A weekend with Cakewalk's Sonar V-Studio 100

A digital music dilattente, I'm hardly qualified to evaluate the quality of Sonar's VS-100 compared to rival equipment. So I won't. Instead, I'll just tell you why I like this pricey $700 box, and look forward to the day I'm good enough at music to make it a worthwhile buy.The key point is that it's a unique box, combining MIDI controller, portable multi-track recorder, and mixer, all in case the size of a Harry Potter hardback. It even comes with a free DAW, Sonar VS, and a bunch of audio plug-ins--all you need are some instruments and mics to stick into it, and you have a complete music-making rig that'll serve both in the home studio and on stage. 've been playing with it for days, but have barely scratched the surface of what it can do.
Thoughts: • Hooked up via USB to a computer, it's a 24-bit interface with eight inputs, six outputs, and controls including transport, pan/volume knobs, and a 10cm fader. Phantom power is optionally supplied to two mic inputs; Hi-Z input allows guitar work without an amp; and a wee LCD display keeps track of what's going on. • It works with any DAW when set to work as a Mackie Control, but the one that comes free, Sonar VS, only works on Windows. The free plug-ins, however, work in OSX as well.
• At first it was frustrating, not least because of the complicated installation and MIDI setup. Realizing that it becomes an intergral part of your computer's setup, rather than just something you just plug into it, got me on the right track. • When not plugged into a computer, it can record WAV files directly to SD card slot from the mix. This "screw software" mode gives it an aura of awesomeness: where there is power and an SD card, this thing will help people make music. • It's compact, metal and blocky. The controls are sturdy: it feels like a touch piece of work.
• It has built-in reverb, a compressor and three-band equalizer that can be applied to inputs. The VS-100 isn't something to just buy on a whim and toy around with, as I've been doing, and as one might a pad or a keyboard. Nor does it seem the right first step for the beginner. As much as it invites me to stop messing around with Reason and make some real music, I can't honestly say I'm ready to make the $700 investment. But those who have a case for owning it--bulky equivalents or serious plans to combine real instruments with digital music-making--shouldn't ignore this weird little box's triple play of powerful features. Check out some video. Product Page [Sonar V-Studio]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com  
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5 Responses to A weekend with Cakewalk's Sonar V-Studio 100

  1. hohum says:

    Bleh, thanks for the painful reminder that most of my gear still takes SmartMedia cards (some of them 5V!)

    Which also revives my anger at the premise that SD is ‘smaller’ than SmartMedia… It may technically be true, but practically, it was always easier for me to lug around a vast number of the thin SmartMedias.

    Get off my lawn!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Looks like a nice bit of kit. Agree with #2 – lest anyone doubt real music can be made with Reason, checkout Simon Grey’s Refill tutorial http://www.propellerheads.se/substance/index.cfm?fuseaction=get_article&article=refill_tutorials

  3. Anonymous says:

    not counting Reason as a tool to make real music is only a testament to your musical adeptness. Otherwise decent review, thx!

  4. Anonymous says:

    BR-600 isn’t really comparable to this V-Studio. This thing has true XLR mic inputs, the BR only has 1/4 inch. It can be used as a control surface with automated fader, the BR cannot. This V-Studio is an actual audio interface, the BR is not. The V-Studio’s uses SD cards and The BR uses compact flash memory cards which are harder to find and hold less data. This V-Studio also doesn’t look plastic like the BR.

  5. Harold says:

    The Boss BR-600 is only $350 and seems comparable. No software though.

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