Sonar vs. Cubase vs. Pro Tools vs. Acid

Sonar 5 vs. Cubase 3 vs. Pro Tools 7 vs. Acid Pro 5Digital Music Doctor, a site that sells 2-3 hour video courses for music product software packages, reviewed Sonar 5, Cubase 3, Pro Tools 7, and Acid Pro 5 to compare price, audio features, MIDI features, and special functions in an "Ultimate Shootout".

Who won?  Cubase, with Sonar a close 2nd (on a 5 pt scale)

Cubase 3 = 4.6  ($599)
Sonar 5 = 4.3  ($499)
Pro Tools 7 = 3.2  ($449)
Acid Pro 5 = 2.9  ($249)

Granted, this is leaving out a LOT of more affordable software packages, including free, open source options.  Many home recordists would agree — Sonar and Cubase are often considered tops, while Pro Tools is not (despite being a standard in many pro studios).

However, wars are waged over this issue…  Duck!





62 responses to “Sonar vs. Cubase vs. Pro Tools vs. Acid”

  1. stefan Avatar

    I do miss, for instance, Ableton Live in this list. And indeed, as you mentioned, quite a few free/OS software.

  2. MikeB Avatar

    Yup, Ableton is a great example. N-tracks is worth comparing, as well as numerous open sources options such as Audacity (the most well known). …I’m more of a Sonar/Reason man myself…

  3. Sheng Avatar

    I am a SONAR user, but I was advised that ProTools is a “Studio Standard”. The analysis provided is not very encouraging to ProTools users and potential users.

  4. MikeB Avatar


    Yeah, I’ve received a lot of conflicting advice as well. At a basic level, it seems to always boil down to, “If you plan only to record for personal purposes, stick to Cubase or Sonar. If you hope to one day to work a pro recording studio, use Pro Tools.”

    All that said, most users use less than 30% of the features in any software application anyway, so perhaps it’s not too big a deal either way. 😉


  5. Jason Avatar

    Trust me, if you use SONAR or Cubase, you can teach yourself ProTools in 30 minutes – TOPS! It only took me that long because I had to get acclimated with the G4 OS-X at my University’s studio (I’m a PC man).
    With SONAR and Cubase being every bit as professional (more?) as ProTools until you hit the Mammoth ProTools HD192 setups, I’ll bet there will be more SONAR and Cubase setups in mid-level professional studios in the very near future.

  6. Jason Avatar

    Trust me, if you use SONAR or Cubase, you can teach yourself ProTools in 30 minutes – TOPS! It only took me that long because I had to get acclimated with the G4 OS-X at my University’s studio (I’m a PC man).
    With SONAR and Cubase being every bit as professional (more?) as ProTools until you hit the mammoth ProTools HD192 setups, I’ll bet there will be more SONAR and Cubase setups in mid-level professional studios in the very near future due to their not needing to use proprietary hardware.

  7. Jason Avatar

    Mike B – your site is wigging out. Either that or we just did a psychic version of the monkeys-typing-shakespeare thing!

  8. Rick H Avatar

    I use Cubase SX 3 with a Motu 828 MK II and have been very happy with the results. I have used Pro Tools and worked with studios using Pro Tools and so far am enjoying the features and plugins that Cubase has to offer over the Pro Tools. Even though the industry uses Pro Tools, I believe that will change with time unless MAC Intel machines make a MAC come back. Hard to say.
    I like both but my personal studio is Cubase

  9. Ricky Avatar

    what about capture algorythms…? I was told the highest version of pro tools (HD) has the best capture quality, I can’t tell because it cost about 16 thousands or more…. check my web site and hear me. I’m a sonar fan so far

  10. John Avatar

    It makes no difference what so ever. The functions are similar, sound quality comes out of your sound card. It’s how you use it.

