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Sonar X1 sound quality vs Samplitude Pro X

I'm looking for a DAW that does MIDI and Audio well.

I've played around with Sonar X1 and really like it. The new GUI is better and it just seems more user friendly now. For knowing almost nothing about it, I got it running and was creating music in a few hours. Its a MIDI giant for sure. MIDI is so tight, blows away Samplitude in that respect. Seems as fast as Reaper ( the dark horse).
Sonar never crashed on me and ran flawlessly.

Samplitude can't come close to the speed of Sonar's MIDI performance. Too bad, its really forcing me to look for a second DAW. The majority of my producing is VSTi and MIDI programming but I also need a good tracking/ hybrid system. The combination is proving to be a challenge. I'm thinking about buying an MPC5000 and going back to MIDI hardware.

Here's what I noticed about Sonar though. The sound quality was not there. I tried everything I could to get it to sound as full, clean and quiet as Samplitude ( using RME ADi-8 QS converters) should sound killer. Tracking audio at 88.2 , Vocals sounded like a toy compared to Samplitude. Sonar had noise in the background all the time and the actual recording of the vocals sounded smaller and metallic. Once again, when someone is testing a product on something, keep this in mind. Even a U87 sounded different between two DAW's.

This wasn't some clinical test but it was enough for me to 100% forget about Sonar as an audio system after knowing Samplitude.
So, the testimonials that all DAW's sound basically the same, no way. Sonar is great for MIDI and VSTi but its not a professional audio tracking system in comparison to Samplitude and Sequoia. Too Bad, I would have loved this platform.
I'm not asking for much. I don't need tons of Midi functions either. I just need something that is fast like Sonar and doesn't choke going between audio and Midi. So far Samplitude is king but its a bit sloppy for midi. erk... The perfect world, where are you?
PT 9 next and then Cubase.


Chuck Steak Thu, 11/03/2011 - 16:23

What a chimp I am! And here I am working with Cakewalk for 15 years and thought it sounded alright. Granted, not awesome, not ever. I have nice gear too, but I really always thought it was simply the sound from my converter's A2D. (Mic, Pre, EQ, Dynamics, etc) Does software have a sound? I mean, digital has a sound, but it's digital on the way in, so no change there right? Plug-ins, bad host code and drivers may have issues, causing miscellaneous problems, but if that's all ruled out, I thought it should be completely neutral. An interesting post indeed. Any further tests since the original post? I will be doing my own tests and will determine how overlooked this have been by me.

bigtree Thu, 11/03/2011 - 21:03

Interesting post, mostly believable... and weird how I hear a difference.

Three things you need to know about audio quality

  • Settings - There are many traps for young players when comparing audio from two DAWs, there are many settings that can be different, make sure you know what they are (numbered and discussed below).
  • Bits & Hz - Research has shown that for music distribution, 16 Bit @ 44.1 kHz (CD standard) is indistinguishable from 24 Bit @ 192 kHz in a sample of over 550 listeners1. In other words, more bits and higher bit-rates are not going to improve the 'quality' of your tracks.
  • Skill - The world is full of marketing departments trying to convince you that equipment and specifications can substitute for talent & hard work. This is not true, the 'performance' transcends the medium every time. The performance includes musicianship, vocals, orchestration, arrangement and the mixing decisions. These are all under your control and have little to do with the DAW software you use or plugins you have.


We are not saying that high quality analog gear, microphones, mic preamps and even 24 bit recording don't have a place or do not matter. These things definitely have a place in the production phase. What we are saying is the influence of the DAW in processing this information AND digital distribution formats greater than 16 bit @ 44.1 kHz have been vastly over-exaggerated in the minds of the music producing set. What matters most is mixing skill & performance. Both these 'essential elements' come from humans not the technology.

Well, that pretty much sums it up.

Pro Tool HDX is definitely BS and every other DAW is the same in sound? Its all about the math.

bigtree Thu, 11/03/2011 - 21:15

I'm debating revisiting 44.1 for stability and performance.

