you can use multiple interfaces simultaneously (something that Mac fans think was invented by Apple with the "aggregation" process in Core Audio, but was available long before that on Windows).

      Interestingly, for some reason, "10 ms" latency in Vista 64 seems more consistent than "10 ms" latency in XP. It might be my imagination, but I don't think so. Hmmm...
      Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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      • After a bit of effort and head-scratching, I was "on the air" with 64-bit Sonar in a 64-bit world. As much as I'd like to report I had a religious experience, Sonar ended up working pretty much as it does under XP. It seemed a bit zippier, actually, and even a bit "smoother," but there was no fantastic change that made me go "wow, this 64-bit stuff is fabulous!" And not being able to use some of my favorite hardware was a major drag. And yet...

        Getting back to the car analogy, I felt like I indeed had a Lamborghini, but in a world where there were few roads. Sure, it was great to gas the accelerator on a straightaway, but I would need two things to make this system really zoom: An interface with WaveRT drivers (which I'm convinced have the potential to revolutionize how we deal with audio on computers), and the ability to turn some of my RAM into a virtual drive so I could record and edit in that--no hard drive required. (The MMCSS scheduling service is another important element, but it has more to do with keeping other programs from hassling Sonar than improving Sonar's performance per se.)

        The Big Deal about WaveRT is not that it lowers latency--that depends on how many sample buffers you're using--but that it promises to lower the latency you can get without stressing out your CPU. I'm sure many of you have had the experience of setting a low latency value, only to find that as you started adding tracks and instruments, the CPU started red-lining and you had to increase latency. The promise of WaveRT is that you will be able to run low latencies without needing excessive CPU resources.

        Some have said that WaveRT will never take off because it's a Microsoft standard. Yet it's a standard that was developed in close cooperation with the audio community, not something where Microsoft said "here, take it or leave it." It deserves a shot at becoming a standard.

        The ability to access huge amounts of RAM, another Vista goodie, holds promise in two areas: Samplers (no more streaming from hard disk, unless you want to) and the possibility to record right into RAM and edit there as well. Between that and WaveRT, we can expect to see a day--hopefully before too long--when the CPU and disk meters don't register very high, even with fairly complex projects.

        Ultimately, other aspects of Vista come into play: A better search function will make it easier to find files, projects, and samples, and the built-in backup and imaging functions should make it increasingly difficult for people to use the "I didn't back up my data!" excuse. And if you're not afraid to put your music computer on the net, that makes the whole online collaboration thang a lot more believable.
        Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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        • I don't have to make that decision, as the PC Audio Labs computer comes with a removable system drive so I can boot into XP or Vista 64. You could also have a dual boot system with separate partitions (I prefer the removable drive approach, because if a hard drive fails, you can carry on with the other system until you restore your imaged backup.)

          However, a crucial consideration here is that Sonar is a bit different from the norm: It's a complete 64-bit system with some bitchin' instruments and plug-ins, as well as the sequencer itself. There are many times I don't need to go "outside" Sonar to do a project, and for those times, there's no reason not to go 64-bit. It is the way computing is going, so why not get a head start?

          Having said that, though, I think the majority of people are going to stick with XP and 32-bit Sonar until they see some demonstrably obvious advantage to going 64-bit. That could be when WaveRT drivers hit, when their current hardware gets updated drivers, or when more programs start appearing that take advantage of 64-bit operation, like TASCAM's GigaStudio 4.

          I'm in a somewhat unusual situation because there are two aspects to my musical life: The purely musical, "I-need-to-hit-the-Fed-Ex-dropoff" part, and the "journalist-exploring-new-frontiers" part. Each one now lives on its own boot drive . I don't find Vista anywhere near as puzzling as others do; it seems to me like a logical evolution of XP, although you do have to wrap your head around some changes. And when I boot up in 64 bits, I can't help but feel I'm on the threshold of the next era in computing. I'm not exactly sure where it's going to take us--and who knows, maybe it will end up being the computer equivalent of the SACD and fizzle in the face of consumer resistance--but I have high hopes.

