Ever since the early days of Propellerhead's ReBirth, all-in-one pattern-based composing environments have been quite popular with electronic musicians. Cakewalk's Project5 is a strong contender in that market niche, providing a comprehensive set of instruments, an efficient work flow, excellent automation, and support for ACIDized loops. It's also stable; we did not experience a single crash during testing. Listed at $429, Project5 doesn't come cheap, but neither does its competition, and Cakewalk also offers aggressive upgrade discounts to registered users of its Sonar software, with which Project5 shares some functionality. The Cakewalk Project5 box contains one install DVD and a concise but helpful printed manual. After the simple installation, you can use P5 either as a standalone environment supporting WDM, DirectSound, and ASIO drivers or as a ReWire client or host. Composition applications such as this integrate many elements, so user-interface and work-flow organization is paramount. Cakewalk's elegant and efficient solution is a one-window view to which you can dock the major components.
Project5 provides a flexible audio sequencing and arranging environment that combines multitrack MIDI instrument and waveform editing plus live audio recording. First, you lay down your list of instruments in the Track Pane, using any of seven included virtual instruments, imported DXi or VSTi plug-ins, or live audio. Then create audio or MIDI patterns and loops on the tracks using the format-specific Pattern Editor, or browse the supplied pattern library. Finally, lay out your patterns in the Arrange Pane timeline, or use the new GrooveMatrix view for real-time triggering of patterns and loops.
The GrooveMatrix handles audio clips. ACIDized loops, called grooveclips in P5, are automatically recognized and time-stretched according to the project tempo, but the program cannot ACIDize regular WAV files from scratch. The P-Seq component is a sequencer for editing and automating patterns. You can either record MIDI data and knob movements in real time or draw them with a mouse for more-precise control. An alternative to P-Seq is Synchron 32, a MIDI plug-in with a grid-based layout for creating patterns the old-fashioned way. You can patch Synchron 32 to any MIDI track, then trigger its patterns from individual notes.