When Gibson announced it was shutting down Cakewalk back in 2017, things didn’t look great for the platform. But then BandLab Technologies scooped up the brand just a few months later and gave them new life.
Since then, Cakewalk by Bandlab was the go-to DAW for many Windows users. And now, Cakewalk has announced two new iterations of their music-making platform: Cakewalk Next and Cakewalk Sonar.
New Look & Branding
For starters, Cakewalk is ditching the “by BandLab” branding. They’ll now stand as an independent brand within the BandLab company.
They’ve also got a fresh new logo to go along with this change.
What is Cakewalk Next?
Cakewalk Next is a brand new DAW built from the ground up for Windows and Mac. It’s designed with ease-of-use in mind and appears to be more beginner-friendly.
Here are some of Next’s key features:
- Cross-compatibility with Mac & Windows — As a first for Cakewalk, Next will be compatible with both Mac and Windows devices.
- BandLab integration — Next lets you browse BandLab’s expansive library of royalty-free loops and samples within the DAW. You can also publish songs directly to BandLab from within Cakewalk Next.
- Built-in song templates — These track templates will give you a good jumping-off point for quick inspiration.
- Lyric editor — Write lyrics directly into the DAW and sync them to your track.
- VST and AU support — Expand the capabilities of Cakewalk Next with 3rd-party plugins and instruments.
- Sampler and Pad Controller — Create and edit custom sounds for your beats directly within Next.
The following is speculation on my part. But based on screenshots, Next looks like it shares a lot of DNA with the BandLab DAW for web browsers. As such, it’ll likely be the logical next step for avid BandLab users.
If you’re interested in Cakewalk Next, you can request access to the Beta on the Cakewalk website.
What is Cakewalk Sonar?
The name Sonar will be familiar to longtime Cakewalk users. Before the BandLab acquisition, Sonar was the name of Cakewalk’s flagship DAW.
Cakewalk Sonar will be the successor to the current Cakewalk by Bandlab application. It’ll have all the same features people love about CbB, along with an overhauled UI that aims to improve workflow.
So What Happens to Cakewalk by BandLab?
As of now, Cakewalk by Bandlab is still free to download.
That said, it will eventually be discontinued. According to a developer on the Cakewalk Discuss forums, CbB will receive one final update for bug fixes. After that, they’ll give their full attention to Next and Sonar.
Here’s what the Cakewalk team has to say in their FAQs:
“We will continue providing community support and maintenance for Cakewalk by BandLab until Cakewalk Sonar becomes publicly available. At some point after the release of Sonar, Cakewalk by BandLab will no longer be supported. Note that existing Cakewalk by BandLab users will be able to continue using the software after the release of Cakewalk Sonar. In the meantime, Cakewalk by BandLab continues to be available here.”Noel Borthwick, Cakewalk Developer
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Cakewalk Next and Cakewalk Sonar
This is a developing story, and Cakewalk has yet to release all the details. That said, they’ve addressed some questions and concerns on their website and in the forums. Keep in mind that some of this will probably change as Cakewalk and BandLab reveal more information.
Will Next and Sonar be free like Cakewalk by BandLab?
They’ve yet to reveal pricing for either new product. According to Cakewalk, “Next and Sonar will be offered at price points designed to meet the needs of different customers.”
Reading between the lines, this basically confirms that neither program will be free.
But whether each program uses a subscription model or be sold as a one-time purchase remains to be seen.
We’ll learn more as each product gets closer to launch.
Are Next and Sonar the same thing?
These are not the same product, nor are they different versions of the same thing.
Next is a brand new DAW built from the ground up for both Windows and Mac computers. On the other hand, Cakewalk Sonar is the continuation of Cakewalk by BandLab and the legacy Sonar DAWs.
Will Cakewalk Next or Sonar overwrite Cakewalk by BandLab?
They will exist as separate programs and install to different locations. As such, they can co-exist in your computer and you can continue to access Cakewalk by BandLab after you’ve installed Next or Sonar.
Will the new Sonar support custom themes?
With the refreshed UI, support for custom themes will be going away. Here’s what a Calkewalk staff member had to say on Cakewalk Discuss:
“Theming capabilities will change and there may be little to no customization in the first release of Sonar. That said, a tremendous amount of thought and effort have gone into this rework and we hope that the need for theming will be greatly diminished moving forward.”Jesse Jost, Cakewalk Staff
Will my old Cakewalk sessions work with Sonar or Next?
Projects made with Cakewalk by Bandlab and older versions of Sonar should continue to work with the new Sonar. However, they most likely won’t work with Next.
Download Cakewalk by BandLab Before for Free Before It Goes Away
With all this huge news, it looks like the Cakewalk by BandLab’s days are numbered. Free or not, it’s genuinely my favorite DAW to work with and by far one of the best free options for Windows users.
If you haven’t downloaded it yet, be sure to pick it up before it goes behind a paywall.
Cakewalk is a professional-level DAW with features that stand up against other premium applications. It comes with a robust set of tools for recording, editing, and mixing audio. The DAW also features light integration with Bandlab's online platform.
- Based on Cakewalk's legacy Sonar DAWs
- Professional-level features for audio editing, mixing, and mastering
- Integrates with Bandlab's online DAW
- Dozens of FX plugins and ProChannel modules
- Free to download
- MIDI editing is a bit clunky
- Only available for Windows