Bye bye Cakewalk

In 2001, I bought myself a shiny new Yamaha synthesizer and to go with it a program called Cakewalk Pro Audio 9. That and its successor versions, including SONAR, was to be my DAW for many years until one day Gibson Brands spectacularly went bust. The company had been passed from pillar to post first being sold to Roland and then finally on to guitar manufacturer Gibson, but at this point no-one actually knew whether we’d ever see Cakewalk/SONAR available again.

Yamaha-owned Steinberg were quick off the mark offering a discount crossgrade to Cubase Pro for existing SONAR users, so I took advantage of this just in case Cakewalk never came back.

As it so happens, Cakewalk did eventually come back after the intellectual property was bought by Singaporean company BandLab. What was a surprise at the time is that BandLab decided to rename the product Cakewalk by BandLab, but given away free.

Given that I had spend money on Cubase, I wasn’t necessarily going to go back to Cakewalk as my primary DAW, but it was useful to have around so that I could open my old projects in it without having to convert them to Cubase. Doing so was cumbersome and clunky, involving exporting the MIDI and then recreating all the VST settings in Cubase. Thankfully I didn’t have a huge number of projects I wanted to keep, but over time I did so just in case.

Last week, BandLab announced they were going to discontinue Cakewalk by BandLab (the free product) and reintroduce two new products – Cakewalk Next (which is a desktop version of the BandLab Web-based app) and Cakewalk Sonar (yes, they reused the name) which will be a new version of Cakewalk but won’t be free.

At this point I have to make a decision, because I don’t really need two paid-for DAWs on my machine. Do I stump up the cash for the reincarnated Cakewalk Sonar when it’s released, or just bite the bullet, stick to Cubase 12, and uninstall Cakewalk for good?

The decision was probably easy in the end. Given I’d just had a look through all my Cakewalk projects to see what I wanted to keep and what I didn’t, I had already made a Cubase version of all the important ones. Plus, I had since then bought myself a copy of Dorico, so I was getting fairly embedded with Steinberg products anyway, and thirdly a lot of the plugins that came with Cakewalk are actually quite old now and haven’t been upgraded since the original SONAR days.

So for me, reluctantly, it’s bye-bye to Cakewalk and it’ll be interesting to see how good (or otherwise) the new paid-for version is, and at what price it is being sold at. Cubase Pro does have quite a good selection of bundled (and modern) plugins which Cakewalk seems to lack. To remain competitive, I think quite a few things will have to be improved. There’s always been a certain amount of snobbery within the industry when it comes to Cakewalk, mainly because it has never had a released Mac version, the original Cakewalk was for DOS and subsequent versions were for Windows only. Let’s see how the new release survives in the dog-eat-dog world of the modern DAW. There’s a lot of competition out there now, it’s not just Cakewalk and Cubase as main competitors any more.