Friday, February 23, 2018

Sonar power user gives a Mixcraft testimonial

As a former VP of Sales at Cakewalk, I was visiting the newly established Beyond Cakewalk forums. I came across a pretty fascinating and comprehensive post by Sonar power user John Rossi, a university professor  (aka mosspa on Cakewalk forums), comparing Sonar to Live, Mixcraft, Reaper, Studio One and other DAW's. In it, he concludes "It took a while, but I've finally decided that Mixcraft is going to be my SONAR replacement".

The purpose of his post was to shed light on the alternatives to Sonar. For those of you looking for a fair and balanced review of the many DAW's to consider using, I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee, sitting back and reading this informative post on Beyond Cakewalk (4th post down):

Here is the post for your convenience:


I started with Twelve-Tone Systems Cakewalk 1.2 (I think) when it was a MIDI sequencer.  I stayed with them through the Pro Audio period, and jumped on board again with SONAR 3 Producer.  I reviewed SONAR 4-8.5 for a hard copy magazine, and then dropped off because of its inclusion in my ongoing boycott of Japanese products  (due to dolphin slaughter) after the buyout buy Roland.  I re-joined again with X3 and have been a Platinum member since the subscription service started.  So, I have had a very deep history with Cakewalk/SONAR in all of its incarnations.  At about the time I was reviewing SONAR 5 or 6, I met the guys from Acoustica at summer NAMM.  They gave me a copy of Mixcraft 2 to "take a look at".  I never was able to get that program to run reliably. The following year, Acoustica had Mixcraft 3 done by NAMM time, and again I took a copy home.  The program worked, was very reliable, and was the most intuitive DAW I ever experienced.  I started reviewing Mixcraft 4 for the same magazine and I was the "SONAR and Mixcraft" guy from Mixcraft 4-6 at the same time I did SONAR through 8.5.  So, for a number of years, I had both of them on my DAW computer, and was forced to keep current with both products.  Due to personal issues, I never got around to using Mixcraft 7 very much (I think because I was, at the time, intimated by the Ableton-like Performance Panel (which was the default view when you initially booted the program), and I never did complete the review of 7 for publication..  I was asked to review Mixcraft 8 by another on-line magazine about 6 months ago.  Then came the Gibson "Letter of Doom"...
That brings me up to the last couple of months.  Up until two months ago, the only DAWs I ever used were Samplitude 2 (when it was still an East German product and an audio-only DAW), Pro Audio/SONAR, and Mixcraft.  Realizing that SONAR would eventually be no more, I started trying to decide what I would replace it with.  Since Reason 10 was just being released, I managed to get a copy of Reason 9 pretty cheap, deciding that if I was going away from SONAR I might try something completely different.  Well, that didn't work out too well.  Nothing felt right to me about the environment, and it was apparent the it was kind of kludged together in an attempt to remain competitive.  Afterward, I weaned myself off SONAR and started using Mixcraft 8 for any project I started.  Oddly, I never hit a wall with it, but subconsciously I must have still viewed Mixcraft as a 2nd tier DAW and hungered for a top-notch SONAR replacement.

I had always found SONAR to be reasonably efficient in terms of its ability to scale on multicore/multithread processors.  I had just started building a new box that would eventually become my main DAW, and I had chosen a 16-core/32-thread AMD Threadripper.  So, the first thing I looked at when I was reviewing prospects for the SONAR replacement was multithreadedness.  After an exhaustive review, I determined that Reaper was probably the best bet in that area (probably better than SONAR), I decided to take the $69 plunge.  I bought the spiral bound printed manual and started to learn it.  I never got a track laid down.  I don't know, I just can't deal with the GUI.  I felt bad, because Reaper has what has got to be the most vibrant user forum in the industry, who did their best to help me make working in Reaper more comfortable.

After putting Reaper on the back burner, I spent some more quality time with Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio.  Honestly, I had been seamlessly using Mixcraft from version 3 without even looking at the manual, and I was just getting things done with it.  A couple weeks ago I started thinking about Ableton Live.  In my prime as a magazine reviewer, I had an NFS copy of Live 4 sitting on the shelf, that I never opened.  I had heard many wonderful things about the Live "experience" from a lot of musicians I trust and I decided to try it.  When I looked at purchasing it I nearly defecated in my pants seeing the $795 price tag (things were a lot rosier when publishers just gave me stuff ).  I'm a university professor by trade, and I saw that there was an Education Edition of Live Suite for $475 ($499?), anyway, I decided to try it, even though it would be the most expensive single-purchase of music-related software I ever made.  Live came and I got it installed.  Since its main feature is its "beat matrix" that was the first thing I tried.  Not ever having done anything with loops before, except for a brief excursion into Acid 2, I tried to embrace it.  I loved the Live implementation, and the next day I ordered a Launchpad Mk2 to exploit it.  The more I worked with Live, the more I realized that it was a "young person's DAW".  Not because of of anything about the way it works, but because you need to have "young person's" eyes to use it on a 4K 32" monitor at 2 feet.  Live may be a perfect DAW, but when you get eyestrain trying to use it, it isn't much good.  Goodbye.

