Is Cakewalk Sonar X2a On Windows 8 The Future Of DAWs?

Cakewalk has announced SONAR X2a – an update to the popular Windows DAW which includes many fixes, enhancements, plus support for multi-touch.

Since music apps first started appearing on Apple’s iPad, many users have been anticipating the same types of multi-touch interaction coming to traditional DAWs. Sonar X2a is a major step in that direction.

SONAR X2A offers a new creative environment on touch enabled devices. Highlights include:

  • Skylight User Interface
    • Pinch-to-zoom horizontally and vertically on tracks and other data.
    • Swiping gestures to scroll through different components of the project.
    • Arranging the work-space by re-positioning, dragging, docking and un-docking.
  • Matrix
    • Touch transforms any touch screen into a virtual pad controller for triggering.
    • Preview, and then drag-and-drop loops into cells in the Matrix View.
    • Adjust all settings in the Matrix View.
  • Mixing
    • Console View fully supports multi-touch.
    • Automate and control faders, plugins, ProChannel parameters, the Inspector and more.
    • Navigate through the views easily by swiping and scrolling tracks vertically and horizontally.

Is Sonar X2a + Windows 8 the future of DAWs? Check out the video and the details and let us know what you think!

Windows 8 Multitouch + Sonar X2a

With Sonar X2a, Cakewalk is bringing the type of multitouch that most associate with iPads and other tablets to a full-fledged Windows DAW. According to Cakewalk, the touch experience on Windows 8 lends itself perfectly to music composition with instant visual and audio response.

Some of the basic features for music production include touch, multi-touch, scrolling, dragging, holding, zooming, swiping and tapping in different musical environments.  Some examples include sliding a fader (or multiple faders) during the mixing process, tapping sample-loaded cells to trigger sounds, or zooming in and out by pinching to re-size the views.


The free SONAR X2a update for SONAR X2 Essential, SONAR X2 Studio and SONAR X2 Producer will be available December 21, 2012 via a free download from the Cakewalk site.

36 thoughts on “Is Cakewalk Sonar X2a On Windows 8 The Future Of DAWs?

  1. It definitely could be something special if it wasn’t so full of bugs. I was a long time Sonar user but had to give up after X1. I keep trying each new patch/version hoping they can get it sorted but as soon as a track reaches any sort of complexity the whole app goes tits up on me. I’m not using any plugins that are not perfectly fine in Ableton.

  2. Logic Pro x mactab pro the sooner the better for me why isn’t apple all over it ?
    Audiobus proved the supply and demand if windows pips them to the post it wouldn’t be surprising

  3. Hm… I can’t imagine working like this for hours. My hands will get tired too quickly.
    My arm is much more relaxed and the movement it’s not that much with the mouse/keyboard.
    It’s not just about sonar, it’s a general issue.
    Yeah, it’s cool and looks like “minority report” and stuff, but at the end of the day…

  4. Spot on about the arms up thing. Just sitting at a desk for hours is hard enough on the human body, let alone using your arms like that. Also, these are low-value inputs to the app, which require maximum physical activity. Scrolling and moving objects is actually slower when you factor in the time it takes to move the arm up, make the big gesture, and move the arm back to the keyboard/mouse.

    All that being said, I think they actually did a really reasonable and smart integration of touch by restraining it to some low value stuff and not requiring it. I already do those same sorts of things in other applications using the Apple Trackpad on my iMac and it works well. But moving my wrist slightly to get from a mouse to a trackpad is a lot different than spending a ton of money on a big touch screen and then raising my arm up every time I need to scroll. Compare that process to the speed and simplicity of zoom/scrolling in Ableton’s arrange view with one click and it really shows it’s weakness.

  5. This looks pretty good for a first try – but nothing essential yet.

    For the people with the tired arms, remember that this isn’t a substitute for using a mouse or a trackpad, this is an additional option to use when it makes sense.

    Imagine using the Propellerhead Rack with a big multitouch screen or with the session view in Ableton Live!

    It’s not just a matter of putting a touchscreen on old apps, though. It will only become essential when developers start getting creative.

  6. Have some of you old fogies ever seen the way a Wacom tablet/desk is positioned for Artists? Use your dang skull! bunch of cry babies complaining about nonsense.

    1. Use yours! Putting the screen in a desk position is even worse! Unless you hover your arms non stop, you have to rest then on the screen. That means you are inadvertently activating unwanted touch input, blocking what you need to see, and adding tons of smudges and scratches. “Touch” doesn’t equal “magic”.

  7. lol .. oh jeez this looks soo hard. Already I do enough walking and driving around and stuff in one day. cant i just sit in one spot and rot . maybe use my brainwaves to control everything. jeez . life is too hard.

  8. There are so many occasions, where touch is not precise enough, not to speak of the times when you accidentially touch something in error or too quickly and it is recognized as input. Touch can never replace the accuracy of a mouse or tablet, simply because fingers are way too big. A solution would be to make input elements bigger and bigger – but it is questionable if this is always a good idea. And finally, I don´t wanna clean my screen every two hours (just look at how bad an iPad looks after a few hours of usage).