Don't higher freq sound sweeter at 88.2?
I've never tracked at 192 because I think its overkill but can't say ya or nay to which is better beyond my experience. I've never felt the need to change.
I'm assuming you posted this Dan because you are trying to get to the truth like me and this is one more article that has your attention or point to prove?

DAW's are equal but are they when you add the stuff that makes each one possible to make music? I think there is more to it.
If all we are talking about is 1+1 = 2 , I get that. Its so clinical.

My brain hurts.


bigtree Thu, 11/03/2011 - 22:54

Good to shed some humor, we need more of that. . .

I'm back for a lashing.

Personally, I'm focused on what I have now and how to use it better. More computing power would be nice though. thumb
To make my life easier, I'm heading back to specific dedicated hardware. I love ITB for all the editing and incredible convince but I really hate how cluttered and isolated it all is. I need some gear and keyboards around me ready at an arms reach. I like the screen but i don't like it all there. Digital is great , so is hardware. Balance the two world feels better to me.

Sonar is a great virtual DAW but its still ugly. No disrespect intended but Asian style consoles are plain ugly and cluttered. Where as Samplitude/ Sequoia is a complete workstation with mastering technology, geared towards live recording and mastering. Its designed like a console with big ass faders and killer plug-ins with great bus, aux and routing. It needs a bit more midi and syncing optimizing but for a DAW, its awesome. The new Pro X Suite apparently has a good sampler added to it. You need a serious computer to unleash its full potential. The CP I have isn't enough so I'm looking for a custom PC that will do it.

The virtual sounds in Sonar sound very good but not awesome. It excels with midi and VSTi stability but the analog section sucked compared. Track a vocal line into it using the exact same hardware, Sonar did not sound as open and silky. Accordingly to this older article, the math says I'm delusional, go figure..

Chuck Steak Fri, 11/04/2011 - 07:05

OK, the curtain has been peeled back now. If we all agree that the DAW itself, in a neutral, non-processing position is colorless, then we need and SHOULD be discussing how good the sound of the processing is. EVERYONE loves to discuss how this Trident or this SSL or whatever sounds "good". Whatever that means, right? Analog gear, especially something as complex as a console or even an EQ does sound different from one box to the next, no question. After getting my degree in sound engineering, I worked in a very large commercial studio for five years . During that time, with my young and fresh ears, I did indeed learn to use them as a tool, subjective or not, and became discerning in my gear choices. I was lucky enough to touch some of the greatest classic gear. Real Neve, SSL, Fairchild, Tube Tech, Summit, GML, Studer, Pultec and so on, were highly available to me. There was indeed reason behind these very expensive purchases, because next to dBx, Alesis and what not, they sounded a lot better. They also sounded worlds better than almost anything digital from that time. (This was around 1995.) This is also still true today, just not as much. I think we can all agree on this condition, and it's not what I want to discuss.

What I want to discuss, is how the included channel processing and various plug-ins for "in the box" work, sound to experienced ears from one DAW to the next. This should be compared to their hardware cousins, as we know through decades of use, sound very good. BTW -Please point me in the right direction if there's a better thread for me to latch onto. Let's compare what we have with what we know is great sounding. I haven't been to enough places in this forum yet where this is the discussion topic, and I certainly do not hear about it in the magazines and other media that are bought and sold by advertising money. Also, this is an elusive problem to overcome for me, because I still have reservations about believing that ITB mixing is going to be tolerable AND provide decent results. I do really REALLY want to make a permanent decision, and embrace this seemingly ineveitable progression of technology. I want to sell a lot of my outboard gear and replace it with desk space, swap the large format console for a boutique recording path, and never look back. HOWEVER- this scares the crap out of me because I come from hardware that can be relied on and is predictable. Making the change is a significant departure for me from what I'm used to, and because of the costs involved, once I do commit, there's no turning back.