My quest for a SONAR replacement continued.  I'm not a dongle kind of person (which is why I often wonder why I ever even tried Reason), so neither Cubase nor Nuendo seemed appropriate.  Hell, I was running out of high-end DAWs.  A while back, I purchased a PreSonus 18/18 VSL interface that came bundled with Studio One 1.  Remembering the disk was somewhere, I found it and loaded it up, just to get a sense of what the interface would be like.  Visually, it seemed OK.  It wasn't SONAR, but I didn't feel uncomfortable interacting with it.  As it turns out PreSonus has a really good educational discount so I decided to try Studio One 3.5 as my next possible SONAR replacement.  When it came, I liked it.  I can read the display on the 32" monitor, it uses colors pretty well, and it hasn't embraced the flat 2D display that seems to be the fad, and which partially killed Live for me.  Then, I looked at the Launchpad sitting on my desk. In my attempts to do something with if in Studio One, I discovered a serious workflow impediment.  MIDI control setup is Studio One is too complex.  It wasn't intuitive, and although I was able to get the Launchpad interfaced to it with lots of help from YouTube, I wasn't really satisfied.
Then, last Saturday night, I had an epiphany. In the short time I had used Live (about a day and a half), I was really digging the loop control.  While visions of trying Bitwig 2 danced in my head, I decided that maybe I should explore Mixcraft's Performance Panel.  I went to the Acoustica site and watched all of the tutorial videos covering the Performance Panel at Mixcraft University.  I learned a lot watching those videos.  I found myself being intrigued by the one thing that initially poisoned me toward Mixcraft 7, because I thought (at the time) that it was clever ploy for Acoustica to break into the Live market.  When I started playing with it I was amazed....

Hidden in Mixcraft is the perfect symbiosis of a loop based interface and a standard linear track DAW.  Unlike Live, the integration between the two "sides" is (like everything else Mixcraft) intuitive.  I played with both DAWs for much of Sunday, and ended up convinced that anything that can be done with Live can be done in Mixcraft.  Not only that, but doing the same things in Mixcraft were much more intuitive, and took much less time.  Then, I decided that maybe I had some psychological blinders on, possibly because of my mind set from my beginnings with Mixcraft and that I've always looked at it as the "Little DAW that could".  I concluded that I never really gave Mixcraft a fair chance to actually compete with its big brother (SONAR).  Well, I'm about $800 poorer now (in the last few weeks of hasty rash decisions).  Tonight, I was asked by Acoustica to explain what I could do with SONAR that I couldn't do with Mixcraft.  I thought about it carefully for about an hour, and I realized that the only thing I would miss in completely replacing SONAR with Mixcraft was the Addictive Drums integration and the step sequencer.  But that's just me, because outside of some of the processing plug-ins contained in SONAR, that aren't really SONAR... just well integrated externals, there really wouldn't be anything I would miss.  It took a while, and some expense, but I've finally decided that Mixcraft is going to be my SONAR replacement!!!

Here are some facts that anybody who has read this far through this verbose post should know.  (1) Mixcraft 8 is stable, and the audio engine has been greatly improved in comparison to Mixcraft 6 and 7.  (2) Acoustica is, apparently, making a commitment to the "Pro" market and will continue to improve its PRO product.  (3) SONAR's demise has opened up a market that Acoustica can compete in. Many of the Sonic Foundry engineers who were responsible for Acid and Vegas, now at Acoustica, have the programming chops to render anything that the SONAR community might need in a SONAR replacement DAW.  (4) Even though working with video in a DAW may not be near the top of everyone's requirement list, Mixcraft handles video very well, and even rivals Digital Performer in many respects. (5) The best testimonial (as a SONAR user) that I can give Mixcraft is that until I started working with the Performance Panel this last week, I never opened the Mixcraft manual (that's how intuitive it is coming from a SONAR background).  Consider this.  I managed to comprehensively review it three times for an industry publication, without needing to refer to the manual.  (5) Because of its  shallow learning curve (at least for me as a SONAR person), it should be, at least, on your "try it" list.  (6) as long as Acoustica can remain viable, the program is destined to improve continually.

I didn't write this as a partner of Acoustica, and I have no real affiliation with the company.  Actually, I'm not too sure how they view me now after my not ever completing the Mixcraft 7 review.  I'm just another SONAR orphan, who just happened to have the unique opportunity to closely observe and use Mixcraft as it developed while SONAR remained my workhorse DAW.

This last couple weeks has been quite instructive for me.  Mixcraft, today, is much more than "Little DAW that could".  It really is a professional DAW, and it can stand up (at least in relation to all the things one needs in a DAW) with any other "Pro-DAW" available.  If you try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  Dealing, one-on-one, with the Acoustica staff isn't like dealing with the folks at Steinberg, Ableton, or even PreSonus.  They know what they need to do to survive in this overly competitive DAW market, and will personally listen to your suggestions.  Give them a shot. 




Editor's note:
Through December 31, 2018, a $99 Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio Crossgrade is being offered to Sonar registered users.. If you would like to take a look at Mixcraft, please visit www.acoustica.com for more details or a free trial.

4 comments:

  1. I have been using Mixcraft since Mixcraft 4, I have Sonar 1, 2, & 3, but never use it now. I reinforce everything you say.

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  2. Hi, Thanks for taking the time to read this sweet testimonial on Mixcraft 8. Pretty powerful. We appreciate your support!

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  3. Nice to be visiting your blog again, it has been months for me. Well this article that i've been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share. sign in

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    1. Elizabeth, Happy to hear this article will be of use in your college assignment.John Rossi is a well-respected professor and experienced contributing writer in the field of DAW recording for many years. Thank you for visiting the blog.

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