  11. Christine Avatar

    Just started to learn cubase……I’ve been singing in other people’s studios for years, I find it very difficult, not what I would expect. I guess to go from zero to recording what’s in my head will take many months. Hmmmmm

  12. luke Avatar

    It makes no difference what so ever. The functions are similar, sound quality comes out of your sound card. It’s how you use it. SORRY RICKY THATS CRAP…IT MATTERS MOST – THE ENGINE MAKES THE SOUND, NOT THE SOUNCARD.. THE SOUNCARD JUST PLAYS IT!!! THATS TECH BASICS MAN!

    1. Merciless Avatar

      Pheew. That's good to hear Luke. Ricky scared the crap out of me. Since i jus purchased a macbook 2 record on, which I can't install a soundcard on lol.

    2. drt Avatar

      chill out.

  13. Jonathan Ames Avatar
    Jonathan Ames

    I’m a PT LE 6.4 user on a non-dedicated computer — XP, 2.4GHZ, 1024, etc., though I have separate BIOS for ProTools. What I wonder about is the comparative resource/CPU appetites of the 2 programs. I get maybe 3 or 4 RTAS effects, then it crashes and a CPU overload window opens. Any difference in efficiency/capacity in the programs?

    1. Dee Avatar

      I had the same problem with sonar you need more ram I maxed mine out at 3 gigs and dont have that problem any more

  14. Kjam Avatar

    What an insanely misinformed reply that is the most improtant thing is the da/ad converters which ARE in the sound card!

    1. wuto Avatar

      sorry kjam, but you are misinformed, the software makes the mix of our tracks, and the depth of this mathematical algorythm is important for the sound,
      use the same soundcard with different programs, and you can hear it !!!!
      the mixengine is the most important. a real protools hd-system is mixing in separate DSPs, the sound is great, but expensive. the mixengine in protools without DSPs, like protools LE or m-powered is terrible, cubase and logic is a little bit better.
      the best mixengine without DSPs is SONAR !!!
      for all other programs is it better to mix external in a mixer.

  15. Don Avatar

    Yes I have a coment on the guy whose computer crashed using pro tools…

    I purchased PTLE and am using a HP media center 3400 AMD athlon with i.5 gig of ram plenet of spped and power to run most programs NO problem…Spent a day loading the protools software and bundle onto my computer.Spent 2 hrs on hold waiting for a tech on my dime to get support for the new set up…found out that even though using windows XP on a blazing fast computer ! Digidesign was incompatible with my SIS chipset…The tech basically said get a new Motherboard.I went to their support site and you would belive the items they have under both windows and mac that make a great deal to the performance of the LE product…Thats possibly why your computer crashed luke…So even though it says it will run on XP or Mac first see what your computer has in it…and call protools…its the fine print that allways comes back and gives a little nibble on the leg…
    Im going to look into cube base or buy a mac I guess..

    hope this helps


    I operate a small film post production studio and pro tools is every where… everywhere else! when I found out that in order to use pro tools, not only you have to buy their gear (mbox is caca by the way…), but you also have to pay a 900$ 3mo plugin in order to be able to import OMFs.. i just gave up on them crooks. When we go for mixes outside, i send a Cubase made OMF. had issue once but it was fixable.

  17. Cindy Avatar

    Cubase 4 will be the new industry standard. Just try it. I was a protools and logic user. No More!

  18. RealSoundEngineers Avatar

    The studio I work in is industry standard, and we record many mainstream commercial music / where all of us engineers use protools & cubase for multitrack recording. I have encouraged the studio to set up a rig with SONAR on many occasions, but the owners are brainless caught up in a “Industry Standard” bubble. I also do work at home with my personal setup where I use nothing else besides SONAR. And everytime I share one of my tracks from home recordings with the boss he says “Why don’t you produce this level of quality here?”. It is because the fools force me to use ProTools and Cubase, which beleive it or not can not top SONAR (with the right DX plugins SONAR kills everything). I have been doing this for 15 years, and im tired of protools and cubase. They are subpar.

