Sonar vs. Pro Tools

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2013/06/30 14:05:44 (permalink)

Sonar vs. Pro Tools

I've been a Cakewalk user since Pro Audio 8. I've recently started getting into Pro Tools as a necessity. I'm not posting this as a competition between the two, but rather as a comparison and source of suggestions to improve Sonar. 
There are areas where Sonar is better than Pro Tools. I'll list the main ones from my perspective:
1. Implementation of 64-bit. The PT11 release is a disaster at this point, with few plug-ins available for use so it's impossible to say how it will work out. Sonar has been at the forefront, and 64-bit implementation is excellent.
2. MIDI editing. Pro Tools MIDI editor is not horrible compared to Sonar's piano roll, but Sonar's Step Sequencer by itself is a huge advantage. Drum Maps and many other MIDI features in Sonar do not exist in PT. Not surprising given the history of the two products, Cakewalk starting out as a MIDI sequencer.
3. Included plug-ins. In this area Sonar blows PT away. The instruments, Pro Chanel, etc are far beyond the few things included with PT, and probably any other DAW. The only drawback is that I feel they may have focused too much on that aspect and neglected some other areas.
4. Visual appearance. Superficial, but important when you're staring at something for hours on end. I really like the color scheme of Sonar X2, the way waveforms are represented, etc. Pro Tools is like a glaring rainbow of non-pleasing colors. The darker scheme of X2 is much more cool looking and "soothing" to work with. 
This is where my wish list/suggestions come in. Keep in mind that it is my opinion, but I think these are valid points.
If Pro Tools had the features above, or even just the first two, I would probably switch to it permanently. The reason is that the workflow of editing and mixing in PT is much more efficiently laid out than it is in Sonar. The way tracks are displayed and the way you can manipulate them is much better. The drop-down minimize/maximize of Sonar is inferior to the multiple sizing options in PT. The end result is that you can get more tracks on the screen and access more of their functions more efficiently than you can in Sonar. The Group function in PT vs Track Folders in Sonar is not a huge difference for organization, but the ability to manipulate the views and parameters of whole groups in PT is a big advantage. The Mix Window vs Console View is slightly better in Sonar, but once again PT makes it easier to view a larger number of tracks at once without losing access to their essential parameters. The Inserts layout in PT is better than the FX Bin in Sonar. The routing of tracks is more flexible. The addition of take lanes and automation lanes in Sonar makes it comparable to PT, but as far as I know, there is nothing in Sonar like the playlist function in PT, which makes things like comping vocals infinitely more efficient. The way the transport, playback and recording work in PT feels much simpler and more efficient. If you have looped playback turned on, you select part of the timeline and it automatically starts playing back in a loop. Small features like that make a big difference in workflow.
In general, the overall layout of Sonar feels bloated and overcrowded compared to PT. The sticky windows in Sonar are a constant source of frustration for me. Cakewalk seems to be more focused on adding features, which is good, but in comparison it feels like PT has put a lot of thought into the core editing functions of the software, and making the workflow as efficient as possible.
This is far from comprehensive, but I hope it spurs some thought. It may not be as attention-grabbing as adding a new plug-in, but a focus on basic layout and functions with an eye towards simplification, intuitiveness and ease of editing should really be the primary focus of any DAW. I guess the simplest way to put it is that it feels like any given operation in Sonar takes several more mouse clicks than it takes to do the same thing in Pro Tools. They share a lot of features in common at this point, but it wouldn't hurt Sonar to steal more from them.
post edited by AJ_0000 - 2013/06/30 14:32:55

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    Re: Sonar vs. Pro Tools 2013/07/01 00:58:48 (permalink)
    Although I've never used PT, its console view "looks" a little more efficient and well organized. Maybe you should send your views and suggestions through the official feature request page? Bakers might not have time to read all threads in this forum (although the topic title is eye-catching).

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    Re: Sonar vs. Pro Tools 2013/07/01 08:30:54 (permalink)
    I completely agree about fitting more tracks on screen, but some of your other suggestions make it seem like you aren't using some features that sonar DOES have. Proper use of screen sets saves tremendous time and mouse clicks.
    I also use both pt10 and x2. I do not agree that the insert layout is better or that the routing is more flexible. I prefer the organization of sonars busses and the fx bin that "grows with you".
    I will concede that I've spent much more time using sonar and that that could account for the ease of workflow when compared to pt.
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    Re: Sonar vs. Pro Tools 2013/07/01 10:38:41 (permalink)
    My band was in the studio a few weeks back and it was my first real experience with pro-tools although from where I was sat
    I couldn't see everything in detail and so didn't get really close up but I was really impressed at the speed at which the engineer was able to comp and edits tracks on the fly. It was completely seamless unlike sonar.
    Obviously it's his job and he's bound to be a lot quicker than me but the gap-less audio seemed so smooth to me and something
    I've never experienced with sonar despite cakewalks claims.

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    Re: Sonar vs. Pro Tools 2013/07/01 12:09:06 (permalink)
    What you can do in Pro Tools is loop record, then right click and send the takes to a playlist (which looks like Sonar's new Take Lanes). From there you can select individual phrases, audition the takes one by one in looped playback, and with the click of a button send them up to the main track. If Sonar has implemented that function, I've missed it.
    In general, Pro Tools also seems more tightly coded and engineered. There is no bloat in the layout. It automatically found all of my plug-ins on install without directing it to a folder location, and it automatically organizes them by type (EQ, Dynamics, Modulation, etc). Plug-ins seem to run more smoothly (in RTAS, AAX is another matter) and the whole thing seems lighter on system resources.
    Don't get me wrong, Sonar is a great DAW in many ways. For musicians, composers and anyone just starting out, it provides the most complete set of tools on the market. If you buy Sonar X2 Producer, you literally do not need to buy any other plug-ins or instruments (although Session Drummer is not too impressive) to do pretty much anything you want to do. You can make a complete, professional recording with what comes in the box. At times it seems it almost has too many options, making it hard to find what it is you want to do. Pro Tools is more streamlined.
    Mainly, it's the audio recording and editing, layout and workflow where Pro Tools is better. Unfortunately, those are the core functions of a DAW.
    post edited by AJ_0000 - 2013/07/01 12:20:11
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