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Is Cakewalk the best free DAW on the market

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Just a few quick comments.

Cakewalk was in fact losing money regularly with Roland and later with Gibson, except for a brief period of time (IIRC around when X3 came out). It always seemed like some level of success would be "just around the corner," but it never happened. The only influence the bankruptcy had was that if Gibson had been rolling in money, Henry might have kept Cakewalk going even though it was losing money, because he liked the program. But under any other circumstances, the financial performance had become increasingly unsustainable, especially when the competition started to include Reaper (essentially free), Audacity, FL Studio, etc.  

As to Ableton being overpriced, there are several tiers for the program - a free lite version, the $99 Intro version, and the $449 Standard version whose price is comparable to other programs ($100 less than Cubase, $50 more than Studio One, $30 less than Samplitude Pro, etc.). The Suite version is loaded with stuff that people may or may not need, and they can choose to pay the extra or not. (Also remember that Ableton is basically a two-product company. If they want to stay afloat, they have to get all the income from Live and Push.)

Komplete is done the same way - if you really want EVERYTHING, then you pay $1,599 for the Ultimate version but the $599 version does what most people want. PreSonus Sphere is conceptually similar. If you're a newbie and don't have sample libraries and other extras, it's an inexpensive way to build your studio. But if all you need is Studio One, then you just get Studio One.

The bottom line is there are plenty of choices at plenty of price points, and different programs have different strengths. Cakewalk need make no apologies, it's a comprehensive program that is free yet continues to be developed. I do wish BandLab would start selling add-ons, like some of the plug-ins and instruments that came with Platinum, but I suspect they have bigger fish to fry at the moment.

There are some things Cakewalk does better than other programs and some things it doesn't do as well as other programs...just like every DAW, right?

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30 minutes ago, Craig Anderton said:

There are some things Cakewalk does better than other programs and some things it doesn't do as well as other programs...just like every DAW, right?

^^ this ^^

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On 10/16/2020 at 8:00 AM, Teegarden said:
  1. You gave me the impression ("Free things usually garner few complaints", etc.) that in expensive DAWs more bugs are ironed out. My bad if misinterpreted your comments. The bugs in free are more acceptable in general, but not if you paid a lot for the DAW like Sonar users that continue to use CbB. And don't forget that there are several professional musicians and studios here on the forum. They can't afford to keep using a DAW that hampers their production...
    There are several users on the forum that use CbB next to other expensive DAWs. They prefer some things in one DAW and other things in another. I guess if you have Pro Tools, Cubase and are using CbB regularly or (as I understood form several most of the time) next to it it must be of comparable quality

I use Cakewalk on my Laptop for sketching out ideas on the go when I don't feel like carrying around my Cubase Pro dongle with me, which has several software licenses on it (Cubase Pro, WaveLab Pro, Groove Agent 5, and some VST Sound Libraries... basically a $1,500 dongle that I odn't want to have to risk breaking/losing/having stolen/etc. every time I need to leave my home studio and use my laptop).  Since I do most things in MIDI, this is trivially portable between DAWs.

Cakewalk makes perfect sense as a backup, in my case.  I'm certainly not going to use something like REAPER, given how atrocious the UI and UX is in that DAW (personal opinion).

Also, DAWs like Cubase pretty much need ASIO for optimal performance.  For just sketching out MIDI compositions, I like having a "portable DAW" with great WASAPI support on Windows (Generic Drivers are 16-Bit only for Steinberg, and ASIO4ALL is pretty janky and locks our audio drivers unconfigurably).  I don't want to have to carry around an Audio Interface, as well.

Lastly, some people don't have to luxury of choosing what they can afford.  A $560-750 DAW is completely off the table for them.  If they don't already own another supported commercial DAW, they may not even be able to utilize crossgrade options to DAWs like Cubase, Studio One, and others.

On Windows, Cakewalk is the best option in the lower end of the price bracket.  I don't even think that is  debatable, personally.  But if you can afford better, things get really competitive once you get to the  ~$100 cost tier (Studio One 5 Artist, REAPER (if you can stand to use it)).

Unless a DAW is shipping with content like Logic Pro X, I don't generally buy based on bundled content.  You can get SampleTank or  Komplete during sales for fairly decent prices and that will cover all of your bread and butter sounds.

On 10/16/2020 at 8:00 AM, Teegarden said:
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  2. See here above. Most Sonar oldies would leave if CbB if it were not up to the task. And people spend many hours to produce a piece of music that they are emotionally attached to. Nothing is more discouraging and frustrating than to see it fall apart because of time consuming bugs along the way or a crash just before finishing the master. Because of that I think that especially with something like a DAW most users will not stick to it if it does not operate well, even when being free
 

I don't expect anyone to drop a solution that works for them and PAY for another solution.  That's illogical. If they can deal with the quirks of the software - and all software has quirks - then I don't see any issue in them staying there.  That's the intelligent thing to do.  Responsible professionals do not DAW hop.  That's a waste of money and a productivity drain.