    1. Brad Avatar

      Sweetness…. Just got Sonar, been a Cubase user for years, about to test the Sonar system… I too have been forced to use Pro Tools time and time again, and never sounds as good as when I do Cubase…or hopefuly soon Sonar

  19. mixc8 Avatar

    Well I am trying to see which is the better way to go, Pro-Tools or Sonar? but with Pro-Tools all my friends are using it and with the MBOX2 we can exchange tracks so we can collabirate with each other. Does Sonar have anything like this?

  20. Calesco Avatar

    this is to Sonar users i am new to this and looking to make incredible music what interface or other equip is BEST to get that clear pristine sound

  21. Nils Avatar

    I use Reason, Cubase, Adobe Audition and fl studio 7…. everyone for different things!

  22. David Avatar

    First off, most professional studios use Pro Tools that is the TDM systems, not the LE. LE is for consumer grade.

    How come Logic wasn’t mentioned?

    check out the new Logic Pro Studio. $499.

  23. prakash Avatar

    i use sonar 6….but the problem i receiveed in the recording is cpu usage dropout…..can i handle sonar smoothly as cubase without any latency….?

  24. Josh Avatar

    hey everyone, right now I’m using audacity to record/edit my tracks and FL Studio 6 to do all my mixing. I want to get into something heavier but I’m 100% self-taught as it is and I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of features and stuff in the programs I use as it is. I’m also just using the mic input on my computer to do my recording. I heard I need something like an “audio interface” or something like that to get better recording. obviously I don’t know much about recording hardware. my questoin to everyone is this this: does anybody know any good websites/books/instructionals for a beginner in recording?

  25. roy harms Avatar
    roy harms

    is there a mixing board designed for the cubase 4 system, I don’t like using the mouse all the time, if there is a good mixing board, I would love to get the information, thank you, ROY

  26. Lee Avatar

    Hey guys, this is highly interesting.

    Personally, from what I have discussed with other engineers, pro tools LE has a pathetic audio engine, Nuendo is fat better, non the less I am an avid Sonar 7 fan, primaruly because I feel it is the bets layout and has a good audio engine, maybe not the best but ive had no complaints. I lime how the mixer is set out like a propoer mixer being able to use sends to busses and busses to busses, so you can make numerous routes for submixes for band members et al. It jsut has more of a grip for me. I have each DAW and have used them all, from adobe audition, cubase, sonar, nuendo, logic, pro tools, but I always feel a bit intimatde by most stating pro tools is the industry standard, again thi is correct if you have the amazing HD system, but the LE version is bascially empty, Cubase Nuendo and Sonar dont strip any faciltiy away so surely this make them better for medium engineers?

  27. moises Avatar


    sonar it’s the best, pro tools it’s dead, the only thing it’s that you should lear how to use sonar in a full way, and then tell me, what’s better, mmmmmmmmm


  28. joao Avatar

    im a cubase user and i’ve tryed pro tools and all that. with cubase you can have as much quality as you have with pro tools, i really think that people allways think that pro tools is the BIG boss of production softwares. i dont think so, cubase offers me every possibilities of VST compatibilaty and great quality. im a psy/dark trance and electronic producer and i’ve been playin with productions i made on cubase and it never failed me. And more.. i have a cousin that is a sound engineer and he has Nuendo on his studio. he says that pro tools is the greatest way to spend money. pro tools is a great app indeed but you can do the same with cubase for your productions. Cheers

  29. ~fixInDaMix Avatar

    The reason pro tools is the industry standard is really because it was the first practical DAW to use at the professional level. The interface is very familar to to the high end consoles on analog desks that mixers used prior to the digital revolution. Digital mixing is way easier, faster, more forgiving on mistakes, and cost efficient than its analog counter part as we all know, so the switch to pro tools just made sense. Fast forward about 15 years later, and there is an arsenal of high end DAWs to choose from. I suspect that more sophisticated routing of newer DAWs (particularly Sonar, which i use in my studio) will one day win over pro tools, as mixers of the newer generation being to emerge. As for sound quality, the difference, if any, is negligible. As aforementioned, the quality of your sound is as good as your D/A converters. And if you’re doing soley midi, there is no difference.


