Cakewalk SONAR 8

Not much to say about this. I've been using Cakewalk Windows-based sequencers and audio recorders for 15 years. Upgraded with goodies and new features almost every year, never begrudged the upgrade tax. SONAR 8 is pretty much perfect. Check out the user forum, it's an excellent resource.

Cakewalk Dimension Pro

Dimension Pro was Cakewalk's flagship virtual synthesizer for a few years, at least until Rapture came out*. Dimension LE was bundled with SONAR 7, but I didn't really use it seriously until the "pro" version was bundled with the SONAR 8 Producer upgrade. It included an impressive sound library, particularly some wonderful string section patches which I've started to use.

* Now Rapture LE is bundled with SONAR 8.5. I detect a trend.

TruePianos VST

Until recently, the two front runners in the virtual piano race were TruePianos and Modartt PianoTeq. TruePianos was slightly more affordable and was generally thought to be more playable and realistic, while Pianoteq, although an impressively flexible and powerful piano model, suffered from artificial overtones. Since Version 3 of Pianoteq, this is no longer true, in my opinion. Pianoteq has seen some impressive upgrades and options and is definitely worth the additional expense.

However, I've stuck with TruePianos. It's still a very inspirational virtual instrument.

Digitech GSP21 FX Processor

Serial# 288889

Ah, my trusty multi-effects unit. I can't remember where or when I purchased this but it was my main guitar FX for years until I realised what the tube amp afficionados were on about. This has mediocre distortion and compression when compared to what's available these days, but in my opinion the delay and reverb algorithms are outstanding. I now run the fx loop out to my POD for compression and amplifier modelling duties.

I have the floor-board for this, but I don't use it since I accidently unplugged it while the power was on and it reset the patch memory. Disaster.

Line6 POD 2.0

 

Amplifier modelling is the best thing to happen to recording guitarists since the invention of the Floyd locking nut. In my opinion.

I have been unable to get a decent bass patch out of this thing, though. I know it's theoretically possible (albeit it is a guitar effect unit) and there are instructions on the Line 6 web site. I should try following them sometime.

This is one of the few pieces of equipment that made me scrap my existing recordings and rework them, this time with the lead and rhythm guitar using the POD. I didn't know what I'd been missing.

 

Behringer TRUTH B2031P passive monitors

Behringer gets a fairly bad rap for producing "cheap and nasty" products, but let me tell you: These monitors produce a much better sound than that I was getting though a pair of little Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers. Now I switch between the two speaker sets for comparison purposes.

Roland D-550

 

Serial# 811067

Those "Glass Voices"... that "Guitarrrr"... there are many patches on this box that I used to think that I could not live without. If it broke down I would have to shop for a D-50 on E-Bay, I would say to myself.

Interestingly, as I re-work projects that featured this synthesizer, I find myself using alternative instrumentation in preference to the venerable D-50 tones. I don't know why, exactly. Many synths of its era have disctinctive patches that were overused in commercial productions of the day, to the point where the patches now sound cheezy. The D-50/550 certainly has its share of these, but it is still capable of many unique and fresh-sounding sounds with depth that hold up today.

 

MIDIsport 2x2 USB MIDI Interface

A lot of people have said that they have had problems with these M-Audio USB MIDI interfaces, but mine has worked flawlessly with Windows 2000, XP, and more recently, Windows 7 (although the drivers were only released in beta form very recently). I originally only used the IN/OUT-A because the Roland A-880 handled the rest of the devices. When I got the Roland VK-8 I'd run out of ports on the A-880 and so I plugged it into the In/Out-B ports. This works out really well because the VK-8 will actually respond on several MIDI channels as a multi-timbral device.

Roland A-880 MIDI Patchbay

 

Serial# ZA98548

I live in fear of this device breaking down. Where the heck can you find MIDI patch bays these days? Apparently no-one makes them any more, but I don't see why that should be. They are still a vital component of any comprehensive MIDI studio.

This one has been very reliable. But still I worry...

 

M-Audio Delta 66 PCI audio interface

I had no problems at all with this interface in Windows XP. Sonar just profiled the device and away we go. I initially thought I would never use the SPDIF inputs but then I got the Roland Fantom, which has digital audio out. Apart from being lower in volume, I figure it has got to be better, right? So I feed the Fantom digital out into the SPDIF on the Delta-66 card.

Since moving to a Windows 7 64-bit workstation, I have had some issues. Occasionally I'll hit the playback or record in SONAR, and instead of getting sound I'll get silence. I've learned to hit the stop button pretty quickly when this happens, because if I don't I'll get a pulsing pile of digital rhythmic feedback noise on my electrodes

I suspect the Win64 drivers from M-Audio are to blame. It happens whether I select ASIO or WDM/Kernel streaming mode, and is not affected by buffer sizing.

If M-Audio don't produce updated drivers that solve the proble, then at some point, I am going to have to switch to a different vendor. Probably Echo Layla 3G.