Cakewalk Sonar – No More Free Lunch!

In this post, I would like to share the latest news about Cakewalk by Bandlab. Bandlab has confirmed that the free DAW won’t be free for much longer. This announcement may disappoint some of you, primarily because Cakewalk by Bandlab provides all the features of a fully functional DAW, making it an exceptional value in the music production industry and competing with many paid alternatives.

A History Lesson

In case you’re unfamiliar with Cakewalk, here’s a brief history. I’ve been using their DAW for a while now, and there have been plenty of changes over the years. I started with Sonar Home Studio 4XL, a toned-down version of their flagship program, Sonar. I enjoyed using it so much that I eventually upgraded to Sonar 5, 6, 8.5, X1, and X2.

Change was no stranger to Cakewalk during the years I used Sonar as my main DAW. First, Roland acquired Cakewalk, then sold it to Gibson in 2017. Unfortunately, Gibson didn’t have a clear plan for Sonar’s future. Second, there were discussions about creating a version for Mac users, which excited me since Sonar was previously only available for Windows. However, the development only reached the Alpha phase before disappearing without any updates.

And third, the offer of free lifetime upgrades for Sonar seemed promising. However, the software was abandoned soon after. Although advertised as “lifetime” upgrades, they only lasted a little over a year, which was a letdown. It was a significant blow for those who shelled out the extra expense for these updates.

Despite its popularity, many users migrated to other Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) when Cakewalk’s future appeared uncertain. As a result, Cubase, Studio One, and a few other DAWs gained the most users after Sonar was discontinued.

The sales section of the Cakewalk website was eventually shut down, leaving only the support forum and the option to download purchased software. It appeared that Cakewalk Sonar had reached its end.

Then, in 2018, an announcement was released stating that Singapore-based Bandlab had acquired the assets of Sonar and was relaunching the brand under the name Cakewalk by Bandlab. Even better, the software would be free.

I was curious about how it worked, so I downloaded a copy of Sonar. To my delight, it was the same program I love, although some plugins were missing from the package. Despite this, Bandlab’s team has continued to develop and enhance the software, making numerous improvements and bug fixes over time.

To make it clear, Sonar worked fine before Bandlab’s involvement, but there were no updates or fixes. However, since Bandlab took over, Sonar has been improving.

A Bright Future for Cakewalk Sonar?

This takes us to the latest news, Bandlab announced that their free version of Cakewalk, which has been popular for years, will soon be discontinued. Users of the free version can continue to use it, but there will be no more updates or revisions. In the future, Bandlab will provide two new options: Cakewalk Next and Sonar. Having the Sonar name back in the world of DAWs is satisfying, as that’s where I cut my teeth.

Please note that Sonar is only compatible with Windows operating systems, which could be a significant consideration for some users. If you use Windows, you’ll appreciate the layout and workflow of Sonar. However, the lack of compatibility might be a deal breaker for those who use Mac.

In previous releases, Sonar had many great plugins, such as XLN’s Addictive Drummer, Nomad Factory’s Blue Tubes Bundle, and Cakewalk’s excellent emulation of the LA-2A leveling amplifier. Hopefully, the paid versions of Sonar and Next will include similar offerings. Of course, it will be interesting to see if the light versions of Overloud’s Rematrix and Breverb will continue to be packaged in the ProChannel.

I am eagerly awaiting news about the pricing for Sonar. Hopefully, Sonar and Next will remain affordable for users who previously used the free version. I look forward to seeing if Bandlab will continue developing the Synths and Effects available in earlier versions of Sonar, like Zeta3 and Dimension Pro, both of which are exceptional virtual instruments. It would be even more exciting if Sonar became available for Mac, although I am not getting my hopes up yet.


If you’re a Windows user looking to buy a DAW, I highly recommend checking out the new version of Sonar once it’s released. Bandlab has done an excellent job of taking care of Sonar and continuously improving it since acquiring the software. I have high expectations for Sonar’s future and will closely monitor any further announcements from Bandlab

If you are a fan of Cakewalk Sonar or have thoughts on the move to a paid version, let us know and comment!

Bob Brozowski

I am the founder of dawtopia.com.  I love music and music gear/production. I've been playing guitar for quite a while and am still learning. I use several DAWs, too many to be honest. If I had to choose one, it would be Logic Pro; It just suits my style and workflow best.  I want to thank you for participating in the discussion.

Leave a Reply