  9. Anything where your hands cover the screen is not going to be good for precision. I’d prefer a giant touch pad with multiple pointers on screen that correspond to each touch point.

    Touch is an interesting idea, but neither the arms in the air version, nor the artist “screen on the desk” version appeal to me.

  10. no it’s not. people must stop thinking about DAWs and tablets or whatever touchy thing. music aps are perfectly fine but when I’m using a DAW I want the most advanced thing that it’s capable of handling my 2 edits per seconds speed. A DAW shoud be what it is .. an workstation.. for people that want to work. I don’t see anyone in my office using tablets… that’s because they’re not for work. tablets shoud be used for what they are good at not try and move everything form pc to tablet. anyway, windows 8 is a major fail. i don’t see this combination as future of anything

  11. ohh.. it’s sonar still windows only.. talk about the future. Even Fruitty loops is moving to mac ffs. oh .. and don’t get me wrong.. i’m an windows user, but this is just lame

  12. I don’t understand why people get to make such large claims as “DAW of the future” when this touch technology has been around for way more than 2 years. FL Studio has had touch functionality with many touch devices since the 10. betas; REAPER has had this functionality since v. 4. What’s more, both are far less expensive than SONAR, and WAY more stable. With FL Studio coming out in 64-bit soon, this will be the DAW of the future. Combined with FL Studio mobile on Android and iOS devices, we will see a move to mobile music making.

    And after all this talk, OSC is mentioned no where… OSC is the future, not MIDI. Speaking of which, REAPER and FL Studio both support OSC. Sonar doesn’t.

    The fact of the matter is Sonar’s code base is poorly written. The application uses code that has not been updated for years, and they rarely update it. Compared to REAPER, where it is updated nearly every day, Sonar is a poor excuse for a DAW.

    1. Sean

      It’s very strange for you to diss Sonar compared to FL Studio, since Sonar is a real 64 bit app, has real multi-touch and is regularly updated.

      To each his own, though.

  13. Let me rephrase the question… What new dumb thing can we push as a trend onto consumers to spend some more money on? This.

    Sorry, I like to spend my money on stuff that is really useful and helps me record and make music. If I want to do gymnastics with my hands, I’m going to visit the gym. Give me mouse and a MIDI DAW controller any time. Physical controller with buttons and faders, not touch controller. Believe me, there’s nothing faster and more convenient than that. Mackie HUI for example. That thing feels awesome to work with.

  14. Live is killing it for me lately, and Live has the best integration with controllers I have seen to date (and the most original ways to make music with a DAW in recent history).

    Frankly, musicians want hardware controllers…tactile things that we can feel and interact with. While I have no problem with tablets or whatever being used as controllers, they are never going to completely replace knobs and sliders and buttons. It’s a simple question of human ergonomics and feedback. Moving your finger on a tablet or other touchscreen device (currently) simply does not provide the same visceral experience as twisting a knob on a controller.

  15. Gimmick. Pro users are always just going to use key commands. If I wanted a way to control faders with touch I would have just bought a midi controller with faders on it a long time ago. Sorry, but the only good thing from 80s sci-fi might be the soundtracks, certainly not the interface designs.

  16. Touch is cool when super mobile. Whoever said the old folks or mac users are jealous or need to get with it… Have fun with this …. The precision thing is it for me… On a daw the trackpad works perfect. There is not a single function that I think would work better by reaching to the scream, blocking the data around it with my fat fingers, greasing up my scream, having less accuracy etc. I tolerate this on my tablet on the go when the extreme portability out ways all of these things…. But my iMac or other desk top is far the preferred way to work than touching the screen…I guess the best analogy is yes I can type in my ipad but if I’m at home and want to write something really long or do it easily I will chose a real keyboard any day. But I’m just an old timer mac lover.

  17. For 2 people out of 30 who responded it seems to be…. Not sure that’s a positive enough reception to be the daw of the future….just give me an iOS version of ableton to start tracks on a la imaschine….and finish on ableton / iMac with my track pad and I will be happy as can be.

  18. I haven’t seen anyone mention the screen latency. It was pretty bad in their demos there whenever they horizontally scroll the screen at all. It is actually worse than Auria running on an iPad 3! What gives? That shouldn’t have anything to do with how you’re interfacing with it, that’s just crazy inefficient screen rendering if a modern PC can’t scroll.

    I think multi-touch in Live will be interesting since so much of the design is very similar to the way we work with touch interfaces already. Many people already use TouchAble and Griid as essentially mutli-touch Live for clip launching anyhow, but think about the way Live handles controls now. Damn near everything has an X/Y pad in it. Touch apps haven’t replaced my APC40, but Lemur and TouchOSC have greatly enhanced my Live experience.

  19. I can’t understand why people are upset about having to move their arms to touch something. you have to do that on a real mixing desk. with a proper set up there’s no reason this would be tiring.

    however the latency point is a good one.