I've stated the reasons why I use two DAWs (purely for convenience reasons).  I could easily buy Cubase Elements for like $99 and that would probably work for what I use my Laptop for, but why pay $99 when I can just use Cakewalk and export MIDI clips that work flawlessly in Cubase?

On 10/16/2020 at 8:00 AM, Teegarden said:
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  3. You mis the point: I merely pointed out that since CbB is free, the DAW is even much better and better maintained and upgraded than it was at the time of being an expensive DAW, that paying a lot for a DAW can still lead to failure and that (at least in my case) this free DAW is much better than the paid ones in the past. And yes, I'm very critical regarding workflow, options, bugs etc. just like I was when I paid top dollar. If the DAW doesn't fits my needs, I'll leave it for another (paid or free, I don't care as long as it can do what I need it to do)
 

I don't miss the point.  I think I've been pretty clear that I think they are doing better under BandLab than under Gibson, where the focus was mostly on adding content bundles and marketing that.  I've stated this here, as well as on Reddit.  I've been pretty good at recommending Cakewalk on KVR, VI-Control, r/MusicProduction and r/EDMProduction - and I ALWAYS make sure to mention that the DAW gets really good active support from the developers; both bug fixes and new features.

People do not care how Cakewalk compares to Cubase 5.  They do care how it compares to REAPER 6 or whatever else they're considering.

I think for most producers and singer/songwriters, this DAW is totally fine.  The only people who may find lacks are Audio Engineers and more serious Composers - the former more than the latter, IME/O.

On 10/16/2020 at 8:00 AM, Teegarden said:
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  4. Or maybe they complain more, because they have more problems. Anyway, it is impossible to compare that. I think that the tone on the Sonar and CbB forum is was and is much more positive than usually found on other forums. People treat each other with respect and are very helpful. That might also explain the difference (and language) in forum topics🧐
 

No.  If you actually read the threads - which I do because I am a customer of theirs... 50% of them, as expected, are exaggerations and 25% of them are people who simply don't know how to operate the application.  This applies to other software as well.  I've read the Pro Tools forums 😛 

On 10/16/2020 at 8:00 AM, Teegarden said:
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  5. You miss the point that Bandlab invests a lot continuously. Talking about ROI I assume a corporate point of view, not consumer.
 

Most end users couldn't give a rat's *** about BandLab.  They're looking at it from their point of view.  I think you either have it backwards, or you're trying to flip this to create a point where none exists.  What you're referring to is completely non-factor.

But it doesn't matter, because it's a $0 product, which is what my point is.  There is only something to gain by trying it, and this is what I tell people on Reddit.

Cakewalk should be the default first try for anyone on the Windows Platform who is looking for a DAW - much like GarageBand/Logic Pro X is on the macOS Platform.  I don't think anyone should pay for anything without first trying it.  You start with Cakewalk, and you move off of it if it doesn't meet your needs/requirements, you have to use a different DAW for frequent collaboration with other artists, or you are deep in a market where it isn't as strong as other DAW which may come with fairly low price tags, anyways.

Otherwise, why not.  Get it and sit on it.

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56 minutes ago, Maestro said:

I use Cakewalk on my Laptop for sketching out ideas on the go when I don't feel like carrying around my Cubase Pro dongle with me, which has several software licenses on it (Cubase Pro, WaveLab Pro, Groove Agent 5, and some VST Sound Libraries... basically a $1,500 dongle that I odn't want to have to risk breaking/losing/having stolen/etc. every time I need to leave my home studio and use my laptop).  Since I do most things in MIDI, this is trivially portable between DAWs.

Cakewalk makes perfect sense as a backup, in my case.  I'm certainly not going to use something like REAPER, given how atrocious the UI and UX is in that DAW (personal opinion).

Also, DAWs like Cubase pretty much need ASIO for optimal performance.  For just sketching out MIDI compositions, I like having a "portable DAW" with great WASAPI support on Windows (Generic Drivers are 16-Bit only for Steinberg, and ASIO4ALL is pretty janky and locks our audio drivers unconfigurably).  I don't want to have to carry around an Audio Interface, as well.

Lastly, some people don't have to luxury of choosing what they can afford.  A $560-750 DAW is completely off the table for them.  If they don't already own another supported commercial DAW, they may not even be able to utilize crossgrade options to DAWs like Cubase, Studio One, and others.