  30. kaingel Avatar

    Anyone use a projectmix I/O? ive been thinking of getting one with sonar 7 or pro tools with 003 rack,any help?

  31. Josh Avatar

    I don’t know anything. Should i learn pro tools first before i try anything else? or if you think sonar or cubase is going to take over should i go straight to learning one of those? i suspect they’re all pretty similar…

  32. LoneStar Avatar


  33. LoneStar Avatar


  34. LoneStar Avatar

    Whats up, u guys sound pretty smart.I am an oilfield hand on a rig so i have more of a strong back than i do a mind.I got a question 4 yall.I want 2 make some hip hop tracks and sing on them as well,what would yall recomend that i could teach myself 2 use thats simple without loosing 2 much quality.My brother in law has a keyboard,speakers,small beat machine,and mic.I live in a small town in Tx. and there is not much 2 do so we’re just trying 2 get started.Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  35. LoneStar Avatar

    are yall there?

  36. ally Avatar

    i would recommend for your needs a Maudio Mbox, which means you can use it with either protools m powered (good bang for the buck) ……… sonar or more strongly recomended any versions of cubase

  37. joe pro Avatar
    joe pro

    me personally have to stick with cubase. It’s way better to me than sonar. more clarity and the feel of the new program is off the hook…sonar has it’s ups though. i like how it allows you to record right over a track and you can still hear both of them… but like i said i’ll stick with cubase.

  38.  Avatar

    yea right i use the M-Audio projectmix I/O and it works Great with Sonar and yes with the right Plugins you can never go wrong with Sonar once u have the PC Power… your ready for a great Mix.

  39. Ryan Avatar

    I been a fan of acid pro for a long time, never had a problem with it. But i will say Acid Pro 7 has not cought up with the others lol but no one mention Magix Samplitude, that runs for $1,267.83 no compar, I say Magix not very well know, is the godfather.

  40. Pro Audio & Dj Equipment Reviews Avatar

    Huh…Reason is the perfect software inthe world. It owns all and all should bow before it’s might.

    I used FL Studio onec, moved to Orion Platinum for some reason tried Cubase and eventually landed on Reason, and in my experience, it is probably the better choice in most instances.

  41. shy Avatar

    Ive used most the major DAWs, and my personal favorite is Ableton Live because its so easy to capture the magic of live performance, and just work out musical idea so fluidly and quick. Great midi implementation, and using hardware makes using Live a lot of fun. Protools has great sound quality. Just got Cubase and Im pretty excited to use it.

  42. Dirk Avatar

    it is of no suprise that the most popular is also the most expensive. the new cubase 5 looks promising for me with the new features for vocal editing and beat making.

  43. john tan Avatar
    john tan

    sonar,cubase,reason,and pro tools are all good for these short time period. there will will be new coming recording software that will surpassed all the features that they have right now. So… better check the new advancement of recording. haven’t tried the socurepro HD software? it’s the best of all the best!

  44. nameless Avatar

    Reason and acid and i do believe Fl studio as well, are completely different. you can’t record live instruments with those. I like Reason for midi, in the options it has, to me, as far as i know, the perfect program would be to fuse reason and adobe audition together into one program.