    I love the idea of being able to slide faders up and down live all at once. you can’t do that with a mouse. also the physical size of the screen increases accuracy over tablets.

    the best part of a touch screen over the physical space is that the one piece of real estate (the screen) can be many things. not just a mixing desk.

    and there’s no reason you can’t have a mouse and second upright monitor for other tasks you prefer to do that way.

  20. This is a necessary step sideways in progress. The awkward aspects of touchscreening have to either be resolved or shown up as a mere novelty for many purposes, before it deserves a commitment. “Gorilla Arms” are counter to the workflow we’ve all learned to date. For my old-school mixer-scheme uses, a huge screen doesn’t offer better ergonomics. I WOULD go for a touch pad at roughly the mouse-level, which I could assign to a few major movements a pad could make easier, like multiple channel adjustments on the fly. Expanding a track section for a MIDI microedit and then reclosing it quickly with a pinch motion sounds appealing; editing a softsynth or automating an EQ curve still seems better with a mouse, for now.
    My prediction: touchscreens will be for quickie uses in public business settings (getting flight insurance at the airport before you board, gulp) or as accessories to one side of the central controls that fit the way our arms naturally swing. Range of motion will decide it. Small pads will spread like mushrooms; big ones will be fringe items, like 6-foot TVs.

  21. Oh gawd, cw is a really poor company with terrible products. Bugs bugs bugs bugs bugs! Waste of time. With each release they team up with a different 3rd party ‘Guitar Suite’ plug-in developer. NI Guitar Rig was one, then they moved on to another and others will follow. No 3rd party contract can last long for a program so bug ridden.

    AVOID BUGNAR X2 LIKE THE PLAGUE! It’s that terrible.

  22. cakewalk software is made for customers that love crashes. the track envelopes never worked. v-vocal still crashes. what happened to the v-vocal clock website that ran for years to count how long it was broken?

    the cw forum is a clown-fest of dedicated users that got the software to work for their projects. if they dug deeper they would see the defects. they seem content to accept a lot of the suggested work-arounds and shun anyone that feel the software should work without the work-arounds.

    It’s all very sad to have even been a part of. i’m sorry i ever purchased this software and actually thought it would get better.

  23. The “4 hours with arms up in the air thing”, is something stupid, that sounds like it would come from an apple user… unless apple had it first, and then it would be “magic” to them. I just KNOW, they wouldn’t dare say negative things if it were from apple, and they’d jerk to posters of steve jobs in their shower. Necrophilia is a sick thing people!!

    I would NEVER want to use touch screen continually. I would want to use touch screen when it made something easier or better for me. And for those thinking that can’t be, you’d be wrong. As Sonar Cakewalk, or producer, etc with touch was announced, they explained, OVER AND OVER, for block heads, that the concept was NOT to replace the mouse, but to add the extra functionality of touch. When I use touch on my Windows 8 machine, I don’t sit there all day with my arms in the air. I mostly use the keyboard, the mouse. And sometimes certain apps and thing pop up that are just easier to reach my hand out and tap and are more intuitive than positioning the mouse pointer. Actually a simple calculator with buttons is easier with touch screen then with a mouse. Sorry, you can try all you like, because I already did this test, and while I’m VERY dexterous (and good at games etc), I still find it more annoying to quickly position with a mouse, over and over for a stream of numbers to add, than a touch screen. Like if I have to add up 14 numbers, touch feels like I’m touching a real calculator. Mouse doesn’t. I would have believed differently until I tried it.

    I can’t put my finger on exactly why or what seems better with touch, until I give it a try, but there are things were it helps. NEXT, in the studio, you can have MULTI monitor setups, and dedicate a screen just for faders, effects, or instrument tapping, if you like for your your mix down. Up to 10 touches can happen at the same time, even from more than one person. I’d suspect no more than two people on a screen, but this could be easier for some mixing down a track than using mouse. I guess 3 people could fit on a really big monitor?

    There are other apps in sonar that allow for things like taping and getting different instruments. And if you had an emulation of a drum machine, they could make it so all the buttons work, but are on screen. When I work, I stay at my keyboard and mouse, and use the touch for certain things. It’s not that often, but it’s there, and it’s very nice. And YES, I think that does make sonar more futuristic to have that ability. The coolest thing I did was to take a kindle fire tablet to bed with me, pinch and zoom to a MOOG plugin (I had to install an android app to reach my PC), and was hearing the moog play down the hall in studio room. Yes, of course, there was a little lag due to the WIFI and all, but it was neat. On the actual monitor, on the local machine it’s much quicker response and worthy of being used for a mix down, if you have an up to date computer.

    So yeah, I’m smart enough to see you don’t have to hold hands in air for FOUR hours to get any benefits from the touch technology, screens can be positioned, and tilted, more than one screen, and it’s way cool. I’d say it IS the future of DAW, and has already come to pass. Now they just need to keep adding functionality as they come out with new updates. I’m pleased.

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