          Meanwhile, given that Sonar can install as a 32-bit or 64-bit application, you can find out for yourself whether the next step is worth taking (assuming, of course, you have a system that can support 64-bit operation). "Always in motion, the future..." I'm digging the 64-bit thing, but that doesn't mean I recommend it--especially if you have a system that works just fine, and you have tight deadlines to meet. But I do think that one day, you'll end up in a 64-bit world. And it may very well be AMD...although that's a separate discussion!
          Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

          Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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          • Every Pro Review has a different gestalt, but this one puzzles me a bit. We have over 36,000 page views, which means a lot of people are reading this review...yet there are very few questions or comments. I haven't seen Alex from Cakewalk poke his head in here for some time, either. Maybe this means I'm doing such a wonderful job no one feels the need to ask any questions, and the lack of comments simply means that everyone agrees with me. But this is in the internet! You're supposed to be making suggestions about what should be in future versions, telling me what I don't "get," and describing some of your own experiences.

            As long as the page views keep increasing steadily, I'll keep posting but please, if you have anything to say, don't be shy!

            We'll be wrapping this up soon as we delve into the remaining new features in Sonar 7, and then we'll present some conclusions.
            Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

            Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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            • Hey, here's an idea: Why doesn't Cakewalk add a world-class sampler to Sonar 8 by offering E-Mu something for the Emulator X2? Just a thought. Meanwhile, we have DropZone, which is a basic sample playback instrument.

              DropZone is far more than a basic sample playback instrument. Its power comes from the SFZ format. Do you want a different sample on each key with a different sample for each velocity with all sorts of filters, keyswitching, and bank seletion? DropZone can do it with an SFZ file.

              The problem is that all the power is hidden in the SFZ text file and only accessible by editing that file--which DropZone, Dimension LE and others don't let you do. So the power goes to waste.

              Any chance you could explore the SFZ format in more detail in this review?

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              • Tarsier,
                The info your wanting is in a book by Simon Cann called"cakewalk Synths, from preset user to power user " ( name may not be exact)

                It goes into great detail on how to get the most from SFZ( you may Already know this , but I put it up for others out there who may benefit)
                First kill the goose by refusing to feed it , then blame it for dying and not giving anymore gold eggs


                Professionalism is an attitude and , not a possesion that you own forever once you have acheived something.



                "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

                Albert Einstein


                .

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                • Here's an excellent and comprehensive reference on SFZ files:

                  http://www.cakewalk.com/DevXchange/sfz.asp
                  Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                  Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                  • Also, in the Sonar 6 PE Pro Review, I gave a brief tutorial on using the SFZ format to create custom drum kits for Session Drummer 2, which starts on the following page:

                    http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1438357&page=6
                    Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                    Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                    • Thanks for a wonderful write up. Very insightful and swayed me back over to Sonar for future production.

                      As I'm going through many of the capabilities of Sonar, particularly midi implementation, I've stumbled upon an issue that seems odd to be overlooked by Cakewalk...the ability to have Sonar "remember" your specific controller assignments made within the Synth Rack view after assigning controls through remote control/learn. I recently made over 15 midi assignments using my hardware controller within Synth Rack, then saved the project, came back the next day, opened the project and Sonar didn't save or "remember" any of the knob or slider assignments I made.

                      Am I missing something here? With Reason, Live, Logic, etc. this just happens automatically. I know a little about ACT, but feel it's too clunky at this point and only interrupts my creativity.

                      Here's a workaround found on the web, but doesn't really address what my end needs would be.

                      "Here's the way around it: don't use the Synth Rack. You'll have to right-click/load the synth into the FX Bin of an audio track. Then point the output of a MIDI track to that (synth) audio track. (I'm using 6.2.0 here).

                      Next to "Display" at the bottom of the Track Inspector (the three-arrow Module Options -> Fx), check "Show Assignable Controls". Then do all of your Remote Control assignments (and re-assignments) from the exposed 'widgets' now visble in the Track Inspector. "

                      I'm curious if anyone else has encountered this or maybe I'm overlooking something.
                      Thanks!