So, back to DAW sound, and trying to conclude what sounds good, and when enough is enough. If I go ITB for my mixing, I'll be stuck with a need for many EQ's and compressors, per track. Therefore I'll need something that not only sounds great, but doesn't overwhelm the host system. This, in my opinion, should be the sole goal of processing software designers. Give us the bread and butter, and leave the boutique emulations to the dreamers. Does anyone have insight on which DAW, much like a great analog console, has a great processing sound and practical usability? Maybe start with sound, as that's a little more important to me. I work in technology and can always throw more hardware at a DAW, even though this is rarely a concern in these days of cheap memory, storage and processing. But I digress...
I sure would like to rely on some good, yet simple EQ and compression, and not have to search through the unending quagmire that is plug-in software design. The market is oversaturated with rubbish products and false claims. I really don't mean just the little guys or freeware either, the bigger companies constantly barrage us with crap. To get back to the original discussion here, ALL DAW's will have strengths and weaknesses, but we need just ONE that will do all of the basics properly. (audio processing, advanced MIDI, routing, and stability) Anything else should be the job of add-ons and thrid party development.

Concerning when to stop experimenting and tell yourself that enough is enough, my general advice to engineers of all types (including myself), whether a new hand learning from the beginning, or an old hand learning a new DAW, is that you have to first be aware of when analytical thinking has overwhelmed creative action. Get your toolset together, everything you'll need and trust, and stick to it for some time. Working in a constained environment will spark creativity and you'll learn your toolset better. Stop trying everything unless you're really stuck. It's addictive, I know, but producing a finished project is what matters in the end.

bigtree Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:39

Chuck Steak, you ask the best question going right now. Welcome to the growing hybrid crowd, also in question.
For me, there is no doubt hybrid is the best of both worlds.

No matter what year it is, there will always be plug-ins that hog CPU, create conflicts and disrupt things. I'm constantly questioning plug-in integrity and accel cards. What a racket. I use as little plug-ins as I can and plan to keep it that way.

Personally, I wouldn't be selling your hardware. With the announcement of the HDX system, Avid has created another sell your gear FAST frenzy. Its a buyers markets.

I ask myself. Does a piece of analog hardware cause any conflict with the DAW? I'm acquiring hybrid gear to glue everything better and to help take pressure off the CPU. There are smart companies designing super quiet hardware focused around the hybrid summing crowd.

After an expensive lesson and reading these forums for 13 years, the interface is the place to spend money, and maybe the DAW for sound I dunno.
Don't get locked into a system that controls your ability reach out into the hybrid world, its the boutique hardware that makes us unique and sound above the crowd.
Look for companies that embrace the circle of standards , don't lock yourself into a corner. That's my take on it all.

I'm loving learning how to combine the best of both worlds. I choose Sequoia because it has everything you need while allowing me to work freely with the outside world. I choose it because Mastering engineers have been working with it for years. I've read it processes everything the best, again, I don't know. The editing is fantastic and it sounds like the source I put into it. I follow the ME.

bigtree Sat, 11/05/2011 - 19:13

Well does that bite. Preparing for this fun day to find Sonar X1 demo copy has expired. I may pay for the upgrade.

Stay tuned... I will get to the bottom of this for my own satisfaction thumb

bigtree Mon, 11/07/2011 - 10:59

no one cares to chat about this anymore, it really should be a top priority question. Other than our personal workflow, the sound should be the highest priority yes? I mean we buy all this expensive gear and then dummy it up by sending our pristine sound into some DAW that could be effecting everything?

