10 Reasons You Should Use Cakewalk by Bandlab

While I’ve used other DAWs like ProTools and Logic in the past, I always find myself coming back to Cakewalk. That’s not to say those are bad programs. Far from it!

But I’ve been using Cakewalk for nearly 10 years at this point in time. It’s been my DAW of choice for many reasons. Not only do I consider it to be the best free DAW for Windows, but I truly think of it as one of the best DAWs on the market today.

Here are just a few reasons you should consider using Cakewalk by Bandlab:

Reasons to Use Cakewalk by Bandlab

1. It’s a Professional-Level DAW

Cakewalk has been around for over 30 years in some form or another. In that time, it’s developed into one of the most powerful pieces of audio software available.

It has all the essential tools you need to create polished and professional-sounding music, podcasts, audiobooks, and more. This includes a huge range of built-in editing tools, effects, and other plugins.

Cakewalk has been used by Grammy-winning composers and producers, audio engineers, and millions of other musicians in all sorts of applications.

2. It’s Completely Free

That’s right. Free. At least for now.

Prior to 2018, Cakewalk was known as Sonar, a premium DAW that cost up to $500. After being acquired by Bandlab, it’s been made completely free.

That said, Cakewalk recently announced that they’re reviving Cakewalk Sonar, which will eventually replace the current version and no longer be free.

But for now, you can download and use Cakewalk by Bandlab without any forced restrictions or limitations. And even once the new Sonar is released, you can still keep using it.

Best Free DAW for Windows
Cakewalk by Bandlab
This is a full-fledged, professional DAW for Windows that can handle everything you’ll ever need.
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3. Powerful Audio Recording and Editing Tools

If there’s one thing a DAW should do well, it’s to record and edit audio. And Cakewalk is no slouch.

Connect any microphone or audio interface, and you can start recording high-quality audio right away. Then, edit your audio with advanced tools that let you adjust volume, stretch sounds, slice it, loop it, and so on. 

4. Powerful MIDI Tools

I primarily work with sample libraries, virtual synths, and other MIDI-based instruments, so a DAW with a robust set of MIDI controls is a must.

Cakewalk has everything you need to edit, program, and automate MIDI channels at an advanced level. You can enter notes individually with the click of a mouse, or play them using a MIDI controller.

5. Full Suite of ProChannel Tools

Cakewalk comes with a pretty large suite of mixing tools and plugins right out of the box. A lot of these come in the form of the ProChannel.

Essentially, the ProChannel houses a lot of modules used for mixing and effects:

  • Compressors
  • EQ
  • Reverb
  • Tube Saturation
  • Tape Emulator
  • And more!

These modules can be added, removed, and rearranged onto any audio track. And since they run natively in each track’s UI, you won’t need to bog them down with 3rd party plugins.

With that said, though…

6. Support for 3rd-Party Plugins

The ProChannel and Cakewalk’s other stock plugins are more than enough for you to get amazing results. But sometimes, you’ll want to branch out and explore what other companies are making.

Thankfully, Cakewalk supports 3rd-party VST plugins. In other words, it’s infinitely expandable.

If you’re looking for new instruments and plugins, try checking out some of these resources:

7. Great Virtual Instruments

While it’s not the largest selection, Cakewalk includes five instruments you can start making music with right away:

  • SI-Drum Kit
  • SI-Bass Guitar
  • SI-Electric Piano
  • SI-Strings
  • Cakewalk TTS-1 Synthesizer

The four SI Studio Instruments have loads of presets and controls, as well as pre-packaged loops and patterns to supplement and inspire your own music. Personally, I keep going back to the drums and bass guitar on a regular basis.

The TTS-1 synth also has a pretty wide selection of synth and general MIDI sounds, with options for built-in effects. In fact, it’s a repackaged version of the Roland SC-88, one of the biggest instruments of the ’90s.

You can supplement these by installing other free and paid virtual instruments. To start your collection, check out my picks for the best free orchestral VST instruments.

8. Strong Developer Support

After 30 years, Cakewalk by Bandlab is still going strong. The developers are continually providing updates on an almost monthly basis, adding features and fixing bugs at every opportunity.

The devs are very approachable too. You can reach out to them in the official Cakewalk forums to ask questions or report any bugs and issues.

9. An Active Community

Every DAW has its devoted following, and Cakewalk is no exception. It’s easy to ask questions or get help if you need it. Here are some active places where you can interact with other Cakewalk users:

10. Integration with Bandlab

In case you’re unaware, Bandlab is a free cloud platform that lets you create music and share it with the world. It’s like a social network and online DAW all rolled into one.

Back in 2018, Cakewalk’s assets were acquired by Bandlab Technologies. Since then, they’ve been adding features to better integrate the two platforms with each other.

For one, you can export your project from Cakewalk and continue mixing and editing your music as a Bandlab project, and vice versa. You can also upload your finished tracks directly to your Bandlab profile and share them with the world.

Plus, it’s easy to download and use royalty-free sounds from the Bandlab Assistant or the Bandlab Sounds webpage.

Cakewalk by Bandlab Not Your Thing? Check Out Cakewalk Next Instead!

Cakewalk by Bandlab is a pro-level DAW with a 30-year history. And even though it’s free, it might seem complicated and overwhelming to users who are completely new to music production.

If that’s you, then you might be looking for something with a simpler interface and workflow.

Cakewalk Next is an upcoming DAW created from the ground-up by Cakewalk and Bandlab. I got my hands on the beta release, and you can read more of my early impressions.