On Windows, Cakewalk is the best option in the lower end of the price bracket.  I don't even think that is  debatable, personally.  But if you can afford better, things get really competitive once you get to the  ~$100 cost tier (Studio One 5 Artist, REAPER (if you can stand to use it)).

Unless a DAW is shipping with content like Logic Pro X, I don't generally buy based on bundled content.  You can get SampleTank or  Komplete during sales for fairly decent prices and that will cover all of your bread and butter sounds.

I don't expect anyone to drop a solution that works for them and PAY for another solution.  That's illogical. If they can deal with the quirks of the software - and all software has quirks - then I don't see any issue in them staying there.  That's the intelligent thing to do.  Responsible professionals do not DAW hop.  That's a waste of money and a productivity drain.

I've stated the reasons why I use two DAWs (purely for convenience reasons).  I could easily buy Cubase Elements for like $99 and that would probably work for what I use my Laptop for, but why pay $99 when I can just use Cakewalk and export MIDI clips that work flawlessly in Cubase?

I don't miss the point.  I think I've been pretty clear that I think they are doing better under BandLab than under Gibson, where the focus was mostly on adding content bundles and marketing that.  I've stated this here, as well as on Reddit.  I've been pretty good at recommending Cakewalk on KVR, VI-Control, r/MusicProduction and r/EDMProduction - and I ALWAYS make sure to mention that the DAW gets really good active support from the developers; both bug fixes and new features.

People do not care how Cakewalk compares to Cubase 5.  They do care how it compares to REAPER 6 or whatever else they're considering.

I think for most producers and singer/songwriters, this DAW is totally fine.  The only people who may find lacks are Audio Engineers and more serious Composers - the former more than the latter, IME/O.

No.  If you actually read the threads - which I do because I am a customer of theirs... 50% of them, as expected, are exaggerations and 25% of them are people who simply don't know how to operate the application.  This applies to other software as well.  I've read the Pro Tools forums 😛 

Most end users couldn't give a rat's *** about BandLab.  They're looking at it from their point of view.  I think you either have it backwards, or you're trying to flip this to create a point where none exists.  What you're referring to is completely non-factor.

But it doesn't matter, because it's a $0 product, which is what my point is.  There is only something to gain by trying it, and this is what I tell people on Reddit.

Cakewalk should be the default first try for anyone on the Windows Platform who is looking for a DAW - much like GarageBand/Logic Pro X is on the macOS Platform.  I don't think anyone should pay for anything without first trying it.  You start with Cakewalk, and you move off of it if it doesn't meet your needs/requirements, you have to use a different DAW for frequent collaboration with other artists, or you are deep in a market where it isn't as strong as other DAW which may come with fairly low price tags, anyways.

Otherwise, why not.  Get it and sit on it.

Let's stop wasting time and let's make music, each on his preferred DAW 😘

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I think this discussion -- "which has turned into some sort of heated debate" between @Maestro @Teegarden and @Craig Reeves is interesting, but I feel one crucial information has been left out.

First of all, there's been some really interesting pointers given and counter attacks too. I feel this is unfair though, Meaning - We can't really make comparisons or compare Cakewalk with the DAW's mention in previous replies nor we actually say and to quote what Maestro said: I bet more professionals use Logic Pro X than they do Cakewalk. 

Of course, this will is true. So is it for FL Studio; Cubase; Pro Tools and Ableton -- why though? Well, your standard system in any professional studio's are Mac. That's why every professional studio uses Pro tools, Logic and FL Studio as their standard DAW. Cakewalk is yet to migrate over into that world. Gibson had a beta version running with Sonar, but hack knows what happen to it after they've shut down. So it's unfair to say or claim such discussion. If Cakewalk had to migrate over to Mac 30 years ago - I bet this debate would've gone differently. So, I think there's a bit of a disadvantage in the discussion on this.

Yeah, I will go as far to say -  for me, personally it's the best free "Windows DAW" out on the market right now. 

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2 hours ago, Will_Kaydo said:

I think this discussion -- "which has turned into some sort of heated debate" between @Maestro @Teegarden and @Craig Reeves is interesting, but I feel one crucial information has been left out.

First of all, there's been some really interesting pointers given and counter attacks too. I feel this is unfair though, Meaning - We can't really make comparisons or compare Cakewalk with the DAW's mention in previous replies nor we actually say and to quote what Maestro said: I bet more professionals use Logic Pro X than they do Cakewalk. 

Of course, this will is true. So is it for FL Studio; Cubase; Pro Tools and Ableton -- why though? Well, your standard system in any professional studio's are Mac. That's why every professional studio uses Pro tools, Logic and FL Studio as their standard DAW. Cakewalk is yet to migrate over into that world. Gibson had a beta version running with Sonar, but hack knows what happen to it after they've shut down. So it's unfair to say or claim such discussion. If Cakewalk had to migrate over to Mac 30 years ago - I bet this debate would've gone differently. So, I think there's a bit of a disadvantage in the discussion on this.