    I was originally debating cubase vs protools, leaning towards cubase since it seems to be most people would prefer cubase over pro tools except for pro tools owns the industry.

    but i’d like to know then, how sonar compares to cubase, because this site has got my interest peaked in it. also i don’t know exactly the difference between Nuendo and cubase.

    i noticed some people find the sound quality better with sonar, but how else are these two programs different?

    if i basically would only want the nnxt sampler/redrum in reason, with adobe audition packed into reason in the sequencer window, which program would be closest to that?

    it’s not really so much the look of reason i like, but just the way the sampler can run sample packs you can easily edit and map your own sounds to whichever keys, and also the redrum forces samples to play in their entirety, so you can play the same sound mapped to the same key in consecutive 32nds or whatever but where they all play as a whole byte, so your snare or whatever doesn’t sound cut off.

    reason would do it for me if i could just record and edit live audio samples into it and sequence them like you can do with acid, in the midi sequencer window.

    what’s closest to this? sonar cubase or pro tools?

  45. ian Avatar

    to luke, the person who think the soundcard doesnt effect the sound quality, if it dont affect, you better not use a professional sound card or an audio interface, better use an onboard one.. hahaha,,, LUKE, please dont pretend to know it if you are not sure

  46. Zae B Avatar

    Aye! Yo! Whats The Difference Between Acid Pro 7 And Acid Music Studio 7 ???

  47. John Avatar

    Acid all the way when it comes to userfriendlyness, often that's more important than having the most features….sigh

  48. Sunny Avatar

    I am a beginner,and am already using Protool doing,but i use Reason to do my sequencing,that is to mean i rewiring.pls am i on the right track?because to me now i like it,and it looks easy to me(everything with Protools and Reason).

  49. dandy Avatar

    what different of quality sound between adobe audition 3 & nundo 3

  50. Dr johal Avatar

    For best studio set up i recommend-

    Sonar (cubase have synchrosoft
    key protection which make it slow and crappy)

    Reason for new original sound unheard before.
    Recycle to make loops for reason

    Anteres AT for pitch correction

    for restoration and cut copy paste.

    decent microphone
    m audio sound card(ext)
    midi keyboard

    with this setup you can do anything in music.

  51. Dr johal Avatar

    Sound quality always decrease with any software so it depend upon what you have at start with.
    wavelab now support 64 bit audio mean if you have good sound card you can have enough quality left even after heavy fixing.
    But if you begin with 16 bit sound after restoration you left with less bit and less quality.

  52. Dr johal Avatar

    Audition support only upto 32bit.

    Neundo 4 support 64bit sound so , better then audition.

  53. Dr johal Avatar

    Samplitude is great grab trial and use you wont regret.

  54. Dr johal Avatar

    abelton live or flstudio are not for professional sound production as they depend on samples.
    Abelton is good for djing etc.
    Dont waste time with these instead demand more learn cubase or sonar they contain all feartures already.

  55. Dr johal Avatar

    Acid great for samples.
    run any format.
    Auto beat match.
    Easy to loop with mouse.
    Host vsti.
    Great mixer.
    Instant production.

  56. conezz Avatar

    I have been using ableton for the past 2 years and now Im looking at moving on to pro tools or sonar, i find ableton is a bit limited in terms of creativity and out of the box it doesn't give you a lot to work with. I think its a good starting point for an aspiring producer but lacks some of the features packages like sonar and pro tools gives you to work with. with that said abletons ease of use and on the fly features for live performances are top notch

  57. Xobacta Avatar

    Used sonar alot for like the last 9years, used pro tools too in that time though you need like ä mainframe computer to run multiple instance of plugins. didnt much like my work flow on cubase, that was until i tried cubase studio5 and then my jaw dropped. omfg. the engine man wow. in sonar, im always touching up things coz it always seems like i missed something. but cubase5, sléep on it, & it sounds even better. awe f**kin some. the mastering setup, so simple, so shocking. my only drawback is my endless collection of DX plugins from my many sonar years(what a waste). steinberg knocks my soçks off nevertheless. its just 24bits but it sounds like 80. ROLANDCAKEWALK , i love u guys but i think u need to ditch those plugs uve been using since the pro audio9 days or rewrite their alogrithms.

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