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Cakewalk by BandLab

DAW by Cakewalk
Cakewalk by BandLab
Cakewalk by BandLab by Cakewalk is an Audio Plugin Host and a Standalone Application for Windows. It functions as a Standalone Application. It can host VST Plugins, VST 3 Plugins and DirectX Plugins.
2021.06 Update 3
Can Host
Can Host
Stand-Alone Utility / Application
Copy Protection
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KVR Rank

Overall: 467   462

30-Day: 512; 7-Day: 510; Yesterday: 1098

Powered by a lineage of over 30 years of DAW innovation, Cakewalk by BandLab is at its best, delivering simplicity, stability and feature rich tools to help you make music.

Best of all, it's completely free.

Check out this trailer video, to sample the progress we have made over the last two years with Cakewalk by BandLab.

More details and release notes for all Cakewalk by BandLab updates can be found here.

Cakewalk is greatly improved over SONAR with hundreds of fixes, stability improvements and new features. Compare Cakewalk by BandLab and SONAR

Download Cakewalk now, completely free, and start making music today. Please read the FAQ for instructions on creating a BandLab account and installation.


Latest User Reviews

Average user rating of 4.86 from 7 reviews

Cakewalk by BandLab
Reviewed By flyinghitcher
May 19th, 2021

I have used this for many years as a Sonar Platanum user, it has only improved since bandlab took over :D
Huge learning curve, but with all the top requirements of a DAW that has to be expected. Many pioneering faetures over the years and innovations showing the money obviously goes into the Dev rather than promotion and is sadly reflected by the musical world as not the front runner it really should be.

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Cakewalk by BandLab
Reviewed By @tata_arias
October 26th, 2020

Excelent! Great DAW... I have been working on Cakewalk since the DOS version, it is an incredible software that has been a pioneer in the industry. It has everything a professional DAW requires and it's free! There are permanent updates that allow corrections and new features. It even has its own musical programming language! (CAL) and it is quite easy to learn to use. I have tried other DAWs but I always stick with Cakewalk ... Reaper is also an excellent DAW and almost free, Cubase, Studio One, Logic, Ableton are excellent too, and ProTools the industry standard but in my opinion Cake does not stay not a step back ... and it's super stable. the only defect I find is that it is only for windows platform, it should have a version for Mac OS..

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Cakewalk by BandLab
Reviewed By Lairyboy
October 26th, 2020

I am new to the 'production scene' but have drummed in bands in my teens and twenties in the 90's and have recorded in some small studios and one really pro studio. I downloaded Cakewalk in 2019 when I half heartedly was looking for some free music production software. I played around a little bit and after being a little bit overwhelmed I just left it there on my hard disk. I downloaded a couple of trials of other DAW software, thinking that paid versions must be better and easier to use (right?) I struggled even more with these trials and realised just how good Cakewalk was, and that my learning curve wasn't Cakewalk it was me. Anyway, free being free and lockdown being lockdown, I suddenly found myself with time and a great piece of software. I created some very passable music, although being a drummer I struggled with the music bit, but am learning more music theory as I go. Cakewalk has been particularly solid with very few (2 or 3) crashes over months of use and I have seen several updates with functionality added, allowing me to spend money on monitors, a new keyboard and more plugins than I need! Bandlab have done a fantastic job of keeping Cakewalk alive while fixing bugs and improving stability. The documentation is pretty good and there is a friendly and helpful community with great knowledge at the cakewalk forums. I highly recommend this software to beginners and people fed up with the endless paid upgrade cycle of most other daws. What have you got to lose?

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Cakewalk by BandLab
Reviewed By Starship Krupa
October 25th, 2020

First I'd like to say that I'm grateful to BandLab for rescuing this DAW. I only started using it after the first BandLab version, so my impressions are those of someone who has only known it in its Cakewalk By BandLab form. I don't think things could have worked out better for the existing user base and new users looking for a professional DAW whose workflow and layout are much-imitated industry standards.