I thought I'd look around for more opinions. The null test is impressive but its not convincing me. The more I read, the less anything is convincing except what I hear in my own world. While you're on pins and needles ( hehe) humming and hawing waiting for me to upgrade to X1 so I can do this again, I found this. [[url=http://[/URL]=""]Which DAW sounds best?[/]=""]Which DAW sounds best?[/]

Chuck Steak Mon, 11/07/2011 - 11:30

What's the trouble with the upgrade? I'm a try before buy guy, so I'll get a copy before I purchase anything. Let me know if you need any assistance with this.
Also, I think people probably would love to discuss this in great detail, but the title of this thread is most likely killing the conversation. Who cares about Samplitude? hahaha JK :tongue:

Secondly, you almost sound like you're back peddling. I'm done thinking about if one DAW sounds better than another. I've convinced myself, based on years of DAW use, that it just doesn't matter. Again, I largely process out of the box, and use my console for EQ and dynmaics. I trust my converters and everything running in the signal path before the DAW. My results are mostly consistent and acceptable, and this is through both Cubase 6 and Sonar X1. What I'm mic'ing is what I'm hearing in the monitor path. Also, when I do use pluggies, it's only the 6 or 7 that I've thoroughly tested and trust. (Lexicon PCM, Waves misc., Steinberg misc., Ohmforce, and very VERY little else)

The only remaining question for me is if I can stand mixing in the box exclusively, and still get good mixes. I plan on disengaging my hardware console. I'll use it solely as a 2 track return from the DAW. I'll then mix with pluggies for all EQ, FX, and dynamics as well as busing and summing and see what's what. It may not be objective in the end, but as you said, I trust what I'm hearing in my own world.

I checked out [[url=http://[/URL]=""]Which DAW sounds best?[/]=""]Which DAW sounds best?[/], and the author agrees with my determinations. Now if I can get software to sound as good as my hardware, and at the same time not want to punch my keyboard over and over, then I'll be on a promising road. I can then invest in a real controller and stellar converters. Have you seen this thing?
This kicks major ass, and is what originally got me excited again about the prospect of going ITB exclusively.

bigtree Mon, 11/07/2011 - 11:47

and here. Cool, thanks for your offer.

No I'm not back peddling, I'm wanting to do this really well now. My demo expired and can't buy it right now but in the mean time I'm preparing do it right and asking more about it because it is very interesting to me. The null test, is that what tells the truth? I need to do this for my testing.

I'm not so bent on this and like you, use what I find worlds for me, but I'm looking for a second DAW to dig in on and be done with it. The simple comparison I did kind of blew me away. I never expected this. I've always thought a DAW was a DAW until you introduce a change.

What is the best way to do a test like this?

bigtree Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:11

To do this correctly this has been suggested:
Use RME Digicheck recording function, then load this wave file in the different DAW's, then play it in the same soundcard / monitoring and a complete null should occur.

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hueseph Mon, 11/07/2011 - 19:27

I had to try X1 to see what all the hubub is about. This is my first impression. I hate it. I don't care if it does sound better. I don't like the way it works. I find 8.5 much easier to navigate. X1 is just a pain for routing IMHO. I like to be able to find what I want right away. It took me seconds to find my way around Samplitude. I'm glad I tried it first because I was on the verge of buying it the other day. I'm glad I didn't to be totally honest. I'm happy with what I have. Sonar 8.5 is a bit buggy here and there but over all, it has done it's job quite well when I've used it. I have to say that I'm drawn to Samplitude more but only because it's familiar. Routing makes sense to me. Gonna try Pro X next.

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hueseph Mon, 11/07/2011 - 19:56

After having tried both trial versions now, I have to say that Samplitude wins hands down. It's no contest. I just couldn't work with Sonar X1 the way it's layed out. Samplitude Pro X is very intuitive. Navigating is simple and the program is responsive.

I had a lot of lag with X1 for no reason. My machine isn't particularly new but it's a quad core cpu and should be up to the task of say, opening a folder in very short order. Seriously. It took so long just to locate a folder to save in. I'm not talking minutes but a few seconds longer than Sam Pro X which was pretty well instantaneous. My personal guess is that it's poor coding.

I know there's a few people out there who really like X1 and that's great. I just personally find it too slow. It seems that there are some great plugins in X1 but I have my UAD. If I can get decent sound into the DAW to begin with, I won't worry too much about plugins. But, if I have to work just to get the sound in, I'll lose inspiration real quick and the sound won't matter much. It'll probably suffer. Anyway, that's just my opinion.