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                      • My one complaint involves patch storage and organization, which I find highly confusing. For example, the DropZone content (including multisamples) is located in the DropZone folder in the VSTplugins folder. Fair enough. But if you want to deposit some custom Rapture patches for Rapture LE to read, I found content for Rapture LE in Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Cakewalk\Rapture LE\Programs. But the Multisamples it reads from go in Program Files\Cakewalk\Rapture LE\Multisamples-and if you have Rapture installed, its multisamples go elsewhereWhen I created some patches for Rapture, I couldn't figure out where to put them so they'd show up in both the Rapture LE and Rapture browsers (answer: you can't get them to show up in both places, or at least I don't think you can, unless you put the programs in two places where both Rapture LE and Rapture can see them). Documentation for the instruments is scattered around as well.

                        From what I understand part of this patch chaos is Windows-related, in order to work with Vista. Still, there's gotta be a better way to organize patches and multisamples for these excellent instruments. Does anyone have a solution? Or can someone from Cakewalk explain the logic behind where different instruments store their patches?


                        The Project5 wikii contains this entry which details default file location & the registry entry to modify to relocate multisample folders here http://p5.sonarama.com/p5/index.php/ExpressionEngine_Multisample_Relocation

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                        • Thanks very much for the info, I'm glad there's a workaround but it seems awkward to have to hack the registry to do something as simple as point the instrument to a particular set of samples. Sonar itself lets you specify file paths for pretty much everything; I'd like to see the instruments have similar options.
                          Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                          Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                          • Am I missing something here? With Reason, Live, Logic, etc. this just happens automatically. I know a little about ACT, but feel it's too clunky at this point and only interrupts my creativity.



                            When you insert the soft synth using the Insert > Soft Synths menu, did you put a checkmark next to the option Recall Assignable Controls in the Insert Soft Synth Options dialog box?

                            Also, when you save and close the file, make sure you keep the Synth Rack view open. That way it will appear when you open the project again. I just tried it and if you don't keep the Synth Rack open, it loses the assignment values (must be a bug), but if you keep it open then the values stay.

                            Scott

                            --
                            Scott R. Garrigus - Author of the Cakewalk Sonar and Sony Sound Forge Power book series. Get Sonar 7 Power & Sound Forge 8 Power - Today! Go to: http://www.garrigus.com/

                            Publisher of DigiFreq - free music technology newsletter. Win a free Absynth 3 or Kontakt 2 DVD Tutorial, go to: http://www.digifreq.com/digifreq/

                            Publisher of NewTechReview - free consumer technology newsletter. Win a free WWF Slam Cam digital camera, go to: http://www.newtechreview.com/newtechreview/

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                            • ok, here's a question regarding the External Insert: i haven't tried it with an actual external audio processoer yet, but i was looking it over last night and i couldn't figure out how to get a stereo return (i was getting a stereo send) using an Emu 1820/Patch Mix...also: do you see any pros/cons to using Sonar's External Insert over setting up an external insert in Patch Mix?

                              btw: i like the idea of X2 being included/integrated with Sonar...

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                              • Every Pro Review has a different gestalt, but this one puzzles me a bit. We have over 36,000 page views, which means a lot of people are reading this review...yet there are very few questions or comments. I haven't seen Alex from Cakewalk poke his head in here for some time, either. Maybe this means I'm doing such a wonderful job no one feels the need to ask any questions, and the lack of comments simply means that everyone agrees with me. But this is in the internet! You're supposed to be making suggestions about what should be in future versions, telling me what I don't "get," and describing some of your own experiences.

                                As long as the page views keep increasing steadily, I'll keep posting but please, if you have anything to say, don't be shy!

                                We'll be wrapping this up soon as we delve into the remaining new features in Sonar 7, and then we'll present some conclusions.



                                I try not to get in the way. I believe you're doing an excellent job explaining the in's and out's of SONAR 7.
                                Alex Westner
                                Director of Product Management
                                http://www.cakewalk.com

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