At this point, 3 years since the Cakewalk company dissolved and BandLab acquired its intellectual property, it's no longer accurate to say "Cakewalk by BandLab is Cakewalk SONAR with a new name." That would be like saying Studio One 5 is Studio One 4 with a new name. If Cakewalk did versioning, it would surely be up to Cakewalk by BandLab 2 or 2.5 at this point..

Cakewalk (the DAW) began life as a rebranded update to SONAR, but since then, there have been so many changes. While preserving the old SONAR workflow for people who had gotten used to it, the developers have added new features great and small. The small features are usually ones requested by the user base, many of whom participate in the very active and helpful Cakewalk by BandLab forum.

The larger features include such additions as an Arranger Track and MIDI Articulation mapping (just released in their Early Access Program).

The developers have also been relentlessly improving the DAW's stability and tuning the audio and screen rendering subsystems. This has resulted in CbB becoming not just more stable, but faster and less taxing of system resources. I can run it no sweat on a 10-year-old Dell notebook when I want to use it away from home.

As for this program with its 33-year history, the first things I fell in love with were its mixing console view and its silky, rich sounding playback engine. I've yet to see an audio routing task that I couldn't accomplish with Cakewalk's mixer, and the graphics are the most attractive I've seen in a DAW.

In 2018 when I first tried it, I initially had some trouble with comping/editing. As I experienced it it steered the user too forcefully toward using its advanced tools at the expense of more traditional, copying, pasting, dragging and trimming. This has since been remedied with the strategic addition of a couple of options that better permit the user to jump in and start editing/comping using a more basic workflow while allowing the user to learn the more advanced techniques at their own pace. Which I recommend, if you have straightforward comping to do, you can fly with Speed Comping. Just be sure to switch tools before working in a more traditional fashion.

Because of the strength of its mixer and comping, it makes a great companion for Ableton Live, which is such a strong compositional tool, but is weaker in pure multitrack audio recording, comping, routing, and mastering. Ableton Live! and other programs may be connected via ReWire. There is nothing requiring you to edit, mix and master using the same DAW you use for recording and composition, and it is an easy matter to export your tracks from one DAW and use Cakewalk for mixing.

A big strong point for me and others who love to customize their tools is the comprehensive Cakewalk Theme Editor, which allows end users to set colors and replace bitmapped artwork throughout the program. There are many excellent user-created themes available for download in the aforementioned forum.

And for heaven's sake, my favorite feature is the free subscription license! This not only substantially decreases the necessary investment required to have access to a top-tier mature DAW, but it has other less apparent benefits. Specifically, the BandLab developers' only mandate is to increase the quality of the product, and no priority is given to new features at the expense of basic functionality. With payware programs that rely on new and upgrade license purchases to sustain the company, the first mandate will always be to focus programming and testing resources on the introduction of new features that are more likely to make new users want to buy it and existing users pay for the upgrades.

BandLab is a large, diversified company that owns multiple music publications, guitar brands, and musical accessory brands. Cakewalk (along with their Android, iOS, and browser-based DAW's) is a project they support to promote music-making and increase brand awareness. It earns its keep as a free prestige promotional item, and this means that the developers are much more free to create a quality bug-free product that shows off the company's sense of excellence.

How many times have you wished that the developers of your favorite program would fix existing bugs rather than coming up with flashy new features that you aren't going to use? Well, Cakewalk under BandLab's stewardship is just that.

Only 4 stars because there are some areas of the program that need attention. When a program has been around this long, under so many different management teams, it's inevitable that some features will get more resources than others. It's also likely that a feature added in 1997 and one added in 2020 will have inconsistencies in look and feel.This can slow down learning different features. Having acknowledged that, once I learned how to record and enter both audio and MIDI, and then edit what I had created, the rest is just....icing on the cake (sorry).

