Locking Into a Digital Recording Platform in a Good Way

I’ve used Cakewalk/12-Tone products since I had my first 8-bit MS-DOS PC, and I’ve gradually upgraded to their top-of-the line, although I have to confess that I haven’t even used every annual upgrade, because sometimes what changed the most was features I didn’t use anyway.

Now that I’ve been thinking about setting up my studio again, I’ve been tempted to go to ProTools, but 90% of the reason for that is that it’s what most of my friends use, including some folks that I would really like help from on certain projects.

Things that put me off switching to (or even adding) ProTools include:

  • A relatively high introductory price unless I finagled one of the “special” deals (like buying a piece of hardware I don’t need to get a discount and upgrade rights to the current edition, or using my Student ID to a college where I occasionally take classes to get an Academic version). Yes, if you go right to Sonar Platinum, you’ll spend money, too, but that’s a “sunk cost” for me, since I’ve owned Cakewalk’s best sequencers since they introduced Cakewalk Pro Audio. If I really needed any of the features that ProTools offered (besides a certain level of compatibility), that wouldn’t necessarily be a consideration, but I don’t.
  • The copy protection/Dongle thingie – I had a bad experience with that sort of thing back when I started sequencing (with another brand that has long since died), and I lost all my sequences at the time. Now I realize that the stuff I sequenced in the 1980s wasn’t THAT great a loss, but still, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know if I’m SUPPOSED to by today’s agreement, but I can leave an identical copy of Sonar active on my laptop and my desktop at the same time, so it’s a piece of cake to swap sequences back and forth – the desktop for serious arranging, the laptop for field work etc. And I don’t need to get a dongle working on two different computers to do it. Again, that’s a minor consideration, but there it is.
  • Also the cost of upgrading from one release of Pro Tools to the next seemed high. Which leads me back to the compatibility question. My several friends who are using Pro Tools are all using different releases – some of them haven’t upgraded for one of the same reasons I haven’t switched over – the upgrade provides or affects features they don’t need any way.

And, except for better compatibility with my friends’ studios, ProTools does not offer me one feature that I need which I don’t already have with Sonar Platinum and the add-ons I’ve picked up over the years. So, to me, compatibility with my friends’ studios – many of which aren’t THAT compatible with each other (all being on different releases) – doesn’t really seem like the best reason for spending several hundred $$$ over the next ten years to get something that is different, but not better.

Why This is Coming Up Now
Between now and the end of June, Cakewalk is making all future upgrades to Sonar Platinum free to anyone who buys the next upgrade. I hate to say it, but I feel more inclined to stay with Sonar than ever. Certainly it beats the specter of paying big bucks to upgrade ProTools every couple of years for the rest of my life.

Obviously, if you’ve already invested in ProTools, and it’s what you’re used to, you’d be an idiot to switch to any other software. Let’s face it; it’s still the “industry standard” and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

But if you have some version of Sonar, or are working with one of the “entry-level” systems that come with some hardware pieces, consider upgrading to a system that is committing to “being there” for you for life.

Guess that’s one decision less to worry about!


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like CreekDontRise.com, ClassicTrainSongs.com, and SchoolOfTheRock.com to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

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