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Since Cakewalk moved to a new sales and distribution model for its flagship SONAR DAW, the company has been especially active with updates. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it’s kind of the point of their new approach. The exact details are a little long-winded but essentially from a year after purchase you can pay an ongoing monthly fee to keep receiving updates. Rather than releasing one massive update a year (and charging more for it), Cakewalk rolls out decent-sized feature updates more regularly. As a model it’s not for everyone, but there’s certainly a lot to be said for not having to wait for a huge upgrade to add significant features.

Commendably, features that are in development are listed on the product website, which makes a nice change from the usual secrecy that surrounds upcoming software releases. The latest update, available now, is codenamed “Ipswich” and has some stuff that you’ll definitely want to use. And frankly if you’re already paying to keep receiving updates, why wouldn’t you install them?

There’s an exhaustive list of what’s new and how it works here but the big tentpole additions include direct synth recording, which lets you convert virtual signal to real audio parts without having to bounce down first. This seems to work by making internal routing easier, so that the output of a virtual instrument can be made the input of an audio track. This is possible in some other DAWs already but it’s a nice addition anyway. You also get funky-looking “style dials” that can be used to control several parameters at once and the ability to save export presets, which is handy for saving time exporting or bouncing different projects using a specific bunch of settings without having to recreate them each time.

One of the other theories behind regular updates is that since they don’t make sweeping changes to the core app like major updates do, they’re less likely to cause compatibility problems. You’d certainly hope so; the idea of updating your DAW a dozen times a year would make a lot of producers tremble with fear.

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