Although it comes with enough audio plug-ins to create excellent mixes (you could do it using only the ProChannel modules in the console if you wanted), it's a bring-your-own-plug-in affair when it comes to virtual instruments. There is a General MIDI instrument that can be tweaked to sound pretty good with some of its instruments. Since you are reading this on KVR, you will be aware that this is easily remedied via the vast collection of freeware now available. If you want synths, many excellent mature instruments are available from such companies as AIR (Hybrid, xPand!, Vacuum Pro) and iZotope (Iris, Break Tweaker) for a fraction of their original licensing fees if you watch for promotions. Newcomers like W.A. Production and SoundSpot are also great at filling out the instrument collection.

I do admit a fondness for the (included with sampled electric piano and drum kit as an extra download) Cakewalk Studio Instruments String Section as a quick tool for sketching string arrangements.

I've been using the program as my primary DAW for 2 1/2 years and it's so rich, so deep in features, that I'm still learning what I can do with it. The (separate download) PDF manual is over 1,700 pages long, and few of those pages are redundant.

-Erik "Starship Krupa" Miller.

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Cakewalk by BandLab
Reviewed By Teegarden
October 24th, 2020

One of the most complete professional DAWs and its free now! However, updates with bug fixes and enhancements are faster implemented than ever before, making this already great DAW better everyday.

Like with any DAW you can encounter problems. It is impossible to have a DAW work problem-free on every configuration since there are limitless hardware and software combinations possible. In many cases the problem appears to be related to a plugin, driver or suboptimal Windows configuration which leads me to highlight the following:

An additional, not to be underestimated benefit of Cakewalk by Bandlab (CbB) is the very friendly and professional forum where many experienced users and CbB developers will try to help you out whenever you encounter an issue. Often you get answers to questions really quick and most of the time the issue is solved afterwards. Also users of other DAWs know to find it to get help on issues not directly related to CbB.

In case an issue appears to be a real bug, it is easy to report the bug and get direct help from the developers, which in many cases will have solved the problem in the next update (time between updates varies from a few months to one month, which is great considering that regularly new workflow enhancements and new features are included).

The same goes for missing features or improvements. In the past (when CbB was still Sonar) it could take a long time before feature requests and enhancements we implemented. These days however, improvements are being launched at record speed and the developers really look at your suggestions, regularly leading to implementation in one of the next updates.

I've had several other DAWs in the past but non of them could match my personal needs like CbB does (home studio with large projects: orchestral, jazz, traditional pop/rock as well as electronic music, so flexibility, speedy workflow and stability are key).

Some very useful new recent features:

  • Multiple arranger tracks including many arranger features including arranger sections and templates. This makes creating new compositions a breeze.
  • Advanced take lane and ripple editing. Making it fast and easy to record multiple takes and select and manipulate the takes you want to keep/use.
  • Import and customisation of articulation maps (key switches etc.) making convincing performances with sample libraries and virtual instruments much easier (currently in the "early release" v.2020.10 for test purposes, to be expected within one or two weeks included in the final release. Current stable release: v.2020.09).
  • High quality new Channel Tools, Prochannel modules and and audio effects (everything you need to make a good sounding mix is just there, no real need for external effects plugins).
  • Great multi-timbral instrument soft-synth implementation, a.o. very useful for Kontakt libraries.
  • Improved Mackie Control Surface integration with instrument control of parameters of all synths in your project.
  • Improved multicore support and other welcome speed optimisations, making handling large projects much faster.

Since this is a professional DAW, don't underestimate what it can do. It is a highly complex piece of software (like other professional DAWs), so you need to take the time to really master it. If you do that, you won't be disappointed. Most things you can think of and need from a DAW you can do with CbB, just dig a bit to find out how, or ask the forum.

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Comments & Discussion for Cakewalk Cakewalk by BandLab

Discussion: Active
Starship Krupa
Starship Krupa
25 October 2020 at 3:16am

It's so great to have the new Cakewalk visible here at KVR. As an example of the team's hands-on engagement with the user base, this listing itself was created by a BandLab/Cakewalk senior engineer, an active musician himself.

For in-depth discussion and assistance, the official Cakewalk Forum is the place to go. See you there.

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