Back in November 2017 we learnt that Gibson, the then owners of Cakewalk, were ending the development of Cakewalk. Then in early 2018 BandLab Technologies announced that it had purchased the Cakewalk assets an IP and planned to release Cakewalk as a free Windows only DAW.
In this article we look at the chequered history and then what has happened to Cakewalk in the last year as a free DAW, with a significant feature list including ARA support.
History Of Cakewalk
Greg Hendershott founded the company in 1987 as Twelve Tone Systems, Inc and released the original MIDI music sequencer product, Cakewalk, for MS-DOS in 1987.
In 1991, they released a version for Windows 3.0. However, early Cakewalk for DOS versions (up to 3.0) required the intelligent mode of the MPU-40. Later Cakewalk versions (4.0 and above) relied on the "dumb" UART mode only. With the addition of more features, the company renamed the sequencer Cakewalk Pro, and then Cakewalk Pro Audio when it it added audio support and moved being a sequencer to becoming a DAW.
Cakewalk then rebranded their DAW to become SONAR. The SONAR digital audio workstation provided users the ability to create projects in which they could edit digital audio tracks, MIDI tracks, and associated information like lyrics and music notation. SONAR's visual displays included audio waveforms, musical scores, editing consoles, and event lists. The user could mix MIDI output and audio tracks down to a stereo .WAV file and burn it to a CD or publish it in other media formats.
In January 2008, the logo on the company's products changed to "Cakewalk by Roland" to reflect Roland Corporation's purchase of a majority interest in the company.
In September 2008, the company officially changed its corporate name to 'Cakewalk, Inc.'
On July 1, 2012, Greg Hendershott resigned as CEO, after 25 years with the company. Michael Hoover, previously Executive Vice President of Products, became President of Cakewalk, Inc.
On December 6, 2013, Roland sold all of its shares of Cakewalk to Gibson Brands. Cakewalk continued to operate in Boston, developing products for the Cakewalk brand, along with joint products with TASCAM.
On November 17, 2017, Gibson announced that it was ceasing active development and production of Cakewalk branded products, including all versions of SONAR. After 30 years, Cakewalk, Inc. ceased operation, with only the company's web forum and license authorisation servers still being kept functional.
In a message to all Cakewalk users Gibson said “Gibson Brands announced today that it is ceasing active development and production of Cakewalk branded products. The decision was made to better align with the company’s acquisition strategy that is heavily focused on growth in the global consumer electronics audio business under the Philips brand”.
On February 23, 2018, Singapore-based BandLab Technologies announced its purchase of some of Cakewalk, Inc.’s assets and all of its intellectual property. BandLab's stated goal was continued development of the former company's flagship product, SONAR (now renamed Cakewalk by BandLab) as part of its portfolio of freeware digital audio workstation software.
In April 2018 BandLab Technologies released Cakewalk as a Windows only free DAW package.
What Does Cakewalk Look Like Now?
Just over a year ago, BandLab Technologies chose to breathe new life into Cakewalk. Lets first take a look at what they have achieved with this free DAW since then. This is BandLab’s Feature List for Cakewalk…
Delivering a free professional DAW for all and that cost is no longer a barrier to advanced music production!
Enjoy unlimited Audio, MIDI, Instrument, Loop, and Auxiliary Tracks in every project
Regular updates delivering significant stability and performance enhancements
Experience the “industry-best” audio engine, VST3, Touch and all the leading technologies
3rd party integration, including élastique, ARA and VST support enhancements, and new features, including:
Integrated industry standard élastique pro time/pitch stretching
Advanced multi-track piano-roll MIDI editing and event filtering
VST compatibility and plug-in management improvements and optimizations
Updated UI themes
Publish stems and mixes to BandLab cloud directly from Cakewalk
CakeWalk Minimum System Requirements
Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only)
Multi-core Intel or AMD CPU
3GB free disk space
1280x800 screen resolution
ASIO compatible hardware is recommended
How Do They Keep Cakewalk by BandLab Free?
We were curious as to how Singapore based BandLab Technologies could produce a free DAW with just comprehensive features and this is what they told us…
Cakewalk by BandLab is part of BandLab Technologies, a music technology group with other brands in our stable such as Harmony guitars, Teisco pedals, and Swee Lee music retail for example. Being a diversified group means we have revenue streams from various brands that enable us to keep our flagship DAWs, such as BandLab and Cakewalk by BandLab, free for all to use. Our founder Meng is passionate about making music more accessible for all, hence our commitment to free use.
By far the most rewarding part of the journey has been the support of a vibrant and growing community of new users and long time supporters, who have made a home in our new discussion forums. Whether you’re a long time Cakewalk user or just getting started, we hope you’ve had a chance to dig in and make some great music with CbB. Your voices, support and enthusiasm have been instrumental to the success of Cakewalk by BandLab.
And There Is More…
What is interesting is that BandLab are not just doing the basics to produce a free DAW, they are working hard at developing it into a serious contender..
BandLab was featured, not once, but twice at the recent Google I/O event. Google I/O is the annual Android developers conference, attended by 7,000 of the world’s top programmers, effectively the Google equivalent of Apple’s WWDC conference. BandLab’s, free-to-use social music platform, was highlighted in two Google presentations: firstly as a creative tool for a paediatric cancer patient programme, and secondly as a collaboration tool used by a team of professional musicians in different countries to develop a hit song.
Then just a week ago BandLab announced that their free DAW, Cakewalk would support ARA2. With the 2019.05 release [Sound a familiar format? it seems BandLab has adopted the same version numbering scheme as Avid], Cakewalk is now compatible with ARA 2 plug-ins such as Melodyne 4 and Synchro Arts Revoice Pro, as well as future ARA 2 compatible plug-ins.
BandLab has also confirmed that Cakewalk will continue to support ARA 1 plug-ins as well.
There Is A Credible Free DAW Option
As long as you are a Windows user then with Cakewalk, now being cared for and developed by BandLab Technologies, there is a free DAW for you to use. Of course for Apple users, you get GarageBand free with any Apple device so there is no need to feel left out too much.
That said, it would appear that BandLab are not content with just providing a free DAW with a limited feature set like some other DAW brands, instead they have chosen to develop Cakewalk into a powerful DAW supporting the latest technology like ARA2. What’s not to like?
If you are a Cakewalk user, either long-standing or a recent adoptee, do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Were you one of the Cakewalk users left unsupported when Gibson pulled the plug on Cakewalk in 2017? Have you moved to another DAW? If so which one? Are you tempted to come back to Cakewalk now? Again, do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.