Yeah, I will go as far to say -  for me, personally it's the best free "Windows DAW" out on the market right now. 

 
 
 

Clarification is definitely needed:

  1. The person I responded to stated that Cakewalk was the most used DAW "on the Windows platform."  This is the specific statement I disagreed with.  macOS has nothing to do with that, and Logic Pro X is irrelevant considering Apple discontinued the Windows version of Logic upon acquiring eMagic.  This is called "moving the goal post."
  2. FL Studio didn't get native macOS support until 2018.    98.6% of its success came as a Windows-only DAW, and a pretty sizable chunk of that was due to how easily pirated that DAW was.
  3. Digital Performer was macOS only until version  2012.  Being macOS only didn't stop it from being heavily "niched off."  DP is older than Cubase, and yet was overtaken  on macOS by Cubase, when Cubase started off as a Windows-only DAW and was ported a decade or more after DP's initial versions.
  4. Cubase started off as a Windows-only DAW. -^^^
  5. Pro Tools' Dominance has much to do with the fact that it was a frontrunner in developing the Digital/PC Recording market, aided largely with the hardware that integrated with it.    It  was Windows-only, it still would have become the recording standard because nothing else was nearly as good at Pro Tools at delivering the solution DigiDesign were selling.  DAWs like Performer, Cubase, and SONAR started off as MIDI Sequencers.

I think you are severely overrating just how valuable "being on macOS" actually is.  You're also overestimating its market penetration in the creative market.  

Even if you look at a lot of the famous producers and composers on YouTube... many of them run Windows.

The Creative = Mac is largely vestigial on the eve of  2020.

Edited by Maestro

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30 minutes ago, Maestro said:

I think you are severely overrating just how valuable "being on macOS" actually is.  You're also overestimating its market penetration in the creative market.  

I guess when you read "too much" in what someone was trying to say - this tend to happen. Yet, you're still making comparisons between DAW's that migrated between Mac and Windows and a "Windows only" DAW. 

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Part of fault is on Windows as an OS, as they have been ignoring developing a stable audio engine for so many years, even today if I want have to use WASABI mode, I get different latency output in preferences every time I launch Cakewalk.

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5 hours ago, chris.r said:

Part of fault is on Windows as an OS, as they have been ignoring developing a stable audio engine for so many years, even today if I want have to use WASABI mode, I get different latency output in preferences every time I launch Cakewalk.

 

WASAPI has existed since Windows Vista, and works well.  Vista was released in 2006, over 14 years ago.

The issue is that DAW developers have been slow to adopt support for it, with even some Windows-only DAWs lacking support for WASAPI.

It's not as good as Core Audio, but it's not othe sh*t show that a lot of people make it out to be.

Professionals will always have an Interface with ASIO drivers, anyways.  This is not as huge an issue as many people make it out to be.

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10 hours ago, Will_Kaydo said:

I guess when you read "too much" in what someone was trying to say - this tend to happen. Yet, you're still making comparisons between DAW's that migrated between Mac and Windows and a "Windows only" DAW. 

You're making no sense.

The person said "on the Windows platform."  Nowhere in that original statement was it stipulated that SONAR could only be compared to "Windows-only DAWs." - particularly as this list grows smaller and smaller, year over year, it makes literally no sense.  macOS is not what kept SONAR back, and you display a complete lack of understanding of how the digital music recording industry has evolved in her cited examples.

 I've given examples of DAWs with deep feature sets, which are relatively renown, and which never got to where Cubase, Live, or FL Studio have despite being exclusive to macOS until relatively recently (given how long they have existed).  I've also given an example of a DAW (you cited) that didn't make the move to macOS until 2018, yet has seen far more success than SONAR (as a commercial [sold for $$$]  product) - even before then.  

Cakewalk was getting shuttered when FL Studio was just moving to macOS. 

But you seem to have chosen to ignore this and repeat nonsense.

Ableton, Cubase, Studio One, REAPER, FL Studio, et al. are DAWs  "on the Windows platform."

They don't get  excluded from a conversation simply because their developers had the foresight to invest in a port and follow through with those plans at opportune times.

If macOS is as big a deal as you say it is... seems like the investment would have been worth it, no?

Stagnation and Product Direction hurt SONAR.  Not the lack of a macOS port.  There are more than enough Windows users (musicians, producers, etc.) to make an industry leading DAW and not be ono macOS.  If your product is it hat good, it will even pull users off of that platform.

Edited by Maestro

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